Month: January 2014
Like many folks who grew up in North Carolina, I turn into a nine year old when it snows! Granted, when the initial gentleness of the first few hours turns into shoveling, slipping on the ice, negotiating muddy slush on the roads and having to cancel important events and meetings, it gets old quickly!
But the beauty as it falls and the pristine picture of the world covered over with a blanket of snow makes me smile. Sledding, snowmen and snowball fights still come immediately to mind and great memories of all the stories over the years of fun times in the snow!
The spiritual imagery cannot be missed–our sin being covered by the redeeming grace of Christ so that our hearts are cleansed by His blood and made “as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).” No wonder I still love snow days!
However, it is not all fun and games! There are those moments! This video that has been around for a while and still makes me laugh. Enjoy!
A question that has come up more often lately in my hearing has to do with leadership. Are we facing a crisis in leadership? I am sure that at the end of World War II our grandparents were wondering who would emerge on the world scene to provide stable governmental leadership in the second half of the twentieth century. During the sixties, adults were bound to be concerned about the future as they watched the radical behavior of students lead to bizarre points of view and life choices. Once again in our day we hear the questions regarding the future leadership capabilities of our sons and daughters who have grown up in a culture which has largely been stripped of its moral, ethical and spiritual moorings.
Although we look on the national scene for strong political leaders and struggle to find much encouragement, we in the body of Christ should focus our attention on the leadership problems facing our generation by taking responsible action. What we need in each successive generation is a steadfast commitment to build and develop godly leaders in the power of the Holy Spirit. Who will pastor the great churches of our nation whose pastors are nearing an age where new leadership should take over? Vital Christian ministries which have enjoyed strong vision and godly leadership for decades now face the inevitable changing of the guard. Not many years ago people began to ask questions like, “Who will be the next Billy Graham? Bill Bright? Howard Hendricks? Where are the new writers to replace C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, J. I. Packer, John Stott, Elisabeth Eliott in the years just ahead? Or new pastors to step forward to follow men like John Piper, John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, Tim Keller?
I could go on listing the names of great Christian leaders who have influenced my life for Christ, but I think you understand what I am saying. Obviously some of those mentioned have many more years of fruitful ministry ahead of them, but we must always be asking who is coming along to take their places. By God’s design, He wants to provide the kind of leadership needed as we continue into the twenty-first century with boldness, courage and confidence in the power of Jesus Christ.
Are we truly facing a leadership crisis in our day? As I have examined that question over the past several years, I honestly do not think that has to be so. If there is a leadership crisis it has nothing to do with the generation coming up. Leadership is developed and cultivated as leaders train those who come alongside to assume more and more responsibility until they are equipped to function as fully qualified leaders themselves. Therefore, if there is a problem with the leadership of the next generation, it will be our fault in this generation for failing to do what it takes to grow godly leaders. We have a tremendous privilege entrusted to us by the Lord, not only to lead, but to develop leaders. In other words, we are charged with the unusual responsibility of working ourselves out of a job.
How does this impact you and me in our ministry? It is quite simple. In order to avoid a leadership crisis in our church, our community, our schools and our government, we must take seriously our calling to train and develop leaders. We must accept as inevitable that we will one day pass the baton to those coming along behind us. To do so with integrity requires much thoughtfulness and commitment on our part and theirs.
As the coming year of ministry unfolds, we face the exciting but uncertain prospect of watching the Lord raise up godly men and women to positions of leadership. Like Paul’s word to young Timothy, we must take what we have heard and learned and entrust it to faithful men and women who can then do the same for others. “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
The Lord never comes up short of leaders. He gives all the necessary gifts to His people so that there is never any lack. But we must cultivate that leadership, making commitments on both sides of the equation, both to accept the leadership challenge set before us to lead, and to accept the leadership responsibility to teach and train new leaders.
Every year we need more leaders because there are more sheep in the fold who need someone trustworthy to follow. Pastors, elders, deacons, teachers, disciplers, mentors, directors, and other ministry positions too numerous to name are always in need of those who will “stand in the gap” and lead others to follow Christ. What leadership role has the Lord placed before you?
Oswald Sanders once wrote,
“The overriding need of the church, if it is to discharge its obligation to the rising generation, is for a leadership that is authoritative, spiritual, and sacrificial. Authoritative, because people desire leaders who know where they are going and are confident of getting there. Spiritual, because without a strong relationship to God, even the most attractive and competent person cannot lead people to God. Sacrificial, because this follows the model of Jesus, who gave Himself for the whole world and now calls us to follow in His steps…The real qualities of leadership are to be found in those who are willing to suffer for the sake of objectives great enough to demand their wholehearted obedience” (Spiritual Leadership, p. 18).
May God raise up in this church such leaders for His own glory!
If you ever get shaken by unexpected rumbles in your life, the only safe place is in the Father’s hands!
Listen to JJ and Dave Heller as they find hope in Christ and sing of those unshakable hands of God.
And for an extra bonus, a second song by JJ…”I Believe,” for those times when you cannot see, but just know. Hebrews 11:6 puts it like this, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him.”
