Things That Are Lacking

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you–
(Titus 1:5)

Look at the various ways the phrase “put what remained into order” is translated:

“Set in order the things that are lacking” (NKJV)

“Set in order what remains” (NASU)

“Straighten out what was left unfinished” (NIV)

“Set in order the things that are wanting” (KJV)

“Amend what was defective” (RSV)

Considering these various phrases, we can see that Paul knew that something just wasn’t finished in the churches in Crete. There was something “defective, wanting, lacking, unfinished” in the churches.

What was lacking and unfinished? The churches were sheep without shepherds…they needed elders in every congregation. Without elders, the church is lacking, unfinished, defective, etc.

What is lacking when sheep are without shepherds?

  • Protection
  • Provision
  • Accountability
  • Direction

We should be able to see God’s wisdom in having men appointed as shepherds or elders to lead the local congregations. We are sheep, whether or not we like to admit it. Without a shepherd, I am in danger! When we have no shepherds, we wander and are in danger of being eaten by wolves!

God has designed His local congregations to have godly shepherds who will be after His heart (Jeremiah 3:15). These elders/shepherds are to think like God, to be on the same page as God. Because these elders think like God does, they can do for God’s sheep what God’s sheep need. We need direction, accountability, protection and provision.

Read Psalm 23 and John 10 and think about what shepherds do for sheep. This is what our elders in our congregations do for us. What a blessing! Thank God for godly elders!

I myself am going

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'”
(Zechariah 8:20-23)

We all need someone to follow. God says we are sheep. Really, whether or not we like it and accept it, we are following someone. The passage above from Zechariah shows us that when someone is walking confidently and humbly toward God, that there will be others who will grab on to your robe and want to go with you. People will follow someone, sadly even if that leader is going in the absolute wrong direction (Matthew 15:14). Are you and I leading others to the house of God in Jerusalem, meaning are we leading others to Christ, to truth, and to His family?

God wants us, as His men, to walk purposefully, confidently, passionately and humbly toward Him and toward His house. When we do that, others will follow. Not everyone will follow, in fact, Jesus tells us that most won’t. But we need to have a Joshua-like attitude that says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). We are going to God. We are going to God’s house. Do you want to come with us? That’s the mindset God’s men must have.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
(Revelation 22:17)

Jesus was offensive, but He wasn’t

Take a minute to read these two passages from Matthew. On one occasion, in Matthew 15, the disciples were concerned that Jesus had offended the Pharisees (Jewish leadership). Jesus clearly was not worried that He had hurt their feelings, because His words were intended to rebuke them and make an example of them to the others in the crowd.

On another occasion, though, Jesus was concerned about offending certain people. Some had come to collect the temple tax. Jesus taught Peter that since He was the Lord of the temple and its owner, He wasn’t bound to pay the temple tax. However, Jesus did not want to create a situation here where someone would be offended, so He had Peter do some miraculous fishing in order to pay the tax.

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
(Matthew 15:12-14)

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
(Matthew 17:24-27)

There were times when Jesus made a stand for God and it naturally offended people, especially the hypocritical Jewish leadership. But there were other times when Jesus went beyond what was expected in order to keep from offending someone. This is living out the concept of going the extra mile. Jesus didn’t have to pay this tax, He was in no way obligated to do it, and He could have stood His ground and proved how right He was. But He didn’t, He showed humility and love by caring for how others would respond.

It’s something to think about.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
(1 Corinthians 10:23-24)

When You Fast

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:16-18)

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
(Matthew 9:14-15)

Someone at our congregation requested a lesson on fasting, so I am doing some studying on that. Fasting, as I’m sure many know is the abstaining from food or other things for a period of time. People do it for all kinds of reasons: dietary, emotional, spiritual, etc.

We see that in the Old Testament, the Jews were commanded by God to fast one day a year, on the day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). But for the Christian there is no command for us on when to fast or for how long to fast. However, as we can observe in the passages above, Jesus said there would be a time for His disciples to fast.

