Month: November 2009

The Batteries of My Life

All of us have internal batteries that determine how much energy or effort we have to expend on the matters of life. When these batteries are charged, we can take on multiple tasks and still have strength to charge hell with a water pistol. When these batteries are low, even everyday jobs can overwhelm us.  I have four batteries that need constant evaluation and re-charging and I have learned that if any of these four batteries run low, I am less than my best.

I have a personal spiritual battery that is only charged when I spend time with God in prayer, worship and scripture.  I talk to God every day, but at least five days a week, I need extended time alone with Him.  My goal is seven days, but in reality, that is not always possible.  When I am in a good rhythm of schedule, my spiritual battery is charged and I feel nothing can keep me from taking ground.

I also have a work battery. This is the energy supply for doing my job as pastor such as meeting with people, leading meetings, teaching, and studying for talks.  I keep this battery charged by saying yes to things that I should be doing and saying no to things someone else should be doing. When I am operating in my strengths and my calling, I feel fully alive and able to give my best to the assignment God has given me.

I also have a dad battery. This is the energy supply I need to be a good dad to Abram and Callie. Because they are 11 and 9, they want a lot of dad’s time and energy.  That means, I cannot give all my energy to New Life every day and come home with an empty tank. The 12-minute drive from New Life to my house is my time to switch off the work battery and plug in the dad battery.  My goal is to not take work home at night and to not be talking on the phone when I walk in the house. I also take either Abram or Callie out for breakfast every Saturday morning so we can be together and talk about kid stuff.

I also have a husband battery.  I mentioned this at the end not because it is the least important, but to confess that I have sometimes neglected this battery more than the other three. Pam has been kind and patient with me the past two years, knowing the weight I have been carrying at New Life. Today, though, I made a commitment to give this battery more of my attention and to make changes in my schedule that allows for more time with the girl I love.

Take an honest look at the batteries in your life. Are they all charged for optimum output or do you need to make some lifestyle or schedule changes today? God has enough strength for all of us. We only have to sit still and receive. It is a lot like re-charging a battery. You have to plug it into the wall and leave there it there for a length of time. Sit still this week and get re-charged.  Your batteries will be grateful.

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The Power of a Friendly Person

I grew up in Louisiana where people generally are friendly and still wave at one another when they pass on the highway. It is not uncommon for strangers to strike up conversations in the supermarket or at the post office. In most Louisiana kitchens, there is always food cooking on the stove or something homemade to eat in the fridge. It is a culture centered around family, friends and food.  I wish local churches looked more like Louisiana, minus the bugs, heat and humidity.

I believe one of the most effective things we can do as followers of Christ is to be friendly to the people we meet, both inside the church and certainly outside the church. I am finding that most people don’t care about a crabby person’s theology or want to talk about Jesus with someone who never smiles.  Why can’t we be friendly first and bible experts second?

As a pastor, I hear lots of compliments and some criticism. I don’t lose a lot of sleep over most of the criticism except when I hear that someone has not been friendly to a guest or to a fellow member.  There is no excuse for being rude. Maybe, I am old school or just have too much Southern still in me, but I have a low tolerance for people who don’t care about other people.

Being friendly does not require a lot of formal education, but it does require basic training. We need to be taught good manners because we are not born with them, at least I was not. Here are some general rules for being friendly:

1.      Look at the person and not around the person

2.      Listen to them

3.      Don’t appear in a hurry

4.      Ask them questions

  •  What is your name?
  •  Where do you live?
  • How is your family?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • How can I serve you?

These are the basic requirements for graduating Friendly School, but if you want an advanced degree, here are the course requirements:

1.      Invite someone to your house for a home cooked meal.

2.      Ask a stranger to sit with you and your family or friends at church.

3.      Personally take a guest to the right room on campus and don’t point in the general direction.

4.      Remember a stranger’s name when you see them next.

5.      Greet the kids in the family not just the adults.

Please help your pastor sleep better at night and remember that being friendly can mean the difference between someone following Christ or not. We are Christ’s Ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.  Practice being friendly in the mirror and don’t leave home until you get it right.