Today around lunch time, Jon and Meghan Horner welcomed a great little guy named William Graham Horner to the world! He was a little over 8 pounds and has dark hair, a dimpled chin and good, strong lungs!
Obviously we are all thrilled and so very thankful that the Lord would entrust him to our family. Mom and baby are doing very well and we are overwhelmed by the wonder of God with the birth of each little baby. Such a vision of His brilliance and creative genius!
Here is a picture via iPhone taken when he was just two hours old. Thanks to all who prayed!
In the physical sense, we could come up with the answers rather easily. Recently someone who had not been to Providence for several years told me that I could not be the pastor who was here before. That pastor, they said, had dark hair rather than the white hair they saw on my head! I was glad they did not go on to mention that he was much slimmer as well!
Most of us can point out ways that we have changed in outward appearance, but what can you say has changed about things not easily seen? Are you different spiritually than you were three or four years ago? Have you made any progress with the personality traits that you have wished you did not have? What unhealthy attitudes have been abandoned and which new ones have been cultivated?
If we as believers aspire to grow to maturity in Christ, as we certainly should, we must be aware that such growth requires change. Change usually does not meet with an enthusiastic response for most of us. Therefore, if we expect to be different in the days ahead, we need to recognize some factors necessary to overcome our natural resistance to change.
Few of us are honestly satisfied with the way we are and so we need to know what it takes to make a difference in our character, in our behavior, in our lifestyles, or in any other area where change is necessary for us to become what Christ would have us be. As obvious as these things may be, permit me to mention four things every growing believer must have.
1. A Desire to Grow and Mature in Christ. Without a desire to grow, failure to do so is virtually guaranteed. How often do you find that you have not even considered your rate of growth in Christ for months, even years at a time? If it is not on your mind and heart, if no internal motivation compels you forward, you will be stalemated and your lack of progress cannot be disguised.
Only a genuine passion to be conformed to the character of Jesus Christ will result in the kind of impetus necessary to press on in spiritual growth. Whether we express it like the psalmist (who longs for the Lord like a deer panting for water) or Paul (who was willing to forsake all else that he might gain Christ), next year or the year after will make no difference in our lives relative to personal maturity in Him until we have a desire to be like Jesus.
2. A Willingness to Discover, Admit and Yield My Weaknesses. If changing means that all I have to do is enhance what is already strong, I can live with that. But when I realize that the Lord wants to delve into my weaknesses, I struggle with whether I really want to be different than I am. After all, coming to grips with the ways I have failed forces me to face matters I would prefer to avoid.
Therefore, if I am willing to get at the weak areas of my life, I have to agree to do two things. First, I have to develop the habit of asking questions about myself. I need to learn how to ask and answer those questions of myself. Then I have to branch out to ask others to assist me in identifying my weaknesses, my blindspots, which are hidden from me but readily apparent to others.
Second, I have to take a different approach to the Scriptures by looking at them as a source for the Lord to reveal His Son to me, and as a place where He reveals to me what His Son sees in me. In other words, I must apply the Scriptures in such a way that I see how far away I am from the Father’s design for my life.
3. A Commitment to Change. Once I have seen what the Lord wants me to see, I have to choose between remaining as I am, or allowing Him to change me into what He wants me to be. Here is the watershed for most believers. Discovering our weaknesses, or acknowledging that the Lord wants us to be different in many ways, does nothing unless followed by a commitment to do something about the problem. In the book of James, we are exhorted not to be like one who looks in the mirror, sees what is amiss and then chooses to go away without doing anything about what he saw. Those who long to grow in Christ must be committed to be different after He shows us what He wants to do and how He wants us to change and become more like Him.
That commitment to change needs to have both practical steps and regular means of measuring our progress. Are we more like Christ today than yesterday? The answer is difficult to know. But if we set out some practical, measurable steps by which we can see the milestones as we go by, then we can rejoice and give thanks that Christ is producing in us His wonderful character. Some progress you can monitor yourself (Did I have time to read the Bible and pray today? Was I kind to my enemy today? Am I still talking too much about others…or perhaps too much about myself?) Other progress will need the evaluative insights of honest, close friends. Assess where you are and determine that by the grace of Jesus Christ you will refuse to remain the same. You are committed to grow, to change, to be different as you become more Christ-like.
4. A Perpetual Process. The process never ends this side of heaven. We could be easily discouraged were it not for His promise to continue the work until it is complete. The old saying goes, “Yard by yard, life is hard; but inch by inch, life’s a cinch!” Little by little, day by day, the Lord wants to transform us. What a wonderful and perpetual goal it is for us to anticipate the hand of the Master shaping us and molding us to make us worthy of His presence!
What three things do you think the Lord would like to change in you today? Why not begin right now to seek the answer to that question and then allow Him to do whatever it takes to make you different for His glory?
As the new year comes in, I have changed the look of the Equipped for Life blogsite. Hope you like the new layout…and if not, be gentle with me!!