Monday, March 28, 2011

Is This God's Choice?

Have you been called to serve someone else's ministry effort?

When you speak about this subject, it's almost always met with someones assumption that "you're just wanting someone to wait on you hand and foot."

However, the truth of the matter is that every leader, especially a pastor, needs an armorbearer to offer the simple qualities of loyalty, watchfulness and attentiveness.

When we acknowledge that we are called to serve a particular leader we settle on God's choice for our life. Although the Lord knows His own and He has said, "I chose you, you did not choose yourself," we must accept the call.

When you acknowledge yourself as a "God-chosen" armorbearer, your doubts will flee and your anointing will increase.

Here are some things to keep in mind while growing:
  • Remember God still appoints people to serve today. "See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:" Exodus 31:2
  • Allow God to make your appointment. Your assignment might not be the person you would choose. John Maxwell said, "Leaders attract not whom they want, but who they are." Still, God chooses and appoints, for He knows the needs of the ministry and the personalities. He fitly joins LEADER and HELPER together, if we allow Him.
  • Realize that your calling will be specific. Every armorbearer will be placed with a designated leader. Your appointment will be specific just as Joshua was assigned to Moses, Elisha to Elijah, David to Saul, Timothy to Paul, etc.
  • Your leader will be worthy. He or she will be a faithful servant of the Lord with proven leadership. More than likely they will function in a fivefold office of ministry. God will appoint you to serve one who is faithful.
  • Expect to receive confirmation. In the mouth of two or three witnesses, your appointment will be established. You will know and your leader will know. Don't rush this. Let it happen naturally. If God has truly called you to a certain person, He will give evidence of your appointment.
  • Watch out for pride. Rest assured, you'll be tempted with pride as you serve your leader. However, if you give into pride, God will resist you. Rather, choose to wear the garment of humility.
  • Expect persecution. If Jesus was persecuted, you will be too. People who don't understand you or know your heart will question your motives.
  • Trust God to defend you. As you serve your leader God will defend you. As an armorbearer, you have made a choice to lay your armor down to hold someone else's. Rest assured, that He will protect you while you're back is exposed to your adversaries.
God still appoints armorbearers to serve in the ministry of helps today. Your leader needs you! Sadly, many of our leader's arms have fallen down, not because they weren't anointed, but because there was no one in place to hold their hands up in the heat of the battle.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Who's In Charge?

Have you ever worked on a job or volunteered in a ministry where there were a lot of "chiefs" and not enough "Indians?" 

Everyone wants to be in charge.  I've heard people complain about this very thing in my tenure of ministry.

God has an authority structure.  This is nothing new.  God had the same structure back in Moses' day when the Israelite grumblers complained against the leadership of Moses and especially Aaron saying, "We are all chosen and holy, who set you above all the Israelites?" (Numbers 16:3)

If you remember, under Old Testament law, judgment and destruction fell upon them that complained.  Along comes God with His mercy far stretched and uses Aaron's budding rod to produce ripe almonds while the other staffs in the camp stayed the same.  He then reiterates the duties of the LEADERS and the SUPPORTERS.

It is a fact, not everyone is called to be a leader at the same time.  Someone must lead and others must follow.  From Scripture, we discovered God appoints leaders and those to support them.
  • Have you been appointed to SUPPORT someone in your leadership? 
  • Is your heart set toward HELPING this person accomplish their God-given tasks?
If the answer is yes, then you are not alone.  All over the Body of Christ, God continues to make specific appointments of helpers to assist His authorities. 

As an ADMINISTRATOR of the HELPS MINISTRY, He has uniquely formed the ARMORBEARER'S place in His support system.  It is a part of His design for a TEAM to STRENGTHEN His leaders.

When God called Beverly and I to serve as armorbearers (support staff) for our pastors, we had good examples to follow...our parents and others who have served or currently serve in the ministry of assisting.

Obviously, we asked the Holy Spirit, our Teacher and Guide, to give us examples.  God showed us examples not only in NAME but also in FUNCTION

One of which, his name is not mentioned, was the armorbearer for Jonathan, prince of Israel.  This man wasn't involved in the ministry of assisting ANYONE and EVERYONE. He was assigned to Jonathan.  He was focused and attentive to his leader.

