Sunday, December 25, 2011

Some Assembly Required

I've heard a lot of discussion this Christmas season about "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays!"  In an effort to be politically correct, certain corporations are requiring their employees to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."  

We were shopping at the mall the other night and received a "Happy Holidays" greetings from the store clerk at the end of the sale.  Kaitlyn responded with "Merry Christmas!"  The store clerks face lit up as she warmly smiled and whispered "Merry Christmas" back to us.  It's almost as if she was afraid her boss would hear her.  


We want to place the right emphasis on Christmas...and we want to get it right!  It seems our focus can get distorted REAL QUICK if we're not careful.  We want the tree, the decorations, the lights, the eggnog and the presents.  We want everyone to be happy.  We want to be able to get and give plenty.  We want peace and joy to abound.

In reality, Christmas often turns into a major hassle.  You rush around and are pushed for spend money you don't have for people you don't like to acquire things they don't even want or need. (smile)  In our struggle to get it right, we often get it dead wrong and end up making ourselves and others miserable.

I believe God wants us to get it right!  I believe that He is not so interested in our having a white Christmas as He is interested in our having a RIGHT Christmas.  So, how can we have a right Christmas?  What do we need to understand and change in our lives that will allow Christmas to be a time of blessing and wonder instead of being a time of stress and tension?  Luke 2:1-20 reveals some components of Christmas that are absolutely essential if we are to have a RIGHT Christmas.

These instructions are like a bag of parts that come with that gift you bought your children.  If that gift is going to function in the manner for which it was designed, all of the component parts are going to have to be in the right places.  If anything is missing; if anything is left out, that item will not function properly.  

1. We need the right MASTER - Christmas can be a boom or a bust and you won't care as long as you know WHO is in control of your life.  You can get everything you could possibly want and still be miserable if you don't know Him.  Or, you could get nothing at all and experience true joy just because you know the Lord.  When you are in a faith relationship with God, and you know He is directing your paths, you can rejoice in the face of whatever life throws at you.  When you have the RIGHT MASTER, you are on the road to having a RIGHT CHRISTMAS.  Do you have the right master?

2. We need the right MIRACLE - Christmas isn't about tinsel and trees; gifts or glitter; it's not even about family or friends.  The true essence of Christmas is about the birth of a baby.  Not just any baby, but a baby WHO was and is God in human flesh.  When we get a handle on WHO Jesus is, our whole concept of Christmas changes forever.  It is about God becoming a man to die for sinners.

3. We need the right MESSAGE - Remember when the angel appeared to the shepherds?  The shepherds were afraid, but the angel offered them a message of grace, peace, hope, blessing, joy and salvation.  
    • It was a PERSONAL message, "unto you."  
    • It was a POWERFUL message, "a Savior!" 
    • It was a PROFOUND message, "which is Christ the Lord."  
    • It was a POINTED message, "this shall be a sign unto you..."
That ought to be our message all through the year.  God help us to go and tell a lost and dying world about a living, loving Savior WHO can give them grace, peace, hope, blessing, joy and salvation.  Do you know the real meaning of Christmas?  Is that the message others receive as they watch you live your life?  Do you believe the message?  Are you sharing the message?

4. We need the right MOTIVE - What a sight it must have been to see a multitude of angels as far as the eye could see...praising God!  Their only mission and motive that night was to exalt God Almighty for the great work He had accomplished!  When Christmas ceases to be about what you can get or how much you give and it starts being about how you can glorify God, you are on your way to having a right Christmas.  What matters most to you at Christmas?  Bringing glory to God or keeping all the Christmas traditions?  Finding yourself before Him in praise and worship or driving yourself crazy shopping, trying to get it all done?  Rejoicing in what He has done for you, or complaining about how hard things are this year?

5. We need the right MINISTRY - The shepherds heard the message and they heeded it.  They went to Bethlehem and they found Jesus.  They believe what they heard and what they saw and they left Him to share Him with everyone they met.  That is a great way to demonstrate how much you love Him at Christmas.

Are you assembling a RIGHT CHRISTMAS?  If not, get a hold of the things mentioned above and start right now.  Are you saved?  If not, come to Jesus and let Him give you the best Christmas you ever had!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wise Leaders Still Seek Him

Years ago, one of my spiritual fathers, Leeroy Hill, taught me to ask God for wisdom every day.  He said, "if you'll ask God for wisdom everyday, He'll give you what you need in every area of your ministry, marriage and life."

Since that day, I have made that request as part of my daily prayer.  The Scriptures teach "if any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." James 1:5

Wisdom is gained by listening to counsel..."for by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counselors there is safety." Proverbs 24:6 

Wisdom yields great dividends..."Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding." Proverbs 4:7 

As a leader, I need wisdom - His wisdom.  I don't just need wisdom because of my level of responsibility, but because I have NOTHING unless He gives it to me.  

The book of James (chapter 1 to be exact) is loaded with principles regarding LEADERSHIP and WISDOM.

