Our discouragement can open the way for the adversary to kill, steal from and destroy us.
It is unusual for a thief to send a postcard to make an appointment with the owner of a house. Part of the evil genius of his craft is to come when he is least expected. As Christians we often live our lives unaware of the enemy and his efforts to destroy us.
In the New Testament, the thief is a figure of the unexpected. "If the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched" (Matt. 24:43, NKJV). We are living in a world in which evil takes no respite and where life demands vigilance that affords no vacation.
“When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long.” (Psalm 32:3 NLT)
Yesterday we looked at the importance of trusting God and letting go of resentment, worry, and fear to maintain good health. This leads right into a second biblical factor for good health.
Confessing my sin is good for my health. Any psychologist will tell you this: It’s good to clear your conscience and get things off your chest. Your body is not made to hold it in. When you hold guilt inside you, it’s like shaking up a soda can with the top on. It will blow eventually.
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.— 1 Corinthians 10:12
Have you built any pedestals lately? In the last couple of decades, newspapers and newscasts have been filled with reports of sin in high places. Television evangelists have fallen with embarrassing regularity. Today's righteous finger pointer often turns into tomorrow's suspect of impropriety. Only the exposures of political leaders vie with the revelations of religious scandals for front-page coverage.
I'm not sure how the average American views these scandals. Certainly the news media seem to delight in their revelations. And comedians have grist for hundreds of new routines. But as a person who also claims to be a born again Christian and a follower of the same Jesus about whom these men have preached, I am dismayed and angered. When these high profile Christians are impugned, I feel as if the barbs are being hurled at me. Their proven or alleged wrongdoings seem to indict all of us. Maybe you can identify with those feelings.
If we the evangelical Christian community are honest, however, we would have to admit that we are part of the problem. You see, by putting these men on pedestals, we have made them larger than life and we have made them susceptible to the temptations of power and pride.
In reality, they are fallible and sinful human beings, just like you and me. Think of how you would fare if your inconsistencies and secrets were exposed--those angry words, gossip, lust for things, murdeous thoughts. But we elevate those with special gifts. We treat celebrity converts with almost worship status.
Years ago, as a college freshman and aspiring athlete, I went to college football camp. It was a Christian institution, staffed with excellent role models. I admired these upper classmen "superstars" as athletes and as great examples of the Christian life. But during one of our team meetings, a massive All-American tackle said something that I have never forgotten. "Don't put your faith in us or in any human being. If you watch us long enough or close enough, we'll let you down," he said. "Instead, keep your eyes on Christ. He will never fail."
Who are your Christian "superstars?" A pastor, a musician, a parent, a close friend? By "overrating" you hurt them and yourself. Instead, let us put our Christian leaders in their proper place as fellow strugglers who are striving to be Christ-like and who are using their gifts to serve him. And let's uphold in prayer our Christian leaders and those in the spotlight.
First, knowing so many ministry-types serve Jesus' goals, I don't want to seem unduly critical of any in addressing a concern. If you're a dedicated servant-leader, I'm on your side! But I want to bluntly talk about the lessened "weight" being given today to Jesus' strategy for advancing His church. He said, "Go—make disciples!"—and this foundational call is increasingly being "dissed."
"Dissing"—the pop word for disrespect—is becoming normalized regarding discipleship. I don't think it's calculated, but it's occurring as "doing church" supplants "becoming the church." A dimming focus on plain, New Testament discipling is bringing us to the brink of evolving dumbed-down saints, a deceivable elect and a crippled Body emptied of ministry strength and unready to face persecution.
Without discipleship, we are at risk of garnering believers in Jesus while not growing stable, committed, empowered agents of Christ. Jesus spoke of people who "for joy" lay claim to faith, but who do not endure. They wither when trials or pressure comes (see Mark 4:5, 17)—and Christians are facing an increase of both in our world.
Many believers in the United States think the Holy Spirit's power is an option. Christians in Africa - where miracles are frequent - don't have that attitude.
