A Boy, A Prostitute, and A Murderer

February 25, 2010

OK, quick let’s play a round of try of Tri-Bond.  It’s the game where you list 3 things and then name what they have in common.  So here goes, what do a boy, a prostitute, and a murderer all have in common?    The answer, they were all used by God to do godly things for the Lord.

This post is for me, more than anybody.. Sometimes I have the habit of being very judgmental.  Sometimes it’s on myself and sometimes it’s aimed at others.   If you take some time and thumb through your Bible you will see quite a wide list of people who God choose to use to accomplish His will.   Below is a short summary of a few of the different kind of people who choose to use and the scriptures where you can read about them.

Each of these people had 2 things in common.  1.) They had to learn to let go of their past in order to move forward into what God had asked them to accomplish.  2.) They had to obey God and do what he asked them to do with what resources they had.  Yes, some of them questioned God and wanted to run away from it at first, but they all eventually let go of their past and obeyed God’s desire for their life. 

This is really a 2-sided coin, or rather 2 ways you can look at it.  Sometimes you might not feel like you are not the right person for the job or that you are incapable of doing what you know God has put on your heart, stop listening to the lies of Satan and take a lesson from the many pages of the Bible where God used ordinary, plain, average people to accomplish his will.  I love the scripture “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13.  Give me hope for myself.

On the flip side of the coin, you have to be careful that you don’t make judgments based on the outward appearance or past of people.  God can change people in an instant and with God’s help He can motivate ANYBODY into new areas leadership or accomplishments.  The old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind.

Take the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in John 6:1-15.  Keep in mind the 5,000 was only the men counted.  There were other women and children there as well.  Jesus saw were the crowd was tired and hungry and he wanted to meet their needs.  He asks the disciples; “Where will we get food for these people to eat?”   I love the response of Phillip, “8 months wages would not buy enough for all these to have a bite!”  Then comes Andrew, Andrew was always a man bringing people to Jesus.  He brought his brother Peter to Jesus, and now he was bringing this little boy to Jesus who had 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish.  Andrew didn’t know what would happen and how it would happen but he knew that Jesus had the answers.  Be an Andrew in your life.  Always look for people who God can use no matter what they look like or what they have in the way of resources, education , social class, race, etc…

Also be like this little boy who didn’t have much, but he was willing to give it to Jesus to help or be part of the solution.  That’s what God wants from us, only what we have, and not any more.  Are you willing to give up all you have to let God do something great with it?  Will you be like Moses (a murderer)  or Rahab (a prostitute) and let go of your past and do what God has called you to do and let him use you to accomplish something great?


Leadership Principle #7 Say Your Prayers…

February 18, 2010

Leaders take their followers to prayer before God.  Prayer Changes things, even the mind-set of God.

Well after Moses was up on the mountain God tells him what the people are doing and tells him to go down the mountain to deal with them.  God told Moses that he would wipeout all the people and make a great nation out of the descendants of Moses.  Moses does what every good leader would do next.  Moses prayed to God to save his people.  He took them before the Lord in a way as to stand in the gap for them and to intercede for them when they were not able or ready to go to the Lord.

Leaders pray for their followers, there Bible study groups, their parents and families and intercede for them to the Lord.  The reason Moses prayed for them was that he cared for them.  They were under his care and his control.  This came first nature to Moses because of the things we have seen from him and his past.  Moses had just spent the last 40 years in the desert tending sheep, he was a shepherd to the people too.  Just as we know a shepherd keeps his sheep out of danger from wild animals and other hazards, so does a shepherd of the flock on God look after his people who God has given care over.

 As leaders, teachers, and ministers of the gospel of Jesus we know that there are many dangers in the world that can take hold of God’s sheep and entrap them into places where there is little hope of escape.  It is our job to look after them in ways to keep them safe from harm.

 One of the biggest ways to do that is to pray for them.  The older I get the more I learn to be a silent prayer warrior for those under my shepherd staff of leadership.  As I have grown in my knowledge of prayer and become more consistent in the practice of it, the more I am confident that it should be a first response rather than a last resort.