Here's what I'm learning...
  1. Leaders learn from their trials.  Just because you're going through a trial doesn't mean God is mad at you or you've made a bad decision.  James says to COUNT IT ALL JOY.  He didn't say, "consider it a shame" or "consider it an injustice" or "consider that God hates you."  He said..."COUNT IT ALL JOY!"   Honestly, it's difficult to count it all joy when you're going through the fires of Hell.  However, we'll never achieve joy if we approach the trial full of WORRY and ANXIETY.  One way to learn from the trial is to ask the Lord, "what are You trying to teach me through this?"  I realize that this past year has been extremely difficult for many members in our church.  There have been difficult times, including death...but through it all we can find JOY if we approach the trial with a heart to learn.
  2. Leaders ask for wisdom.  Now that we know we NEED wisdom...we must also realize WHERE that wisdom comes from.  It is God that gives it to us (James 1:5) and He does so GENEROUSLY and without criticism.
  3. Leaders trust God unconditionally.  We trust Him regardless of the wind that blows.  Trust requires the REMOVAL of doubt!  
    • We trust Him in a down economy.
    • We trust Him when the cupboards are bare.
    • We trust Him during sickness and pain.
    • We trust Him on cloudy days.Remember when Jesus came walking on the water in the middle of the storm? (Matthew 14)  The one who was willing to TRUST Him...walked on the water too!
  4. Leaders make a decision.  You can have a boatload of trust and a sink full of wisdom but if you don't do anything with it you'll be at a STAND STILL.  James 1:8 says that "a man that is indecisive is unstable in all his ways."  This is where we MUST TRUST God and ask Him for wisdom.  You will be called upon to ACT!  You will have to make Godly decisions EVERY DAY!  When we seek wisdom from the Lord, He will PREPARE and EMPOWER us to act!  As a pastor, I am called upon to make tough decisions.  Those decisions have to be FULL of wisdom because they affect so many things.  This is where it is VITAL to be surrounded with men and women of strength...whose testimony is sure and wisdom proven.  Left to ourselves...we are a train wreck.  
You will also be called upon to make some TOUGH DECISIONS.  It isn't a matter of "if" but "when."  You're going to find yourself under pressure...the issue is how you handle that pressure.

1. Keep your Spiritual Disciplines in tact!  I've seen it many times, especially in the ministry, we can get so focused on the work of God that we forget the God of the work.  As a result, we neglect our spiritual disciplines.  Friend, we cannot afford to stop praying, reading the Bible, fasting, attending church, worship, discipleship, etc.  The enemy knows that if he can get you to forsake your spiritual disciplines, you'll end up being a cast away...rusty, crusty, dusty and musty!   Your enemy doesn't mind you working for God as long as he can keep you distracted from your disciplines!  When this happens, you'll end up being a critical mess...a fault finder...a dysfunctional disciple...a bear to work with.  I encourage our leaders at BFWC to keep the main thing, the main thing!  Your relationship with Christ comes before your ministry!  If you don't maintain'll come up short in every other area...and 9 times out of 10 you'll be miserable rather than motivated!

2. Love your family!  When you're passionate about what you do you can easily neglect vital relationships.  It's important to work for the Lord in the ministry but it is more important be the right kind of leader in our homes first.

3. Take care of your body! Everyone reading this can do better than what they're doing right now.  When we do not take care of our bodies, we end up walking around with that "run down" feeling.  Exercise and a proper diet are VITAL if we're going to be able to go the distance!  If we are to sustain the energy necessary to cope with the pressures of ministry then we must take care of our bodies.

4. Love people.  We all respond differently under pressure.  We can be sharp tongued and ill tempered or we can be reasonable and soft spoken.  If you don't love'll end up wanting to kill them.  If that is the case, you need to question why you're in the ministry.  The bottom line is that the work of God is ALL ABOUT PEOPLE!  Jesus was a people person and so should we be.  Indeed, we aren't really leaders at all unless we demonstrate Christ's love to those who are under our leadership.

5. No Fake and Phony Bologna! Learn to be yourself!  If you feel you have to impress people for them to like you then you're basically trying to gain acceptance by your works rather than who you are on the inside. (The real you)  Friends, it takes so much more unnecessary energy to be someone we're not.  Transparency means we are AUTHENTIC and lead with INTEGRITY.

6. If you mess up...repent quickly!  We've all made mistakes.  The key is to ADMIT your mistakes and then move forward in freedom.  If we postpone tough decisions, or we do not own up to our mistakes, the pressure will only get worse. 

7. Stay accountable!  We are all accountable to someone.  When we submit ourselves to accountability we are giving that person(s) the freedom to check our actions and are motives.  When we face external or internal pressure, these are the person(s) that are among the first who can help us.

8. Laugh a little more!  Don't take yourself so seriously!  Laugh at yourself and lighten up a bit! Laughter makes you feel better physically!   A joyful person can handle pressure a whole lot better!

9. Enjoy a hobby!  There are certain things I enjoy that help "de-stress" me.  I enjoy eating dinner at new restaurants with my good movie...watching football...etc.  These are outside interests that help me handle the "pressure" of it all.  Spending time with my family and doing these things gives me a healthy perspective to the problems of life.

Friends, we need WISDOM to deal with life's pressures!  If we deal with them in healthy ways, we'll end up being healthier in the process. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Surrounded by Excellence

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

"The people closest to you determine your level of success." - John Maxwell  

I lift my hand to testify of this truth.  When a leader leads, he or she needs competent, Godly leaders next to them.  They no longer judge themselves solely by what they can do themselves; their value depends mainly on what they can get done with the help of others.  

Moses was a man that surrounded himself with people of excellence.  His leadership teaches us four things...

  1. Direction - he could clearly see the outcome because God had already showed him.  As a leader, he simply reminded everyone of the Lord's faithfulness and the fact that God WOULD fulfill His promise.
  2. Delegation - he made his ego move to the back seat because he preferred a shared responsibility approach.  He gave his team both the responsibility and the authority to do the other words, the task became a team effort...not a one-man-show.
  3. Diversity - he chose his inner circle from among the spiritually qualified.  He approved and appointed them according to their abilities.
  4. Display - his leaders were given public visibility to listen fairly, minister boldly, make decisions based on principle and refer the most difficult cases to him.
I work with some incredible leaders!  I watch them closely, not because I'm looking over their shoulder but because they can teach me.  I would much rather learn "on the job" from someone that is doing it...than from a seminar, book or training video.

