WORDDEVO: "The Weekly Word with Leadership Principles" [11-18 thru 11-24] DEVOTIONALS

 

Seven Days of Devotion

 The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him.

Do you feel your situation is hopeless

and your team will never respond?

Even the best leaders are unable to turn some situations around.

Read Ezekiel 14:12-23.

The Lord came to Ezekiel when he was speaking to the elders of Israel exiled in Babylon and gave him a message of condemnation for their ongoing practice of idolatry. God named three of His best from their Jewish history including Daniel, a very familiar one who was a well-known leader during the exile, and stated that even they would not have been able to save this rebellious people from themselves. Even though all three were full of integrity, character, and discipline, totally competent and responsible to do the right thing; God says even they could save only themselves because the people would not listen to them. 

Leaders are designed by God to do what they do – lead! If their team is not responding they assume that the application of more leadership, closer supervision, more and closer checkpoints to monitor progress, seeking different counsel, or a myriad of other techniques will help them gain momentum and bring a situation under control, and generally it does. But, there are times, according to Ezekiel 14, when people’s hearts become so hard that no leader can succeed.

I have seen times when a leader has had their head down for days, months or years looking inward because they could not get a team to respond. Truth be known, no leader could turn some of these teams around. It should and generally does take an experienced leader, who has seen success, a long time to give up on trying to turn a situation from chaos to productive but according to Ezekiel, there may arise a situation where people won’t change. In Matthew 10 when Jesus sent His team out to various towns and gave them supernatural authority over the spirit world and disease and sickness, Jesus told His team there would be a time they may have to leave a town or individuals that were hard hearted (v 14).

Do you feel your situation is hopeless and your team will never respond? Do you think it may be time to move on for your own sanity and self-preservation? Today’s study contains elements that can be tricky. Leaders’ emotion to the lack of success can convince them they are in an impossible situation and should leave. That may be true or like with Joseph in the Bible, God may have you in a specific situation for a period of development for greater things in the future. If there is ever a time for a leader to seek the heart and wisdom of God it is when they are determining to give up on an individual or a team. Wise, God-honoring leaders pray they stay in God’s will, seek God’s wisdom, pray for discernment and don’t make emotional, rash, knee-jerk decisions when it comes to giving up on a team.

Psalm 94:14 “For the Lord will not reject His people; He will never forsake His inheritance.”

MONDAY

Are you experiencing a high rate of turnover

among the senior leadership?

A leader will attract like minded individuals.

Read Ezekiel 16:23-29.

God delivered a strong message of condemnation of the city of Jerusalem through Ezekiel to the Jews exiled in Babylon. It was meant to dash the hopes of those who still had dreams of returning to their homeland and once again living in the glorious city of Jerusalem. Through Ezekiel God explains to the people the many ways those living in the city had broken their covenant with Him and just why Jerusalem would be destroyed. Verses 23-29show how the attitude of the religious elite in Jerusalem toward honoring the gods of other nations had given rise to construction of images of pagan gods in public areas of the city and had attracted worshipers of the gods from Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. 

Leaders establish the organizational climate that attracts or repulses certain kinds of individuals. This is a law of behavior that functions as surely as the law of gravity. I have seen times when, for appearance, a leader desired to have people on their team with God-honoring core values. They sought out those kinds of individuals and hired them but there was high turnover. They could hire God-honoring individuals but they couldn’t hold them because their inner-hidden-deeper-secret core values were not God-honoring but self-serving. I have seen other times when an individual desired to work for an organization because of their great reputation and managed to gain employment there but soon left because they really had no desire to live under God-honoring core values.

A leader’s defined values are like a GPS unit that electronically controls the rudder of a ship; once values are established, if there is any change of an organization’s behavior consistently violating those established values, a leader’s internal alarms go off and the leader takes action to steer the organization back on course. When the leader and team have the same values the team functions well together in the midst of this value course correction; when the leader and a team member have different values there is frustration and a questioning of the reason for change. Team members tend to stay with leaders and organizations that function in unity and tend to leave when major philosophical differences continue to be the order of the day.

Has your team been put together based on needed skills but ignoring individual defined values? Are you experiencing a high rate of turnover among the senior leadership based on philosophical differences? Wise leaders understand that when they live by specific values they will attract individuals that have the same core values and repulse those of different core values.

 

 TUESDAY

Are justice and fairness hallmarks of your leadership?

Leaders will be held accountable by God for how they deal with justice and fairness in their leadership.

ReadEzekiel 16:49-50.

While Ezekiel, speaking for God to those exiled in Babylon, was describing the ways Jerusalem had offended God he makes some comparisons to other cities God had destroyed for their evil practices. One of those cities the Jewish people in Ezekiel’s audience knew well was Sodom because it was directly tied to the father of their faith, Abraham, and his nephew Lot. Of all of Sodom’s sins (Genesis 19), notice which ones God singled out. Their arrogance and self-centeredness brought about a failure to use power and resources that gave justice to the poor and needy. 

If after honest self-evaluation of the core values a leader admits their heart desires power, wealth, or fame more than anything else, it will be impossible for that leader to be a leader who strives for justice. When a leader’s focus is on self, justice and fairness rarely advance their cause.

