Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Model it

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  John 13:15
Attitude is everything. It is the difference between goodness and greatness. It separates the mature from the immature. Attitude is what causes people to give up or persevere. Indeed, every leader has a responsibility to inspire hope with an optimistic attitude. Anyone can be negative and assign blame, but wise is the leader who is positive and takes responsibility. This is the attitude God blesses. He dispenses more opportunity to one whose attitude is aligned with His agenda/will. The attitude God honors is humble, unselfish, and hopeful in Him.
Therefore, proper attitude alignment requires a prayerful attitude. This attitude depends on God and seeks His wisdom. It is a positive attitude that always looks for the good in an individual or situation. It is also an appreciative attitude. Gratitude generates a right attitude because it rarely complains. So, our attitude is infectious, but our actions also speak volumes. It is imperative that we model with attractive actions. Behavior validates our beliefs. If we say one thing and do another, we are dishonest with others and ourselves. Actions are a barometer of our character. Appropriate actions earn us the right to influence and lead. If we are inconsistent in our actions, we confuse the team. Consistent actions facilitate faithfulness in followers.
Moreover, the manner in which we arrive at our definition of right actions is important. The greater context of work expectations is based on the principles found in God’s Word. The Bible is our baseline and guide for attitude and behavior. Respectful behavior is illustrated with collaborative discussions over strategy and execution. Wise actions then become the pattern of an effective and efficient culture. Wise actions align around follow-through. We do what we say and say what we do. Wise actions also solicit feedback from everyone. We rely on the wisdom of the team over our own perspective. The Bible defines right actions; so while everyone on the team may not believe in Jesus, they all agree to act like Jesus.
Lastly, model with your words. Words can build up or tear down. Your words can be pure and encouraging or poisonous and discouraging. Moment by moment, you have the opportunity to inject courage into your colleagues with truthful, kind, and caring words. A good rule of thumb is to measure your words prayerfully and patiently before you speak. Do not allow anger and harshness to dominate your delivery. Use words as an ointment rather than an irritant. Your words are a reflection of your heart. A healed heart produces healing words. Therefore, use words wisely by speaking as you would like to be spoken to, with a spirit of compassion. When you speak, build up rather than tear down. Speak the truth in love. Choose caring conflict over insensitive passive aggression. Words matter, so model your speech well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trust Him

A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save. Psalm 33:16-17

We are tempted to put our hope and trust in countless things: military might, economic strength, education and beauty, to name but a few. Each of these offers a promise of significance, success, and safety. Yet if we have learned anything from history, we know that armies are defeated, economies can crumble, and beauty is fleeting ( See Proverbs 31:30).

When we live surrounded by prosperity and success, it is easy to think that these promises are true. As a result, though we may not say it, we live in ways that show how we’ve placed our hope and trust in these earthly powers. We misplace our hope when we allow anxiety and fear to arise within us when one of these powers begins to fail. In times of political strife and turmoil, for example, are we as Christians able to remain hopeful in the steadfast love and unshakable power of the Lord? This is the way of life that the Psalmist invites us into (See Psalm 33:20-22).

In each and every generation, God’s people must learn and live out this profound truth. The Lord alone is our source of help and protection. Our joy and happiness is not linked to our personal success or national strength but is found only in the love of God that He freely lavishes upon us. And when we encounter times of great trial, conflict, or pain, we are never to despair for we know that the Lord is with us. As we are reminded in the book of Isaiah, “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, my unfailing love for you will not be shaken” (Isaiah 54:10).

If you are tempted today to put your trust in the empty promises of this world, turn again to the Lord and trust in him. If the storms that swirl about you cause fear and turmoil within, hear afresh the words of the Lord Jesus, “do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” ( See John 14:27). Trust in the Lord, for He alone is our strength and our salvation.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Don't be afraid

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Mark 5:35-36
Of all the things that burden us and weigh on our souls, sickness and suffering in the lives of those we love is likely at the top of the list. Is there any greater trial than to observe a loved one in pain and yet be entirely helpless to bring them relief and rest? Though we do all that we can to comfort and console, we reach a point of exhaustion, desperation, and helplessness. This is exactly the sort of person Jesus encounters in Mark chapter 5.
Jairus, we are told, was “one of the rulers of the synagogue,” clearly a man of personal means and great influence. When his daughter fell gravely ill, he certainly would have secured for her the best care in the entire region, sparing no expense. Yet in spite of this, we find him begging and pleading with the Lord Jesus for his daughter to be made well. He was, as we say, at the end of his rope. 
As the story unfolds, we see the situation go from bad to worse as the last light of hope goes out, with word reaching the man that his daughter had already died. In light of this tragic news, as the messengers say, “why bother the teacher anymore?” When all hope is lost, why continue to pursue Jesus? Jesus’ response to this question invites us deeper into the mystery of God’s love, nature, and power.
To follow Jesus is to believe that there is never a time, moment, or situation in which all hope is lost.   Even when staring death in the face, we must learn to hear the words of Jesus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” We must remember that we serve a God who is Lord of heaven and earth, in whose hand “is the life of every living thing.” (see Job 12:10) We must believe that the God who defeated death on the cross is powerful enough to bring hope and healing to the darkest and most painful moments of life, even when all hope seems to be lost.
Do we seek Jesus in prayer only for the things that seem likely to be answered, or are you and I willing to learn from this story and continue to open ourselves up to God’s plan and power even when it is beyond what we can see or understand?
Take whatever weighs heavy on your heart today to the Lord in prayer, and find comfort and peace for your soul. Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you and will never abandon you, and in light of the resurrection we know that a day is coming when all shall be made well. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Handling stress