I love to learn from these people...
  1. Hard workers - these are the people that will do whatever it takes to see that a job is completed with excellence!  They have a strong work ethic that is worthy to be emulated.
  2. Positive Perspective - these are the people that look at the glass half FULL and approach each project prophesying "it can be done!"
  3. Intelligent - these are the people that seem to have a "knack" to understand just about any equation thrown at them.
  4. Go Getters! - these are the people that excite me!  They pull me out of the pit of slothfulness and start my engine with their energy!  When I'm with them, I feel like I can leap tall buildings with a single bound.
  5. Adders & Multipliers - these are the people who "build" up a conversation with meaningfulness because they look for ways to add rather than to take away through negativity. 
  6. Realists - these are the people who don't sugar coat.  However, their words are carefully selected when dealing with tough issues (and every church has them) because they know that it's not what you say but how you say it.
  7. Relational - these are the people who place value on healthy relationships.  They know how to connect with those that may be an extrovert or an introvert regardless of who they are more likely to be drawn to.
  8. Envelope Pushers - these are the people that are not confined to their comfort zone.  I'm always challenged for the better when I see them stretch themselves by being willing to get involved in areas that are not their natural strength or area of expertise. 
  9. Life Long Learners - these are the people that realize that discipleship is on ongoing process.  They motivate me because they talk about what books they're reading, who's been speaking into their life, what they learned at a conference, etc.  They continually seek for ways to learn and to be a better leader.
  10. Next Step - these are the people who are always thinking "what is the next step?"  They are constantly asking "why", "Why not?", "What's next?", etc. 
I'll say it again, I work with some incredible leaders!  They challenge me, teach me and help me! They keep me accountable and responsive.  

We can learn from anyone as long as we keep a teachable spirit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pastors are People Too!

Being raised in a pastor's home wasn't always easy but the experience and understanding I gained...was priceless.  There is a special place in my heart for pastors and church staff.  I've had the privilege to associate with some wonderful pastors and church leaders over the years.  From those associations, I've gained some precious friends that I've truly come to VALUE.

Honestly, having a friend who is a pastor is a blessing because he can identify with my calling and understand my perspective, both of ministry and life in general.  I love and respect the God-called individuals who serve in the local church.

Most pastors, at the least the ones I've met, speak very positive about their congregations.  Still, sometimes you hear about HURTS they've encountered along the way.    

One pastor told me that he wished he could sit down with his entire congregation, look them in the eye and tell them about all the hurts they'd encountered since being at their place of service.  The hope was that if they could express their heart, their church members would have a better understanding of how to help them avoid future hurts.

I met a pastor a few years ago that blessed me with his huge heart.  I listened to his hopes, dreams and hurts and it seemed like a few things stood out that I had heard from others pastors too.  

Here's a few things pastors wish their members knew... 

1. Please wait till after service before you make a request.  Most pastors are in prayer and study just prior to service.  If they're hearing from the Lord and getting His voice in their spirit it will be distracting listening to your complaint or recommendation before they preach.  What happens is considered a "co-mix" of God's voice and your voice.    QUESTION: Whose voice do you want speaking to you from the pulpit?  Please don't ask your pastor to make last minute announcements or address the toilet issue in the restroom on their way to the platform.

2. Please keep your criticism to yourself until you've had time to pray and think through your criticism.  Pastors receive several criticisms each week, via emails, letters (anonymous ones too) and phone calls.  If you add that up, that's about 200 a year.  Those verbal jabs take their toll.  We all make mistakes and none of us are above criticism, however, please be prayerful before you're critical.  By the way...anonymous emails, letters and calls...get deleted immediately.  If someone isn't man or woman enough to list their name...their criticism isn't worth the time to read.  On that note, If a pastor has been face to face with their members while ministering to them, praying for them, counseling them and meeting their is extremely disrespectful and immature to send an email or a letter to them when you decide you're done with them or the church.  

3. Please remember that pastors face spiritual warfare as much as anyone.  Pastors and other staff members are on the FRONT LINE of ministry.  The attacks from the devil and his imps are relentless.  Unfortunately, some of the most painful words come from friendly fire - people who should know better by now, but refuse to mature.

When we remember that pastors are people too...we can alleviate some of the struggles that our leaders have because they're spending too much time dealing with issues (junk) that take their focus off the main tasks to which God has called them.  

Friends, I'm convinced that the need for prayer for our pastors and leaders is URGENT!  If you have a pastor or leader that you love, then take time to hear their cries and then respond with love, encouragement and above all...PRAYER.

How to PRAY for your pastor

  1. Pray that he/she will have a greater insight of the Word of God and then use that understanding to apply it in their life and ministry.
  2. Pray for their protection from the work of Satan.
  3. Pray that their heart will remain soft in the face of abrasive and abusive people.
  4. Pray for their personal spiritual growth.
  5. Pray for their success...however it would be that God would define it for them.
  6. Pray that they will speak the truth with boldness and humility.
  7. Pray that they will persevere through whatever trial they are facing.
  8. Pray for his children - that they will grow up with a positive impression of church ministry.
  9. Pray that he/she will remain pure, and that their love for their spouse would increase daily.
  10. Pray that you will know how to encourage your pastor.

