humility

A Whisper in the Wind

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No one wants to suffer. But suffering is a reality of life on earth, and suffering comes in many forms.

When suffering comes we all ask why—Why must this be? How long will it last?

It may be of no immediate comfort, but know this—suffering has a way of grabbing us, of getting our full attention.

Scripture

For the choir director; for Jeduthun; a psalm by David.

I said, “I will watch my ways so that I do not sin with my tongue. I will bridle my mouth while wicked people are in my presence.”

I remained totally speechless. I kept silent, although it did me no good. While I was deep in thought, my pain grew worse.

My heart burned like a fire flaring up within me. Then I spoke with my tongue:

“Teach me, O Lord, about the end of my life. Teach me about the number of days I have left so that I may know how temporary my life is. Indeed, you have made the length of my days ⌊only⌋ a few inches. My life span is nothing compared to yours. Certainly, everyone alive is like a whisper in the wind. Selah [vss 1-5]

Each person who walks around is like a shadow. They are busy for no reason. They accumulate riches without knowing who will get them.”

And now, Lord, what am I waiting for? My hope is in you!

Rescue me from all my rebellious acts. Do not disgrace me in front of godless fools. I remained speechless. I did not open my mouth because you are the one who has done this.

Remove the sickness you laid upon me. My life is over because you struck me with your hand.

With stern warnings you discipline people for their crimes. Like a moth you eat away at what is dear to them. Certainly, everyone is like a whisper in the wind. Selah [vss 6-11]

Listen to my prayer, O Lord. Open your ear to my cry for help. Do not be deaf to my tears, for I am a foreign resident with you, a stranger like all my ancestors.

Look away from me so that I may smile again before I go away and am no more. [vss 12-13]

(Psalm 39:1-13 GW) [Context– Psalm 39]

Key phrase— Certainly, everyone alive is like a whisper in the wind

[bctt tweet="Everyone alive is like a whisper in the wind" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How does the psalmist begin to describe his situation?

What does he say after the pain grows worse? What does he ask God to teach him?

How is a typical life described? How is this description applied to people and their daily lives?

What is the request at the end of this prayerful psalm? What does he hope for?

Reflection...

Determining the purpose of suffering, whatever kind it is, isn't simple. C.S. Lewis' famous quote gives some insight—

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

This psalm helps us see it from a different view. Life on this earth is temporary. But life and hope in God are eternal.

No one wants to die, but every one of us will die. Even people who take their own life don't want to die, they've just given up hope.

We all need a living hope beyond the whisper of life on earth. Hope is better than cynicism, fatalism, or nihilism.

It's easy to get caught up in everyday tasks and pursuits, but there's no final, satisfying destination. Yet, when we see how short and fragile life is it humbles us. At least, it ought to humble us.

Real hope is grounded in a relationship of trust in God, the Creator of life. David knew this from experience, even in the darkest of times.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you ever feel life is futile, almost purposeless?

When you struggle with pain, physical or emotional, how do you cope with it?

How do you view life in general? Have you come to realize how life is precious yet fragile?

Do you take time each day to appreciate the life God gave you?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Real Harmony

Photo credit: lightstock.com So those of us who have a strong ⌊faith⌋ must be patient with the weaknesses of those whose ⌊faith⌋ is not so strong. We must not think only of ourselves. We should all be concerned about our neighbor and the good things that will build his faith.

Christ did not think only of himself. Rather, as Scripture says, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

Everything written long ago was written to teach us so that we would have confidence through the endurance and encouragement which the Scriptures give us.

May God, who gives you this endurance and encouragement, allow you to live in harmony with each other by following the example of Christ Jesus. Then, having the same goal, you will praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.  (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭1-7‬ (GW)


It's easy to overanalyze things. Action item lists are popular and success formulas are sought by many. A lot of time is invested to figure out what makes one thing successful where another one fails.

In doing this, we tend to overlook what's obvious and simple. The realm of spiritual truth is no different. The secret to unity among believers doesn't require psychological tests or deep theological treatises.

First, we need to be patient with others who don't measure up spiritually to our expectations (verses 1-3), and learn from the example of faithful believers before us (verse 4).

But the most important thing is to follow the example of Jesus together (verse 5). We need to accept one another as Jesus accepted us (verse 7).

Think about it. That may seem a tall order, but the simple focus is Jesus—His gracious, humble example.

The key to real harmony among followers of Jesus is treating one another with the gracious humility we see in Jesus. ©Word-Strong_2016

Taste and See

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Personal experience is powerful. It speaks louder than suppositions and theory. Everyone may be entitled to their opinion, but it doesn't make it true or right. Experience has a way of exposing half-truths and falsehoods.

At one point in history, leading scientists and thinkers believed the world was flat. If a person were to sail a ship towards the horizon, they thought the ship would fall off the edge of the world.

These leaders were proven wrong by the experience of the early explorers, who sailed beyond the horizon and lived to tell about it.

Scripture

By David when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech; Abimelech threw him out, so David left.

I will thank the Lord at all times. My mouth will always praise him. My soul will boast about the Lord. Those who are oppressed will hear it and rejoice. Praise the Lord’s greatness with me. Let us highly honor his name together.

I went to the Lord for help. He answered me and rescued me from all my fears. All who look to him will be radiant. Their faces will never be covered with shame. Here is a poor man who called out. The Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles. [vss 1-6]

The Messenger of the Lord camps around those who fear him, and he rescues them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you holy people who belong to him. Those who fear him are never in need. Young lions go hungry and may starve, but those who seek the Lord’s help have all the good things they need.

Come, children, listen to me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Which of you wants a full life? Who would like to live long enough to enjoy good things? Keep your tongue from saying evil things and your lips from speaking deceitful things. Turn away from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it! [vss 7-14]

The Lord’s eyes are on righteous people. His ears hear their cry for help. The Lord confronts those who do evil in order to wipe out all memory of them from the earth. ⌊Righteous people⌋ cry out. The Lord hears and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to those whose hearts are humble. He saves those whose spirits are crushed.

The righteous person has many troubles, but the Lord rescues him from all of them. The Lord guards all of his bones. Not one of them is broken. Evil will kill wicked people, and those who hate righteous people will be condemned. The Lord protects the souls of his servants. All who take refuge in him will never be condemned. [vss 15-22]

(Psalm 34:1-22 GW) [Context– Psalm 34]

Key phrase— Taste and see that the Lord is good—Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him

[bctt tweet="Taste and see that the Lord is good—Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

Why is King David thankful to the Lord? How does he express this gratitude?

What is David's encouragement about the Messenger of the Lord? What are his exhortations concerning the fear of the Lord?

How does the Lord relate to those who are righteous and humble? How does He deal with those who are evil?

What are the promises and assurances given throughout this psalm for those who trust God?

Reflection...

The fear of the Lord is often misunderstood. At times it's minimized as respect, but it's more than that. Some people view it as something negative.