Justice is a by-product of the pursuit of God and the pursuit of God is the antithesis of putting self first. God’s prophet Zechariah, when writing to Israel’s religious leaders, addressed justice and mercy as elements that are irreplaceable in the foundation of moral leadership. Zechariah said, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other’” (Zechariah 7:9-10). Even a leader’s religious observances are of little value if the community has no concern for social justice.

Real justice involves the application of power and influence to other-centered concerns. This kind of justice is counter-intuitive and only appears when a leader has Christlike attitude toward self and others. According toPhilippians 2:3-4 a leader should “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Are justice and fairness hallmarks of your leadership? Do you struggle to be fair? If when you look back over your decisions in the last 12 months you can see your track record would not pass God’s tests for justice, seek God’s wisdom and guidance to make changes that make justice a mainstay of your leadership. According to Proverbs 16:11-12tlb, your right to lead depends on being just and fair: “The Lord demands fairness in every business deal. He established this principle. It is a horrible thing for a king (a leader) to do evil. His right to rule depends upon his fairness.”

 

WEDNESDAY

Do you have situational leadership skills?

The best leaders assess every situation and respond appropriately.

Read Ezekiel 18:1-32.

The Jewish people used a proverb that said the next generation would suffer the consequences for the actions of the current generation. Ezekiel was directed to tell the people that this proverb will no longer be used by the people. The goal was to let the people living in exile in Babylon know that if they lived a God-honoring life they would flourish as a people even though their relatives living in Judah were still in rebellion against God. Ezekiel was to make it clear that God looked at each specific situation and it was their own actions that would determine their blessing or curse not the actions of the generation before. Chapter 18 makes it clear that God discerns each individual situation and responds appropriately for each situation. 

Situational leadership is not easy. Every leader develops patterns and instinctively reacts from those patterns. Situational leadership requires a leader to use their discernment and to do the work to gather accurate information on the current information. The leader cannot act or react on a desire or whim but must determine a specific intelligent action plan based on this situation. Effective leadership is driven by the situation and what the team needs to do this time around. Situational leadership requires watching, listening and investing time and energy to analyze the facts as they are. Wise leaders don’t throw out the lessons of experience or stop listening to their gut instincts but rather selectively apply them based on their discernment of specific needs for this current situation.

When a new situation arises are some of your first thoughts “we have never done it that way”? Do you have a pattern of reacting to new situations with solutions used in earlier days? Have you seen limited success with new situations from your first actions and consistently having to revise the plan after an initial failure? These are signs that you are not an accomplished situational leader.

Since life is full of unexpected circumstances and situational twists the wise leader takes the time to develop situational leadership skills. Just as Ezekiel told the Jewish people living in Babylon that God would handle each situation based on its merits and would not judge the son for the father’s crimes, effective leaders are very intentional to handle each situation on its own merits.

 

THURSDAY

Have you found yourself without self-control in various situations?

If leaders can’t rule themselves they can’t rule others.

Read Ezekiel 19:1-14.

Ezekiel wrote an allegorical lament in chapter 19 concerning the princes of Israel. He pictured them as out of control roaring lions that were eventually caught in a net and taken into captivity. Because none of them had the self-discipline to rule themselves they were removed from leadership and not allowed to rule others. 

Self-discipline is the ability to do what is necessary or sensible without needing to be urged by somebody else even when the assignment is unpleasant. Self-discipline is one of the fruits of the spirit and generally leaders who can demonstrate self-control are productive, dependable, influential leaders. When a leader develops self-discipline they apply it to all areas of their life and it is as beneficial in their home and social life as it is in the workplace. Self-discipline affects productivity, financial accountability, physical fitness, the ability to stick to a strategy or task and a hundred other areas of our life.

Anyone who has served in the military understands that consistent training can develop self-discipline. During my time in the Marine Corp we were trained to be so self-disciplined that we would move under fire at significant personal risk on command no questions asked. None of the guys I served with would have considered such an idea practical prior to our training but because of the repetitious training to control our emotions, trust our leader, and respond to instruction in any given situation; after just a few months we developed self-control that dominated our decisions even when we were in harms way.

Have you found yourself without self-control in various situations? Do you seem to give up easily when the physical or emotional job conditions become extremely difficult? According to Ezekiel this lack of self-control could eventually remove you from leadership. Effective leaders identify the habits they need to change to be self-disciplined and find ways to build them into their life so they can lead with diligence. Self-control isn’t a “just add water” kind of fix. It will take work but the wise leaders know disciplined habits will give them the momentum they need to not only move forward, but also to live their life with strength and purpose.

FRIDAY

Do you have an ever growing awareness that you are accountable to God?

Every leader, no matter their understanding or belief in God, will ultimately be accountable to Him.

ReadEzekiel 21:1-23.

God had Ezekiel prophesy that He would bring a destroying force against Judah. His intention was to use Babylon, a pagan nation, to fulfill His judgment against Judah by having Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, attack Jerusalem, the capitol city of Judah. The great Babylonian king was God’s instrument and he didn’t even know it. Even leaders who fail to acknowledge God’s existence are ultimately accountable to Him. 