Pray for Your P-A-S-T-O-R
Here's another way to pray for your pastor - especially if you have trouble remembering what to pray about.  Use the letters of the word, P-A-S-T-O-R to remind you of specific prayer requests.  For example:

P - Purity 
  • Pray that your pastor will remain pure in the face of constant pressure in an immoral culture.
A - Adversity 
  • Pray for your pastor that he will be able to confront adversity with faith and endurance.
S - Strength 
  • Most pastors work long hours and at least six days a week.  Pray that he will have the strength to continue his ministry.
T - Teaching 
  • Pray for your pastor that his teaching and preaching will be effective, powerful and clear.
O - Organization 
  • Your pastor has more to do than any one person can handle.  Pray for your pastor that he will be able to prioritize correctly.
R - Rest 
  • Your pastor needs rest.  Pray that your pastor will sleep well each night and that he will take enough time away from ministry so that he does not get worn out.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

When God Speaks BLESSING Over You

God chooses to BLESS you!  
Since creation, He has always desired to bless man.  Before the fall, man had abundance and NO LACK.  God's original intent remains the same...FRUITFULNESS & MULTIPLICATION
  • When I KEEP His word I am honoring Him.  SIN can block God's blessing in our lives, which is why He does not want us to DISOBEY Him or DISHONOR His Word.  Disobedience ROBS us of the blessing...obedience PRODUCES the blessing
  • Psalms 24:4-5 speaks of a PURE HEART.  Not a heart that is flawless...but a heart that is determined to NOT give up on the things of God.
  • I believe you can have the HEART of God and the MIND of God.  
  • Being in TUNE with the mind of God means you're developing HOLINESS.  When you have His will operate in the BLESSING of God.

Proverbs 10:22 "The blessing of the Lord - it makes (truly) rich, and He adds no sorrow with it (neither does toiling increase it.)"
  • To be RICH means there is nothing MISSING or BROKEN in your life.  In other words, you are rich when you are WHOLE or COMPLETE in every area of life.  The BLESSING is an anointing or an EMPOWERMENT from God that causes us to be successful.
  • The ANOINTING removes burdens and destroys yokes.

God is still SPEAKING blessing!
  • Look at this verse...Genesis 1:28 "And God BLESSED them, and God said unto them, be FRUITFUL, and MULTIPLY, and REPLENISH the earth, and SUBDUE it: and have DOMINION over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
  • Notice that His blessing was RELEASED by the POSITIVE WORDS He spoke!  In chapter 2:3 He blessed by speaking "GOOD" of all He created.  The Word of God is the origin of the blessing!  When we continue living according to the WORD, the blessing will WORK in our lives.
  • However, if we let our NEGATIVE EMOTIONS push away from the Word, we can FORFEIT His desire to bless us.  God intended for us to SPEAK blessings and OPERATE in our God-given DOMINION!

When God spoke...His Words released the following:
  1. FRUITFULNESS (productivity) and MULTIPLICATION of every kind.
  2. DOMINION and AUTHORITY over all the earth and over every creeping thing on the earth.

There is POWER in our words.
  • Follow this story...
  • Noah was the authority figure of his household.
  • He was a good man but he got drunk and laid naked in his tent.
  • One of his sons, Ham, went and told his brothers, Shem and Japheth about their father's condition, which was dishonorable to Noah.
  • Shem and Japheth honored their father by covering his nakedness.
  • Noah cursed Ham, and he released the blessing on his other two sons. (Genesis 9:19-27)

God released His BLESSING upon Abram (Genesis 12:1-3)
  • Abram was a descendant of SHEM (the son of Noah)
  • In blessing Abram, God declared that anyone who conferred blessings on him would be blessed, and anyone who conferred curses upon him would be cursed.
  • THIS STATEMENT IS HELPFUL to understand the POWER OF OUR WORDS.  We are constantly INVOKING blessings or curses with our mouth.
  • We can CONFESS the Word of God to CHANGE our own lives!

Abram OBEYED God, and as a result, he was blessed ABUNDANTLY (Genesis 13:1-5)
  • Lot, because he was with Abram, also prospered.
  • By living the manifestation of the blessing, Abram showed us how to KEEP THE BLESSING IN OPERATION!
  • As long as Abram (later renamed Abraham) obey God, he lived a blessed life.

Everything that is not WHOLE in our lives, the blessing makes WHOLE!  It will fix circumstances that seem impossible to fix!

Friday, December 2, 2011

When Down Becomes Up

Joseph remains as one of my favorite Bible heroes.  He is taken "down" into Egypt and yet the Lord continues His work in Joseph's life.

The significance of "going down" geographically in Scripture is sometimes considered a signal of "going down" spiritually.  However, Joseph may have been brought "down" physically but he stays "up" spiritually.

UP and DOWN...what if down is actually up?  What if ADVERSITY was actually PROSPERITY?

JOSEPH PROSPERED because the Lord was with him.  The blessing of the Lord is not determined on your geography.  Whether in UTOPIA or the UNDERGROUND the blessing of the Lord is tied to His PURPOSE.

The key is being FAITHFUL wherever you are.  We've heard the phrase, "bloom where you're planted."  It's easy to want to forfeit God's best when we're in a state of DISCONTENT.  However, the PROPORTION of God's blessing is PROPORTIONATE to our faithfulness.

God wants to prosper you wherever you are.  Prosperity and blessings from the Lord can come in so many different packages.  Prosperity is measured by more than just the dollar sign.  Joseph was blessed of the Lord because of his relationship to the Lord.  He was also under the covenant blessings of the Lord.

The Bible says three times in Genesis 39 that the Lord was PRESENT "WITH" Joseph.  No wonder he prospered.  God was watching over Joseph even when his family was absent.  Think about it...he must have felt ISOLATED...during the 13 years that he was separated from his family.  He spent 11 years in Potiphar's house and 2 years in prison before he was promoted at age 30.  Yet, he was never out of the WATCHFUL eye of God.

His prosperity also included PROTECTION.  When you are fulfilling the purpose of God, you are SAFE in-spite of dangerous surroundings.

God blessed Joseph by POSITIONING him.  How does a slave get exalted in a strange land? The answer...GOOD CHARACTER.  Joseph was described as being "a goodly person, and well favored."  Just like Joseph, we must exercise wisdom in the choices we make which exemplify ongoing spiritual maturity.