AFRICA SHALL BE SAVED.” I heard God's message so clearly. In response my family moved from Lesotho to South Africa in 1974. But how was Africa going to be saved? Clueless, I sat with my head in my hands. As unknowns, we moved out into the unknown, with no prospects mapped out for us, hoping for further instruction from the Lord.
And sure enough, God spoke again. I was to rent the National Stadium in Gaborone, Botswana, for a gospel crusade. The only group willing to work with us was a church of 40 members.
I walked through the little city, not knowing how to put the loose ends together, and made a provisional booking for the stadium by faith. It was the right move.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.— Matthew 6:33
In a column, reporter Bob Greene once opined on "How to Become a Hero." He described a Texas gem dealer who went to a mineral show in Arizona. There he met a man who wandered creek beds, looking for interesting stones. This man was displaying some of his finds in plastic containers.
Among the smaller stones the dealer saw a large rock, and that's all the displayer thought it was--a big rock. But this gem dealer knew otherwise. He recognized it as the biggest star sapphire he had ever seen.
Knowing that the owner had no idea of the true worth of the stone, the gem dealer bargained with him and paid $10 for the rock. Later he reported that it was worth $2.5 million.
And, noted Greene, this gem dealer has become a sort of folk hero because he found something of value and purchased it at the lowest possible price, without hinting to the original owner what was going on. Greene went on to say, "This is just a particularly dramatic example of the way so many people are getting rich these days. They don't do anything of importance or value; they just manipulate and sidestep and feint and parry. They make people think they are going to do one thing, and then they do another. The lesson seems to be that only suckers believe in putting in a day's work for a day's pay. The smart boys are the tricksters."
Unfortunately, Bob Greene is right. People's lives today seem consumed with lotteries, long shots, and insider trading . . . and a continuing saga of greed, bribery, extortion, and embezzlement.
As Christians, however, we shouldn't be too surprised. Jesus said that his values are the opposite of the world's and that people who follow him will be misunderstood. True followers of Christ won't fit into society.
The Bible says that who we are on the inside is infinitely more important than our outward appearance, the way we achieve our goals is as important as the goals themselves, and that seeking Christ and his kingdom is more important than being the richest person on earth.
Greene concludes his column with these thoughts: "Let's imagine that the gem dealer sees the star sapphire and instead of purchasing it for $10, he tells the man of its real worth and urges him to get some advice about what a fair asking price is before selling it. I know, I know; that's not the way the world works. Maybe, though, he could have at least cut the poor rock-hunter in on his profits. But then he wouldn't have been a hero for these days, would he?"
"And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?" (Matt 16:26).
Don't worry about making it in today's world. Focus your attention on being a "hero" where it counts . . . in God's eyes.
What does holiness have to do with your needs? Francis Frangipane reveals the answer from Matthew 3.
According to Scripture, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit “while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15, NASB). We are also told his coming was in the spirit and power of Elijah. Historians tell us that John’s penetrating, uncompromising ministry led nearly 1 million people to repentance. Vast multitudes left their cities and towns and went into the wilderness to hear the prophet and be baptized into repentance in preparation for the kingdom of God.
Only Jesus knew the fallen condition of the human heart more perfectly than John. No class of people escaped the Baptist’s judgment: soldiers and kings, sinners and religious leaders alike all were brought into the “valley of decision.” John’s baptism was more than a simple immersion in water. He required a public confession of sins as well as the bringing forth of righteousness (see Matt. 3:6, 8).
Editor’s Note: Daily during January and February, MinistryTodaymag.com will feature an article from pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren and his staff in conjunction with his new book, What on Earth Am I Here For? Warren is the guest editor for Charisma’s Ministry Today magazine for its January/February issue.
“So we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God's presence as a mature person in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28 NCV)
I believe there are five measurements of spiritual growth: knowledge, perspective, conviction, skills, and character.
The first measurement is knowledge of God’s Word. To begin building a spiritual growth curriculum, you need to ask two questions: What do people already know? And, what do they need to know?
All of us care a great deal about our country. The intensity of opinions and feelings during the long political campaign showed the depth of that concern.
Now with the votes counted, it is important to remember that whether we are personally pleased with the outcome or not, God wants us to pray for those chosen to be our leaders—at the national, state, and local levels. The Bible urges us to do so with both respect and thanksgiving (see 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Timothy 2:1–3).