In its most basic form accountability is simply being responsible to somebody or for something. In a world where virtually everyone desires the freedom to be accountable only to himself, every created being, whether humans or angels, are accountable to God. Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful individual in the known world and was treated like a god by the people of Babylon and every nation he captured. Yet in verses 18-23, God directed his path to set up siege ramps against Jerusalem, gave him an assignment to take the city with his sword, and held him accountable for the results.

The mind and ways of God are hard to interpret. God’s judgments are beyond human investigation and understanding. He does not consult with any leader and He does not explain Himself to any leader. Rather, it is every leader’s responsibility to trust Him and submit to His purposes. This is true whether a leader understands where God is leading them or not.

In today’s world where people want to make truth relative to current circumstances, understanding and interpretation, the real truth of the Bible is that every knee will bow before God and “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). Christian leaders must have an ever-growing awareness that “…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” 2 Corinthians 5:10.

Hebrews 4:13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

SATURDAY

God-honoring leaders will stand in the gap for their team.

Read Ezekiel 22:1-31.

Through Ezekiel God describes the leaders in Judah and Jerusalem. They oppressed and destroyed those God had given them influence over. God contrasts that in verse 30 with the kind of leader he is looking for that will “stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land (and the people) so I would not have to destroy it.” Because there were no leaders who were not self-serving, God brought judgment on the entire nation of Judah. 

In his study notes in the Maxwell Leadership Bible John Maxwell lists 10 traits of leaders God affirms:

  1. Consecration: They set themselves apart and remain committed to their call.
  2. Discipline: They do what is right even when it is difficult.
  3. Servanthood: They model a selfless life, lived for the benefit of others.
  4. Vision: They see what God sees and live off the power of potential.
  5. Compassion: Love for their cause and their people moves them to action.
  6. Trustworthiness: They keep their word regardless of what others do.
  7. Decisiveness: They make good decisions in a timely manner.
  8. Wisdom: They think like God thinks and avoid impetuous moves.
  9. Courage: They take risks for what is right.
  10. Passion: They demonstrate enthusiasm for their divine calling.

When your team comes under scrutiny from senior management is your first instinct to stand in the gap and defend your team’s actions or is your very first instinct to protect yourself and toss them under the bus? If your first thought was to protect yourself rather than stand in the gap for your team, your attitude would disqualify you from being counted with the leaders God called for in verse 30. The good news is there is time to change should you sense the conviction that you are wrong. The list above from John Maxwell can become your vision targets for change.


THE WEEKLY WORD WITH LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES

Can be found here:

 

http://theweeklywordleadershipprinciples.blogspot.com/

 


WORDDEVO: "The Weekly Word with Raul Ries" [11-18 thru 11-24] DEVOTIONALS

 

Seven Days of Devotion

 The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him.

 

Parents’ Responsibility

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

I talk to people everywhere I go-in the market, at the bank, in the gym-and what has truly grieved me is how I see the family unit falling apart in our country. We have become a computerized society. With all our technology, have we truly advanced? I do not think so.

We cannot rely upon the television, video games or computers to teach our children the most important thing in life-the Word of God. Father and mothers, you need to teach your children. You must check up on what your children are learning. What is being put into their minds?

The responsibility in the home is for the man to be the spiritual leader: to pray with his wife, to pray with his children, to read them the Word of God and to oversee his house, so that no one gets contaminated.

Do not let the world into your house. You need to remove as much leaven as you can from your home, so your house and your children can be safe. And then, God can bless it.

Children miss nothing in sizing up their parents. If you are only half convinced of your beliefs, they will
quickly discern that fact.
-James Dobson-

 

MONDAY

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

Do we truly understand what the Apostle Paul is telling us in this verse? He is looking forward, not dwelling on the things of the past, but always looking forward to what God has in store for us. I believe President Lincoln had no doubt what Paul is referring to in this verse.

President Lincoln led our country during a very dark and troublesome time in history. We were not in a war against an outside aggressor; we were at war with ourselves. We were divided as a nation, and Lincoln had many issues to face: ending slavery, ending a war, uniting a nation and rebuilding a struggling economy.

Many men would have thrown up their hands or tried to accomplish these goals in an aggressive manner. As a man of God, he took on Christian principles to work through the problems of our nation and heal the wounds of war.

President Lincoln pressed toward the upward call of God. He showed grace and mercy towards his enemies and brought unity to our nation. He fulfilled the call God put on his life, in spite of the many obstacles, and became a great example to generations to come.

Let us each press toward the goal to fulfill our individual calling, looking forward to what God has in store for our lives.

With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to
bind up the nation’s wounds.
-Abraham Lincoln-

 

TUESDAY

God’s Word

Receive, please, instruction from His mouth,
And lay up His words in your heart.

Job 22:22

Today, when you go to Israel, at the wall in Jerusalem, you will see a table on the men’s side. Often, you will see a young boy surrounded by adults. The boy is probably 12 years old and he is getting ready to recite the Torah. The Orthodox Jews memorize the Torah, the first 5 books of the Old Testament, and when they are 12, they have to recite the entire Torah by memory.