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45, NLT
When stress begins to drizzle down and dampen my soul, or anger bubbles up in my heart, I am almost certain to be in a mode where I am focused on a person or circumstance that is out of my control. Why would I try to harness another person’s heart and seek to change them, anymore than I could attempt to guide the weather into conditions pleasing to my desires? It’s my heart that I’m expected to monitor and make better under the influence of God’s grace and love. If I let go of trying to control the uncontrollable, I can work on the stubbornness of my own wandering heart.
Jesus describes our heart as a treasury of good and evil, a repository of abundance for good or bad. For example, a healthy government treasury is full of resources necessary to invest in opportunities and to step in during times of crisis and calamity. So it is with a healthy heart. Instead of being jealous of another’s success or angered by pride, we can store up in our hearts: humility, forgiveness, acceptance and love. In collaboration with Christ, we daily invest into His righteous treasures and over time the compounding interest of gracious words flow from our heart.
Has not getting your way caused you to lose your way? What started out as feeling slighted has grown into a combative posture of full blown rejection. Maybe at work you have run into a rough spot and there needs to be clarity around your expectations and your supervisor’s expectations. Because of the warp speed pace of your work, your boss may have assumed they clearly communicated their changes to you, but they didn’t. Big decisions require all involved to slow down and understand each other. Respectful, candid conversations invite the team’s influence.
Once you’ve given your input, the results are in the Lord’s hands and with those in a position of authority over you. Trust. Believe the best and rest in Christ’s control. If the direction of your company grows contrary to your convictions, perhaps they are doing you a favor, by giving you an open door to do something different. Better to move on and not be tempted to be disloyal. Or, by waiting out the uncertainty at work, a new day may arrive where you are rewarded for your patience. Most of all, deposit into the treasury of your heart, good things, so your words give life.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. Revelation 11:10
Sometimes we receive the opposite of what we expect, as when our good deeds encounter an evil reaction. Some we have served seem to have forgotten our faithfulness, and gratitude has faded from their memory. They forgot the fruit from our labors, and it has become all about what might inconvenience them. You were there for them at their point of need but now in your need, they reject your request. It seems like a cruel joke. How could they forget your love and loyalty?
So what do you do when you are repaid evil for good? What is your prayerful response?
The only prophet an unbelieving world likes is a dead prophet, so for three and a half days contempt is shown for the two bold witnesses of Christ by leaving their corpses in the street, unburied, an insult to God and His spokesmen. A celebration breaks out in honor of the anti-Christ who has temporarily quieted the pesky and persistent voices of truth. This occasion for rejoicing during the tribulation is an aberration, not seen before or after. God eventually makes right the shamelessness of evil’s ugly acts in His sight.
When evil intent is injected into a relationship, we must resist firing back with equally evil reactions. We cannot lower ourselves to this kind of schoolyard revenge. The question is not, “What is the right thing for them to do?” The question is, “What is the right thing for me to do?” You can reverse the force of the verbal jabs by returning good for evil. When you choose not to fight false accusations by accosting your accusers, you repay good for evil. You trust the truth will come out at the right time, in the right way, be patient, and pray for God to have His way.
The Lord can take care of the business of dealing with evil people and their actions. Wait on Him to settle matters as He sees fit, especially if you have the option to hurt someone. Trust Christ to deal with them in His timing. Evildoers may never change, but they might. It is a heart issue between them and God. In the meantime, when you encounter evil, repay it with good and trust Jesus. The goodness of God trumps evil, for evil is no match for God’s goodness.
Prayer: Lord, give us holy restraint to not react to unholy accusations.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

