Saturday, May 28, 2011

Costly Leadership

In 2 Chronicles 35, King Josiah has expended great effort in restoring God's temple, reading the Law and re-instituting sacrifices to God. In verse 7 of that chapter it says, "Josiah provided for all the lay people who were there a total of thirty thousand lambs and goats for the Passover offerings, and also three thousand cattle—all from the king's own possessions." 

As I read that passage this morning, the thought was reinforced to me that true godly leaders must be ready to make personal sacrifices. The obvious (and yet not practiced enough) sacrifice of finances speaks volumes about the condition of the heart of a leader. There are other areas of cost as well: personal ambition, sleep, apathy, personal time, popularity, energy, focus and prayer.

The question for all Christ-followers is the same: are we willing to count the cost of following (and leading) and then obediently pay it? When leaders are eager to do that we will start to see a movement in God's church that cannot be stopped, but will certainly continue to be replicated.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


There is a phrase that used to describe something that looks better from a distance. It may not be the kindest of statements or phrases, but it is certainly applicable in certain situations. It is abbreviated by the letters HFFA and stands for "Hot From Far Away." It is not something that I would like to have said about me and honestly would be a little crushing to the ego if it was used to describe me.

What if this phrase was used to describe Christians-not in our physical appearance, but in our dedication to Christ? How would it make us feel to have someone say that we appeared to be committed to the cause of Christ from a distance, but once they got up close it just wasn't the same?

That type of inauthentic belief is what keeps us from pursuing Him fully and causes the rest of the world to accuse the church of being full of hypocrites. When we pursue authenticity and are honest about the journey of following Christ we start to be real enough that people might want to experience Him for themselves.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fear & Fame

In 1 Chronicles 14, David has been made king of Israel and his enemies the Philistines are bringing their armies against him. David's first action is to ask God what he should do and when God responds, David does what God tells him and of course is victorious. When the enemy comes against Israel again David does the same thing-he inquires of God, does what God tells him to do and defeats the enemy. Verse 17 then says, "So David's fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him."

Why is this not true of God's church today? The pattern is laid out for us all throughout Scripture: seek God, wait for an answer, do what He says and see victory. It is a breakdown in one of those steps of action on our part that leads to an ineffective church. If we are willing to humble ourselves as leaders (if you are a Christ-follower then you are a leader-have no doubts about that) and truly seek God for our families and our community, He has promised us that He will answer. The responsibility then falls on us to get up off of our praying knees and do what He has asked. Only then will the fame of God's Church spread and satan begin to fear the power of a Holy Spirit filled and active body relentlessly pursuing God's glory.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What Matters

I was listening to the radio while driving in my car a couple of weeks ago and a local commercial came on. I honestly don't remember exactly what business it was advertising (car wash or car care of some kind), but I do remember two lines in particular that stuck with me.

The voice on the radio said, "Your vehicle is a reflection of who you are," and "Take care of your image."

I actually found myself laughing out loud (albeit sarcastically) and thinking to myself, "Who knew it was that easy?" Now I just need to go into debt enough to afford a fully-loaded, expensive-looking car and then spend hours each week keeping it sharp looking. No need to focus on maintaining my character, being a man of integrity, caring for those around me or spending quality time with my wife and children. I can take care of a positive image by simply having the right car.

Building and maintaining an image that is a true reflection of who we are takes hard work. It is an intentional choice to live a certain way each day and then follow through on that decision. The goal of being that person of integrity can't be obtained through a shortcut or defined by a piece of property.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fellowship of the Unashamed

This is not my original work, but I shared it last night as we wrapped up How to Share Your Faith. It is titled "An African Martyr's Last Words."

"I am part of the 'Fellowship of the Unashamed.' The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.

I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear.

I won't give up, back up, let up or shut up until I've preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes.

And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear. 'For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.' (Romans 1:16)"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Theologically Practical

It's easy to spout off statements about God and what He can do. We often fall back on these when times get tough or when we are unsure of the next step in our path. I have no doubt that we believe theologically in these statements, but I wonder if we believe in them practically?