Do we have the same reverence for the Word of God? Do we, as Christians, realize the importance of knowing God’s Word? We need to teach our children the Word of God and have them memorize verses.

As a child, Pastor Chuck Smith’s mother would have him read the Bible and memorize Scripture. He learned how to read by reading his Bible, not grammar books. All around his parents’ house, there was Scripture on the walls. He grew up surrounded by the Word of God. That is why Pastor Chuck is so knowledgeable on the Word of God. He knows God’s Word. He learned it, he memorized it and it became a part of his life.

Pastor Chuck’s parents recognized the importance of God’s Word and used it to teach their children how to read, so the first thing they learned was of value.

No man is uneducated who knows the Bible, and no
one is wise who is ignorant of its teachings.
-Samuel Chadwick-

 

WEDNESDAY

Past, Present, Future

Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him as
commandments to them.

Deuteronomy 1:3

Moses was going over the commandments of God with the children of Israel because God knew what they were going to face when they entered the Promised Land.

While it was the place God had prepared for them, there were pagan people in the land. They were not going to enter in and have peace. The inhabitants of the land were not going to just turn everything over to them.

The children of Israel were going to face enemies. They were going to face trials and temptations. They would have to choose the living God over the idols of the land.

Prophetically, God was speaking to them of their past, their present and their future. He was reminding them of all God’s promises and where they had come from.

It is real important to remember-if we do not learn from the past in our present, we will not have a future.

Unless there is within us that which is above us, we
shall soon yield to that which is about us.
-P.T. Forsyth-

 

THURSDAY

Faithfulness

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says
the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give
you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

The children of God were tested in their faith during their time in the wilderness. And yet, time and time again, instead of faithfulness, they showed unfaithfulness. God’s never failing faithfulness has always been there, not only for them, but for us, to give principles for guidance and hope for the future. God did not lead them into the wilderness and then leave them on their own.

In the same way, God does not leave us on our own—He is faithful to give us guidance for our lives. While He is so faithful, if we look at our own personal lives, how many times do we fail God? It is amazing how God works. Even though we are unfaithful, God remains ever faithful. That is simply His nature; He cannot be unfaithful like we are.

Think about your life and the purpose to which God has called you. Not only is God teaching you, leading you and guiding you, but think of all the trials you have faced in the past and are facing today. Only God knows what is in the future. God has seen you through the trials of the past, He is with you now, and His faithfulness will meet you in your future trials.

It is only with God we have hope for our future.

God does not give us everything we want, but He
does fulfill all His promises . . . leading us along the
best and straightest paths to Himself.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer-

 

FRIDAY

Be Alive

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because
the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to
the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening
of the prison to those who are bound.”

Isaiah 61:1

We read the Bible, but are we learning from the Bible? Is God really speaking to you from His Word? I know what God has called me to do-preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have had the privilege of speaking to an infantry battalion on their way to Afghanistan, at Camp Pendleton, to the Marines at Twentynine Palms and new recruits at MCRD.

I surf three days a week, and I have seen how God is touching the lives of all the guys at the beach-without preaching to them.

I want to encourage you. I think every one of us is called to share the love of Christ. Be a child of God, be a witness, be a light, be alive, do not be dead. Be excited about God-what He is doing, what He has done, what He wants to do in your lives. You will blow your minds on what God wants to do, if you really and truly put your mind to it and allow God to direct your life.

No candle which God lights was ever meant
to burn alone.
-J. C. Ryle-

SATURDAY

God’s Chastening

My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son
in whom he delights.

Proverbs 3:11-12

We are in the Old Testament, and the children of Israel are making an 11-day journey in 40 years. Why 40 years? It is because God wants to take an inventory of their lives. He wants to take an inventory of every person’s life.

Once God takes an inventory of my life, He either keeps me or chastens me. God chastens me because He loves me and He wants to use my life. If I do not learn, He removes me.

Not only does God chasten me, but He has written the Old Testament and the New Testament as examples for me. These are the things God does in order to bring my life into alignment with His will.

We need to learn from God’s chastisement and from the examples in the Bible.

It is like the class I am teaching, when I give a test and the students do not pass it. I am not going to give them diplomas until they pass the test.

That is what God does. Every time you fail, you have to retake the test. Pass the test, so you can be used greatly by God.

We are always in the forge or on the anvil; by trials
God is shaping us for higher things.
-Henry Ward Beecher-


THE WEEKLY WORD WITH RAUL RIES 

Can be found here:

 

http://theweeklywordraulries.blogspot.com/

 


WORDDEVO: "The Weekly Word with Calvary Chapel Blogs" [11-17 thru 11-24]

Seven Days of Devotion

The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him. 

Doing Something

David Guzik


Recently I started reading again Charles Spurgeon’s classic book, Lectures to My Students, and I noticed something in the introduction that I had not seen before. Lectures to My Students is a collection of messages given to the men of Spurgeon’s famous Pastors College, which produced hundreds of Jesus-loving and Bible-preaching men for God’s work.