God qualified

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”     1 Samuel 16:7
Sometimes we limit ourselves because we use the wrong measure of what is meaningful to God. What means most to our Lord is what’s in our heart. Our heart is His measurement for potential. A heart after God has unlimited potential. Heaven hunts down a heart hungry for God to accomplish its purposes. We can wait for the right opportunity because He is in control, or we can spend an inordinate amount of energy arranging our lives, when ultimately God is the one who opens or shuts doors. God chooses who He wants to carry out His causes, and He first looks inward for a pure heart.
Therefore, a pure heart is our first step in doing God’s will, for the heart is where our motivations reside. Why we do what we do incubates within our heart. This is why it is imperative that the Holy Spirit rubs our heart with the oil of authenticity. He massages away toxic motives and keeps us honest. He is the best at calling our commitment into question. Am I serving Him for what I can get or for what I can give? He calls us to place the welfare of others above our own needs. The heart is where goodness grows, as it is nurtured in a heart with the Holy ambition of knowing the Lord. 
Sometimes we attempt to compliment someone by saying he or she has a good heart. However, in some cases, our comments carry a tinge of condescension. We add a ‘but.” He has a good heart, but he gives no attention to details; She has a good heart, but she is not good with follow-up; He has a good heart, but he cannot think strategically; He has a good heart, but he is not an effective leader; She has a good heart, but she is not very smart; So, what do we really mean when we say someone has a good heart?
A good heart does not guarantee success in a certain skill set, but it does position us for success. Indeed, both character and competence are necessary for success. A superb salesman without a good heart should be shunned. A dependable manager without a good heart will bring you grief. A leader who gets results without a good heart will run off good people. Make sure to align goodness of heart with goodness in skill, otherwise this disconnect will erode your work or family culture. Require goodness of heart with giftedness.
Goodness of heart comes from God. It is His gift, not to be taken for granted. Learn to diagnose the heart. Outward trappings can fool you into recruiting or relying on the wrong person. Get to the heart of the matter, and observe how they relate to their spouse. Is there love? Is there respect? Marriage interactions bring out the heart. Look beyond a résumé, to results based on courage. Did she take risks for the sake of the team? The heart is the best long-term indicator of dependability. Skill can be taught, but character is conformed by a heart enamored with Christ. Allow the Spirit to keep your heart healthy for Him, and qualify others based on God’s qualifications. Good hearts attract and keep good-hearted people. They attract God and retain His blessings.
Our Prayer: Lord, thank You for qualifying me for Your call on my life.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Stillness over doing

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.   Psalm 46:10
God created us as human beings, not human doers. Yet everything, from our culture to our career, defaults to doing. We are taught by western society that if we are not busy, we must be lazy. There is a contemporary guilt that keeps us on the go. We are driven to do by some unseen capitalistic force. We are so intent on getting things done that we forget why we engaged in the process to begin with. It’s all about progress and seeing it through to the end. It’s all about the results, making the grade, and exceeding the earnings estimates. After all, if you are really important, your cell phone will constantly vibrate and your e-mail will seduce you 24/7. This is the sad state of those of us who are trapped by doing. Like an alcoholic in denial, we are intoxicated by activity.
Our ego glosses over the need for God, as we justify driven behavior with bad theology. We act like the Lord’s hands are tied and it is up to us to make things happen. But God is not limited by our view of Him. He still governs the universe and our lives. Kings, presidents, and dictators are still accountable to the Lord and His agenda. CEOs, entertainers, and athletes still have a higher power in Jesus Christ to whom they must answer. It is wise to get off our high horse of self-importance and be still before God. If we continue to race through life at a breakneck pace, we will break. Our health, finances, and relationships are fragile, and eventually they will fracture under the pressure of habitual doing.
We are humans in need, in need of being who God created us to be. Our God-given roles in life are a great place to cultivate our human being-ness. For example, when we take the time to be a respectful child who honors his parents, we are being. Visit, call, or write regularly and you will be the child your parents need. You honor God when you honor them. Above all else, be with God. There is a knowing and understanding of God that comes only from spending time with Him. In-depth knowledge of God is not derived from service only, but in sitting and reflecting on the Holy One being served. It is in your doing that you validate your being, and it is in your being that you purify your reasons for doing.
So, our life with the Lord begins by being with Him. It is in the stillness beside the waters of worship that you feel His presence. God is not on the go, exhausted from His last intimate encounter with a needy saint. Therefore, make sure you make time for your soul’s maintenance.  Peace comes by aligning with the Lord, and stillness with Him sharpens your body, soul and spirit. In stillness, you see God. In stillness, you feel God. In stillness, you worship God. In stillness, you receive from God. In stillness, you are loved by God. In stillness, you love God. In stillness, you believe God. In stillness, you see and know God. Allow your “doing” to flow from your “being.” The equation is simple: “stillness” plus “being” equals dynamic “doing” for the glory of the Lord.
Prayer: Lord, remind us to be with You in engaging prayer, before we go out to do for You with good deeds.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Deal with it now so it doesn't deal with you later