  • Jesus assumed we would fast. In Matthew 6, He says, “When you fast…,” and in Matthew 9 He said, “Then they will fast.” It’s clear that Jesus knew that fasting would be part of our walk with Him.
  • He gave us instructions on our attitude/heart as we fast. This is a very powerful and intimate thing a Christian does with God, but it can really be turned into an attention / glory seeking practice, as it did for many in Jesus’ day. Jesus would rather you have a full tummy and a humble heart, than an empty stomach and a vain, attention-seeking heart.
  • We can see that this is a private, individual decision between Jesus and me. There is no mandated time for Christians to fast, although we see Christians fasting in the New Testament. This is something you decide for you. Again, it’s between you and God only. Church leaders cannot decide this for you.
  • Another point to make is that we see the churches practicing fasting and prayer when it came time to appoint leaders for the churches. It doesn’t seem like it was mandated, but we see the brethren fasting and praying before putting people into certain places of authority. It shows the seriousness of the matter, doesn’t it?

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
(Acts 13:1-3)

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
(Acts 14:23)

This is a start. More will probably come later.

All The Way My Savior Leads Me

The theme at our congregation this year is from a song by Fanny J Crosby, All The Way My Savior Leads Me.

Our focus this year here at our congregation is leadership:

Jesus’ leadership of us.

Our leadership of others.

Here are a few key passages on the leadership of Jesus:

  • Psalm 23 – This beloved and classic psalm tells us so much about the heart of God as our Shepherd and what His leadership/shepherdship is all about.
  • Ezekiel 34 – Because of the horribly selfish, domineering and aggressive leadership that existed at the time, God promised that one day He would be the shepherd. Specifically, the Son of David would come and be the One Shepherd over God’s people. He would seek the lost, bind up the wounded and feed the flock.
  • Isaiah 40:11 – The Messiah Jesus leads us like a gentle shepherd.
  • John 10 – Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He’s not for hire, He owns the sheep. Jesus the Good Shepherd has a close, intimate relationship with the sheep and they follow His voice. As the Good Shepherd, He lays down His life for the sheep. He doesn’t run when there is trouble, He protects the flock from thieves and wolves.
  • In several passages, Jesus is called the Great Shepherd, or the Chief Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25; 5:4; Hebrews 13:20). We are the flock of God, and Jesus is constantly watching out over our souls.

As we focus on these passages, God’s word forms a portrait what you and I are to be as leaders/shepherds today. Jesus’ leadership style is to be our leadership style. His heart is to be our heart. How He shepherds is how we are to shepherd.

This will affect our church leadership, our parenting, our behavior and attitude in the workplace and community. As we begin to see our relationship with others as a shepherd, then our whole attitude and focus will change. May God the Chief Shepherd transform our hearts into true shepherd’s hearts.

All the way my Savior leads me

The theme at our congregation this year is from a song by Fanny J Crosby, All the way my Savior leads me. She is one of my favorite hymn writers. Fanny Crosby was blind, and in most of her hymns you can see some reference to sight, seeing or vision. This song is no exception.
Today I want to share with you the lyrics to this song for your meditation.
All the way my Savior leads me
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy?
Who through life has been my guide
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort
Here by faith in Him to dwell
For I know whate’er befall me
Jesus doeth all things well
All the way my Savior leads me
Cheers each winding path I tread
Gives me grace for every trial
Feeds me with the living bread
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul a-thirst may be
Gushing from the rock before me
Lo! a spring joy I see
All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above
When my spirit, clothed immortal
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages
Jesus led me all the way.

Daniel – No ground for complaint

Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
(Daniel 6:3-5)

Isn’t this just like today? Somebody gets a promotion and everybody else wants to knock the guy off the ladder! The king of Babylon wanted to set Daniel over the whole kingdom…it doesn’t seem like there could be a higher position except for the king himself. Daniel was increasing in favor with the king, and the other officials were envious, to the point that they wanted to destroy him. You know if they put half as much effort into their jobs as they did trying to destroy Daniel, they might have been promoted, too!

In their attempt to bring Daniel down, they looked into everything to see where they could find a fault with him. He has to be doing wrong somewhere, and we are going to find it. But what happened? They couldn’t find anything!

The Bible tells us that Daniel had “an excellent spirit.” It also says in this passage that he was “faithful, and that no error or fault was found in him.” This does not mean that Daniel never sinned, but we can see that the life of Daniel properly defines the word “blameless.”

Men, we are living in a culture much like that of Daniel’s day, and those around us are always watching us. This is nothing new. When good people are seeking to follow God, and they are moving up in the world, you can count on others seeking to find some dirt on you.