His helper was always nearby. 
  • Jonathan didn't have to hunt him down;
  • Constantly remind him of his duties;
  • Light a fire under him;
  • Tip-toe around him for fear of hurting his feelings. 
Jonathan's armorbearer was so close, all Jonathan had to do was turn to his armorbearer and say, "Let's go up..."  His assistant's response was, "Do all that is in your mind.  For I am with you heart and soul." (1 Samuel 14:7)

Sounds like music to my ears!  If you are a pastor needing support or a weary church leader it's music to your ears also!

IN THE BODY OF CHRIST we need more people who will SUPPORT the man or woman of God in a more tangible way.  God is looking for people who will be with their assigned leader HEART and SOUL.

In what way can you encourage your leaders?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Three Standards of Service

1. The Spiritual Standard - First Things First
  • We are Christians first and Christian workers second.
  • Problems arise when this basic principal is forgotten.
  • The church is not just a business-- it is the Lord’s business and He must be first in the lives of those working in His Kingdom.
  • The spiritual level of the staff directly affects the spiritual condition of the church.
  • Each person must make maintaining their own spiritual life priority one.
  • This can only be done by spending sufficient time in prayer and the Word of God.
  • Our staff must always keep first things first.
  • (Matthew 6:33) ―Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
2. The Attitudinal Standard - Loyalty to the Leader
  • Anything without a head is dead; anything with more than one head is a monster.
  • The scriptures present the Pastor as that necessary head.
  • He is the shepherd of the flock and overseer of the local church.
  • He has a special place in the Lord’s hand and must always be given the highest respect.
  • The attitude of those working closest to the Pastor affects, more than anything else, the attitude of other people toward him.
  • Loyalty, or disloyalty, is an attitude that can be read even when not spoken.
  • Loyalty is within one’s spirit.
  • Ministries placing an emphasis on ethics and loyalty experience smooth running.
  • (Ephesians 4:11-16; Revelation 1:20)
3. The Performance Standard - Every Effort for Excellence
  • Christian living is the highest quality of life available to man.
  • God receives glory by our good works.
  • Others judge us by the quality of our lives and works.
  • Every aspect of the church should reflect the quality of an abundant life.
  • Every job, from the least to the greatest, deserves our best efforts.
  • The Lord’s work should always be done as unto Him.
  • He is worthy of nothing less than the best.
  • Excellence should be the goal of every member and every effort they make in Christian service.
  • Our methods and mechanics must have standards of ethics and excellence.
  • Let it never be said we could have done better; let all we do be our best!
  • We are in the constant pursuit of excellence.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Authentic and Available

Question: What do strong FAMILIES and CHURCHES have available? 
Answer:  Strong DADS.

Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

Paul speaks of living a life "worthy of God" in every day life.  Have you ever wondered what your life would look like if caught on camera?  Literally, your wife, children, coworkers and friends have video camera eyes and audio recording ears.  They see EVERYTHING.

Authentic means you are the same on the outside as you are in the inside.

Two Ways To Be Authentic:

1. Walk The Talk.  Authentic people don't have to state, 'I'm a Christian."  They simply live their life in such a way that reflects Christ.  Authentic people don't say one thing and then do another.  An example would be - a man tells his children not to tell lies but then gets a phone call at home from someone he doesn't want to talk to, so he whispers to one of his kids, "Tell them I'm not in and won't be back for three days."

Or, he attends church and puts on a peaceable front to his peers but when he gets home he uses anger to get his way with a family member.  Is that walking the talk?

At work he wears a WWJD bracelet and then goes home with some stolen office supplies.  Is that walking the talk?

What do you think his co-workers think about him when he laughs at dirty jokes right after telling them about the church revival he attended the night before?

Our actions set an example of how our kids - our spouse - our coworkers - will view God.

We should strive to be AUTHENTIC, but when we fall short we should be willing to admit when we've blown it.  They already know we've blown it.  Hey, they live with us.  Not hard to spot.  We need to apologize to them and ask for their forgiveness.  We're teaching them that when they make a mistake it's not the end of their world, but that they can admit it and grow from it.

2. Keep Your Word.  If you promise your kids or spouse something, KEEP IT.  Be consistent with your promises.  The number one resentment with kids is the broken promises of their parents.  To a child, "Probably, perhaps and maybe" means YES.  Only mention out loud what you can follow through on.