The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up. Revelation 8:7
Spiritual fruit from the past is no substitute for fruit produced in the present. Praise God for our faithful ancestors of the faith, but their fruit was for their time. The Spirit of God looks to harvest fruit of repentance for this generation. The good old days of spiritual renewal are inspiring to reminisce upon, but today the Lord calls those of us with a little gray hair to grow up in His grace. We who identify with Jesus have a significant role and responsibility to produce fruit of repentance.
Those who ignore spiritual fruit bearing in this life will experience the severe discipline of the Lord in the next life. Indeed, as we close in on Christ’s second coming, it is imperative we are prepared to meet our Maker with lives that reflect God’s standards, not the anemic morality of a sick society. The picture of a world that rejects repentance of sin and turning to Jesus is not a pretty site: the discipline of the Lord on unrepentant sinners will escalate across a scorched earth.
How do we know if we produce fruit of repentance? Private belief for salvation and public confession in baptism are the first fruits of repentance, but just the beginning point. The ongoing fruit bearing process is a lifetime of leaning and learning into the Lord. The Spirit reminds us when we drift into bad habits or wrong thinking. We confess spiritual pride and remember that only by the grace of God can we do good. We turn from self righteousness and turn to God’s righteousness.
What is the proof of fruit produced by repentance? Good deeds from a heart of humility and grace are fruit that glorifies God. Your Spirit-filled actions of abstinence, generosity, tutoring, public service, and faith sharing, our Heavenly Father. Jesus smiles when you are hospitable or when you visit the sick or those in prison. Our authentic repentance keeps us broken to care for the broken. What breaks God’s heart is to break our heart.
Our prayer:  Lord,  grow in us a humble heart that is quick to confess and repent of sin.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A good voice to hear

And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. Revelation 4:1-2
God’s voice has not vanished. He has not lost His voice because of overuse. His vocal cords are not strained but strong. His voice is clear and intelligible. His voice is all around us; listen and be in awe. His voice reminds us of His glory. 
John wrote earlier about Jesus standing at the door of a life, waiting to be invited in, now the Lord opens the door to heaven and invites John to come in and experience Him. The voice of God sounds like a trumpet, similar to the sound of the trumpet announcing the resurrection of the dead in Christ (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16). The Lord is drawing John closer to His throne of grace and worship so He might reveal to his humble servant His vision of things to come. Worship and grace escort us into the presence of our Father, who is ready to show us His ways.
The power of His voice is applied in our life. His voice can be stern in discipline or tender in grace. The powerful voice of Jesus called Lazarus back from the dead, and on the cross He interceded to His Heavenly Father for forgiveness on behalf of His enemies. Use your voice to pray for people who are dead in their sin and in need of a Savior. Lift up your voice on behalf of others who have offended or hurt you. God hears your voice. You are not a lone voice for the Lord.
God’s voice is majestic and regal. He is enthroned above all His creation. Jesus is our King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When He speaks, we listen. His words matter most. The Bible is the wisdom of His words in written form. His voice speaks through the pages of Scripture. So, take what He tells you and obediently apply it to your life. Tell others what Christ tells you. Those of us who hear the voice of God cannot keep quiet. Be a clean conduit for His voice to speak. The voice of God is clear and comprehendible to the ears of a humble heart.

Our Prayer:  Lord by your Spirit make us attentive and sensitive to Your voice, and when we hear Your voice clearly let us be bold in declaring and sharing what You say Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Heartfelt worship

The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. Revelation 4:10
I could see love in their faces. Some leathery and wrinkled from the toils and trials of life, others youthful: smooth cheeked and white toothed, both beaming with the joy of Jesus captured on their countenance. Why? I’m not sure, but it was something in the heart of the people: pure, fresh and faith filled. The Holy Spirit, like a knife through hot butter, cut to the very depths of my being. I wept in the presence of great lovers of God.
The twenty-four elders represent the church and all believers who lift their heartfelt worship to the Lord God Almighty. All followers of Jesus will be rewarded or not at the Judgement Seat of Christ (see Romans 14:8-10). The crowns cast before the throne in honor of God are the rewards received by the righteous, only to be offered back in humble adoration and honor of the King of Heaven. Heartfelt worship keeps the glory of God, not the works of man, the center of attention.
Magnify the Lord in worship, rejoice in and praise His holy name in song. God has done great things for us, in us and through us. He created us in His image and He saved us to grow into the image of His son Jesus. As we fear and adore Him, He pours out His grace and mercy. A life compelled by willful worship is captured by Christ. Yes, our praise models gratitude to God for the next generation to mightily rejoice in Jesus Christ.
Like the Mississippi River, thankfulness fills to overflowing the soul that sings out to its Savior. As we adore the Lord for His loving presence, He awards us the gift of security. We worship the Holy One in the rarified air of His righteousness, while His Spirit bestows holiness into our hearts. Our heartfelt praise guarantees generational engagement with God. We are secure, but the Holy Spirit’s influence is without borders. Like John, we are instruments of Christ’s work in and through us.