We must also remember that no election will ever solve America’s most basic problems. That is because the trouble, at its root, is in the human heart, and the only path to true restoration—for a person or for a nation—is through repentance. The Bible says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20, ESV).
Editor’s Note: Daily during January and February, MinistryTodaymag.com will feature an article from pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren in conjunction with his new book, What on Earth Am I Here For? Warren is the guest editor for Charisma’s Ministry Today magazine for its January/February issue.
“So we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God's presence as a mature person in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28 NCV)
The most practical and powerful way to get believers headed in the direction of spiritual maturity is to help them establish habits that promote spiritual growth.
You cannot talk about character without talking about habits. Character is the way you habitually act. For example, if you are honest only part of the time, or if you are honest only when you consciously choose to be honest, you cannot claim to have the character quality of integrity.
So the LORD was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute.— 2 Kings 18:7
What does it mean to be successful?
Success usually brings to mind financial achievement or being number one. Others would define success by the bumper sticker: "He who dies with the most toys wins." Some like to think that success is being busy--on the go, racing from one appointment to another, and having too much to do with too little time to do it.
The problem with these definitions of success is they exact a high cost. The Executive Digest has noted, "The trouble with success is that the formula is the same as the one for a nervous breakdown." That's sobering, uncomfortable, and too often true.
Maybe the definition of success that you are familiar with is not the correct one. I would encourage you to reassess your definition of success before it is too late. May I propose a new look at the word S.U.C.C.E.S.S.?
Service. There is no such thing as success without service. The secret of success lies in meeting the needs of others. And when we are meeting people's needs, we will discover fulfillment.
Understanding contentment. Let's not measure success by how much we own or how much money we have but by a sense of inner contentment. Real success is always internal, never external.
Character. Character is of greater value than how much money or status we have. A man's best test of character is revealed in how he treats people around him. So measure your success not by your possessions and achievements. Measure success by the quality of your character and conduct.
Compassion. What really matters is not money, power, and ego but issues of the heart--such as compassion, kindness, bravery, generosity, and love. Do you love people more than things?
Excellence. Excellence is not being the best but being your best.
Significance. The popular notion of success has not cut it. A growing number of people yearn for significance more than success. Significance comes by giving ourselves to something that is greater than us and that will outlast us.
Sacrifice. A problem in our society is that we are spending our entire lives looking for something worth living for. It would be better if we found something worth dying for. Success under these guidelines will bring you into harmony with God's guidance.
Identifying the kingdom characteristics of a healthy church
There is much discussion about identifying and articulating the culture of our individual local churches. Amid countless innovative trends and strategies, we have to keep a strong grip on the fact that we are carrying out one central mission. Jesus, the head of the church, preached the kingdom of heaven.
As we carry out our mission of building the church He began, there is a “kingdom culture” that must be protected. I love what strategist and author Sam Chand says: “Toxic culture will eat great vision for lunch!” Any senior leader whose great vision has been hijacked by bad attitudes, practices or motives can attest to the fact that a crucial responsibility of leaders is to be guardians of the culture of the ministries we lead.
Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.— Revelation 2:10
Faithfulness is not a word we hear often these days. Sometimes we hear it at retirement parties: "After twenty-five years of faithful service, we give you this gold watch." Or we use it to describe our dog: "My dog may be old and ugly, but he's faithful." The word is employed to describe the most famous geyser in America, Old Faithful, at Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful is not the biggest geyser in America. And it's not the most powerful geyser in America. What makes it famous is its faithfulness! It's like clockwork. Dependable. People appreciate constancy, even in a geyser.
It's not easy to find someone who can be counted on. One who will be faithful to the end. One who is dependable through thick and thin. The fact is that not everyone who volunteers actually comes through. Not everyone who says they will perform a task actually does it. Not everyone who makes a commitment can be counted on.
Faithfulness is not just a religious duty that we employ on Sundays or when we are supposed to be Christian. When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember that God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a dependable and reliable accountant or teacher or parent or engineer. Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us.