This psalm gives some good insight into the fear of the Lord. It's based on experiential relationship with God, a relationship built on trust.

It includes gratitude and awareness of God's goodness and faithfulness. It motivates a person to walk in the light of God's truth, so we honor Him and become a reflection of His nature.

Does the fear of the Lord involve respect? Yes, but it's a recognition and acceptance of who God is and of His power and might and holiness.

Great blessing comes with fearing the Lord in a right way, but there's a great cost for those who choose not to humble themselves before God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When you face troubles in life—Do you cry out to God with a thankful heart or only questions?

Have you learned the difference between an anxious fear and the fear of the Lord?

Have you experienced the blessings in life that the fear of the Lord brings?

In what ways have you experienced God's goodness when you've looked to Him as your refuge?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Opposites Attract

Photo credit: lightstock.com Bless those who persecute you. Bless them, and don’t curse them. Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad. 

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be arrogant, but be friendly to humble people. Don’t think that you are smarter than you really are. (‭Romans‬ ‭12:‭14-16‬ (GW)


Life in the Kingdom of God is different from the kingdom of this world. The world around us is governed by selfish values and priorities, while Jesus calls His followers to deny themselves.

Often, our expectations of others are unrealistic. As Christian believers, we can't expect the world around us—people, companies, governments, and so on—to have the same values and worldview we do.

This sets up paradoxical situations in life, things that seem at odds with one another. This clash of values should be expected. And yet, when we live our lives in contradiction to what surrounds us each day, it creates an attractiveness to our way of life.

When we bless instead of curse others, we reflect the very nature of Jesus. When we choose humility over arrogance, it disarms people.

Expressing joy rather than jealousy when others are blessed makes us a joy to be around. Showing compassion for people at times of grief builds trust and valued relationships.

The key to harmony in life with others is often as simple as compassion, graciousness, and humility on our part. ©Word-Strong_2016

Humility and Trust

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Where do you go when life seems to close in on you? Who can you turn to and trust when your heart is troubled and you feel isolated and alone?

The circumstances of life may seem random, but the Lord's faithfulness is constant, continuous, and he can be trusted at all times.

He alone can make sense of what seems like chaos and randomness. When a person is willing to humble themselves and trust in the Lord, He will reveal the purpose of His ways.

Scripture

By David.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul. I trust you, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame. Do not let my enemies triumph over me. No one who waits for you will ever be put to shame, but all who are unfaithful will be put to shame. [vss 1-3]

Make your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me because you are God, my savior. I wait all day long for you. Remember, O Lord, your compassionate and merciful deeds. They have existed from eternity. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my rebellious ways. Remember me, O Lord, in keeping with your mercy and your goodness. [vss 4-7]

The Lord is good and decent. That is why he teaches sinners the way they should live. He leads humble people to do what is right, and he teaches them his way. Every path of the Lord is ⌊one of⌋ mercy and truth for those who cling to his promise and written instructions. For the sake of your name, O Lord, remove my guilt, because it is great. [vss 8-11]

Who, then, is this person that fears the Lord? He is the one whom the Lord will teach which path to choose. He will enjoy good things in life, and his descendants will inherit the land. The Lord advises those who fear him. He reveals to them the intent of his promise. My eyes are always on the Lord. He removes my feet from traps. [vss 12-15]

Turn to me, and have pity on me. I am lonely and oppressed. Relieve my troubled heart, and bring me out of my distress. Look at my misery and suffering, and forgive all my sins. See how my enemies have increased in number, how they have hated me with vicious hatred! [vss 16-19]

Protect my life, and rescue me! Do not let me be put to shame. I have taken refuge in you. Integrity and honesty will protect me because I wait for you. Rescue Israel, O God, from all its troubles! [vss 20-22]

(Psalm 25:1-22 GW) [Context– Psalm 25]

Key phrase— Make your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me your paths

[bctt tweet="Make your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me your paths" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How does this prayerful psalm begin? What is said in confident trust, and what is requested?

What does David ask God to remember? What does he ask God to forget, and how are these related?

What assurances are expressed for those who trust and respect (fear) the Lord?

What does David say regarding his own life situation, and what is his final request?

Reflection...

Here's a simple reality of life—at times people let us down, and at times we disappoint others. And then, we also let our selves down, especially in times of failure.

This is why our trust needs to be in the One who is ever-faithful—God.

Try as we may, we can't make everything right when we fail, nor can we stop the ripple effect of our failure from affecting others.

This is where we need God's forgiveness and God's restoration. Thankfully, He delights in extending forgiveness and restoration to all those who would trust in Him in every way and in all things.

Once restored and forgiven, we need to continue in the path of the good and right life God makes known to us. We can only do this through faith—putting complete and utter trust in God daily.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

How do you handle failure in your life, whether it's your own or someone in your life?

Do you have confidence in God's forgiveness when you've asked for it?

How have humility and trust been key to the restorative work of God in your life?

How have you seen God make His purpose clear for your life as you trusted Him beyond your life circumstances?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

A Rock in Zion

Photo credit: lightstock.com As God says in Hosea: “Those who are not my people I will call my people. Those who are not loved I will call my loved ones. Wherever they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called children of the living God.”

Isaiah also says about Israel: “Although the descendants of Israel are as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore, only a few will be saved. The Lord will carry out his sentence on the land, completely and decisively.”

This is what Isaiah predicted: “If the Lord of Armies hadn’t left us some descendants, we would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah.” So what can we say?

We can say that non-Jewish people who were not trying to gain God’s approval won his approval, an approval based on faith. The people of Israel tried to gain God’s approval by obeying the laws in Moses’ Teachings, but they did not reach their goal. Why? They didn’t rely on faith to gain God’s approval, but they relied on their own efforts. They stumbled over the rock that trips people.

As Scripture says, “I am placing a rock in Zion that people trip over, a large rock that people find offensive. Whoever believes in him will not be ashamed.” (‭Romans‬ ‭9:25-33‬ (GW)


Belief in God is a hurdle for many people. One they can't get over because it involves faith. How do you trust in a God who can't be seen, or touched, or heard? But God's inherent, yet invisible qualities are not the real problem. It's pride.

The people of Israel waited century after century for a promised Messiah. When He came—divine and human in nature—they would not accept Him. Why? Pride. They could not accept the humble Jesus as their Messiah. They rejected Him because He did not fit their expectations.

God's plan was not to choose one nation of people to be exclusive and superior to all other nations, but for them to be a light—a reflection of His glory to other nations. When God's chosen people rejected God's Son—the Messiah—God made Himself known to other people. People who would believe in Him.

Approval and acceptance by God is only gained by faith. It requires enough humility to see God's humble extension of love through sending His Son Jesus. Then He accepts us as His children, His people. A people unashamed of the Rock that causes the proud to stumble, and who reflect God's light to others. ©Word-Strong_2016

Common Mentoring Myths

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ALitvin No one has all the answers. I'm wary of anyone who thinks they do or thinks someone else does. Sometimes we just get things wrong, I know I do.