Our Prayer:  Lord let our worship be in truth and Spirit that we may experience the fullness of your glory that you through Your Spirit might empower us and direct us into every good work.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Joy an Pain

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
Throughout the journey of life, there are moments of unspeakable joy and crushing heartache and pain. Most likely, as you read these words, you may have recently experienced both joy and pain, celebration and sorrow. Often these emotions exist within us at the same time, where moments of joy are tempered with sorrow, and seasons of pain can be relieved by the promise of hope and peace.
So often, our experience of joy and sorrow is entirely out of our control. Joy comes to us as a free gift, or sorrow becomes an uninvited companion on our journey. In a sense, there is a passive reality to emotions, we often receive them whether we want to or not. 
In the Apostle Paul’s words to the early Christians in Rome, we find another dimension to emotion: a radical invitation into an active and intentional life of joy and sorrow.
What if joy isn’t simply an emotion that comes your way but is instead something you intentionally look for and seek out? To do this, it means you must broaden your capacity to love and celebrate, looking not simply for your own joy but for the joy of others as well. A sign of the Spirit’s work in your life is the ability to celebrate with others even when you receive no direct benefit in return. Their joy truly becomes your joy, free from all envy, jealousy, or comparison.
Likewise, we must ask for the grace to take the sorrow and pain of others into our hearts and let it become our own. This is an active and intentional choice, for it is possible to hold the pain and brokenness of others at arms length, remaining emotionally detached and unaffected. It is for good reason that Paul’s words to us are a command, not a suggestion. We must choose to weep with those who weep, actively looking for those who are in sorrow and letting their pain become our pain.
This way of life goes against our natural desires and inclinations. It requires that we open ourselves up to the joy and sorrow of others. Our personal joy and pain cannot be our only concern.

Our Prayer: May God give us the grace to live this radical life of empathy and compassion for the sake of others and as a sign of his coming Kingdom In Jesus name Amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The best leader is first teachable

After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. Matthew 11:1
Leaders who take the time to explain the “why” behind the “what” to do, expand the team’s capacity. Anybody can dictate what to do, but the wise are patient to instill why you do what you do. This applies to all platforms of leadership: to parents, to preachers, to politicians and to policemen. If a leader only intimidates the staff for short term results, they sacrifice the opportunity to train individuals for long term effectiveness and retention. Why should anyone do what they do? The greatest motivation is to serve for the overall vision and mission of the organization or ministry.
Though God in the flesh, Jesus took the time to flesh out the disciples’ faith by instructing them in why to live for Him and serve with Him. Before the Lord went to teach and preach to other people, He willingly and purposely invested in training the twelve to understand why they do what they do. Christ’s disciples would eventually comprehend they could only do what He taught by surrendering to His Spirit working in and through them. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount only frustrates us if we seek to serve in and through our own strength, but when empowered and instructed by the Holy Spirit, we are well able.
Perhaps you and your team invest an hour a week in personal and professional development. The book 5 dysfunctions of a team is a proven resource to grow trust, create healthy conflict, commit to follow through, have mutual accountability and achieve the right results at work. The best leaders invest and commit themselves to ongoing education, so the team is empowered to execute and operate with a spirit of excellence.
Above all, lean into the Lord to instruct you in the way you should go. As you remain a student of Scripture, the Holy Spirit will continue to hone your character and competencies. Education from above, saves time below. An uninstructed life is a dull life, but an instructed life is full of life. So as a disciple of Jesus, stay at the feet of Jesus, as a hungry student, who never graduates from God’s graduate school of grace and humility. The best leaders learn from the Lord first and then seek to transfer the lessons they are experiencing to other hungry hearts who want to learn.

Our prayer:  Lord create in me a heart that desires to learn of you continually.  As my hunger for you grows give me a heart of boldness to share with others all that Your Spirit imparts into me that I might be a blessing to others Amen.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

overcoming evil

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21
Terrorist attacks. Racism. Violence. Hatred. Fear.
Take one look at your phone or newsfeed over the past few weeks and it is undeniable that the world simply is not as it should be. Sin has fractured our relationship with God and with one another, and we feel the effects every single day. In a world where evil seems to be on the rise with each passing moment, how are we meant to respond? How do we live as faithful followers of Christ in the midst of such pain and brokenness?
It is easy to see the needs of the world and feel helpless and overwhelmed, wondering how we can possibly make a difference or bring about peace and hope. I believe it is important to remember that faithfulness begins with seemingly unremarkable acts of goodness and love. You or I as individuals likely will not be able to solve global injustices or terror threats, yet we can seek to bring God’s peace to our neighborhoods, families, and workplaces. Where on your own street is there injustice that you can seek to overcome? Where in your family is there brokenness and hurt that needs the healing touch of Christ?
Faithful Christian discipleship is often found in the small, unseen places. It is the daily life of prayer and repentance that God uses to change the world. We join him in his renewing work when we turn away from sin and evil and let our lives be filled with the goodness of His presence. As the great novelist Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
When you see stories of evil and sorrow that leave you speechless, do not be overcome with despair. Instead, look close to home and ask the Lord to show you how you can be an agent of his goodness and love in the spheres of influence he has given you. This is how we as Christians learn to faithfully follow Jesus in the midst of a confusing and broken world. As we resist evil and overcome it with good, we encounter a foretaste of the goodness and justice of His coming Kingdom.