They open wide their mouths against me; they say, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!”
(Psalm 35:21)

For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!”
(Psalm 38:16)

Have you ever been in a situation at work, where maybe the wrong word slipped out of your mouth or you displayed a poor attitude? Sometimes those in the world will pounce on that momentary weakness to show how you are just as bad as everyone else, or that you are a hypocrite. Not everyone is that way, thankfully. Even heathens can show grace at times! But again, you will experience many times where the people around you are just waiting for you to mess up so they can say, “Aha, got you!” Daniel lived in that world, just like we do.

That is what makes it all the more important that we seek to live a blameless life, a life above reproach. We know how others are going to respond, so we should be even more careful to watch what we say and do in the midst of non-believers.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:14-16)

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:12)

Perspective Matters

25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you….  (Matt 20:25-26; NKJV)

Jesus takes His disciples and teaches them from where they are.  He has His mind set on heaven the work the Father has give Him to do.  The disciples are still focused on the here and now.  They know what it looks like to have an earthly king and they know what it looks like to be part of that inner circle.  They want to be part of it, even if for the wrong reasons.  Jesus knows that and He is going to change their perspective to the vertical.

There are many different figures used in the Bible to describe God’s people and their relationship to Him.  Here Jesus is talking about the Kingdom.  This is a governmental figure and implies there is a King, citizens, territory and law.  Jesus starts by explaining that the territory under consideration is spiritual and eternal.  The life, leadership, and service He cares about is not like those of the world.

He draws the attention to the worldly leadership style they are basing their request on and which is causing the discord in the group.  The “rulers of the Gentiles” points to those who lead them currently.  Specifically it is Rome but I would include the Pharisees and Jewish leaders as well in terms of their self-seeking leadership versus serving to the glory of God.

Worldly leaders lord it over those whom they lead.  They exercise authority and are more concerned with their power and influence than the impact and/or needs of those who lead.  Aaron talked about some of these distorted leadership models last week.  Worldly leaders are promoted on the basis of friendship, nepotism, seniority, etc.  They dominate others and exercise great authority over them, wielding the power they have now to retain the power they have now.

The point here is the “why” of leadership.  Why do you want to lead?  Why do you want to have control?  Why do you want to have power?

When we consider God’s teaching about shepherds in 1 Peter 5, we see that God’s leaders do not do so because they “have to” and lead in a way that nurtures and grows those under their supervision.  Further, they lead not because they have to and lead in a way that others follower because they want to…not because they have to.  That requires an intimate, mutually beneficial model in which all parties matter.

Worldly leadership differs from this because of the “why”.  If the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2) is the “why”, then a leader is going to be worldly.  If the “why” is Jesus Christ, then the leader is going to be what Jesus is calling His disciples to be.

The “why” is something we can do something about.  We can consider the results of our leadership, the motivations of our leadership, the relationship we have with those under our influence and diagnose if our perspective is right.  We can help each other with that through honest and timely feedback and desiring it from one another and those who mean the most to us.  We can identify the specific things that are a distraction from who we need to be and pray about them, study about them, work on them.  We can choose our “why” and if we choose Jesus He will call us close and He will teach us to move our eyes off the world and onto Him.

Jesus didn’t push the 12 away.  He draw them close.  He didn’t condemn them for their lack of vision but started with their lens and opened the aperture and showed them heaven.  His “super-vision” planted the seed of true leadership and service and we all can benefit from the 12’s lesson and those in our own lives.  Horizontal thinking is vanity but vertical thinking is eternal.  That is the difference and the place where we can start with our own continued development into the leaders God calls us to be.

Praise Him for the opportunity, ask Him for help along the way, and thank Him always.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Utility Player

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Utility Player

The person who does it all and doesn’t delegate. He tries to play all the positions. He may be pretty good at a lot of jobs, but others need to be doing those jobs.

The utility player in sports is the jack of all trades. You can put him or her at any position and they can be pretty good anywhere. There are those 5 talent people (see Matthew 25), who can do just about anything. Sometimes those guys get caught in trap of trying to have their hands in every pot in the church.

There are many reasons this happens:

There is the man who had to be the utility person by necessity and now it is hard to give up. That person may have at one time been put in a position where he had to do the lion’s share of the work or it wouldn’t have gotten accomplished. It may be a small church where very few people are even available to work. In that case you have to do a large percentage of the work. But as the church grows, or if you are with a different group with lots of hands ready to work, you need to let them work. There are times when someone had planned on doing a task for the church, but someone (who meant well) jumped in front of them and did the job before he or she could get to it. That is not helpful to building relationships. I’m sure the apostles could have done a great job in taking care of the widows, but it wasn’t their job. God wanted someone else to oversee care for the widows (Acts 6:1-7).