In those opening words, Spurgeon described his idea of what kind of students to accept to the Pastors College:

"The institution receives no man in order to make him a preacher, but it is established to help in the further education of brethren who have been preaching with some measure of success for two years at the least."

In other words, the Pastors College didn’t accept a man unless he had already been preaching (with some measure of success) for at least two years. They knew they could not “make him a preacher,” but they could help those who were called and inclined to the work – and who were already doing it.

I’m not suggesting that as a new policy for Bible Colleges and Schools of Ministry, but I think that I understand what Spurgeon was getting at. Many people pursue some kind of schooling for God’s work with only a vague idea of what it really means to serve God. The education they receive will hopefully be good and helpful. Yet it could be so much better for them if their Bible or ministry education sharpened what they already had a start in, more than hoping to create something in them.

Here is a lesson that I believe abides: if you want God to use you, get busy doing something. If you want to be a pastor or a teacher, then get busy teaching regularly. Teach children or young people. Find a small group of people who will lovingly endure your youth, your fits and starts, and all your inexperience – and start teaching them. If you can’t find such a group, then create one. If you can’t create one, then prepare the Bible studies on your own and teach your house pets or plants.

In doing so, you will help to build an important concept in your heart and mind: that before anything else, your teaching or preaching is for God as your audience, and you want to honor Him in your service. It’s easy for pastors and teachers of all types to think that a message is important based on the audience who receives it; a bigger or more influential audience somehow deserves a better or more prepared message. Instead we must remember that God is always an audience to what we do. Remember what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” That applies to everything in life (“whatever you do”), but especially to whatever teaching or preaching God gives us the opportunity to do.

I know a pastor in Europe who, for nearly six months, preached to an empty room every Sunday. He prepared and taught faithfully, believing that God called him to do such an unusual thing. The experience made him a better pastor, leader, and teacher for those people he now serves every week.

God uses educational opportunities and institutions in wonderful ways, but it seems to do the most good in the lives of those who are already doing something.

 

  MONDAY

This is part 2 in a series on love by Ken Sutton.

If you want to read part 1 click here.

Jesus was asked a question about God's commandments one day and His answer had an interesting twist: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

What was the twist? According to Jesus, the hardest thing to sin against is love. Jesus doesn't tell us to try harder or give more. No, He simply tells us to love Him passionately and supremely (with all of our heart, soul, and mind). It makes perfect sense, doesn't it? The more you love someone, the less you want to sin against them. It seems evident that Jesus is saying that if we concentrate on a relationship of love with our Creator, our sin problem takes care of itself. Love fulfills the law ... revolutionary!

This is what Jesus meant in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." According to Jesus, love does all the heavy lifting and keeping commandments is a natural byproduct of a relationship of love.

Let me ask you, have you read those words of Jesus and thought they meant something else? Have you understood them to mean that we show God that we love Him by keeping His commandments? "Keep my commandments if you really love me?" Is Jesus talking about keeping commandments or is He talking about loving Him in John 14? Most of us would say that He is talking of both! Some of us might even say that you can't have one without the other.

But you can have one without the other. We can actually put all of our energy into obeying God and serving Him but completely miss the love. Yet, we can never put all of our passion into loving Him and refuse to serve Him. True love will never allow that. The apostle Paul had some real insight on this all-important issue in 1st Corinthians 13:3 when he wrote, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." Nothing actually means nothing. Why is this so crucial? Because what Paul is describing is worthless religion, which exists to glorify self and not Jesus. This attitude leads people to believe that they are the initiators and God is the responder, that God owes them. Don't get me wrong, being obedient and doing good works are vitally important, but they need to be a response of gratitude to the Lord's sacrificial love for us.

Our Christian life delicately depends on where we keep our focus. If we focus on duty, works, and obedience at the expense of Christ's love, our walk with Christ seriously suffers. The second casualty is that joy completely dissipates. The third casualty? We lose our peace in God. The result of losing focus is often somewhere between self-righteousness or total despair, depending on how well we think we are performing. It's a real dilemma and it seems as if the enemy (and our own flesh) try at every opportunity to redirect our focus away from Jesus and onto our own works (or lack of them). So much is at stake because when we focus on works at the expense of Christ, we leave our first love.

My experience with Jesus though shows me that He has wonderful, gracious ways to get our eyes back on Him on a regular basis. He knows how to get our eyes refocused and fixed upon the author and finisher of our faith. His plan? He does this by lavishing more and more of His love upon us, not withholding it from us! By pouring His love out on us, He intends to overwhelm us with His abundant grace and unending mercy! It is not too good to be true, my friend.

How is this love for us demonstrated? Well, to be honest, it is often in ways that we miss or don't consider to be very loving. I want to explore the ways that God demonstrates His love toward us in my next post. God initiates, we respond. He pursues in ways we we might not expect, and they are personally tailored for us! Most importantly, they bring us back to "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Be blessed!

TUESDAY

I want to take a fresh look at a few scriptures that speak of how God causes us to experience His love on a daily basis. These verses may have been one's that you have overlooked or understood in a different way...The first one may actually surprise you.