Our prayer:  Lord when we are confronted with evil, give us the strength and power of Your Spirit to overcome evil with good and love Amen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:14
Jesus is a friend to His followers. He is Lord, but He is a friend. He is Savior, but He is a friend. He is the Son of God, but He is a friend. He is sinless and holy, but He is a friend. He is a friend to sinners, and a friend to those He saves. Jesus is a friend to his followers, but it is a friendship based on obedience. Compliance with Christ creates companionship.
If I do not obey Christ’s commands, He does not call me friend. It is out of our actions that friendship with Jesus is validated. Obedience to Jesus inspires intimacy with Jesus. It is imperative that we obey Jesus so that we can really get to know Him. His friendship is free for all who follow hard with a hungry heart to obey. Friendship flourishes with faithful fidelity.
Friendship with Jesus is an invitation to intimacy. He reveals to His friends the riches of His grace, and the hope of His glory. It is a friendship that bears the fruit of saved souls and solid character. You begin to emulate the attitude, actions, words and spirit of Jesus, because this is what friends do. Friends look, act and sound like each other. You know you are a friend of Jesus, when Jesus consistently influences you to be like Him.
When others are around you does your behavior provide evidence that you’ve been with Jesus? Is it a friendship based on conviction, not convenience, intimacy, not intimidation and giving, not getting? As you grow in your friendship with Christ you better understand His heart, and your prayers align more with His will. Friendship with Jesus facilitates friendship with people. True friends flock to be with fellow friends of Jesus. Evangelism of the lost and edification of the saved flow freely when Jesus is your best friend.

Our prayer:  Dear Lord thank you for being a friend that sticks closer than a brother.  Each day may we make every effort to grow deeper in our intimacy and friendship with you Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Secret to Success

He [Uzziah] sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success. 2 Chronicles 26:5
It should come as no surprise that success, as God defines it, comes from seeking Him (see Matthew 6:33). For the disciple of Jesus, doing the will of God is the highest degree of success. As we follow God’s will, we are successful. Success is not something waiting for us sometime in the future. We have already achieved success if we are walking in step with our heavenly Father. If we’re not in step with Him, we may have an outward shell of success, but inwardly and relationally we are a failure. Seeking God is a volitional and relational act. It is consciously and regularly seeking to understand our Creator. Seeking God is to know Him. Seeking God is to love Him.
Seeking God is to praise and worship Him. Seeking God is confessing and crying out to Him. It is enjoying the comfort of our heavenly Father. It is practicing the presence of Christ in you. You seek God at church, at home, at work, and with your friends. There is no place where He is not sought, other than in hell itself. What a privilege and perk for Jesus’ people, anytime, anywhere, and for any reason, to be able to seek God. Therefore, seek Him just as aggressively during the calm as you do in the chaos. Jesus doesn’t want to just be your crisis manager; He wants to be your Lord, who leads you into wise living.
You cannot seek God in isolation. This involves the counsel and advice of those much wiser, godly and mature believers in Christ.  Seeking God involves validation from the wise. In danger is the man or woman who attempts to seek God without submitting to godly teaching, mentoring, and discipling from gifted leaders of the faith. You learn to fear God from those who fear God; you learn to love God from those who love God; you learn to forgive from those who forgive; you learn to pray from those who pray; you learn to serve from those who serve. Seeking God comes from seeking the godly. Avoid hero worship. No one except Christ deserves this level of admiration. A wise way to understand God is to understand the godly.
Hang out with those you want to be like. This is why church and community is vital to seeking God. You cannot seek God while not seeking supportive people. Scripture teaches, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out” (Proverbs 18:15). Seek God in His Word. The Bible is God’s anthology and it is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Scripture is the first and last word on God. It defines Him, so it can define you. Know His Word, and you will know Him. Read it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Learn it. Above all else, apply it.  Success is a result of seeking God. Therefore, seek Him more often than not.
Our Prayer: Heavenly Father, I seek You for success in life—as You define success.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Resting place

God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”—but they would not listen. Isaiah 28:11b-12
Everyone needs a place to rest, a time to rejuvenate and restore your soul. A soul without rest is vulnerable to doubt, disease, sin, and dread. Without soul care, you risk being ineffective for the long term. So, allow your soul to catch up with your activity through rest. A restless soul loses hope and perspective. Stop right now and take an audit of your soul. Is it strung out and anxious?
If it is, rearrange your schedule for rest before it rearranges you. A non-restful pace is unsustainable, and a restful place is necessary to persevere. Do not fall for the false feeling that activity somehow equals progress or success. Without rest, you are going nowhere fast. If you intensify the pace, you are going nowhere, faster.
Rest allows you to recalibrate your priorities and replenish your cistern of creativity. Your work rhythms may require a day with no scheduled appointments. Indeed, each resting place looks different, depending on your need. For example, your resting place may be the quiet screened porch, where you relax with a cup of coffee and a good book. For someone else, a resting place may be a comfortable couch, where they nap to the steady beat of raindrops pelting the rooftop.
It can be the park where you walk with your best friend, a secluded drive in the countryside, or an adventurous exploration. Whether your resting place is the beach, the mountains, or in front of a good movie, make time to engage with it. God speaks to you in your place of rest. This is one of His favorite spots to shape your soul.