If you don't think you do, you're setting yourself up for a fall and will probably take others with you.

The topic of mentoring has become more popular over the past few years, but it's not always what some people make it out to be.

Authoritarian or authoritative?

A while back I came across an article posted on Facebook about authoritarianism. It was related to American politics but it got me thinking.

An authoritarian leader is quite different from an authoritative one. I've worked under both and sadly, at times I've acted more like the first than the second.

What's the difference? King Saul of Israel was an authoritarian leader, while King David was more of an authoritative leader. An authoritarian leader acts more like a bully, while an authoritative leader sets a confident example.[bctt tweet="An authoritarian leader is quite different from an authoritative one"]

King Herod was a bully and tyrant (Matt 2:13-18). Herod wielded his authority out of insecurity. He didn't trust anyone and tried to kill anyone deemed a threat, including Jesus.

Jesus led by example, yet His authority was well-recognized—

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)

Mentors are not masters

One of the graduating classes from the Bible college in the Philippines gave me a poster filled with their thoughts and thanks. They called me their beloved "Tor-mentor" because their studies were difficult and I could be a tough teacher.

But mentoring is not about being a taskmaster, or any form of master. There may be a time and place to be authoritative, but this excludes using authority in an overbearing way.

Perhaps a more appropriate way to look at being a mentor is to see ourselves as journeymen (or is that journey-persons?). Mentors are people with experience and expertise who aren't stuck on themselves.[bctt tweet="Mentors are people with experience and expertise who aren't stuck on themselves"]

Mentors have something to offer because others have poured their experience and expertise into them. Here is a simple way to look at discipleship—we (mentors) pour into others what God poured into us.

3 common mentoring myths

Here are three mentoring myths that get in the way of mentoring well. They may not be spoken out loud, but are often latent attitudes among those of us who would be mentors.

  • I have the answers to your questions you may have answers to their questions, but they don't need to be given at the expense of the relationship
  • You need to know what I know— this may not be true at all, especially if connected to an air of superiority or arrogance
  • I'm a fount of great wisdom— wisdom can be gained from many sources, you nor I have a corner on wisdom

Perhaps there's some truth in these opinions, but they do more to offend than help. A common reason for generation gaps is an unwillingness to listen. If we, the mentors, aren't willing to listen, then why should anyone listen to us? Jesus understood this (Luke 2:46).[bctt tweet="If mentors aren't willing to listen, then why should anyone listen to them?"]

Here's a reframing of those three common attitudes—

  • You don't have all the answers— You may have answers to many questions, but sometimes you need to admit that you don't know something. This may open the door for a mutual pursuit of an answer.
  • You're not always right— I learned this with my wife and children first, but also with staff and students—I need to admit it when I am. This may be humbling, but it brings opportunities for a more open and healthy mentoring relationship.
  • Your advice isn't always needed— This may be hard to swallow at times, but it's true. If you're not asked, don't feel obliged to dispense whatever wisdom you think you have. This is especially true if you're a Boomer like me.

Good mentors are not experts looking for opportunities to dispense their wisdom, but people of experience and expertise with humble attitudes.

A different perspective

One thing that helps me is to level the relationship between me and whoever asked me to mentor them. I make a point to not insist on a role of superiority, and don't want to be addressed by any title, such as pastor. I may have experience and expertise someone else doesn't have, but it doesn't make me better than others.

When I make mentoring a mutual relationship at least two things happen. First, I make it clear that whoever I'm discipling know they have value and importance to me. This encourages a much more engaged and committed relationship.

The other benefit is being open to learn from those I mentor. Often I'm able to see things differently because the relationship is more open. This helps me mentor more effectively.

Are there any mentoring myths you've seen or run into?

 

Majestic

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Many people say they feel closer to God when they're outside in some beautiful natural setting. This is especially so when on a mountain top or looking out over an endless ocean view.

The earth's nickname is Mother Earth, and today there's renewed concern for the earth's environment, as there was in the mid to late 60's. Indeed, we ought to respect our earthly home. It's just good stewardship and wisdom to do so.

But to really appreciate the earth's beauty, we need to see how the created natural world reflects and honors its Creator.

Scripture

For the choir director; on the gittith; a psalm by David.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth! Your glory is sung above the heavens. From the mouths of little children and infants, you have built a fortress against your opponents to silence the enemy and the avenger. [vss 1-2]

When I look at your heavens, the creation of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have set in place— what is a mortal that you remember him or the Son of Man that you take care of him? You have made him a little lower than yourself. You have crowned him with glory and honor. [vss 3-5]

You have made him rule what your hands created. You have put everything under his control: all the sheep and cattle, the wild animals, the birds, the fish, whatever swims in the currents of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth! [vss 6-9]

(Psalm 8:1-9 GW) [Context– Psalm 8]

Key phrase— O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth!

[bctt tweet="O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth!"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What do you see expressed in the opening and ending lines of this worshipful psalm?

Why do you think the singing of angels and children is likened to the strength of a fortress that silences God's enemies?

How does the psalmist reflect on the smallness, yet importance of humanity in comparison to all of God's creation?

How does the way this psalm begins and ends express the sense of awe of true worship?

Reflection...

When I was a young man finding my way through life, environmentalism and ecology was a strong focus. But in all of the concern about earth many people, perhaps most at that time (the 60's), couldn't see past the natural world—creation.

This is the heart of this worshipful psalm. The beauty and majesty of creation, in its immensity and complexity, declares the majesty of God, its Creator.

The question is—do we stop to reflect on this? Do we marvel at "purple mountains majesties," or "amber waves of grain," or the "shining sea"?*

Worshipping the Creator of the natural world enables us to transcend the mundane activities of life and all we possess. It ought to humble and remind us of God's greatness, stirring our hearts, with the angels and children, to sing of God's majesty.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

How often do you lift your head up from the drudgery of everyday life to see God's majesty?

Have you ever realized your smallness in contrast to the greatness of the natural world and the universe?

Are you able to keep the busyness and fullness of everyday life in perspective through worship?

Do you take some time each day to reflect on God's goodness and express this to Him?


*Words in quotes are lyrics from "America, the Beautiful," by Katharine Lee Bates


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

How Do You Spell Love? L-O-V-E

Photo credit: NASA As the song goes, "Love makes the world go 'round." But does it? Really? You wouldn't know that from reading and hearing the news headlines.

Then the question is, if love were to make the world go around, what kind of love is it? Is it romantic love like the song, "The Power of Love"? I think it would need to be something more substantial than that to keep the world turning on its axis.

Who comes to mind when you think of a more substantial love? Maybe Mother Teresa? Perhaps St Francis of Assisi, as reflected in his prayer?

But who was their role model? Jesus, of course. He is the personification of love, literally (John 1:1, 14; 3:16; 1 John 4:8).