"For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives" Hebrews 12:6. Let me ask you, what if discipline by God existed primarily to cause us to experience and know more of His love? That's a head scratcher isn't it? Let me take it a step further and ask you to possibly reconsider your view of what discipline by God is. Many people view discipline as harsh punishment and retribution by God. Yet, Biblical discipline means to train a child of God into a mature disciple. It speaks of God's absolute and unwavering commitment to us as His precious children. Today in our culture, discipline seems to be a lost cause. Have you ever been in a restaurant and watched a child get wildly out of control while the parent's ignore them and let everyone else suffer? When that happens I piously look at my children and say, "I love you too much to allow you to do that!". I like how Pastor Chuck Smith states it, "A failure to discipline reveals a lack of love". According to Hebrews, God isn't lacking in love for His children.

Discipline by God doesn't look back at the transgression as much as it looks forward to how God can redeem it. Hebrews 12: 10-11 says, "For they (our fathers) indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it". God disciplines us to mature us, but according to Hebrews, as He does this He is always looking forward for our benefit (profit). Interestingly enough, Romans 2:4 says that His kindness and patience brings us to repentance. Galatians 6:1 tells us that God uses other believers to "gently" restore other people. In Ephesians 6:4 we are given instruction on how to discipline our own children "Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger, but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord (Amplified). Are kindness, patience, tenderness and gentleness words that you associate with God's discipline? His discipline may not always seem to be gentle at the time but one thing is for sure; God is a master "trainer" and His discipline is always perfectly tailored to bring us into a deeper love relationship with Him. 

Oftentimes, we confuse God's chastening with reaping what we have sown. We sin against God's Word, we reject His loving discipline and then we find ourselves in a world of self-inflicted pain. It is then that we ask God why He ever allowed this to happen! Of course, we reap what we sow and the responsibility for it falls completely on us. Yet, the irony of all of this is how God is the first one to help us pick up the pieces in the aftermath. Think of the prodigal son and how His Father rejoiced upon his arrival home and there you have a perfect picture of our Lord. The prodigal son experienced redemptive (and shocking) love at the deepest level as he changed his mind and came home to His waiting Father. Let me ask you, do you need to "come home" today? Please listen, God's love does not desire to harm you, He wants to restore you...Trust Him.

As I type this, my wife, Lynn is putting our 3 year old Emily to bed and her giggling is filling up the house! I love Emily, she is a precious baby to us. Ten years ago we lost a daughter to cancer and so having Emily in our lives (in our 40's) is a special gift from God! And yet a day doesn't go by when Emily doesn't get disciplined, trained and corrected. Every time we have to correct our little girl though, a greater bond occurs and her arms reach out to us for needed comfort. Isn't it the same for us in relation to our heavenly Father? I love Emily with all my heart but my love for her pales in comparison to the Father's perfect love for all of His children. His discipline is a daily reminder of His total devotion to me.

For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:12.  Enjoy His delight in you today, my friend.

 

 
 

 

WEDNESDAY

In my last post, I wrote about a men's retreat where only one man out of 40 raised His hand when I asked "who here aspires to be used by God as a deacon?" Needless to say, I was taken aback! What a way to start a retreat. It was at that point that I knew I had to switch gears and encourage some men to engage the kingdom of God. Men need to be inspired by the revolutionary truth of the Word of God and God's love for them. So, that is what I set out to do for the rest of the retreat.

It is my belief that many of my brothers walk around convinced that God has given up on them. They simply don't believe that God still has a plan for them. Theologically they know that God loves them but practically they believe something else. The prevailing attitude among many guys is that they have let God down too many times to be of any value to the kingdom of God. Therefore in their minds God is distant and disapproving. That view of ourselves and of God needs to be seriously challenged by an aggressive encounter with the Holy Scriptures. Here are a few things that I shared and a few thoughts I wish I had shared:

- A lot of men actually hide behind their guilt and use it as a deceptive excuse for not seeking God's will for their lives. They know they have failed and use the failure as a smokescreen to divert attention away from the fact that they have left their calling behind. Some men like the idea of being "disqualified" so they can sit at home every night and watch the UFC with a bowl of chips. Don't get me wrong, I like to watch a good fight too ... it's much easier than being in one (1 Timothy 6:12). How many times has this happened in our churches with our brothers?

- We need to deal with our guilt head on. Preach the Good News to yourself every day and receive it! God knows we are guilty and so does the devil. The enemy of our souls does everything He can to keep a good man down with condemnation. Only Jesus can deal with our guilt and men need to roll all of their sin and pain onto our Savior, HE ALONE IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (1 Corinthians 1:30)! Receive Christ's mercy and be washed anew in His precious blood. Men, you are forgiven and loved. if the enemy can get between you and Jesus with condemnation, he has won.

- God has only ever used sinful and repentant men and He knew what He was getting when He got you. God is not shocked by the junk that men struggle against, but the Holy Spirit is seriously grieved when we refuse to let Christ deal with it. The only way Jesus grows us is through strong relationships with Him and with other men (read Galatians 6:1!). Brothers, you have no chance of sanctification apart from being immersed in a merciful, Christ-centered church. Start cultivating some male Christian friendships and invite them into your personal life.