He gained his position through SERVING.  In God's eyes, the highest honor for a person to obtain is to be a willing servant.  Joseph certainly was that.  He served with a good spirit as a good person and found much favor in the household of Potiphar.

There is no greater honor than being a servant of Jesus Christ.  Of all the titles that could have been bestowed upon MOSES (Joshua 1:2) God calls him "His servant."  We should not at all mind being a servant to the One who humbled Himself and went to the cross, serving us as He did.  I cannot imaging what it would be like trying to pastor this church without having the faithful servants of God doing the work that YOU DO around here!  God bless you all!!!

God blessed him with the position of OVERSEER.  Potiphar's house was blessed because of Joseph's sake!  He gained the promotion from being faithful. 

God desires to honor us to do GREATER things after we have been faithful with the FEW things.  The work of the Lord requires a person to be faithful at which every level they are currently working before they are to be promoted to a higher level. 

Expecting immediate promotion without going through the UNIVERSITY OF ADVERSITY isn't realistic.  As a Christian, you will go through many trials that will serve as proving ground.  If one fails with the "few things," he need not expect to rule over "many things."

Joseph prospered everywhere he went because he determined to be FAITHFUL.  You can serve ANYWHERE as long as you have a HEART that is willing.  A good soldier will take orders from any commander.  

The PROCESS of the PIT, POTIPHAR'S house and PRISON PREPARED Joseph for the PALACE.

Down actually becomes UP when you consider that the adversity births prosperity!  Whatever you're going through today...God can use it to PROPEL you.

The Key is... 
  • BE FAITHFUL where you're planted.  
  • DO RIGHT at all times.
  • GUARD your heart from offenses. 
  • SERVE with humility. 
  • LIFT the arms of others.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Real Deal

What is real?  In a world filled with imitations, sometimes it's difficult to distinguish what is real and what is not.

On my first trip to China I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong and shop.  It was an AMAZING experience to visit a mall that was five stories high!  I was bombarded with requests to purchase a "Rolay!"  You may ask what is a "Rolay?"  Actually, it was an imitation Rolex.  The salesmen were relentless to sell us not only one...but several. :-)

The watch looked authentic...but to the trained eye, one could distinguish that it was not a genuine Rolex.

Have you ever had cheap soda?  Years ago, Beverly and I bought "Bubba Cola" from Save-A-Lot  and immediately knew we had made a huge mistake.  Folks...there just "aint" nothing like the REAL THING!  

Ladies can distinguish between FAKE and REAL.  Don't believe me?  Try bringing home a "Goach" purse instead of a real "Coach" purse and you'll find out that imitations just don't cut the mustard.

The same can be said of cologne or perfume.  If you shop at flea markets, usually you can find "versions" of the real thing..."Johnny Hilfiger" looks and smells just like the real thing (Tommy Hilfger)...but it's a "knock off." 

What does it mean to be AUTHENTIC?  Authentic means genuine, real and true...not fake or an imitation.

What does it mean to be CREDIBLE?  Credible means believable...your life and words line up together.

Put the words together and a credible, authentic person is someone who can be trusted because they are what they profess to be.  They are the REAL DEAL...what you see is what you get.

But which comes first?  Authentic must come first.  If you are not authentic, you will not be credible.

When it comes to leadership, an authentic leader isn't afraid to be perceived as "imperfect, flawed or penetrable."   However, it seems today that many leaders perceive that if they are perceived to be flawed or vulnerable than no one will want to follow them.  Unfortunately, leaders can get caught up in the game of "being right" even if they aren't right.

Here are some observations about credibility:

  • Credibility is earned over a long period of time.
  • Credibility is not about what you do or what you say. It’s about who you are on the inside.
  • You cannot demand credibility.
  • You cannot fool the people closest to you forever.
  • Your ministry will have lasting impact in direct proportion to the integrity of your own life.
  • The great enemies of credibility are pride, arrogance, isolation, and excessive self-confidence.
  • Ironically the more gifted you are and the more successful you are, the easier it becomes to fake your way through life.
  • Credibility once lost is very difficult to regain.
What qualities mark a person as a credible, authentic leader?
  1. Honesty.
  2.  Willing to admit your faults.
  3. Consistency.
  4. Kindness under pressure.
  5. Accountability in the small areas of life
  6. Willing to answer hard questions
  7. Quick to take blame, quick to praise others
  8. Not taking yourself too seriously (lack of self-importance).
  9. Knowing your own limitations
  10. Not blaming others for your own problems
  11. Confrontable.
  12. Approachable.
  13. Handling anger appropriately.
  14. Not offended when others get the credit you deserve (no need to brag)
  15. Keeping your word.

There's another word for living like this...we call it INTEGRITY.  What does integrity involve?

  • Your reputation (What we know you by)
  • Your commitment to truth (You line up with God's word and aren't swayed by others)
  • Your consistent lifestyle (You do the same thing over and over)
Jesus was all three of these things...His enemies couldn't get "anything on Him."  Jesus walked the same way privately as He did publicly!   His life matched His lips...His deeds matched His words...His character backed up His claims.

In a world filled with liars, deceivers, manipulators and fakers...we need to be people of TRUTH.  
  • When you walk in truth, you don't get caught up in lies, junk and a mess.  
  • When you walk in truth, you don't have to remember what lie you told to who.
Jesus said, "I came into the world to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."  (John 18:37)

  • Unfortunately, we live in a culture that has come to view truth as a disposable item - we tell the truth when it helps us, we shade the truth when we need to and we lie if we have to.
  • No wonder confidence in Christians is at an all-time low.
  • Lord, I invite you to shine the light of Your truth into every part of my life.  Thank you for knowing me completely and loving me anyway.  Search me, try me, test me, and show me what you find.  Where I am not honest and true, do whatever it takes to make me credible and authentic so that my life will bring glory to You!  Make me like Jesus so that people who follow me become more like Him.  Amen.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Courage to Do the Will of God

One of the more difficult aspects of God's will is not so much KNOWING as much as it is DOING it!

