Tuesday, October 23, 2012

“Where are we heading?”

Written by Barry Werner on October 22, 2012

Effective leaders are able to communicate values as well as vision to their team. Read Isaiah 30:1-5.

No leader can guarantee the future but every team member has the right to ask their leader “where are we heading” and “what are the methods we will use to get there.”

Every responsible leader should have an answer concerning operational core values and the vision for this month and for the next 3 years. The people in Israel trusted their leaders to make good decisions for the future of the nation but the leaders in Israel ignored their history. Instead they looked away from God who had guided and protected them choosing rather to embrace Egypt as an ally and protector. Rest assured that over time there will be distress in any organization if Christian leaders do not seek God but choose to project into the future, set goals, anticipate opportunities and obstacles, and design strategies based solely on human wisdom.

Do the values and vision you promote match standards established in God’s Word for leaders? Does the projected use of the organization’s resources under your leadership include development of people? Are you making a dedicated attempt to be good stewards of the resources God has given? The effective Christian leader will have answers to these questions. The wise leaders will learn from the error of the leaders in Isaiah 30:1-5 and insure their values, vision, plans and the anticipated outcomes are consistent with what God has revealed in His word about fairness, ethics and justice.



Friday, October 12, 2012

I ATE THE COOKIES!!!



by Jill Briscoe

I have a confession to make...I ate the cookies and felt diminished. (I'll explain more about that later.)

Have you ever felt diminished? Do you ever feel small? Humiliated? Have you ever said: "I'm a Christian! How could I have acted that way, lost it that way, spoken that way, thought that way?"

Of course, you can feel diminished not only because of what you say or think or what you don't say or think, but because of whatothers say or think. When people count you of little importance or worth, you can't help but feel diminished, even if you know a lot or all of it is untrue. That feels horrible.

The dictionary defines diminishing as "to make smaller or that which reduces or makes of lesser degree," as opposed to being enlarged and growing bigger and better and of more value.

People can diminish you. Life can diminish you. You can diminish yourself if you listen to negative messages. The devil himself is the author of diminishing. He doesn't care how the belittling comes. He'll use any person or anything to do his horrible work.

Sometimes people's worth is found in what they earn or achieve in the world. Our worth can be all wrapped up in the house we live in, the dishes we eat from, the way the drapes drape, or even if the basement is finished or not!

Driving to church a few months ago, I was listening to stories about the plane crash in the Hudson, the miracle story of the new year. All were saved by the heroism of the pilot. Interspersed with the man's amazing skill in this true story of life and death was the news of the cease-fire in the war in Gaza. The killing had stopped for a while. But news followed of atrocities in Africa and danger in Afghanistan for our troops. Serious stuff. When someone tries to kill you, you feel diminished all right.

A musical jingle began on the radio. The lively group sang, "Do you feel diminished when your basement isn't finished?" This seemed incredibly incongruous in the light of the really important stuff, but some people really do! Do what? Feel diminished if their basement isn't finished and their neighbor's is! Yet even though it's silly to feel belittled by what is seemingly trivial, it isn't trivial if it sidelines you or if your self-worth is wrapped up in material success, whatever it is.

The devil doesn't care about the basement. He doesn't care about war or the really big things going on around our hurting world. He just cares about making you lose respect for yourself as God sees you. Don't let him get away with it. The Bible says he is the "accuser of the brethren" (Rev. 12:10, KJV).

The devil exists to diminish us! He is the ultimate diminisher. He is a murderer. He kills our God-given sense of intrinsic value and worth. He reduces our view of ourselves and our view of God and His worth, too. We diminish God when we see Him as angry and disappointed in us or when we think less of ourselves than He does as His precious, forgiven child. Satan is heavy into diminishing, while God is busy enlarging and giving us an incredible sense of value.

"You are worth coming for, finding, saving, and rising again," Christ tells us. "You are worth indwelling; I love to live in your life. I want to stay here. I like it here. You are worth everything to me. You are infinitely precious and worthwhile. You are worth forgiving, indwelling, gifting, and using in my plans and purposes. I value you." (Read Psalm 139 every day for a week! That should help!).