 The book of James shows us some basic principles of a godly and effective prayer life.  I would encourage you to read it and notice the following principles.

  • Pray with expectation that God will answer your prayers in His way.
  • Is there any sin in your life that would keep your prayers from being heard?
  • How earnestly do you pray?  How often do you pray to God?
  • Don’t just pray by yourself, involve the many to join you in prayer.
  • Pray for those when God puts them on your heart.  Don’t wait.

 There are so many great examples of others that went before the Lord and prayed for the people of God to wake up, to move, to stop sinning, to work together, to stand firm, and more for the Lord.

 Moses prayed for God’s mercy to be on the people and for him to “relent” his decision to destroy them all.  (v.11-13)  In verse 14 it tells us that God did relent in his decision to destroy them all.  This can not be over looked here.  Do you understand that the prayer of one man brought earnestly before the Lord caused God to relent of his decision for the people.  Know that when you go before the Lord that God listens to your plea for the people you are praying for and he will respond to you as well.

 I am learning currently in a situation that I am going through right now that those prayers will often take a great deal of patience and waiting on the Lord and His timing.  Often I want to jump ahead and try to do things in my own power and way, but I know God has called me into a season of prayer for the students I am over and I am asking God to move in their life and for them to get serious about their faith.   I must trust God’s plan for each of them and His timing is perfect.


Leadership Principal #6 Be careful of Appeasement

February 16, 2010

  The next leadership principle I saw was in Exodus 32 was with Aaron and Moses.  Here’s the quick summary.

 Moses had just left to go up to the mountain to meet with God and left Aaron, his brother in charge of all the Israelites.  Remember Moses had taken his father in law, Jethro’s advice and put leaders under him to serve as judges for the people.   What happens next, well somewhere between the phrase “When the cats away the mice will play” and the mental reminder of what my brother and I did when my parents left us at home alone sometimes could be a good description.  The people got bored with their lives and decided to try to have a little fun, and come on, how much fun can you have in a desert anyway, apparently plenty.  The people went to Aaron and asked him to build them gods that will go before them.  Flash back to Exodus 20 when God said not to be doing this….  What happens next is perhaps even worse than what the Israelites asked.  Aaron agreed and took the lead in building an image of gold that they could worship and call their god.   (v.2) There was not even a record of Aaron trying to stop the people or remind them that what God had told them in the past or was wrong to do.  In fact he took charge and lead the way.

 This same idea is what I see a lot of young leaders, parents, or ministers falling into, the trap of appeasement.  The young leader wants so badly to have some acknowledgement of leadership or to gain a better following from the people that they will compromise their personal convictions and even Biblical principles to gain acceptance from their followers.

 When Moses came down the mountain I love the conversation that Moses has with Aaron in verses 21-25 of chapter 32.  It reminds me of those typical teen movies where the kids throw the party and mom and dad comes home early to find the party still going on in full power.  Aaron has some explaining to do.

 I know that this was a hard pill for me to swallow as a young minister.  I wanted the youth to like me so bad, I thought that agreeing with the youth on smaller issues would lead them to respect me more and follow my lead.  What it actually did was to create an inconsistent leader in myself and cause them to think they could get everything they wanted from me, which made the problem worse over time.  Over time I have learned to say “no” more and more and learned to stick with my convictions and listen to the Holy Spirit rather than the immature youth when it comes to decisions made in my youth ministry.

 There are two different ways to look at this principle of leadership.  First, if you are a minister who tends to make decisions based on the temperature of the people around you, you should consider making most of your decisions based on principles.  Those principles based on the word of God will best of course.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and talk to other leaders in your field and draw great advice from them about their past experiences and mistakes.  That is after all the entire premise of these principles that I am writing out.  There are no points lost or weak leadership detector that goes off when you ask someone else for advice.

Secondly if you are an older more mature leader be careful who you leave in charge over the group while you are away.  Know your helpers, assistants, and team members.  Help them by making decisions for them and giving them an outlined guide with expectations.  The more specific you can be the better.  Perhaps Moses should have said to Aaron before he left.  “Remember the house rules and no making idols while I’m gone.”