One of the biggest areas that we often disappoint our family is with our time schedule.  To enable you to keep your promises make appointments with loved ones non-negotiable commitments.  Put them on your calendar first and then schedule other things around them.  By doing that they learn to trust that you're a man of your word, otherwise you won't spend the quality time with them you should.

Two Ways To Be Available:

A man needs to be available to his family and God.  Here's a couple of ways to consider...

1. To Family.  Too often as men we focus on being a success at work and then don't have an availability with our time or energy for our children and wife.  Or when we are with them we sometimes make them feel like we can only spend time with them during the commercials.  The message we are giving them is that they aren't a priority.

It's a CONSTANT BALANCING ACT for men.  Try this:
  • Live in the now.  When you spend time with the family - "be there."  That means not just physically being there, but also emotionally.  Actually be involved in whatever you're doing and not focus on what you think you'd rather be doing.
  • Plan time together.  It could be a once a week family fun night doing something everyone enjoys.
  • Date your mate.  Plan a night out together for some face-to-face time.  Have fun.  Eat at your favorite restaurant or see the movie she wants to see (one that doesn't have karate and spaceships. LOL).
  • Spend time with your kids.  What can you do with your child(ren).  An exclusive time with dad - hiking - zoo - park - getting ice cream - going to the mall.  Time to talk.  When your child knows they can have your full attention they will often share their deepest thoughts and heart with you.
  • Good listening.  Perhaps the hardest thing for men to do.  If your family is going to talk, then they have to know you're willing to listen.  This means you have to get rid of distractions.  Turn off the TV.  (March Madness - College Basketball)  Get away from the computer so you can focus on the person and the conversation you're going to have.  Listen without interrupting or changing the subject.  Maintain eye contact.  Eye contact sends a powerful message to them that what they're saying is important.  Plus it also lets you watch their body language, which tells you what they're really trying to say.
2. To God.  Are you wiling to be used daily by God to make a difference in the lives of others?  God wants available men who have a heart full of trust and faith and will be obedient to what God shows them.  Especially in our families where God has called us to be the spiritual leaders. 
  • Lead your family into a vital relationship with Jesus.  This is our #1 priority.  Since more things are "caught than taught," you model this by having a daily relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord (Matthew 22:37).  We need to take time to study the Bible so we can know God and know His will for our lives.  Through the Word of God and talking with God through prayer, God works on the inner man so we can become a man after God's own heart.  As your family sees you growing and changing it will help them understand what a relationship with our Lord is all about.
  • Pray for and with your wife and children.  When praying for your children, bless them in the name of Jesus.  Implements the Three A's of Prayer, meaning, we all can pray ANYTIME, ANYWHERE and about ANYTHING!
We must WALK the TALK....nothing more - nothing less - nothing else!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Not Wrong...Just Different

Our motto should be "Not Wrong...Just Different" 

One thing I've learned over the years is that you have to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.  Learning how to deal with diversity will take you across the threshold of dispute.

Jesus called us to be PEACEMAKERS not PEACEKEEPERS.  Making peace is our assignment 24/7.  I'm not called just to "keep the peace" but to "make it." 

That means, I work at the peace manufacturing plant.  Ever heard of that place?  It's the place that:
  • Joins together that which has been separated.
  • Resolves conflicts.
  • Overcomes differences.
Paul said we are to ENDEAVOR to keep the unity of the Spirit in the "bond" of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)  Endeavor is an action word.  It means I must WORK AT IT to make it happen. 

Peace don't just SHOW UP...peace has to be prepared for and welcomed when it arrives.  I have to SEEK after it...PURSUE it.

Most of us love our families.  However, there are some in our family that we wouldn't want to go on vacation with.  It's not that we don't love them...perhaps it's just a lot of work mentally and emotionally to be around them.  We shouldn't shun them...but we should also use wisdom when we're with them.  The same could be said of any relationship.

Perhaps Paul knew that peace would require effort when he said, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18)

Notice the words "IF IT BE POSSIBLE."  That means...there's a chance it might not be.  However, we should, with everything within us, try to make it happen.