Furthermore, your resting place allows you to resist temptation. Fatigue causes you to stumble and fall through life. If you are working through exhaustion, you may be missing God. A lethargic life struggles to listen to the Lord, and a heart worn down from weariness has a hard time hearing His voice. A depleted spirit is not primed for discernment, and decision-making during duress can be dreadful.
Therefore, go away to a resting place. Find God and find yourself under the canopy of His creation. A resting place is your protection from yourself, from evil influences, and from lost perspective. Above all else, your resting place reveals God in a refreshing way. His program takes on a new priority in His place of rest. Your confidence is resurrected. Your trust takes on a new level of intensity.
Your patience leads to a deeper understanding of what it means to wait on the Lord. A resting place is for your sake and His. It is necessary to experience God’s very best for you and your family. Discover your resting place in prayer, and go there often. Repentance follows rest, and robust relationships result from rest. Your best and most creative ideas emerge from relaxed meditation on your Master. Wisdom resides in rest.

Our prayer:  Lord reveal to me the times when I am doing too much, and missing my rest time with you.  When I find rest let me find peace, comfort, joy, grace, and love in you Amen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trust Him while you wait on Him

But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”   Genesis 15:8
You know by first knowing God. He does not leave you in the dark to grope around in unbelief. He wants you to go to Him for discernment and understanding. If assurance of knowing what God was saying came easily, you would be tempted to take the credit for your accomplishments with the Lord. He wants you to know what to do, but on His terms. Many times, knowing what to do follows belief, obedience, and trust. Take God at His word today and be faithful to His instruction. It may mean extending kindness to a nemesis at work or praying more for your children and saying less. Indeed, “how to know” follows “how to be.” Be patient, and allow God to work in spite of your self-imposed deadlines. Trust Him as you wait on Him.
Furthermore, do not let your drive for possessions paralyze you from trusting and obeying. When you are ready, God will allow you to understand how you can have something. He trusts those who show themselves trustworthy. Be faithful with your finances; they protect you from bypassing God’s best. Personal debt can short-circuit God’s work, so rely on Christ, not credit. Reliance on credit can easily take the place of reliance on God’s provision.
So, take a financial reality check and start by paying off the credit card with the lowest balance. Money can draw you closer to your Master or drive you further away. You can know you are positioned to buy something if you have the cash for the purchase. Cash collaborates with the future, but debt presumes on the future. Paying as you go helps you to know the Lord’s leading. So, follow the Lord by faith. You will know all you need to know, as you get to know Him. Knowing Him is your passage to knowing what to do.
The Lord loves you too much to leave you in the lurch. He constantly communicates with His children through Holy Scripture. He may speak to you in a dream. He may be shouting at you through friends and foes. Circumstances may be squeezing you toward specific outcomes. Be aware of all that is converging around you, for Christ does not work in a vacuum.
God is working all around you. Engage with Him in your crisis of belief. He will let you know what to do next. Trust God with this one thing, and ask Him for discernment on the next steps. Validate your idea with those who know you best and who hold you accountable. Be faithful with these small steps, and He will position and promote you to experience larger roles and responsibilities in His timing.
Resist the temptation to rush to the next big thing. There are a lot of little miracles yet to be encountered. The lion’s share of your vision may happen after you are gone. The continued execution of “how to know” may follow you into eternity. So set the table now for those who will feast on the results of your faith after your exit. You know by knowing Him.

Prayer:  Father we put our trust in you.  Make us sensitive to your leading Spirit, that we might be able to apply your principles to our lives and be obedient to your instructions.  In Jesus name Amen.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Anointed or entitled