Love, feed, lead

Last week, I talked about grassroots leadership as an illustration of the style of leadership we see in Jesus.

I also spoke of three words that summarize the role of a pastor, but which also apply to truly great leadership at all levels.

Those three words are—love, feed, and lead. I want to focus on love in this post, and I want to use the four letters of this word as an acrostic.

L-O-V-E

A lot's been said about this short, four-lettered word, but I want to look at each letter as it represents the leadership of Jesus.

This applies especially for pastors and others in a leadership role within the church, but I also see it as representative for believers who are leaders in other arenas in life.

What are those other arenas? Anything from business (small or large) to military leaders, and even less formal roles within life, even parenting.

L–

I originally saw the words love, feed, and lead based in John 10:1-18, where Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd.

Jesus expresses what He means by being the Good Shepherd in verse 11—

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Of course, most believers think Jesus refers to His sacrificial death on the cross. But there's more to it than that.

The most basic call of discipleship, in Matthew 16:24, makes it clear that we are to die to our self if we would follow Jesus.

Jesus extends this idea to leadership when He tells the disciples—

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)

"L" stands for love. Love is the mark of a great leader in God's kingdom—someone who is willing to lay down their life for another, and for Jesus.

[bctt tweet="Love is the mark of a great leader in God's kingdom"]

O–

The love of God is spelled out for us in the well-known text of 1 Corinthians 13. It's also the natural product of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22, 23).

It's also seen in the way Jesus called, led, and trained His followers. It wasn't by compelling them, but with humble leadership.

The apostle Peter learned this the hard way when Jesus restored him, after Peter had denied the Lord three times. We see this in John 21:15-19.

Peter passed this on to those he discipled as leaders. He exhorted them to "shepherd the flock of God..., not domineering over [them]..., but being examples to the flock." This is found in 1 Peter 5:1-5.

So the "O" stands for oversee. Godly leaders are not to be overbearing or domineering as lords, but caring for people as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, did.

[bctt tweet="Godly leaders are not to be overbearing or domineering as lords"]

V–

When a godly leader understands their power or authority is based in an unselfish love and oversight like that of Jesus, they value people.

Over the years, many churches have undervalued people, especially their volunteers and part-time staff. They undervalue them by taking them for granted.

Too often I've heard of people who get burned out serving in a church or ministry, and are left hanging in the wind, as others take their place. This should not be. Nor should this need to be explained.

We need to see people the way Jesus saw them, as sheep who need a shepherd (Matt 9:36).  This is the heart of Jesus, hear what He says—

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

"V" is for value. Any smart leader at any level, but especially godly ones, will value people, especially those who volunteer their services.

[bctt tweet="Many churches have undervalued people by taking them for granted"]

E–

One of the simple ways to value people is by empowering and enabling them to do what they are to do. Many in roles of leadership think they need to keep people under control, but this is not how we see Jesus leading people.

This brings us back to the earlier nature of the love we are to have as we lead people, a love that lays itself down for others.

Do we want others who serve under our leadership to succeed? Do we want them to do well? Then we need to find ways to empower and enable them to do so.

This is to be a basic role of all leadership in the church, and it makes sense for any role of leadership. The apostle Paul tells us that God gave gifts so the leaders could empower and enable those they lead.

This is what we're told in Ephesians 4:11-13, and the result is enormous and beneficial to all, including God. As it says in verse 11—

to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

"E" reminds us that good, godly leaders empower and enable people.

[bctt tweet="A simple way to value people is by empowering and enabling them to do things well"]

L-O-V-E—love that is unselfish, overseeing not overbearing, valuing people, and empowering and enabling them. That's how I spell love every godly leader needs to lead others. Just as Jesus did.


Next week I'll take a look at the word "feed" as I see it in relation to leading people.

If this post is worthwhile, please share it with others. Thanks for reading!

 

Grassroots Leadership

unsplash_path_thru_grass This year's presidential political campaign has surprised many who follow it. It's even made Black Friday look pale by comparison.

One political party has too many candidates, while the other has few. One grabs headlines, the other spawns yawns. What's happening?

You could tag it with various labels, including the old standbys of populism and grassroots politics. I think it's just one more indicator of what's needed in the world, let alone America.

People need leaders

A good friend told me long ago, "People need leaders." I was a young pastor and he was a young captain of fire fighters.

What he said rang true in my heart. It reminded me of my responsibility in God's kingdom. Not just as a pastor, but as a follower of Jesus.

One seemingly forgotten characteristic of the Jesus People Movement was the importance of life example in leadership.

[bctt tweet="Life example is important for leadership in God's kingdom"]

I'm concerned this is a neglected emphasis today in all aspects of leadership, but especially in God's kingdom.

Grassroots leadership

Look at the leadership of Jesus and what He endeavored to instill in His followers. What was the key?

People were drawn to Him in a natural way. From the first to the last, people saw Him, heard Him, and could not ignore Him.

[bctt tweet="People saw Jesus, and heard Him, but could not ignore Him"]

Even those who opposed Him and later plotted to kill Him, even they couldn't ignore Him.

So what was it about Jesus that drew people to Him? You could call it grassroots leadership.

Humble leadership

There was no fanfare, no clever strategy to draw more people.

This is so backwards to what's most popular today, the prevailing mantra—more is better.

But that's not the way of Jesus. It's also not the way of great leadership, according to Jim Collins in his book, From Good to Great.

What set apart the companies that rose to greatness? One essential was humble leadership.

[bctt tweet="Humility is essential for great leadership and to lead like Jesus"]

In a business model, this means putting the company and your people above your self.

Jesus the Good Shepherd

In God's kingdom, it means following the example of Jesus. It's seen throughout the gospels, but illustrated and explained in John 10 where Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd.

I am the good shepherd.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Several years ago, I was asked what the basics were to pastoring. A young missionary pastor to Thailand to whom I'm a mentor, asked me for a simple explanation.

I came up with three words to summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead—based on John 10:1-18.

[bctt tweet="3 words can summarize the responsibilities of a pastor—love, feed, and lead"]

Over the next few weeks I hope to unpack these three words related to the leadership of Jesus.

Hopefully, we'll see how they can apply to leadership at any level.

 

Haggling with God

Photo credit: unsplash.com_SKunze My wife and I served as missionaries in the Philippines for many years. We often hosted guests and mission teams, and while they were visiting, we’d take them to local shops for T-shirts and souvenirs.

I remember one visitor who prided himself on being a great bargain hunter. He spent inordinate amounts of time negotiating prices and haggling over small change.

We tried to help our guest understand the local vendors’ need to feed their families. We explained that this was their only livelihood, but this man didn’t see it that way. He enjoyed wearing down the vendors for small amounts of money.

He couldn’t accept that his overbearing and arrogant attitude shamed the vendor and embarrassed us. He saw his wrangling as good stewardship. Continue reading


When have you found yourself haggling with God?