In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery.
"Your Majesty," said Prior Richard, "Do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king."
"I understand," said Henry. "The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you."
"Then I will tell you what to do," said Prior Richard. "Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you." (Steve Brown, Key Biscayne, Florida)
Not bad counsel. Go forth and do likewise faithfully.
The shepherds saw a babe in a manger. The wise men, arriving later, also saw a young child. But the one who emerged from Mary’s womb that cold winter night in Bethlehem of Judea was much more than what was discernible with human eyes.
He was God. The sacred record is clear: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’
Being a pastor is a fulfilling privilege--but it can be demanding, too. Here's what every pastor wishes his sheep knew about their shepherd.
I just want to go to a place where nobody knows us!" my wife, Kelly, lamented. As I looked into her tender eyes, I identified with her frustration. A myriad of interruptions had sidetracked us from the date we had planned.
First we had to extinguish a rumor that our marriage was in trouble. Then we discovered that the new Igloo cooler we had loaned to a friend from church the week before would not be coming back. Next we had to explain to our two boys why they had gotten in trouble for playing on the church platform when other children hadn't.
And just when we were about to leave on our night out, the phone rang. Expecting a family member, I picked it up--only to find a talkative saint instead. Not just any saint, but a needy one who could not be put off.
God is increasingly bringing His government upon the earth to quicken mankind toward His image and intentions. It is time to assess and discuss the complex aspect of human behavior from a Kingdom perspective.
I pray we ask the Lord often to reveal to us what needs to be known—that which may be hidden—and help us to receive it and implement it in our lives for His glory. He desires us to be free and empowers us to act against the very nature of self.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is the redemptive manner in which God intends for His will to be accomplished in the earth. This, in itself, should alert us to the misappropriation of prevailing messages of the “preparing us for Heaven” Gospel. Yes, thankfully, Heaven is in the mix, but the place called Heaven is for later, while the work of spreading Heaven on earth is present and ongoing.
At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles.— Luke 6:13
A popular business book states that effective organizations get the right people on the bus, meaning the right people in places of leadership. When the right people are in the strategic roles, the company can ascend to any height. But, if the wrong people are on the bus, the organization is doomed to flounder regardless of the vision, values, strategies, marketing, and management of the leadership.
Putting the right people in the right place at the right time is a critical need for an effective leader. Select the right people, and churches, business, and organizations thrive. Select the wrong people, and the door swings open for problems that stifle growth and productivity and hurt credibility.
The concern of Jesus was not about programs or structure or organization but about people. Jesus selected his disciples before he ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public. People were to be his method of reaching the world. It was just that simple.
No evidence of haste is apparent in Jesus' selection process, only determination. Initially one might wonder if Jesus selected the right people for the right job. They lacked the professional training, academic training, and sophistication of their day. One might wonder how Jesus could ever use them. They were not the kind of people one would expect to turn the world upside down. But as it turned out, these men became the leaders of the early church. Their influence can be felt throughout the pages of history. Jesus got the right people on the bus.
As a leader you would do well to select people that display these qualities:
Calling–They are motivated by something deep within themselves, not by the accomplishments of outward adornments.
Character–They possess a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn't succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority.
Commitment–They display spiritual authenticity over time.
Compatibility–They show a job fit, a relational fit, a skill fit, and a passion fit.
Contribution–They function as a part of a team.
Coachability–They are trainable and teachable.
Get the right people on the bus, and it makes all the difference in the world.
The following are eight of the most important leadership principles I have learned as a senior leader over the past three decades. I have found that each of these leadership principles is vital to the success of any organization, whether it be faith-based or not.
1. They Continually Cast a Compelling Vision The Bible teaches us that without a vision the people perish (Prov. 29). This means that people are like sheep and will scatter and/or lose focus if they are not continually motivated and guided as to the mission and purpose of the organization or church they belong to.
Every executive leader must be personally empowered and full of passion so he can continually remind the people of the vision and purpose of their existence. An organization without a compelling vision is going to lose momentum and membership. Leader without a compelling vision don’t know why they are leading, which will result in their organization experiencing a lack of cohesion and power.