But even though we know these things in our heads, when we do something that makes us ashamed and small or buy into others' accusations and abusive words, knowing this doesn't seem to help unless we choose to believe it! We get into blaming those who diminish us, blaming ourselves for letting them, and blaming anything else in sight!

We can't believe we did that or said that! We ask ourselves, "How could I?" and we lose self-respect. Our self-worth is shattered and we lose the will to try and grow bigger...to strive to enlarge our lives to let God increase and augment our self value. Or we tell ourselves, "I deserve this treatment because of who I am."

God wants to bless us by assuring us we are known and loved — and He is pleased with us. He is not pleased with our sins of commission or omission, of course, but pleased with us even when we never do it all right. He says, "Well, you never do it all wrong either." We should believe that still small voice of encouragement.

Paul was being criticized and said, "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself" (1 Cor. 4:3). It's God who judges us knowing our motives and desires.

It was 9/11 and I was in an airplane. I had been traveling from Siberia trying to get home. Instead, we landed in Newfoundland and stayed there for six days. When we got there we had to sit for hours before we could be processed. We hadn't eaten for a long time, so all of us were hungry. Once down on the ground, we were told we wouldn't be eating for hours. Sitting on the tarmac for hours, I dreamed of all the opportunities to tell my flight full of people about the Lord. I prayed that God would use me in this very dramatic place, helping people with their fear and trauma.

The passengers snoozed for a time — we were all pretty jet-lagged. Suddenly, I remembered that I had bought some cookies at Heathrow Airport. At once, a high and noble thought came to me. I would share my cookies with the doctor next to me, or the older lady weeping across the aisle, or those cute kids in the front seat. Maybe this act of generosity, at no little cost, would give me a chance to talk about Christ. Fast on the heels of the Spirit's suggestion came a very different voice, "Why don't you wait till everyone's asleep and nibble them surreptitiously?" The battle began. I had a choice to make. I couldn't believe myself. Here I was, an international relief worker, a speaker, and author of books on sacrificial love and how to live like Jesus, and I was busy plotting to eat my cookies — all by myself!

The battle raged. And...I ate the cookies! Yes I did, ALL OF THEM! As soon as I swallowed the last cookie, the guilt began. The shame followed. I felt diminished (quite rightly!). I certainly felt a whole lot smaller than I had felt a few minutes earlier. I couldn't believe I did that, and I couldn't undo it either! It was done.

Have you ever "eaten the cookies"? What a sick feeling. On 9/11, God and I had a serious talk about the cookies. I said I was sorry. He said, "Good, now let's try again. Failure is never final for my children." After such a disastrous start in that Salvation Army hall in Gander, Newfoundland, God gave me the gift of six more days to do a little better! "Well, that shouldn't have been too hard," you say. Right! That's what I love about Jesus. He gives us another day to do better. Sometimes six!

The cookies represent any time we do the wrong thing instead of doing the right thing - or when people diminish us with words or actions and we "eat them!" It represents any time we fail as a daughter, son, grandparent, mother, father, friend, leader, or follower. All of us will fail and fail again. Remember, we are fallen people living in a fallen world, but we can't allow others to judge us as failures. There is only one judgment seat and it is most thoroughly occupied by the Lord Himself, who died for us. God is the judge and only God knows the measure of our hearts. "It must be a small thing, not a large thing, that others judge us" (1 Cor. 4:2-4). When others, by innuendo, impugn and degrade us, even if sometimes we indeed do it wrong, God whispers love and affirmation to our heart, if we let Him.

Even if you have just eaten the cookies, or someone else has and you are blaming yourself, learn to keep in touch with the loving Lord. Know we will eat our share of cookies before it's over, but one day, we will be done with it. We shall be complete and whole and hear "well done faithful (not successful) servant." We must not think less of ourselves than God thinks of us. And one glorious day we will never do it again. I can't wait! Hallelujah.