How have you tried to justify yourself with God?

This is a guest post on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s Daily Devo blog. Click on the link to read more– Haggling with God!


 

Next week I plan to return to the devo's in Romans, thanks for reading and sharing!

Training Up a Timothy

Photo credit: Lightstock.com Some people speak of getting back to what the first church experienced. I think most of that talk is idyllic nostalgia. It's not based in reality, nor is it biblically sound.

I learned long ago, you can't go back to what was once before. Think of all those time-travel stories. It never works out well, things are always different. It's also not how God chooses to move by His Spirit. God desires to do something new, not remade or revisited.

But there is one thing we can go back to—the example of Jesus. After all, He is our prime example. On the night He was betrayed, He gave us a valuable example of His leadership style, and made it clear we are to follow this example.

More than washing feet

The story of Jesus washing the feet of His followers is full of great truths to teach. It is not just about washing one another's feet, although foot-washing services can be meaningful.

The primary focus of this story, in John 13:1-17, is the Lord's example of servant-leadership. It was a role He demonstrated throughout His life and public ministry, but this was not discerned too well by His disciples (Luke 22:24-27).

If you want to raise up a Timothy, a son or daughter in the faith, it should not be based on a pattern or curriculum or theological theory. It needs to be based on the example of Jesus.

He poured Himself into twelve men whom He chose as His foundation for the church. One would betray Him. All would deny Him, until they were empowered with the Spirit of God, after Jesus' resurrection.

Servant-Leadership as seen in John 13:1-17

Here are five characteristics and ways a true servant-leader leads. These are qualities and roles of leadership seen in Jesus. In John 13, as He washes the disciples feet, we see His example of confident, yet humble leadership.

This is our model. This is our only pattern, not clever leadership strategies designed by men.

Last week I posed a question—Pastor, where's your Timothy? This is a simple answer to that question.

Know the Way (v 1, 3)

We see the Lord’s confidence in knowing who He was as God’s Son, where He came from, and where He was going. Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities. Our confidence is based on the Lord and who He has called us to be in our relationship with Him.

Knowing the way for us is to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus (Mt 16:24), and be guided by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14). This is how we are to live and lead until we see Jesus face to face.

[bctt tweet="Our confidence is not to be in ourselves or abilities, but in the Lord"]

Walk the Way (v 4-5)

By far, the most common and important element of true servant-leadership is being a living example. This, of course, is the picture we have of Jesus as He washes the disciples feet.

This is not unusual, but seen throughout Jesus' leadership and training of the disciples. Example was always an essential element of His leadership.

[bctt tweet="Example was an essential element of Jesus' leadership"]

Show the Way (v 6-13)

This is simply an extension of walking the way, but moves beyond example to helping others see or know the way. How? By teaching and training in a personal and relational manner.

We see this in the dialog between Jesus and Peter, and in His instruction to all the disciples. This is not classroom or pulpit teaching, but a process of relational discipleship.

[bctt tweet="Genuine discipleship involves teaching and training in a personal, relational manner"]

Make a way (v 14-15)

An important part of leadership is training up new leaders. Again, it is not a program, but an intentional and relational process of discipleship. Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders.

The responsibility of leaders and mentors is to make a way for others to step up into leadership roles. It is often a matter of creating opportunities for others to move forward.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders, so make a way for them"]

Step away (v 16-17)

One of the more difficult roles of leadership is knowing when it’s time to move on or get out of the way. It's usually a matter of timing, but also the way in which a leader steps away.

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example, but other examples are Barnabas (Acts 11:24-26), and Paul in the pastoral epistles. It requires self-denial on the leader’s part.

[bctt tweet="Knowing when to step back for other leaders to step up requires self-denial"]

The essential element

The essential element of servant-leadership is humility. This is the nature of our Lord Jesus (Matt 11:29; Phil 2:5-8), and it is essential for any leader to lead as Jesus did. Humility is important for mentoring others.

If you look closely at the life of Paul the apostle, you will see it, and Peter reminds all elders and young leaders of this too (1 Pet 5:5).

If you want to raise up a Timothy, someone who is able to lead others beyond your leadership, then know the way, walk the way, show the way, make a way, then step away.

Are you committed to intentional, relational discipleship? Are you ready to mentor someone? If so, follow the lead of Jesus.


This post is a follow-up to last week's post— Pastor, Where's Your Timothy?

Do What We Say, Not as We Do

Photo credit: lightstock.com What about you? You say you are a Jew. You trust in the law and proudly claim to be close to God. You know what God wants you to do. And you know what is important, because you have learned the law.

You think you are a guide for people who don’t know the right way, a light for those who are in the dark. You think you can show foolish people what is right. And you think you are a teacher for those who are just beginning to learn.

You have the law, and so you think you know everything and have all truth. You teach others, so why don’t you teach yourself? You tell them not to steal, but you yourself steal. You say they must not commit adultery, but you yourself are guilty of that sin. You hate idols, but you steal them from their temples.

You are so proud that you have God’s law, but you bring shame to God by breaking his law. As the Scriptures say, “People in other nations insult God because of you.” (‭Romans‬ ‭2:‭17-24‬ ERV)


Self-righteousness infects all of us. No one is free from it. We look for ways to make ourselves look good, or at least better than someone else. So, we use a sliding scale of "goodness" that makes us appear to be better than others.

This text in Romans was first written with a Jewish person in mind. They knew God, the living God. God Almighty chose them as His own people. Their identity was wrapped up in that belief, and in the (Mosaic) Law given to them so they would be examples to other people who worshipped idols and many gods.

Today, it fits those of us who claim to be Christian believers. We say we know the right way, the only way, and often think its our role to get everyone else following our moral code, because our way is the right way. We can quote Scriptures to back this up.

Only one problem, and it's a big problem. We often don't live up to our own expectations for others. People take note of this—that our example doesn't always match our self-righteous talk.

Christian believers are called to be living examples of the one, true, Living God. As the expression goes, we need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

So, the issue is not knowing the right way, it's living it. Our daily life needs to reflect the gracious and humble nature of Jesus our Lord. ©Word-Strong_2015

5 Ways to Lead Like Jesus

Photo credit: lightstock.com You might remember the Christian marketing craze of WWJD. Well, that's how I saw it. It was a craze, a fad, a marketing ploy with a quasi-stamp-of-approval from Jesus. The acronym was based on the Christian classic, In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon.

I've read the book. It was better than the marketing fad. It encouraged a daily lifestyle reflecting the humble, yet practical way Jesus lived while on earth. People were encouraged to ask themselves the question, "What would Jesus do?" How would Jesus handle the various relationships and situations of my life?

So the question can also be asked, "How did Jesus lead?" What are the ways Jesus displayed leadership? One thing is certain, He demonstrated servant-leadership in everything He did.

The qualities and roles of Jesus' leadership are seen in His humble expression of servant-leadership, in John 13:1-17. This is where Jesus washes the disciples feet, including Judas, the one who would later betray Him.