 I know as a parent I have to leave specific instructions for the babysitters to follow while my wife and I are out on our date.  The things that I know and expect to come natural may not be so natural for the babysitter.  After all these are my children, my most prized possession.  I want them well taken care of.

 Years ago I had gone on vacation for a week with my family and had given the responsibility of teaching the med-week lesson to a relatively new couple in the church and in youth ministry.  I had gotten to know them well and knew they were real conservative and I thought the lesson would be no problem for the husband who had served in a church before.  When I came back form vacation I felt a little bit like Moses did, no there were no golden calf’s erected in the youth room, but I did come back to 2-3  students who were literally crying and upset because they were told, and I quote “that if they watched or read any of the Harry Potter books or movies that they were not Christians and not going to Heaven.”  This was during the time when Harry Potter first came out and I didn’t realize that my 2 newest youth workers/parents had the strong opinions that they did towards Harry Potter.

 I spent a few sessions counseling the youth and showing them the scriptures in the Bible that talk about salvation and I had to meet with the adults and explain it to them as well.   I should have known them in a more personal manner before I allowed them to teach for me. The couple had let their personal convictions or dislikes for Harry Potter even take a higher place than the word of God.  This is why everything we do must be based on principles based in the word of God and not on our feelings or personal opinions.  Those have to come second.

 To give you a more recent example, after coming to Westside Baptist over 5 years from now I was blessed to have a pastor who was very good at leadership development.  Over the course of the first few years he soon discovered one of my weaknesses in the area on finances.  I have always been weak in that area and have struggled with budgets.  The pastor began to help me in this area by giving me 2 things; accountability and specific guidelines to work with in youth ministry.  At first I didn’t like the idea having to spend more time on the things I hated and was not good at, but over time I learned though the questions asked and by following the guidelines he set for me to be a better steward of my budget and to give it the time needed to answer the details of the “small things.”  I still have a lot to work on and will always, but I am so thankful that he gave me those guidelines and held me accountable to himself.


Every Leader Needs a… Jethro?

February 3, 2010

Jethro Bodine

That’s right, Every leader needs a Jethro, and no, I’m not talking about the one from the Beverly Hillbillies, but a much older one and one who was very wise.  This Jethro was the father-in-law to Moses. 

Jethro giving Moses advice

After the Israelites made their way into the dessert and begin to get used to the new life of Manna, Quail, and water from a rock things began to settle down.  Jethro had heard of all the great events that had taken place for Moses and the Israelites and wanted to reunite his family together again.  After meeting up in the dessert with his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro, and their two sons Moses began to share in person all the mighty works that God had done for them.  (Ex. 18:1-11)

After Moses spend some time with the family, it was then time for him to get back to work.  What did Moses do for work?  According to the scripture (Ex 18:13-16) he sat around all day acting as sole judge for the people handling disputes and arguments over everything from A to Z.

When Jethro saw what was going on he recognized that it was not a good thing that Moses was doing.  I think he saw the beginnings of a workaholic in the makings and perhaps new what it might do to Moses and his family.  Jethro offers some great advice to Moses and we will take a look at it and break down the advice, but, first it is important to see that Moses took the advice from Jethro and didn’t ignore it.  (Ex 18:24)  I think that this was a big step in the “young” leadership level of Moses.

The following are 3 reasons why we might not be as smart as Moses and ignore advice from others.  First, because far too many times we as leaders think we have it all figured out and we often turn a deaf ear to other advice from Godly men and women.  After all, God put us in charge right?  It also could be that we are insecure about our position and don’t want to take advice from others in fear that we will not look as smart.  Yet, another reason might be that we are in the position and enjoying the power a little too much and we don’t yield ourselves to other advice because we see it as a sign of giving up power.  

If you have found yourself dealing with any of those thoughts you need to pray them out of your system and recognize that Satan doesn’t want you to be smart like Moses and learn from others around you that are older and have more experience.  Young leaders have a greater tendency to fall into these pitfalls because they have had fewer years of experience and that budding desire to be young man or woman of God sometimes leads us make hasty decisions that we think are correct, but are not.  There is much excitement and emotion in youthfulness.