If you have grown up in a church or just spent some time in one you can come to a common understanding of some basic principles, but actually believing in them enough to take action based on them is a different story. Saying that God is good and yet working as agents of that goodness to help those around us are two different things. Believing in the Biblical principle of the Holy Spirit changing the hearts of people and then praying and leading to guide people in the process are two different levels. Professing that because you came forward at an invitation and were baptized and seeking the guidance of the gift of the Holy Spirit in your day-to-day life are not necessarily the same thing.

Theological belief and practical belief are as different as knowledge and obedience. The impact of the Gospel isn't felt or shared unless you move beyond what you know to be true and begin to put it into daily practice. It is then that it starts to transform your own life and the lives of those that we come into contact with. It's the kind of faith that will capture a city, heal addictions, restore marriages, reinvigorate faith and attract people that are desperate for something real.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

Like other parts of life, ministry brings unexpected twists and turns. Life circumstances, decisions of others, disease and tragedy can occur without a lot of warning. It causes uncertainty and confusion and honestly makes you more than a little bit weary when they hit you in clusters. 

When you choose to follow a God whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours however, things don't always go according to our plan. He provides opportunities for our faith in Him to increase and for our attention to be brought directly to Him. When our circumstances are unexpected to us we need to remember that they were expected by Him. Now God has a chance to show what He can really do.

Expecting the unexpected is an adventure worth experiencing when you know that God is in control.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers' Day

I have been blessed by the mothers in my life-by my biological mother as well as many others.

My own mother is an example of endurance, strength, compassion and love. She sacrificed so much for us as children-in many ways that I didn't even realize until I was older. She is always supportive and encouraging and is a true model of unconditional love.

My mother-in-law is a great woman. She loves her family so much and continues to make sacrifices for them. I have never felt like an outsider with her, but was warmly accepted into the family immediately. She has taught me so much in responsibility and giving.

My wife is an incredible mom. She loves our children with such passion and models what a Proverbs 31 woman is for our girls-things that they won't necessarily understand until they are grown. As a cancer survivor, she understands what a gift motherhood is and values it as a key part of who she is. I can't imagine a better mom for our children and watching her with them only makes me love her more.

There are so many other women that have cared for and influenced me over the years as well: Doris Godbey, Ingrid Hinman, Georgina Fox, Linda Marshall, Ellen Clontz, Patsy Graham and more than I can count.

One man shouldn't be so blessed to have such godly women throughout his life, but I am grateful for the love and influence of them all. Happy Mothers' Day to you all-thank you for who you are and what you mean to me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hitting Puberty

When I was in the 6th grade I remember auditioning for a part in a musical through the school chorus. I stepped up to the piano as the chorus teacher played the audition song and I began to sing in a tenor voice. She stopped me two measures into the song and told me that I couldn't sing that low-my voice hadn't changed yet. I was pretty sure that my voice had already started to change since I was now singing quite comfortably in a lower register, but agreed to begin again. She started the song over and I instead began to sing in a falsetto that brought smiles of approval from my teacher.

Passing through physical puberty brings about a noticeable change in guys through the deepening of their voice. They no longer sound like young children, but have the vocal representation of a young man. It is a mark of growth and the passing of one phase in life and the beginning of another.

All of us should have the desire to pass through theological puberty as well. It is a time for deepening and a change of our spiritual voice. It is when our eyes are opened to a part of the bigger picture of who God is-when we start to see Him as more than just a divine vending machine or blessing-giver. It is when our worship shifts from being about what He has done for us to simply who He is. It is when our prayers change from requests to intercession. It is when we see the part we play in the Church and understand it's not about us, but about Him. It moves us from feeling obligated to volunteering in the church to desiring to be part of a movement that is shaping the next generation and changing the world around us. Our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions look and sound different than before.

This drastic change can be difficult to pass through-much like the shift from adolescent to teenager and beyond-but it is necessary for us to become mature and active followers of Christ.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Great Comfort

Our city has been blindsided by the death of a teenager this week. There are no answers that make sense right now and grief can be overwhelming for family and friends. The answers we seek won't be found on this side of heaven, but we can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our sorrow. God Himself is with us-the Creator with indescribable powers who holds the universe in His hands and holds us all as well. We pray for the peace that passes understanding and the great comfort that only He can give.