Jesus shows us an example of confident, yet humble leadership. Then we see Jesus pointedly addressing the lack of humble leadership in His own followers. They had a penchant for arguing who was the greatest among them. Jesus even used a child as an example, to make His point in a couple of instances (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-27).

[bctt tweet="Jesus shows us an example of confident, yet humble leadership"]

In John 13, Jesus provides a clear example by carrying out the job of the lowest household servant. He shows us how a servant-leader leads.

Here are 5 ways a true servant-leader leads.

Know the way

We see the Lord’s confidence in knowing who He was as God’s Son, in John 13:1, 3. Jesus knew where He came from, and where He was going, and that His Father gave authority over all things to Him.

Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities, but in the Lord. Who has He called us to be? How has he called us to serve Him? Our confidence as leaders needs to be based in our own, healthy relationship with Jesus.

[bctt tweet="Our confidence is not to be in ourselves, nor our abilities, but in the Lord"]

Knowing the way for us is to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus daily (Luke 9:23). Surrendering our will to Jesus, we will be guided by the Holy Spirit each day.

Walk the Way

By far, the most common and important element of true servant-leadership is being a living example.

This, of course, is the picture we have of Jesus as He washes the disciples feet (John 13:4-5). It is something we see in Him throughout His leadership and training of the disciples.

[bctt tweet="The most common, important element of true servant-leadership is our life example"]

It was an essential element of Jesus' leadership, as it needs to be for each of us.

Show the Way

This is an extension of walking the way, but moves beyond example to helping others see or know the way. How? By teaching and training in a personal and relational manner.

Here in, John 13:6-13, we see Jesus do this in His dialogue with Peter, then in His instruction to all the disciples. This is not classroom or pulpit teaching, but a relational discipleship process.

[bctt tweet="Sound discipleship includes teaching and training in a personal and relational manner"]

It takes an investment of time in people, the very thing we see Jesus do.

Make a way

An important part of leadership is training up new leaders. This is not a program to be developed, but an intentional and relational process of discipleship. This is what we see Jesus doing in John 13:14-15).

Discipleship done well naturally produces leaders. The responsibility of leaders and mentors is to make way for others to step up into leadership roles. It is often a simple matter of creating opportunities to enable others to move forward.

[bctt tweet="Leaders and mentors need to make way for others to step up into leadership roles"]

Jesus' vision was eternal, and He prepared and made the way for His followers to lead others.

Step away

One of the more difficult roles of leadership is knowing when it’s time to move on or get out of the way. It is usually a matter of timing, but also the way in which a leader steps away.

Again, we look to Jesus as our prime example in, John 13:16-17. Other examples are Barnabas bringing Paul to Antioch (Acts 11:22-26) and Paul in his pastoral epistles. It requires more self-denial on the servant-leader’s part.

[bctt tweet="A difficult role of leadership is to know when it’s time to move on or get out of the way"]

On the night Jesus washed the disciples feet, He was preparing them for His departure and for them to step up and into the Jesus-style of leadership—servant-leadership.

Do it

Knowing and doing are two different things. Doing is often what's missing in the church and in leadership. Before you run with this to rail against Christianity, churches, and leaders, remember—this is not just for those with identifiable roles of leadership, it's for all believers.

An old adage reminds us to be part of the solution, not the problem. It's easy to find fault with others, it's much harder to follow through on what we know to do. This is why Jesus tells His followers, after explaining why He washed their feet—

If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:17)

Whose lives do you influence? How can you lead them as Jesus led?

Are you leading others in any of these 5 ways? If so, continue to move forward through all five. If not, why not?


For a more detailed look at how Jesus led, I highly recommend the book, The Jesus Style. It has become a Jesus Movement classic written by my friend, Gayle Erwin.

Another great book on how to make disciples who will disciple others is, The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman.

Memories and Memorials

Photo credit: valentinesdaycardsprintables.com I'm not a nationalist, but I am a patriot. My family and I lived outside our nation of origin for 15 years, and I've traveled to many other nations. I'm thankful, to God, for where I was born and the privileges extended to me and my family citizens of the USA.

Nationalism, a fervent love of one's own nation, can easily become xenophobic and ethnocentric. Patriotism, in my view, is not about pride, but gratitude—thankfulness and humility.

This is what celebrating Memorial Day ought to be about—thankfulness for those who've given their lives to secure our freedom, both past and present. This, in and of itself, should humble all who call the USA their home, their nation. We are a nation of immigrants from around the world, who should be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy.

I have family and friends who have served and are serving in the military. I am indebted to them and others like them through the decades. We all are, even when we don't acknowledge it.

Yesterday I had the privilege of sharing the message of the gospel. I'm reminded of what Jesus said—

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13 NKJV)

Not all that serve in the military are Christian believers, but I'm thankful for all who serve and have served, because I have the freedom to express my faith. I know this is not a guaranteed freedom or right in many nations, so I'm thankful. I'm humbled by their service, and thankful that my faith is founded on the one, genuinely innocent Man, Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for all people, everywhere.

This is why I'm not a nationalist, nor xenophobic, and don't want to be ethnocentric. But I am proud of those who have served and serve this nation I call home.

My heart was stirred while listening to the radio in my car yesterday. A song came on that reminded me of God's love, and the love of those who've laid down their lives for others. It's called, Letters from War, by Mark Shultz, who won a Dove award for it in 2005, and wrote a book that gives the back story for it. Below are links for both of them.

This day, Memorial Day, is a national day of remembrance. Every day is an opportunity to be thankful and humble.

Letters from War (video)

Letters from War (book)

Building a Leadership Team On a Solid Foundation

©tkbeyond_2015As a young boy, I was not a great athlete. I wasn’t even a good one. I was skinny, had no confidence, nor any gift or skill of athleticism. But I loved sports! What I lacked in skill or gifting, I made up with hustle and effort. Consequently, when it came to choosing up teams, I was one of the last, if not the last, to be chosen. Come to think of it, a lot of my life has been like that.

I don’t know how I developed a love for sports, since my dad wasn’t a sports fan. But I loved baseball! To this day, I’m a true-blue LA Dodgers fan, even though I live in FL. I enjoy team sports, but know that having good athletes is not the secret to having a great team. So, how do you build a solid leadership team?

How do you start building?

Always start with a solid foundation. Just as with building a home, or any building, a good, solid foundation is critical. The classic example? The leaning Tower of Pisa.

[bctt tweet="When building a leadership team, always start with a solid foundation"]

When it comes to a ministry team within a church or other ministry, a solid relationship with Jesus needs to be priority one. This is where I left off in last week's post. This is also true for any business venture involving Christian believers. If relationship with the Lord isn't priority one, the venture will be built on shaky ground. When it comes to ministry work, this should be obvious.