So let’s take a look at the advice that Jethro gave Moses.  There is much we can learn from his advice also.

The wisdom of age allowed Jethro to point out to Moses the end result. (Ex 18:17-18)  There is a lot to be said about knowing the end result.  Often times we start a process or idea without often thinking all the way through to the end.  This can lead to unnecessary steps in a plan or even repeated steps in a plan which wastes time, energy, and resources.

Second, Jethro encouraged Moses to use other people and not try to do it all by himself.  This process is called delegation.  Not too many leaders want to dive into that because they would rather “do it their way” or “in their time.”  Again I think there is a fear of giving up power or control when you delegate things.  When you have delegation in ministry you have to share the successes and the defeats, the good and the bad.  A selfish person finds it hard to share success with others, but there is no room for selfishness in ministry.

Jethro reminded Moses what his main job was, to be the representative from God to the people and to teach the laws of God and show the people how to live.  (Ex 18:19-20)  The judging had become a bigger issue for Moses and distracted him from his main purpose as leader of the Israelites.

Jethro’s advice was to select “capable men” (Ex 18:21) and not just anybody to share in the responsibility and position.  Here is the last leadership principle found in this chapter, Good leaders surround themselves with other good leaders or team members.

 Notice the “capable men” were described as godly men of integrity not as good-looking, well-liked, popular, those that have $20 haircuts or have beautiful families.  Jethro used the following descriptions:

            Men who fear God

            Trustworthy

            Men who hate dishonest gain

These 3 descriptions are very similar to the qualifications for deacons and overseers found in Timothy.  A good Baptist joke I know is that there are some churches that will take the list in Timothy and only focus on the divorce issue.  It doesn’t matter what kind of person they are as long as they haven’t been divorced.  That one qualification seems to rise to the top over the other ones.  A friend of mine has joked before that you can be a non-tither, wife and child beater and serve as a deacon as long as you haven’t been divorced in some churches.  Not all churches are like that and carefully look at all the qualifications equally. 

 A sure way to cause problems for yourself in leadership is just to settle for anyone to serve and help you in ministry and just throw anyone into a position without first.  I realize that you may say, there are not a lot of candidates to choose from out there, which is true but you can’t lower the Biblical standards just to fill a position.  There must be another way to go about staffing your needs.

 The result of shared ministry and delegation is that you can accomplish more together as a team than you can alone.  The old Oxen story goes that if 1 ox can pull 500 pounds each, but 2 oxen yoked together can pull 1,200 pounds.  Together more is accomplished.  Look at the Exodus 18:23, the scripture says it will both benefit Moses and the people at the same time.


Who do I File a Complaint With?

February 1, 2010

One of the great blessings you can receive from being a leader is to have a great group of followers.  It’s always encouraging to have people who are under your leadership that will support you in your endeavors and not question your actions and motives.  It helps build unity and can have a synergistic effect on the group, or body of Christ.  Just like becoming a great leader takes time, so does become a great follower.  And then again some people just never get it for what ever the reason.  Realizing that it takes time to develop will hopefully give you a little more patience and understanding in your area of leadership.

BUT, what do you do when you have those in the group that want to complain about something?  The complaint may be against you or something else that you have no control over, but as the leader you are the one that they will come to complain to, aren’t you the lucky one. 

When you move on in life you will always find complainers in everything you do.  The Israelites first complained to Moses saying we should have never left Egypt, at least we had food in the pot there.  (Ex 16:2-3)  They had taken a step of faith to follow Moses into the dessert and again just like the grumbling at the Red Sea, they began to grumble and complain at the first sign of trouble of no food.  Verse 2 says that the entire community was a part of the grumbling.  This just goes to show you that the Israelites must have been Baptist, you can’t mess with a Baptist’s food without expecting repercussions.  In reality it shows you that complaining can get to everyone and it can spread pretty easily.  In church and ministry situations you can find complaints coming from the most unlikely sources as well as the expected ones.   I imagine that the complaints started in one area or two of the entire camp and quickly worked their way around to the entire camp.  Times haven’t changed much and I know still that people like to talk.