We're all different.  Our skin color, eye color, body shape, hair style, musical preferences, entertainment preferences, movie choices, etc.  the list goes on.......

Our differences shouldn't DIVIDE us...but rather UNITE us.    I believe our attitude should be to CELEBRATE one another.

I need you and you need me.

U.N.I.T.Y. = You and I Tie

Truly, churches and Christians alike should be able to get along while abiding here below.  We're supposed to be on the same team; building the Kingdom of God.

Often I hear of Christians that break fellowship and refuse to have anything to do with one another.  I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind.  I understand how differences can enter in and cause a rift...however, the main thing should still be the main thing...building the Kingdom of God.

Unfortunately, differences do arise. 

I am a firm believer that each of us are responsible for our behavior and actions.  Christians, especially those who claim to be preachers/teachers, etc." should set a HIGHER STANDARD.  Our actions should be in accordance to Biblical guidelines.  Paul spoke of the behavioral patterns of Bishops, Elders and Deacons in the New Testament.

When you mix Paul's guidelines with ministerial etiquette and common sense...then you get a good idea of how we should conduct ourselves.

Refuse to take the "fight" or "flight" response.  Don't abandon the "God Relationships" that He afforded you by burning bridges with the people who have loved you unconditionally and poured into your life.  It's been those relationships that have helped you and spared your life when you were dangling over a cliff by a thread.

Choose to "Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you." (2 Corinthians 13:11)

Doing things right (correct communication, behavior that is above reproach, professionalism, courtesy) is a STAPLE for every believer.

Even Cain was afforded another opportunity from God when he offered his sacrifice the wrong way.  "...if thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" (Genesis 4:7)  In other words...just do things right Cain and I'll receive you.

Need a second chance today?  My advice....just do things right.  (Doing things right isn't just someone's personal preference that you're being asked to conform to.)  I'm referencing doing things according to a Biblical standards + etiquette and common sense.

We're all different...however, our common denominator is CHRIST.  Let's strive to look beyond our differences - whatever they may be - and conduct ourselves in grace and truth.

Not wrong...just different.

Friday, March 4, 2011

One Area Where I Am Legalistic

Keeping strict guidelines in a particular area of your life can label you as legalistic.  I understand fully the thoughts associated with "legalism", having been raised in a strict religious culture. 

I do not have an ax to grind with anyone.  I'm extremely thankful for my upbringing and the standards embedded in me.  :-)  I often say, "I'm thankful for where I came from, but glad I kept coming."

Now that I'm older, I realize that certain guidelines were followed out of simple trust and obedience.  To me, this is a reflection of a pure heart.

As a result, one of the values that was modeled in front of me is PERSONAL INTEGRITY

Is INTEGRITY a requirement for leadership anymore?  Can you be a liar and a leader?  Can you twist the truth to serve your own purposes...and that be considered acceptable? 

At what point do we take responsibility for our actions, and with great humility, learn from our mistakes and walk gently from there? 

Personal Integrity is a MUST for any leader.

When we commission a pastor, elder or deacon, we ask that candidate if there is anything going on in their life privately that, if it became public, would disqualify them from ministry.

We've GOT TO BE SERIOUS about integrity.  We live in a world where the lines are increasingly grayed and Christians are made a laughing stock for simply holding to the values of a virtuous life.

Isn't it possible to see our way out of temptation and instead of bowing down to it...stand up under it?

How many pastors/ministry leaders have to make horrible moral decisions before we SERIOUSLY get a hold of safeguarding our lives?

God doesn't PLAY GAMES.  Galatians 6:7 says He will not be MOCKED...and any ministry leader that pretends all is well but has sin issues that they refuse to confess and repent of...friend, God doesn't play games!

What steps are you taking to safeguard yourself?  Here's some of mine:
  • I do not counsel women alone.
  • I do not travel alone.  If my wife cannot join me, I take a spiritual son with me.
  • I will not ride alone with a woman in a car other than my wife, daughter, mother, sister, mother-n-law or sister-n-law.
  • I include my wife on any emails, phone calls, personal messages / conversations that involve a woman.
  • Bottom line...I will not spend time alone with a woman other than my wife and daughter.
Am I legalistic about this?  You bet!

Your list may be different.  The fact need a list.