I see at least five components needed for building a leadership team on solid ground—humility, purposeful vision, commitment, respect, and shared responsibility. Sorry, no clever acronym, and all the points don't start with the same letter. I just couldn't make that happen, so I'll try to keep it short.

#1–Humility

Since a personal relationship with Jesus is our best foundation, lets consider Him as a leader. Want was Jesus like at His core? His very essence? Here it is in His own words—

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30 NIV)

First of all, He tells us what His nature is—gentle and humble. Hmmm, doesn't sound much like what we tend to value in a leader, but there you go. As I mentioned last week, Paul (Phil 2:5-8) and Peter (1 Peter 5:1-5) stress the importance of this as a leadership quality. Humility is an important value for a healthy leadership team.

[bctt tweet="Jesus' humble leadership style is much different from most leaders"]

There are some encouraging promises given. Jesus will give us rest when we look to Him as our first priority—a rest for our souls—an internal rest. And, He promises a good working situation with Him as our senior partner—our genuinely humble leader.

#2–Purposeful vision

Most vision or mission statements I've seen try to be pithy and powerful. However, in some cases it's just a statement without action to back it up. For a vision to propel a leadership team forward, it needs to be purposeful.

A vision that inspires and motivates people needs to have a clear sense of purpose and scope. The vision has a mission built into it. It answers these two questions—

  1. What is the distinct reason for why we exist as a team? [purpose]
  2. Who are we leading and serving, and how will we do this? [scope]

[bctt tweet="Vision that inspires and motivates needs to have a clear purpose and scope"]

#3–Commitment

There's the old fable about a pig and a chicken regarding their different levels of commitment to a breakfast of ham and eggs. Obviously, the pig has to die to contribute to the breakfast, while the chicken continues to live after contributing the eggs.

Real commitment requires risk. It's a matter of trust, even when a certain level of confidence exists. When building a leadership team, commitment is essential, but everyone needs to buy in to what ever the mission is. This is why the vision, which expresses whatever the mission is, must be purposeful and clear.

[bctt tweet="Real commitment requires the willingness to risk and trust"]

#4–Respect

Respect is a valuable, but often underrated, even neglected element of a solid leadership team. With team sports, the more respect and trust (commitment) each member has for the others, the more likely the team will function at a high level.

Over and over, teams that play well together, but without superstars, defeat teams laden with talent who lack team unity. Members of a solid team will say they "have one another's back" as an expression of commitment and respect.

[bctt tweet="Respect is a valuable, but underrated and neglected element of leadership"]

Respect also needs to be shown when things don't go as expected or wanted. This is where members of a team realize the intrinsic value of each member. The famous quote by Alexander Dumas, in The Three Musketeers, expresses this idea— "All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall."

#5–Shared responsibility

This is where a team becomes a real team. Each person needs to realize that their area of responsibility is not just theirs alone. The "all for one..." quote applies, once again. A team is a complementary relationship. Each member fills a role, and the strengths of one member flow over and fill the weaknesses of others.

[bctt tweet="A team is a complementary relationship, where strengths and weaknesses fit together"]

The church, the Body of Christ, is to be a model of this, as the apostle Paul points out in his first epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12:14-27), and in other epistles.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Rom 12:3-5 NIV)

These traits—humility, purposeful vision, commitment, respect, and shared responsibility—based on a solid foundation, are a good start in building a healthy leadership team.

What are your thoughts on these traits?

What's your experience with leadership teams—good or bad?


This is one of several posts on leadership. The most recent one on leadership teams is– Leadership Transition and the Value of a Team

What Do We Have in Common?

Photo credit: lightstock.com A tribe is one of the newer terms to describe a specific group of people with a common bond. Whatever the common bond might be, it ties people together as a like-minded unit. It could be a cause, a leader, or a common interest.

A tribe needs someone to be the leader. In pre-PC days they might be referred to as a chief. But their title or designation isn't what's important. What is important is their leadership. For a tribe or any community to continue to function as a unit, the leader needs to be able to lead them together.

A Body, not an institution

The church—the Body of Christ, as it's called in the Bible—is a community of believers with a common bond. What's the common bond for the church? Jesus. He is also the head of the church—its primary leader. It's more than a tribe, it's a family with one Father and many children.

The church is not an institution, as some may think. Not God's church. It stretches far beyond any organization or institutional hierarchy governed by man. And God never designed it to be populated by individuals who participate only for how it benefits them or best fits their needs.

[bctt tweet="The church stretches far beyond any organization or institutional hierarchy of man"]

How God designed His church is illustrated by the celebration of communion, also called the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist. It is not a remembrance of Jesus' suffering on the cross, but a time to remember Him. He who is our common bond and the Shepherd of our souls. We are to remember who He is and what He did upon the cross and through His resurrection.

A common commitment

Our common bond as a body of believers is what enables us to be a community, but it doesn't mean we function as one. Our ability and willingness to function as a community is based on our commitment to surrender our will and life to Jesus.

[bctt tweet="Our common bond as a body of believers is what enables us to be a community"]

He is our common bond, and it is our collective relationship with Him that enables us to be a community. We function best as a community when our surrender and humility to Jesus overflows into our relationships with one another.

This is the picture revealed to us in the book of Acts where, "All who believed were together and held everything in common..." (Acts 2:44 NET). Again we're told, "The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common" (Acts 4:32).

What was their secret?

I wrote a post recently about the value of a team in leadership transition. It got me thinking, "How does a church develop a leadership team?" This got me to reflect on what the church's foundation is for being a team. The early church "held everything in common." This is what made them a true community.

[bctt tweet="The early church held everything in common, which made them a true community"]

The biblical Greek word for this commonality is koinonia (1 Cor 10:16 NKJV), which is also where we draw the word communion. As mentioned above, what draws believers together when celebrating communion is our common relationship with Jesus.

This is what Jesus prayed for on the night He was betrayed—

“I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me." (John 17:20-21 NET)

The apostle Paul exhorts the church in Philippi with a similar heart—

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Phil 2:3-5 NET)

Humble leadership

When we experience this type of community as a church body, we have the proper foundation for developing a leadership team. It reflects the nature of the chief Shepherd, Jesus (1 Peter 5:1-5).

Next week I'll look at how to build a leadership team on this foundation. If you haven't read the 3-part series on leadership transition, links for the first two posts are in the third post. Here's the link–Leadership Transition and the Value of a Team

What do you think is needed for building a leadership team on a solid foundation?

Stay tuned!

No Answer

WS-devo_PMSEarly in the morning the chief priests immediately came to a decision with the leaders and the experts in Moses’ Teachings. The whole Jewish council decided to tie Jesus up, lead him away, and hand him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, I am,” Jesus answered him.

The chief priests were accusing him of many things. So Pilate asked him again, “Don’t you have any answer? Look how many accusations they’re bringing against you!”

But Jesus no longer answered anything, so Pilate was surprised. (‭Mark‬ ‭15‬:‭1-5‬ GW)


When you or I are accused by others, our first instinct is to defend ourselves. We'll protest our innocence, even when we are in the wrong. Our natural response is to justify ourselves, often at the expense of others.