How do you feel about yourself today? Remember how God feels about you, whatever kind of cookies you've eaten! There is healing for all the cookies that have been eaten in the whole wide world. Next time you're feeling diminished, refer the "accuser of the brethren" to the One that defeated Him.

Monday, October 1, 2012

MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKING AND BIBLICAL PREACHING.

As one that operates in the five- fold ministry as a "Teacher", this article was a personal check for me. 

Knowing I have the natural ability or (gift) to "influence", this article reminded me to always be mindful, it is the Word of God and the Word of God alone that destroys yokes of mental, spiritual and even physical bondage. 

Motivational speaking does have its place, but not under the guise or banner of biblical teaching. Self Check!

CourageousMi

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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKING AND BIBLICAL PREACHING.    
By Dan Delzell, Special to Christian Post


There are tremendous differences between "motivational speaking" and "biblical preaching." In America today, many churches offer one or the other. One approach leaves people "encouraged" in their emotions and in their "self-esteem." The other builds up Christians in the Gospel as the Holy Spirit applies the Scriptures to the hearts and minds of the hearers. 

Motivational speakers tell a lot of stories and seek to sway through emotion and pop psychology. Biblical preachers tell some stories, but above all seek to have people influenced by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Motivational speakers may or may not throw in a few Bible verses to "salt" their main topic. Biblical preachers rely totally upon the Scriptures to "drive" the content and to feed God's sheep. The Bible is the basis of their message. 

Motivational speakers seek to never speak of things which might offend anyone in attendance. Biblical preachers seek to proclaim God's Word with a loving heart as they rely upon the Holy Spirit to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." That is, to apply the message of forgiveness to those who are repentant....and to apply the weight of the Law toward anyone content to continue sinning. After all, if I am never offended by my own behavior, I am certainly not growing in Christ....and I am living in denial. Motivational speakers do not tend to think about the Law and the Gospel when presenting a message. Instead, they attempt to persuade people to change their behavior. 

Motivational speakers are good at knowing how people think and behave....but not good at "rightly dividing the Word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) They reach the level of man's emotions with their appeals, but they are not equipped with the proper biblical knowledge to lead people into the realm where souls meet God and then grow in Christ.

Motivational speaking tends to be man-centered and people-pleasing. Biblical preaching is Christ-centered and God-honoring. Motivational speaking is often aimed largely at unbelievers. Biblical preaching typically aims where St. Paul aimed in his epistles....that is, it aims mainly at believers.

New Testament worship services are designed for believers....with a loving and open heart for unbelievers to also attend in hopes of them receiving Christ as Savior. Motivational seminars are aimed at anyone who will help to fill the auditorium.

Motivational speakers are reluctant to say, "The Bible says." They realize that many of their hearers don't believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. Biblical preachers have taught God's people to trust Scripture to be the inerrant "God-breathed" message of truth from the Lord. (2 Timothy 3:16)

Motivational speakers need to have personal charisma. Biblical preachers need to be humble in order to be anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit. Charisma influences emotions in the direction of self-actualization. The Holy Spirit influences the soul in the direction of godliness.

Biblical preaching lifts up Jesus Christ. Motivational speaking tends to exalt man's ability to fix his own issues. Biblical preaching proclaims the Gospel message of Christ's death and resurrection for our salvation. Motivational speaking might tack on "the sinner's prayer" at the end of a "how-to" message.

Biblical preaching produces a holy awe of God and a deep respect for His Word. Motivational speaking tends to be light, fun, humorous, and entertaining. It's "showtime" when the motivational speaker steps to the podium. It's "flow time" when the biblical preacher steps forward. He has spent much time in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to fall upon his hearers and speak to them when the Word goes forth.

Motivational speakers usually have a certain number of steps they want you to follow to improve your life. Biblical preaching is not that simplistic. St. Paul explained biblical preaching with these words: "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Cor. 2:1-5)

Biblical preaching freely discusses heaven, hell, and the immortality of the soul. Motivational speaking never addresses hell....and if heaven gets discussed, it is done so in a way that suggests most people of many religions will eventually make it to heaven.