There is TOO MUCH AT STAKE for me (and YOU) to fall!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bottom Line...Get Off Your Bottom!

Yesterday I asked myself a couple of questions as it pertained to "not being ashamed."  (2 Timothy 2:15) 

Along those lines, I've been thinking about ... "doing my best to present myself unto the Lord as a workman..."

An area every leader will have to master is the temptation of being lazy.  Laziness in leadership, especially church leadership, can happen when you stop doing your part and sit back and expect God to do what HE commanded you to do.

We have to take RESPONSIBILITY for ourselves and quit blaming others for our lack of ambition, drive, results, attitude, outcome, etc.
  • It is my RESPONSIBILITY to prepare my heart each week  to hear from the Lord and then share that in what we call a "sermon" each week.
  • It is my RESPONSIBILITY to make sure I'm praying, reading my Bible, fasting and stretching my faith.
  • It is my RESPONSIBILITY to make the most of each day, work hard, put in my time, talent, treasure, energy and effort into the things God has called me to lead.
Being a "NO SHOW" just isn't acceptable in today's leadership standard.
Being a "NON PERFORMANCE" leader isn't acceptable even in the secular marketplace.

I MUST get off my bottom, roll up my sleeves and WORK HARD!

Anyone who ever did anything GREAT for God was not LAZY.  They focused their energy on the God-given task and were willing to DIE for what they believed in.

Consider today the question..."Am I presenting myself unto the Lord as a WORKER that needeth not be ashamed?"

The most DANGEROUS thing a leader can do is set the cruise control!

What Does God Think?

We make decisions based upon the precepts of our heart.  In other words, we act upon our best conclusions based upon the information we have.  However, when making decisions, we must ask "Is this a good decision or a God decision? Does God approve of this?"

It's important to me to seek the council of my spiritual fathers and close confidants when I'm making major decisions.  In fact, the council of my wife is very important to me.  However, there are certain times in a leader's life when God will reveal to you the right decision that needs to be made and, for a season, you may have to stand alone on that decision.

We have a good team at BFWC.  The collective wisdom of this group of pastors, elders, deacons & ministry coordinators is invaluable to me.  However, there are times when God may speak something specific to me that isn't necessarily the most popular idea at the table.  That's when I have to hold true to what the Lord is speaking to me.

If I ever as a leader try to make everyone around the leadership table with me happy and ignore God in the process...that makes me a poor leader.

In the twelve years I've been at BFWC there has only been a few times that I have disagreed with our leadership team.  This decision was always followed with continued prayer and fasting.  Asking my team to trust me when I feel like I have heard from the Lord on a matter takes courage.

If you are pulling the "God told me" card every week and never allowing the leaders at the table to can hinder achieving creativity.   Simply put, leadership is as easy as listening to God...and if we listen and obey - He approves.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Do I Prefer Others or God?

Paul said in Romans 12:1 to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."  

In other words, "Do my best to present myself to God."

On that day, the day I stand before God, I don't believe I'll give an account for:

  • Whether or not I kept people happy.
  • Whether or not I appeased everyone.
  • Whether or not I preached sermons that people WANTED to hear.
I'll answer for whether or not I was FAITHFUL to WHO He called me to be and WHAT He called me to be.

Friends, just like Nehemiah, we cannot be more concerned with what people say and forget about what God says.  When you lay your head to rest each night, you'll have peace if you know that you did your best to HONOR God and His calling on your life regardless of everyone else's opinion. 

I have to remind myself that focusing on "them" doesn't allow me to focus on "Him!"  You have a CHOICE

Galatians 1:10 "For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."

What is your choice today?  Do you prefer others before God or do you prefer God before others?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Giving My Best

Remember when Paul said, "a workman that needeth not be ashamed...?"  (2 Timothy 2:15) 

That statement makes me examine myself.  I have to ask myself, "Am I doing all I can to avoid bringing shame to the Lord or myself?  Am I giving my best?"

Doing my best means that I am giving God my FIRST...not leftovers. 

I've been tempted to just place things in cruise control and follow the path of least resistance.  To turn my head and look away from an issue rather than deal with it.  To avoid conflict so that I don't hurt someones feelings.

However, if I'm going to lead, and lead WELL, then I must give God my best in every area of my life.