Jesus, the only genuinely innocent man, doesn't defend Himself, though falsely accused. He admits who He is, but doesn't answer His accusers' taunts. Why didn't He answer when He was falsely accused?

He is our honest substitute, who exchanged His innocence for our guilt. He made a way for us to follow. When offering Himself up to reconcile humanity to God, He first laid aside any effort to defend Himself. He is our supreme example of true humility and honesty.

As we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ this week, let's follow His example. Let's not justify ourselves, but humble and surrender ourselves to Him who exchanged His life for us, so we could have eternal life. ©Word-Strong_2015

The Art of Yielding

Yield-signs If you drive a vehicle of some kind, you've seen the signposts with the upside-down triangle. Sometimes yellow, sometimes red and white, and sometimes they have specific wording or symbols.

It's a yield sign. It tells drivers to yield, to slow down and allow other drivers to proceed before entering the other road. Many drivers don't seem to understand this. Instead of giving way to other drivers, they seem oblivious to the oncoming traffic, or even think they have the right of way. I've seen honking, frustrated drivers who have to give way to them.

Which driver are you? Are you the one who has to give way to the ones who ignore the yield sign, or the one who ignores it? Or, have you been both at times?

Why is it hard to yield to others?

Why do we have a hard time yielding to others on the road? Is it ignorance of driving laws, or a symptom of our cultural tendencies, a sense of entitlement? What I see on the roads of America, I see in our culture. It also permeates the church culture of America.

I can't speak of this based on research or with polls to back it up, only simple observation. We Americans don't seem to be good at yielding to others. I'm not speaking of driving habits, but daily life. This isn't a condition of one generational age or another, or one denomination or another. It's a human condition.

Perhaps it's easier to see on our roadways, but I've seen it first hand in many ways and in many places. I've also seen it in myself, and I'll bet, if you're honest, you've seen it in yourself, as well.

[bctt tweet="Why do we have a hard time yielding to others"]

What's the problem?

So, what's the reason for this? And don't give me the glib, "because we're sinners." There's a deeper issue here. This goes to the core of who we are when we claim to be Christians—Christ-followers. And Jesus knows this is our problem, all of us. He addressed it many times with the disciples.

What was the final teaching expressed by action that Jesus did before He went to the cross? What was the subject the disciples argued about with each other that prompted some of Jesus' most poignant teaching?

When the disciples argued about who was the greatest among them, Jesus exhorted them about servanthood (Mark 9:33-37). What did He do to them on the final night He was with them? He washed their feet, then exhorted them to do the same (John 13:1-17).

His admonition for all of us who want to be His followers gets to the crux of it all.

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me." (Matt 16:24 NLT)

How can we change?

How do we turn from our selfish ways? I trust you've found this is not so easy. Yes, Jesus gives us the supreme example, but any attempt to be like Jesus in our own strength, by our own will and determination, is bound to fail. Paul the apostle spoke to this in Romans—

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. (Romans 7:18, 19 NLT)

[bctt tweet="How do we turn from our selfish ways? Why is it so hard?"]

The apostle Paul helps us with this dilemma in his epistle to the Philippians. He connects our difficulty with yielding to others (because of selfishness and self-centeredness) to the example of Jesus.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. (Phil 2:3-6 NLT)

Others

Reading the larger context of Paul's admonition in Philippians 2:1-9, it's clear that we are to think of others in a similar way as Jesus did. He let go of His rights as God (the Son) and became human. He humbled Himself, emptied Himself, and died for our benefit.

General William Booth wanted to send a telegram of encouragement to his leaders, but could only afford one word. What word did he choose? Others. This was the focus he wanted his Salvation Army leaders to have.

[bctt tweet="The key to yielding is considering others and their interests above our own"]

This is the key to the art of yielding. When we consider others and put their interests above our own, we express the nature of Jesus. As Jesus said in another dialog with His disciples—

"But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45 NLT)

Yielding to others

So, whether you're driving, or at a supermarket, waiting in line somewhere, or in a discussion with others—think about them. Consider them. Put yourself in their place. Give way to them, even when you think you're right or have the right of way.

[bctt tweet="Think about others, consider them and put yourself in their place"]

If we all did this just once a day, it would change our lives, and probably begin changing the lives of others around us. It may not be a lot, but it's a start. It's a start in the right direction—away from just thinking of ourselves.

Here are some questions to consider and act on—

When was the last time you yielded—gave way—to someone else in some way?

When was the last time you didn't insist on being right in an argument?

When did you last do something to bless someone else without any expectations?

The Importance of a Heart Examination

Photo credit: lightstock.com

Scientific study and research reports are a staple of news media. It could be the latest indicators of climate change, or some new insight for a healthy life.

One report tells of the danger of certain foods that drive cholesterol up, then another report seems to contradict the first one.

As noted by many, the health and fitness industry is a popular and lucrative one. We're also reminded that heart disease continues to be a top health problem.

But what about the heart issues spoken of in the Bible? They're not related to cholesterol, diet, or exercise, but they are important.

Scripture

The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the lordhe guides it wherever he pleases. People may be right in their own eyes, but the lord examines their heart. The lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin. [vss 1-4]

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty. Wealth created by a lying tongue is a vanishing mist and a deadly trap. The violence of the wicked sweeps them away, because they refuse to do what is just. The guilty walk a crooked path; the innocent travel a straight road. It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home. Evil people desire evil; their neighbors get no mercy from them. [vss 5-10]

If you punish a mocker, the simpleminded become wise; if you instruct the wise, they will be all the wiser. The Righteous One knows what is going on in the homes of the wicked; he will bring disaster on them. Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need. [vss 11-13]

(Proverbs 21:1-13 NLT) [Context– Proverbs 21]

Key phrase— The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than...sacrifices

[bctt tweet="The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than...sacrifices"]

Digging Deeper...

Which verses speak of the heart, and what is said about it?

What contrasts do you see in these verses, and how are they related ton one another?

What descriptive picture language stands out to you in these verses?

Which of these verses describe attitudes and motives that move a person to certain actions, or prevent them from doing what is right and just?

Reflection...

You've probably heard expressions like, "Good health is everything, " or "...priceless," or "...better than wealth." But is this true? I believe it's a blessing to have good health, and I'm conscious of that.

But, if I'm just healthy on the outside (my body and physical heart), and not on the inside (my mind and inner heart), how is that good?

Physical health is valuable while I'm physically alive, but my soul will outlast my body. More than that, our internal, spiritual health has a direct impact on our physical health, as well as our attitude and behavior.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you ever take time to examine your heart, your motives, and attitudes?

Do you ever find yourself struggling to do what you know is right to do?

How do you determine what is valuable and important in your life, and what are these priorities based on?

Are you willing to evaluate what fills up your life and time, and what your actual priorities are?