God's will require some risks.  When you look at history some incredible men and women took GREAT RISKS.  However, they were CALCULATED risks...not foolish ones.

Great courage has great PAYOFFS...

  • Christopher Columbus' voyage to the new world...
  • USA's voyage to the moon...
  • Paul's ministry to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles...
  • Jesus' ministry...
  • Gideon's call to fight with only 300 men against a huge army...
It takes GUTS to do God's will.
It takes COURAGE.
You will never do anything for God if you don't have COURAGE to take some risks.

What is a CALCULATED RISK? Answer: a chance taken after careful estimation of the probable outcome.

Nehemiah was a man who took a CALCULATED RISK. His story is AWESOME!

Nine Steps to Build Courage
  1. Brokenness
    • Nehemiah's heart is broken as he learns about his beloved city...Jerusalem.
    • He begins to weep and fast. (The burden was so was unimportant.)
    • Brokenness is the FOUNDATION to build courage upon.
  2. Humility
    • His brokenness generates a personal prayer, but not for the release of his pain, but for forgiveness for himself and his nation.
    • Humility births ownership of ones actions.  It would have been easy for Nehemiah to blame his brethren for all the misery...but he starts with himself...he does not blame others.
    • He prayed until he felt a RESOLVE within his own spirit.
    • When I was growing up, we called that "praying till you pray through."
    • He doesn't have an answer to the problem...but he's on track when he begins to pray.
    • Sometimes prayer is NOT for an answer but to prepare us to BE THE ANSWER.
  3. Trusting Him
    • Fortunately, Nehemiah knows God's Word and knows the faithfulness of God!
    • Nehemiah knew God's character and that He was trustworthy.
    • He reminds God of His promise to restore the remnant of His people.
  4. Hope
    • After reminding himself of God's faithfulness, Nehemiah feels enough courage to ask of God for an answer.  But notice this...his request includes his own willingness to be the CHANNEL used by God.
  5. Availability
    • While he's asking God for help he is preparing himself to be used if needed.
    • It's not enough to ask God for help if you are unwilling to be used if He calls you.
    • Nehemiah was available.
    • He was in a place of servanthood to the King but he understood REAL KINGDOM AUTHORITY as he functioned in his role as the King's cupbearer.
    • Although Nehemiah recognized who he was in Christ, he is not disrespectful of the position of the earthly King.
    • His request was for God to give him favor as a SIMPLE CUPBEARER to an earthly King.
  6. Creative Solutions
    • When God calls you to minister He often uses you right where you are already, including the skills you already have.
    • As a servant, he couldn't speak to the King until the King spoke to him.
    • However, the king had to look him in the eye every time he served him his cup...and one can look very concerned and sad and it would be noticed because this would be the UNUSUAL look of Nehemiah.
    • Had Nehemiah been like many Christians today who walk around more like the Devil has won most of the time, the King might not of noticed his sadness and said to himself..."Well, I see old Nehemiah is having another one of those pouting spells."
    • The reason the King would notice is because this sad look was NOT common for Nehemiah. 
  7. Honesty with Durability
    • It's good to know that Nehemiah was a lot like us.  
    • It's OK to be scared and be honest about it...BUT DON'T QUIT!
    • Nehemiah is given an opportunity to speak directly to the King.  This is CRUCIAL...would his courage hold out?
    • Notice this...Nehemiah is polite...because courage doesn't mean DEMANDING.
    • Nehemiah explains the honesty of his sadness, his concern over the brokenness of Jerusalem. 
    • He faced his fear honestly, but he didn't give in to it.
  8. Preparedness 
    • The King asks Nehemiah what it was that he wanted...and Nehemiah has a PLANNED RESPONSE.
    • Nehemiah was planning for SUCCESS not FAILURE...even though he was afraid.
    • This was the moment he had been waiting for.
    • Having courage to do something for God does not mean just sitting back and waiting for God to let you know what to do, some people would say this is so much more spiritual, but it can also be very foolish.
    • Nehemiah had made plans...specific requests...he had thought of everything humanly possible...good plans.
    • He didn't just respond..."Well, however the Lord leads me"...this can be proper as a response some times, but not always.
  9. Acknowledging God in the Process
    • Nehemiah doesn't pat himself on the back.
    • Promotion to leadership comes best through servanthood.
    • Courage had only gotten Nehemiah past the first stage, he would need to have a great deal of it to finish the course God had called him to.
    • When you set out to do the will of God in your life don't be shocked by PROBLEMS, they will be right there with you.
    • If you lose courage you'll QUIT!
    • Nehemiah refuses to quit even though he encounters SANBALLAT and TOBIAH...both who were a great source of opposition to him.
The bottom line:  If you are going to do anything for God you are going to need COURAGE!  No one finds GREAT REWARDS that didn't take COURAGE over GREAT RISKS!  The first stage of accomplishing the will of God in your life is COURAGE!

It takes GUTS to do God's will!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Get Out of Bed Sleepy Head!

What gets you out of bed in the morning? 
What floats your boat?  
What fires you up?
What are you doing here?
What is your purpose?
What steps are you taking to pursue that purpose?

I've been asked many times..."how do you stay so excited about what you do?
 Honestly, I can tell you that I don't always wake up "chipper" or ready to jump out of bed.  Sometimes I just want to pull the covers over my head and say, "I'm already behind schedule, how am I going to get caught up today?"

However...something in me is PUSHING me.  To say that it's "drive" would be saying that it's something I possess in my flesh that I rely on...but the truth be's not anything in's the PASSION of the Holy Spirit that COMPELS me to want to run this race!