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Submitting to Authority

There is a lot of debate right now over the idea of submitting ourselves to those in authority, especially human authority within the local church. One crowd says that God’s approval and His authority is all we should seek and human authority is too corrupt to trust. Another group says no major decisions can be made unless approval is given from someone or some group of people here on the earth.

I understand the risk of submitting my life to others. What if they have hidden or impure motives attached to their counsel? What if their real goal is to manipulate me or control me somehow? What if they really don’t care about my personal welfare and actually desire my harm?

When I am faced with these types of choices, I ultimately yield to scripture because it is my guide for life. Here are some passages for all of us to consider:

Romans 13:1-2 NIV – “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

This is talking primarily about government rulers, but the command is still clear. We should submit ourselves to them and ultimately trust God.  Obviously, we should never do evil things or commit sin even if a ruler tells us to do so. This scripture is not telling us to be robots or to throw away our moral compass. The real issue is a heart issue. Are we rebellious at our core? Can we be lead by anyone? Can anyone tell us what to do?

Here is another passage to meditate upon this week:

Hebrews 13:17 NIV – “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

I believe we only have as much authority from God as we are willing to submit to.  I have willingly submitted myself to human authority and God has entrusted me with authority to lead in the local church. With this authority, I am supposed to serve, lead and protect those entrusted to my care. Notice, this scripture says those who have been given authority must one day give an account of how they used it. Therefore, if I use my authority incorrectly, God will judge those motives when I stand before Him in heaven.

It also says that we, as followers, can make this assignment a joy or a burden for our leaders. I hope I have added joy to the lives of Robert Morris, Tom Lane, Jimmy Evans, Jack Hayford and Larry Stockstill. These men, along with the elders of New Life, are all leaders who can correct and challenge me. I have given all of them permission to tell me “no”.

Do you have trusted leaders in your life? Do you have someone who can tell you “no” or even challenge you when you believe you have a command from God? If so, you are a person that God ultimately will trust with authority. If not, you may one day find yourself in a place of authority, but will be ill prepared to exercise that authority for the good of God’s Kingdom.

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Methods for the Message

I spent last week in Europe, meeting with leaders in the U.K., Berlin and in Istanbul.  All three places have seen scores of missionaries and ministries come to their cities and countries, but all three regions have seen a dramatic decline in the influence of the Gospel upon the people and the culture.  For example, in Turkey, there are only around 3000 followers in a country of over 70 million. At one time, some believe there were as many missionaries in the country as converts. What happened that so many resources have been spent, but with such miserable results?

I believe the Gospel is still good news but how we share this news can make all the difference.  When I read the New Testament, I see three strategies for presenting the Gospel and I believe all three strategies have to be implemented in a culture before we will see significant results.

 1.       Proclamation

The message of the Gospel must be declared in public through preaching and testimonies.  All of us must take every opportunity to tell our story and explain the simple truth of Jesus and His redemption of humanity. This can happen at a church gathering, in a classroom, or anywhere we are given a public opportunity.  The early apostles looked for public settings where they could speak. It was done with love for the people who were listening and within the boundaries of common sense. The results were sometimes dramatic and sometimes not, but that did not stop them from proclaiming what they knew to be true.

 2.       Conversation

When Philip overheard the Ethiopian eunuch reading Scriptures out loud in Acts 8, he asked if he could talk with him more. What followed was a conversation, not a sermon. As a result, the eunuch chose to follow Jesus. We must be willing to engage in meaningful conversations with people and not always try to get the “quick sell”. Many times, we confront people way too early instead of being patient with the work of the Holy Spirit. We are here on earth to cooperate with God and sometimes that means months and even years of conversation with people.

 3.       Demonstration

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 NLT

Those who are not following Jesus should see evidence or proof in our own lives of real and radical transformation.  The fruit of our lives should be so compelling to those around us that it allows the Gospel to be both seen and heard. I am not talking about behavior that is rehearsed or superficial, because the world can spot posers. I am talking about authentic servant hood and genuine compassion coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit. I am convinced that in many cases, our message is not being heard because people cannot see the evidence of our own conversion.

All three of these strategies must be in place or we will not see significant transformation in the cultures where we live. Let’s proclaim the truth, engage in conversation at every opportunity and demonstrate the grace that has changed our own lives.

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