Again, Moses wasted no time dealing with the complaints but immediately went to the Lord, he knew that God was the only source for his answers.  I remember as a young minister that I think I had to rely on God in a great deal of areas because there was a lot of new territory I was crossing into, granted I made my share of mistakes and still do, but as leaders earn more experience I think there is a tendency to rely more on yourself than on God as you did perhaps before.  We must always remember to rely on God for everything, big and small.

God responded to their need by giving them the quail in the evening and the Manna (heavenly bread) in the morning.  He gave them specific instructions on what to do to collect it and how much to collect each day. (Exodus 16:4-5, 14-19)   There is another lesson here that you can also pull from and remind people that God is a God of details and we need to be a people of details, obedience is important to God to the very smallest detail.  When you give instructions to those that are following you, they will not always be followed just like you asked them to be. (Exodus 16:20)  No matter how clear you make the instructions.  There will always be those who think they know of a better plan or way than what you have laid out before the people, while this may or may not be true, they still need to follow the lead of God’s chosen person unless it involves something unbiblical or unethical.  That’s why God put them in the place of leadership.

Also remember that people are slow learners sometimes, we may see the same pattern repeated over and over until the learning curve is met.  If you want Biblical proof, just look at the next chapter, Exodus 17, After the people complained about having no food, they then complained about not having any water to drink and began grumbling again, so soon after the Lord took care of their need with food.  (See Exodus 17:3)  So just keep that in mind that there will always be those who will grumble and who will complain and even those who will not follow the instructions given and cause trouble for themselves and others around them.


Leaders Lead

January 31, 2010

As I read through the chapters in Exodus I got to the part where Moses had lead the people to the Red Sea and they were about to be met by the Egyptian army when the pharaoh had realized that he should have not let them go.  (Chapter 14)  The thought that came to mind in the way of leadership was this.  Anytime you take a position on leadership, you can expect for not everyone to understand your decisions or to be happy about the way you do things.  They question your decisions, your actions, and your motives.  

The Israelites panicked and started grumbling to Moses.  They asked him “Were there not any graves in Egypt that we could have been buried in, we have to come out here and die in the dessert?”  (Ex 14:11-12)  This is the first of many times that the Israelites complain and rebel against the plans that God has for them.  This time, God didn’t allow them to complain to long.  He quickly told Moses to stretch out his arms and let the people cross the red sea on dry land.

So as a leader, what should you do if you find yourself face to face with the grumblings and complaints of those you are trying to lead?  Here are a few points from the scripture.

  1. Moses answered the people’s complaints and questions.  He didn’t ignore them and say, you silly little people, I’m the leader, now just hush and follow me.  The first thing Moses said was to not be afraid.  Sometimes we all need that reminder as we step into new territory in our faith.  Next he reminded the people that God was in control even when things didn’t seem like it or look hopeful.
  2. Moses listened to God and took action.  When God sets you as a leader in anyway you have to remember that you must follow through with the plans you have.  If you stop and deal with the complainers and grumblers you will still be there weeks later trying to fix everything.  Sometimes the best way to stop the negative talk is to take action and let the results speak for themselves.

 I love Exodus 14:14, a friend gave it to me as a encouragement a few months ago, and I was reminded of it a few weeks ago in a sermon and again tonight as I read the chapter.

 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. – Exodus 14:14

 When you know that God has called you into a direction and called you to a place of leadership, you can rest assure that He will help you work through and complete the task.  If God has called you to lead a class, lead a position in a ministry, or even a leadership position in a secular area, you know that He will be with you, just like He was with Moses in the Pillar of fire and of cloud leading them through the dessert.

Being new in a leadership position you have to earn the respect of the people you are leading.  Just because you have the title, doesn’t mean you have earned it yet.  That respect relationship takes time and a shared experience with those you lead.  The last verse in chapter 14 sums up the results of Moses’ first test as a leader, see it below.

 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.  – Exodus 14:31


Who Me Lord?

January 24, 2010

The next aspect of the story of Moses that I see in the area of leadership is on the leader himself.  With some people who hear the call into leadership can be a very intimidating situation.  Not every one of course, but the humble and least likely of people can often feel inadequate when answering to the call to ministry or to complete a task that God has for them to do.