There is the man who doesn’t really want to have the hard and uncomfortable conversations with those who are not doing their share. It is much easier just to do the job than to train, mentor, rebuke, coach, talk, ask, etc. Helping other guys learn, understand and appreciate the need to do these great works for Jesus is a challenging work. When we keep doing jobs that others in the church can be doing, we are crippling them and hindering their growth. We are also hamstringing ourselves, because we become very ineffective and inefficient in our own work God wants us to do.

There is the man whose expectations are too high, and those who want to do the work don’t measure up to his standards. In some cases there are those who want to work, but they feel pushed out and disregarded by those who are doing the work. Those utility players tend to micromanage. If you are going to delegate, this means you may have to wait a little longer for a job to get finished, because your schedule is not theirs. It also means that they may do the job differently that you would have, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong necessarily.

There is a great example of this in Moses’ leadership style. Moses was a man who wanted to do it all, and his motives were pure. However, as he was advised by his father-in-law, he was going to wear himself out. It wasn’t good for the Israelites, either.

Meditate on this final passage:

The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.
(Exodus 18:13-27)

Distorted Leadership Models – The Sheriff

This week we are going to focus on distorted leadership models. We got this concept from the book They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson.

Distorted Leadership Models – The Sheriff

Flashing the badge, he’s the rule enforcer.

No offense meant at all to our fine men and women in law enforcement – I have to make sure I say this. Those men and women are the finest, and they put their lives on the line everyday for us – Thank you!

The focus of this article is the distorted view of leadership that comes when someone slaps on the “elder” badge in the church and begins to think he is the Judge, Jury and Executioner. Without regard for mercy and tenderness, he rains down condemnation and judgment to the law breakers. He would never accept treatment like this for himself, but he does it to others. He’s all about the rules and enforcing the law, but not much about the grace, mercy and relationships.

This model of leadership is seen in the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day. They were keen on the rules, down to the minutest detail. The Scribes and Pharisees crossed every T and dotted every I, but what did they lack? Jesus said they did not have mercy (Matthew 9:10-13;12:1-14). He called them self-righteous hypocrites that did not do what they asked others to do (Matthew 23:1-4). They did not care for the lost, helpless and outcast, in fact they took advantage of sinners and widows (Luke 15). The broken state of others became an opportunity for them to gain more power over people (Mark 12:40).

It also makes me think of the heart of Jonah. Anna and the kids were reading about him as I was writing this, and I thought, “Wow, here’s Sheriff Jonah who wanted to ride into town and call out the condemnation, blow the whistle, lasso them all up and throw the people of Nineveh into God’s eternal jail. Jonah cared more for plants than he did people (Jonah 4). I think Jonah serves as a good example of the “sheriff” mindset.

Don’t get me wrong, rules do matter. Doctrine is from God, not from man, so we must stand for it in our churches (Romans 16:17-18). The elders/shepherds are to be sound in doctrine. They must be able to teach that doctrine, and are to have the courage to stand and fight for that doctrine (Acts 20:17-38; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:1-14).

But what we want to see out of our elders/shepherds is the whole picture, men who stand strong on the Word, but also have the merciful heart of God. If God was all about the rules, where would you and I be? Remember Jonah and the city of Nineveh?

Here are some character qualities of the elder/shepherd that balance out the “sheriffs” in us. Yes, be about the rules but remember this:

  • Live by example, show others how to live as God wants them to live (Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Peter 5:3).
  • Be gentle and patient, realizing that Satan has a hold on people. They need teaching and time, not death and destruction (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
  • Discern the needs of those you are leading. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Some need encouraged, others need their hands held, others need gentle correction, others need warnings. In order for a elder/shepherd to know the difference, he has to know the sheep. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of response.
  • Not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3:3).
  • You must not be arrogant or quick-tempered (Titus 1:7).
  • Realize you have to give an account to the Chief Shepherd for their souls (Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Peter 5:4).

As a final thought, why did the sinners come to Jesus and not to the Pharisees? Where did they find mercy and grace? Where did they find men who were only about enforcing the rules? Think about it? Are you a sheriff and a Jonah? Or are you more like Jesus offering mercy and grace? Who do people go to in your congregation for mercy, grace and acceptance?