You can have the prompting and energy of the Holy Spirit in you but still be lazy.  The key is "listening, following and obeying."  You must TELL YOUR FLESH..."you will not be will follow the promptings of the Holy will do what you're told - without complaining!"

You can increase the PUSH of the Holy Spirit in you by...

1. Spending time with God!
  • My best time with God is when I'm all alone.  No cell phone, TV, Internet...etc.  Just me and HIM...Isolated from everything and everyone!  Sometimes, you'll have to get up extra early so you can have your ALONE time with Him.  How is God going to IGNITE our church if I'm not personally ignited first?  This requires SACRIFICE!  The time we spend in prayer alone with God ... has nothing to do with getting ready for a has everything to do with God convicting me, speaking to me, challenging me and leading me in His direction.
2. Getting out of the barnyard
  • If you cluck with chickens you'll never soar with the eagles.  The people you are surrounded by are either ADDING or SUBTRACTING the PUSH out of you!  Do inventory right now and ask who is a (minus) in my life and who is a (plus)?  
    • "Minus" people will DRAIN the life right out of you with their defeated spirit and negativity.  They are lazy, arrogant, have an entitlement spirit and expect you to CARRY them.  They are TAKERS...SELFISH and interested in their own needs first. A "minus" person will take all the heat out of the room with their DEFEATISM spirit.  However...
    • "Plus" people find ways to INCREASE, ADD and MULTIPLY and look for solutions! They show up on time, do their work with EXCELLENCE, speak when spoken to, LIFT the hands of others, OFFER ideas that will ADVANCE the Kingdom of God.  They do WHATEVER it takes to get the job done!  THOSE ARE THE KIND OF PEOPLE THAT PUSH ME!
3. Relaxing! 
  • Honestly, it's difficult for me to relax.  My mind is always moving.  It's something I have to really work on...REALLY!  Even when we go on takes me a couple of days to DETACH from my mental planning and preparing.  I will BURN OUT if I don't take a "chill pill!"  God did not create me to run 24/7 as fast as the six million dollar man (that's 1970's for you young leaders reading it...ha ha)!  The best part about relaxing my mind and resting my body is when I come back...I'm ON FIRE and REFUELED! 
4. Toning up!
  • I feel so much better physically when I work out!  It not only affects my body...but my mind and spirit are enhanced as well!  There are a lot of Christians who hold to the Scripture, "bodily exercise profiteth little." (1 Timothy 4:8) ... YOU FEEL BETTER when you exercise!  Honestly, If I'm to lead a growing church...I have to take care of myself physically.'s not fun...but it's definitely rewarding!  I've met a lot of people in the Lord's work that have so much to offer...but they aren't physically able because their bodies restrict them.  (Preaching all over myself here)
5. Taking the Garbage out!
  • If it stinks, it probably needs to be out on the curb.  Are there areas that need to be changed in your life?  If you are in a RUT...then it might be best to make some changes.  Every once in a while I have to clean out my closet and the garage.  Things get cluttered there. Clean up the clutter and you'll rediscover where your passion went. 
6. Tuning out Negativity!
  • Don't even waste your time trying to explain yourself to the critics!  If you come down off the wall to put out the fires of gossip, they'll light them faster than you can put them out.  Your friends don't require an explanation. One thing I've had to SETTLE in my heart is to not become obsessed with what people who don't know me think about me. When you serve in the Kingdom, people will take "pot shots" at you.  Expect it, deal with it and move on!
7. Surrendering to His plan!
  • His plans prevail.  His ways are higher!  He loves the church more than I do.  The world is in His hands...not mine.  If He called me to this work...He'll sustain me to do the work regardless of what I go through.  He was here long before I was...He's put in more hours than I have.  He has greater plans for this ministry than I do!  His power is so much greater than my performance!  It's His plan...I'm just facilitating what He's orchestrating! 

Monday, November 14, 2011

7 Ways to Avoid Defectiveness

Before I leave this earth...I desire to have been effective in every pursuit...whether it's my marriage, family, ministry, career, education, relationships, etc. 

Do you share a similar desire?  Are you willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that effectiveness?

Effective = producing a decided, decisive, or desired result; ready for service or action;

Defective = lacking; imperfect in form or function. 

I'll never forget the first lawn mower Beverly and I bought. It was a red Murray push mower.   We bought it at Kmart and I was excited about this first "manly" purchase.  It was shiny, had a grass catcher attached to it and best of all it wasn't a hand me down.

We got it home, poured gas in the tank and I pulled, pulled and pulled the rope...but it wouldn't start.  Talk about disappointing.  I'm not the most mechanically inclined person to begin with, so I really didn't know where to begin.  I called several people and asked for their advice...but nothing seemed to work.  So, we loaded it in the trunk of our car and took it back to the store for an exchange. The good news is, the other one worked without any problem.

I'm not sure what was wrong with that lawn mower.  Evidently, something was defective with it.

God wants us to be EFFECTIVE not DEFECTIVE!

In ministry, it's not any different.  We're constantly looking for ways to improve what we do as leaders and what we do as a local church.  Through trial, error and counsel, we've discovered ways to avoid defectiveness.