Moses was no different, the very first thing he did was question God on why God wanted to use him. (Exodus 3)  No doubt, he was thinking about his past and what had transpired with him and the Egyptian he killed.  We can’t let the past hold us hostage into moving forward into where God calls us to go.  Here are a few scriptures, speaking about our past.

  • Isaiah 43:19 – See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
  • Philippians 3:13 – Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,

 

Anyone who recognizes the call by God into an endeavor must always remember one thing; If God called you to a task, a position, or place He will make sure you have what it takes to finish what He desires for you to do, even though you may doubt.  God knows what He is doing.

In Exodus chapter 4 it points out several excuses that Moses tried to offer up to God when God kept insisting on His plan. Moses first excuse was “What if they won’t listen to me?”  God took care of his excuse by giving him miracles to do with his staff, his hand, and some water.   God always provides you with the tools you need to be successful for him.  Today’s tools maybe books, programs, or other ministries to share and pull from.

The second excuse was that was not a good speaker and was “I am slow of speech and tongue.”   God gentle reminded Moses, “Who made your mouth?”  We may look at our set of skills and say to God “I can’t teach like that or I can’t work with children like etc….”  God would say to all of us, I don’t care what you can and can’t do like everyone else, I just want you to do what I ask you to do in your own way and with what I gave you in the way of your gifts, talents, and abilities. 

The last excuses Moses gave God was just a simple I quit.  “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”  Moses just couldn’t think of any other good excuses other than he didn’t want to do it.  This was probably the worse thing to say.  The scripture says that God’s anger burned against Moses when he said that.  Telling God “No” is dangerous ground.  If you think about it, when you tell God “no” in a way you are saying “I know better than you God.”  God also had Aaron, Moses’ brother, to come and help speak for him also.  Thank goodness for other godly people around us that will help us when we need it.

I can remember the times when I first got started in ministry and I felt so unprepared and inadequate to do the task God had called me to in youth ministry.  God surrounded me with people who I could talk with and get advice, get encouragement from, and yes, even get a little correction from.  The next time God calls you to a particular ministry position, place, or plan be take confidence in the fact that it is God calling you and not anyone else.  Take captive those thoughts that come from the devil and try to convince you that you are not good enough, smart enough, old enough, too old, or any other thought that he may try to use on you.


So You Think You Know Them?

January 24, 2010

Reading through the book of Exodus now.  It is a really interesting book and the stories about Moses can teach you a lot about leadership if you are looking for them as you read.  I figured I would post some thoughts as I read through the book.

The very first thing I noted from the story of Moses in Exodus was that Moses was not the most likely leader that humans would have chosen.  This is often the case with many people in the Bible stories.  There are a good variety of people in the Bible young, old, rich, poor, and etc, but for the most part I see where God used the average, ordinary person to carry out what he desired.  Below is just a list of a few people who come to mind in particular order.

  • The disciples (love acts 4:13 to describe them)
  • Esther
  • Moses (more on him in just a minute)
  • David (A Sheppard )
  • Nehemiah
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

So what about Moses, well, he did grow up in the palace of the king of Egypt, but remember after he grew up he committed murder.  He saw the Egyptian mistreating his own people and he killed him.  He got scared for his life and ran off to the dessert where he could live in peace.  Until God showed up and messed up his plan.  God told him that he was going to be the one to lead the Hebrews back to the land he promised Abraham.  Moses was a murderer and God still used him.  It’s funny how so many times we write people off when we think they are not any good to society any more.  That’s just it, we are not good to the world, but to God we are always useful.  I know in the past I have often looked at certain youth and perhaps thought that God would not use them because of what I see on the outside or because I see the unfinished project.  I have learned over the last 13 years in ministry not to do that, because God can  surprise you with some awesome things.  So the next time you think you know who will make the next preacher, missionary, or Sunday school teacher you better be careful and just let God take care of that.  After all, it is God that calls people into ministry and not the local pastor or youth pastor.  It’s just our job to train and guide them along the way.