- Loving, servant leadership obviously starts at home. Too many men have blown it in the past with their wives and have therefore capitulated leadership in the home. Therefore they have turned their wives into unwilling "security guards." But God did not create wives to police their husbands (or vice versa)! If that describes your marriage then make a change, now! Take full responsibility for the problem as the leader of the home. As you repent, your wife will respond to your brokenness. Start cherishing your wife like Christ does, pray with her, do the hard work, and eventually trust will be restored.

- Lastly, the calling and gifting of God is irrevocable according to Romans 11:29. That means that we have to stop wallowing in our guilt and start taking responsibility for what God is calling us to do. Many men haven't even asked God what their spiritual gift or calling is because they are so busy thinking about their weaknesses. Stop using your past failures as an excuse for inaction! Peter didn't have that option given to him after he tried to kill Malchus and after he denied Christ. Pentecost was coming and Peter was called to stand up and declare the gospel to thousands. Somewhere between Passover and Pentecost, Peter was restored and therefore he would become the poster child of how God uses humbled, repentant men. So often we are asking whether we are deacon material without knowing what deacon material actually is. According to Peters life, though, brokenness and humility are God's very own "deacon materials." Be blessed!'

 

 

THURSDAY  

The Bible says It’s a Sin 

Brian Brodersen

I watched a Christian being interviewed by a talk show host who is notorious for his antagonism toward those who believe in a biblical morality, especially in regard to homosexuality. At one point in the interview, the host very bluntly asked the Christian if homosexuality was a sin. Although the Christian did an excellent job in responding to the hostile host throughout the interview, at this particular point, I think he dropped the ball. Not that he doesn’t believe homosexuality is sin, but for some reason he was hesitant to come right out and say it. Instead, he said things like it was unnatural, harmful, and destructive to civilization, all of which may be true, but the wrong way to approach the matter, in my opinion. Why do I say that? This is why: because all of those answers are, to a certain degree, subjective. Since they are subjective, they can be dismissed as “just your opinion.” One person says homosexuality is unnatural; another says they find it perfectly natural. Some say it’s harmful; others say it’s beautiful and fulfilling. Some argue that it’s destructive to society; others argue that homosexuals have made many wonderful and beneficial contributions to society. And the arguments go on and on.

When addressing the issue of homosexuality, we need to be clear that according to the Bible, it is sin. It doesn’t matter if it feels natural or not. Most sin does feel natural to us because we are sinners. But even things that we initially feel guilty about or troubled over can lose that effect on us through the process of hardening our hearts. The Bible describes this as “being past feeling” (Eph 4:19). Personally, when I was young, venturing into sin began with a struggle in my conscience. But after awhile, that struggle diminished and I settled down comfortably into a life of sin. Things that at the start had caused me to feel guilt and shame lost that effect over time. Why? Because those things weren’t really wrong? No. It was because my heart had become hard and I could no longer feel the sting of my conscience or the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Everyone has that same experience to some degree or another, so that it why we cannot appeal to anything in us to determine what is right or wrong. We need an outside source, and that is provided by the Scriptures. The simple and primary reason that homosexuality is wrong is because God, who made us and gave us our sexual capacities, said so in the Bible!

When we present the case in that light, we remove our personal opinions and experiences from the argument, thus bringing the person face to face with God Himself. Those who reject the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality are rejecting God’s Word on the matter, not ours. Of course, this might require us to give a defense for the existence of God or arguments for the authority of Scripture. But again, that takes a person back to the bigger issue: God is the One who determines what is right and wrong, a truth that has been largely forgotten in our culture today.

So, the next time someone asks you if something is a sin or not, don’t say, I think so, or I don’t think so. Simply tell them what the Bible says and leave them to wrestle with God.

“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, … and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account ” (Heb 4:12-13).

 

  FRIDAY

 Answers for a Post-Christian

Brian Brodersen

As a result of my last post, “The Bible Says It's a Sin,” this question came up: How are we as Christians to respond to the growing influence of homosexuality in our culture? A good question and one we need to thoughtfully consider. In the past 20 years, we have seen a massive shift in attitudes toward the subject throughout most of the Western world, to the point that most Western governments support and even promote the gay agenda. This puts the Bible-believing Christian between the proverbial rock and a hard place: the "rock" being the Word of God and the "hard place" being the cultural insistence that any disapproval of homosexuality is the equivalent of racism, bigotry, and hatred, as well as a clear violation of human rights.

What's a believer to do? First, we need to make sure that we are not overemphasizing the sinfulness of homosexuality. The New Testament writers did not single out homosexual behavior as more sinful than adultery, fornication, idolatry, blaspheme, greed, hatred, or any other specific sins. Paul consistently placed homosexual behavior right alongside a variety of other sins (see Rom 1:29-31; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:9-10). One reason they didn't single it out was because homosexual sex was as common in the Roman world as it is becoming in ours. That has not been the case with us until recently, so we have tended to overreact to homosexuality more than to other sins. Some have thought that Paul identified homosexual sin as more sinful in the first chapter of Romans, but that is not the case. In verses 26-32, Paul is using homosexual behavior to illustrate the inevitable moral insanity and sexual perversity that follows when people, nations, cultures, and civilizations reject the true God.