#1 Avoid the "serve me" mindset
  • In a world saturated with "self" it is very easy to reach back to the nature of the flesh and settle for selfishness.  Serving is paramount for any leader and Christian for that matter.  We are called to "serve" not "be served."  Jesus is our example in this area "...the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
  • There are times you will be called out of your comfort zone to serve people in a way you've never served them before.
  • A couple of years ago, Beverly and I were headed to lunch and witnessed a hit and run car accident.  A car hit a mini-van and the van turned over on it's side.  We parked our car and ran over to the van where a lady was trapped in the drivers seat.  We told her that we were calling 911 and help was on the way.  Then I told her we were pastors of a church down the street and begin praying for her protection out loud. (It's as if we received an extra boost of boldness)  Immediately a sense of peace came upon her and we sensed the power of God all around.  We stayed with her till the emergency vehicles came.
  • Honestly, we didn't know what to do except PRAY.  The need was in front of us and we responded.  That's what ministry is...seeing a need and meeting it!  If anything is "beneath" us...then we truly are not beneath Christ.
#2 Avoid Squabbles
  • Jesus said that the world will know we are His by the love we have for one another.  The bottom line today is...Christians fight too much!
  • Love must be the basis in all we do.  It's easy to love the people who believe like you, act like you and share similar interests.  However, what we need today in the body of Christ is an accepting love towards one another...even if we're different in our beliefs.
  • Most of my family are Baptist.  However, our common denominator is Jesus Christ.  We may share different thoughts in our theology regarding the Holy Spirit but that does not prevent us from getting along and treating one another with the utmost respect.
  • As I grow in the Lord, more and more I'm learning to love my brothers and sisters in Christ without having to agree with everything they say.
#3 Avoid Unbelief
  • God is in CONTROL!  Sometimes, we look at CNN or the nightly news and think, "man...this world is so messed up...what's going to happen next?"  If we're not careful, fear will set in and we'll start viewing life through the lens of UNBELIEF.
  • The good news is that God is still on the throne and He has never lost a battle yet!
  • If you're a leader reading this, I want to tell you that God wants to see your ministry flourish even more than you do!  He is the God that promised ABUNDANCE (John 10:10).
  • It doesn't matter how many people act GOOFY and ruin their the end of the day, God is still in control!
  • Turn your eyes on Jesus...He's the one who has the responsibility of seeing the results.  We're merely called to walk in obedience...He'll take care of the rest.
  • By the way, in truth, the world needs to see way less of me and more of Him! (John 3:30)
#4 Avoid Nightmares and focus on Dreams
  • Jesus said I can have what I ask for...when I ask in prayer & believing! (Matthew 21:22)
  • Is it OK to ask God for BIG THINGS?  Sure it is!  Why is it that most Christians feel like they have to be as poor as Job's turkey in order to be humble?
  • I want to DREAM BIG LOFTY DREAMS!  I hope someone will accuse me of dreaming too big!  I also hope they're standing nearby when the dream comes to pass!
    • Some folks don't want your dream to come to pass...cause if it does, all the excuses they've been using for years of "why it can't happen"...suddenly holds no water!
    • Some folks "hate ya" because they "ain't ya!"
  • Isn't God the one who said He's able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think? (Ephesians 3:20)  
  • God wants you to dream big and He wants you to ask for more!
  • You have the POWER already in you!
  • You have the HOLY SPIRIT!
  • With Him, you've got some incredible CREATIVITY at work inside of you!
#5 Avoid the "Disconnect"
  • If we're to stay plugged in to the mind of Christ, than our personal time with Him is essential.  However, a busy schedule can prevent you from having the personal time with God that you need.
  • When we loose our connection with Christ, on a consistent basis, we are more likely to disobey His commands. 
  • My phone gets a lot of use.  If I don't plug it in at night, I'll have no charge the next day.  That's a lot like our walk with God.  If we don't stay plugged in (connected) we'll lose charge and be limited in our ability to function.
#6 Avoid "Sick Days"
  • If you're working for're going to be attacked on every turn!  (Especially if you're seeing results)
  • Life isn't always easy.  There will be ups and downs.  You'll be attacked, lied on, discredited, misrepresented, misunderstood, talked about like a dirty dish rag, can't give up!
  • Jesus went to the cross...and He took a beating before He went.  The least we can do is endure a little criticism and being kicked out of the social club at work and school!
  • LEADER...if you're leading...expect to be CRITICIZED and CONDEMNED...move on...stay in the race even if you're wounded!
  • The devil wants to wound you in the area God wants to use you!
  • The enemy would love to hear you say, "take me out of the battle for I am wounded."
  • LEADER...go to God in prayer.  Talk to Him about what you're feeling.  Be honest with Him.
  • PASTOR...don't let an anonymous letter, tacky comment or a church member on their 5th church because they "can't find one to meet their needs" take you out of the battle!  The reason people hide behind anonymous letters is because they have no GUTS!
  • are more valuable to the Kingdom than to let Sister Bucketmouth persuade you otherwise.  Sister Bucketmouth isn't called to do what you're called to do...RISE ABOVE the critics and refuse to lower your standards.
  • Don't call in sick...SHOW UP and you just might meet your Elijah in the field!
#7 Avoid being Flesh Led
  • The flesh will tell you things like, "I don't feel good, I'm tired, etc."  The truth is, none of us "feel good" all the time.  However, we do not let our FLESH dictate our SPIRIT MAN.
  • The Bible tells us four times that "the just shall live by faith."
  • We walk by FAITH and not by SIGHT.
  • If we have to "feel" saved to be saved, we won't be saved half the time.
  • Jesus is with us...when we sleep, wake and walk through this life.  We are never alone.  He is constantly leading us and speaking to us...if we'll listen.
  • If we're not careful, we'll make hasty decisions while in an emotional state of mind.  When we do this, we usually make the wrong decision. 
    • (i.e., debt, dating, church, ministry, etc.)
  • I've learned to wait on the Lord in a season of prayer before I make a major decision.  
  • I've also learned to seek the counsel of my spiritual covering in the major decisions of my life.  When we seek counsel from those over us in the Lord, we are in a better posture to receive blessings that are SPIRIT BIRTHED not "MAN"UFACTURED.
  • The Holy Spirit will lead us in a straight and narrow path.  I've made a ton of mistakes when I've ignored the Holy Spirit's leadership.