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.