Motivational speakers tend to deliberately or unintentionally place the spotlight upon the messenger. Biblical preachers want the hearers to celebrate Jesus and Him alone. As Oswald Chambers wrote, "Anything that flatters me in my preaching of the Gospel will result in making me a traitor to Jesus, and I prevent the creative power of His redemption from doing its work."

Does this mean that every minister who attempts to engage in biblical preaching is doing so with a loving heart and a life filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit? No. If a minister is living "in the flesh" by intentionally feeding his sinful nature, his message will not be saturated and dripping with the grace of God and a Spirit-wrought love for the hearers. This is why St. Paul told Timothy, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Timothy 4:16) Notice that his "life" was highlighted even before his "doctrine." It is easier to present messages that are doctrinally correct than it is to live a holy life, but both are necessary in the life of a pastor and preacher.

There seem to be many more Americans today who hunger for motivational speaking than for biblical preaching. A taste for the Word can only be developed by regularly feeding on the Word....and by holy living....and most of all, by a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. A love of the world produces no such hunger. We are all sinners, and prone to love the world far more than we love the Word. D.L. Moody said this regarding the Bible: "This Book will keep me from sin, and sin will keep me from this Book."

The temptation for the minister in America today is not only to water down the message....but to change the message altogether. The test for all of us who have been called by God to preach the Word is to do so faithfully and with a heart full of love for God, for believers, and for the lost. If we do this the right way by God's grace, then unbelievers will be moved by the Holy Spirit to believe....and believers will be moved by the Holy Spirit to love the Lord and to serve others with their gifts.

When we get charged up by a motivational speaker, the results tend to be superficial and flimsy. When you and I are motivated by the Holy Spirit through the faithful proclamation of His Word, the results are spiritual and eternal.

God will help us to rely upon "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17) rather than upon a slick and popular presentation of humanistic moralism. One approach equips the saints for works of service. The other approach strokes the ego of the speaker and the attendees.

God is not interested in our ego. He wants His children to "live a life worthy of the Lord" so that we "may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened will all power according to His glorious might." (Colossians 1:10,11) There is no room for ego in biblical preaching. There is plenty of room for ego in motivational speaking.

Humanistic motivation cannot produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Only God can do that....and He does so largely through the teaching and preaching of His Word, as well as through one-on-one encouragement, assistance, and prayer.

St. Paul instructed Timothy: "Preach the Word." (2 Timothy 4:2) This is what is needed in America today....preachers of the Word whose hearts are filled with the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

God will help those of us who are pastors and preachers as we proclaim the message of the apostles. Not one of us is sufficient for the task. Only His grace can accomplish the work in us and through us. Here is tip for all of us....read Paul's letters....and then go forth to motivate people with those words and with that approach to encouraging the saints. The world is filled with motivational speakers....God's church deserves to have biblical preaching. That's why He ordained it for His people.

Notice how Paul's letters tend to always begin with many examples of what God has done for us in Christ....rather than jumping right into a "quick-fix" of what we get to do for Him. That's the right order. That's the biblical order and emphasis. God's work is what matters....both in our salvation, as well as in our Christian life of discipleship. It's "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27) Motivational speaking jumps right into what you need to do to get right in your behavior. The Bible presents a far better approach than "self-help." The Scriptures deliver Jesus to us. The Bible is the "manger" in which Christ is laid before us so that we can gaze upon Him and be filled with the life of God.

Self-esteem is sought by those who have not yet "died to self" and risen to live for Christ. Healthy believers, on the other hand, hunger for God's Word like a baby hungers for food. "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 2:2,3) Jesus never seeks to build up a person's self-esteem. That is a dead end street as far as God is concerned. St. Paul said it best: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20) That experience is a far cry from a life of self-esteem that needs to be constantly propped up by a motivational speaker.

May the Lord open our eyes to see the huge difference between these two approaches....and may He then empower us by the Holy Spirit to do God's work in God's way. Anything less is just a cheap counterfeit, and is has no business being performed in the church of the living God.