Second, we must avoid making homosexuality the primary issue because it's not. The primary issue is sin, and we are all sinners and consequently condemned to damnation apart from Christ. A friend of mine was once approached by a gay man who said to him, "So, I guess you think I'm going to hell because I'm gay." My friend rightly responded, "You are going to hell not because you are gay, but because you are a sinner who refuses to come to Christ for forgiveness." It's true: the one and only sin that sends people to hell is the rejection of the Savior. People don't end up in hell because they are thieves or covetous or adulterers or haters or homosexuals but because they are sinners; those sins are simply the fruit of the root of sin. God's way of dealing with sin is to attack it from the root, and that's the way we are to deal with it as well. Therefore, just as we approach any other sinner who needs Jesus with love, grace, mercy, kindness, and courtesy, we do the same for those living the homosexual lifestyle.

Many who have come to Christ out of the gay lifestyle have shared with me that those who influenced them in their decision for Christ did so primarily through love and patience; they did not focus on the specific sin, but on sin in general. I'm a firm believer, as was Dr. Lloyd-Jones, that conviction over specific sins is better left to the Holy Spirit. When it comes to homosexuality, I think that we are oftentimes guilty of moralizing rather than true evangelizing. It's perverse, it's unnatural, it's wrong, you shouldn't be that way, we say. But the real issue, regardless of our specific sins, is, "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom 1:18). Thus, the need for the gospel: "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8).

So, back to where I started in the previous post. If you are ever interviewed publicly or questioned privately about homosexuality, remember to communicate these points: The Bible says it is sin, but it’s a secondary issue. It is a symptom of man’s universal problem: that of being dead in our trespasses and sins. The only remedy is the salvation that comes through personal faith in Jesus Christ.

 

SATURDAY

Dying Your Way Into Grace 

Bill Walden

For the follower of Jesus, it is a great paradox that we need to die in order to gain. There is nothing in our human nature that would desire this.

Years ago I heard a story that illustrates man’s delusion of being able to effectively rule his own life.

A man was putting a new roof on his house, but he lost his footing and began to slide toward the edge. As he was sliding down, he began to cry out to God, “Oh Lord, please save me, please help me.' As he got closer to the edge, he cried out even more, “Lord, please rescue me and spare my life!” Just as he started going over the edge of the roof, his belt loop got caught on a protruding nail. The man responded, “Never mind, Lord, I’ve got it."

The human will is incredibly strong. We have a strong sense to self-correct. We love being self-reliant. Self-determination is our default setting. Self-help books line our shelves. We judge ourselves, evaluate ourselves, modify ourselves, and encourage ourselves. We debate within ourselves about how to accomplish the next task or how we will do damage control over our last failure.

In short, we follow in the footsteps of our first parents, Adam and Eve. They were the first victims of the delusion of self-rule. Every human being since then has fallen into that same practice and has suffered negative consequences. We try to deal with negative consequences by practicing more self-rule, the cycle is perpetuated, and more undesirable results follow.

God invites the Christian to walk in grace. Grace is God’s undeserved favor. It is divine friendship and assistance. It is a gift to be received, not a coping skill to develop. It is undeserved and not earned. Grace originates with God, not with man. Grace calls for surrender. Grace invites us to die to self that God’s life may more freely and fully flow through us. Grace is apprehended through surrendering our wills to God and not ruling over our own lives.

The self-determining Christian will never experience the grace of God as he ought.

Grace and self-rule are mutually exclusive.

Consider these verses on grace:

2 Timothy 2:2 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

Paul exhorted Timothy to be strong in God’s grace. That means that Timothy was to not rely upon his own strength, but on God’s strength. Timothy needed to “die his way into the grace” of God’s strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

The apostle Paul cried out to the Lord for deliverance for his “thorn in the flesh,” which weakened him. Instead of removing the trial from Paul’s life, God reminded Paul that His grace was sufficient for Paul to live well and serve God well. Paul needed to die to his idea of a remedy for his problem. He needed to die his way into the grace of God which would be enough for him.

Romans 5:1, 2 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand."

The follower of Jesus is aware that we are saved by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we often forget that we need God’s grace for daily living. We are not saved by grace in order to live a life of self-determination and self-rule. We are saved by grace and in grace we are to stand.

The divine kindness of God cannot be experienced by the Christ follower who rules himself. The benevolent help of God will not be known by the believer who believes he is self-sufficient. The perfect wisdom of God cannot be experienced by one who regularly “leans on his own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The gracious provision of God is never known by the workaholic. The approval and acceptance of God is a foreign concept to the self-condemning saint.

Dear brother/sister: We do not die to self ONLY that we may be saved. We die daily to self that we might know God’s grace, His help, His favor, His provision, His comfort, etc.

Choose death to self and you will increasingly experience the unmatched grace of God. Don’t be surprised that it is a difficult task, but it is worth it. 

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