So he sent for him [David] and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. 1 Samuel 16:12-13
An anointed leader is chosen by God, not self-appointed or randomly assigned to a position by man. An anointed leader knows they are called by God, not driven by selfish ambition or the desire to be great. Greatness is reserved for servants of our Lord and Savior, who quietly give themselves to purposes greater than themselves. If I strive to be seen or selected for a role, I miss a chance to grow my faith while waiting on the will of God to unfold. Entitled leaders feel the need for a job title so they seem and feel important, while anointed leaders esteem others as more important.
David was minding his own business, being faithful where he was (to his call to shepherd well), when the Lord called him to shepherd His flock. God’s choice was probably a surprise to those who expected a “better” resume, but infinite wisdom knew the wisdom of selecting a servant with a love for God and a fiery heart to defend and lead God’s people. So Samuel, the man of God, followed the Lord’s leading by anointing David in front of his brothers. Because of their faith, submission and obedience, the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon God’s anointed (see Psalm 89:20-21).
Are you in waiting mode for an opportunity you think is just right for you? Or are you looking and praying for just the right person to serve with you? In either situation be patient, prayerful and opened handed. Trust Jesus and wait on His best, better to be in a storm, trial/tribulation with Jesus, than to be living and doing without Him. At any moment Christ can calm the chaos and bring clarity to the confusion, so pray against getting ahead of God. You bring the most glory to the Lord when your joy and contentment are found in Christ, not your circumstances.
The power to lead is not primarily about position, but submission, which positions you for favor from our Lord. Submit to God’s Spirit to cleanse your heart, fill your soul and lead your life. Submit to the authorities in your life to validate your ideas, protect you from yourself and hold you responsible to steward well the organization’s mission. Anointed leadership leads out of weakness, while leaning into the Spirit for strength. Is your faith fatigued? Ask the Lord for a fresh anointing. Be prepared and trust God that in Christ you are anointed.

Our Prayer: Father thank you for the call to lead.  Send a fresh anointing upon us for leadership, and the patience to wait on your instruction and unction in all our leadership decisions Amen.

Pastor Todd A. Brown
The greatest ability is availability

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

When life isn't fair

For we walk by faith, not by sight.   2 Corinthians 5:7
In his book Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey writes about a friend named Douglas who experienced deep disappointment. Douglas’s wife contracted breast cancer. While in the middle of this crisis, a drunk driver swerved across the center line and smashed head-on into Douglas’ car, and Douglas received a severe blow to the head. His vision was affected, and his ability to read was hindered. He could hardly walk down a flight of stairs without assistance. The damage was irreparable. Philip interviewed Douglas to ask if he felt disappointment with God. Philip writes. . .
“Douglas was silent for what seemed like a long time. Finally he said, “To tell you the truth, Philip, I didn’t feel any disappointment with God. . . . The reason is this: I learned, first through my wife’s illness and then especially through the incident, not to confuse God with life. . .  I have learned to see beyond the physical reality of this world to the spiritual reality. We tend to think, ‘Life should be fair because God is fair.’ But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life, by expecting constant health, for example, then I set myself up for a crashing disappointment. God’s existence, even his love for me, does not depend on my good health. Frankly, I’ve had more time and opportunity to work on my relationship with God during my impairment than before.”
We can see beloved that Douglas learned to successfully navigate disappointment when you don’t get what you want: to believe without seeing, to walk by faith and not by sight. Douglas knew that God is loving and powerful, even though his circumstances didn’t support this truth.
Some people think that trusting God as Douglas did, to believe without seeing, is foolish. “Blind faith,” they scoff. But isn’t faith often blind? If faith can see from beginning to end, if faith means that we understand all things like God, then faith is not faith at all.

Prayer:  Lord increase our faith.  Amen

Pastor Todd A. Brown
"Developing Kingdom Ambassadors"
New Mount Zion Baptist Church

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Leaders lean

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Everyone believe it or not is a leader. You may not lead a company, a classroom, a boardroom, or a sports team, but you are a leader. Maybe you are a mom who leads her children, or you are a leader for the guy who sits next to you in the office just because he looks up to you as a model of professionalism. Perhaps you lead a little league team. Everyone is a leader somehow, sometime.
It’s unfortunate, but sometimes when we start wearing the “leader” label, we also start wearing the “perfection” label. We believe that we must have it all together and be strong, because that’s what leaders are, right? We wrongly believe we always have to be postured, perfect, and never struggle. Anyone who has tried to bear this weight can testify to how heavy it is. But there is good news my friend. God provides grace for all who lead, for all who look to Jesus.   
Jesus led his disciples in many ways. In Luke 19:28, He led the disciples by walking in front of them. In John 13:3-5, He led them by demonstrating servant leadership when he washed their feet, and in Matthew 4:19 He led them by inviting them to follow Him. Most importantly, while He was leading His disciples, He was pressing into His Father out of need. When He needed to be strengthened, He spent time alone in prayer (see Luke 5:16), when He grieved over Lazarus’ death He wept, He called out to God for help (see John 11:1-44) even on the cross, and cried out to His Father in His greatest time of need.
“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli,lema sabachthani?’ (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (See Matthew 27:46).
The perfect Christ wrestled and struggled with temptations and trials like we all do (see Hebrews 4:15). So where do we get this ridiculous idea that godly, competent Christians, and Christian leaders shouldn’t have needs? Where do we get the idea that they are never really desperate, that they are always in control and composed, and that if they truly belong to Christ they always have a hallelujah on their lips?
We didn’t learn it from Moses, who led a stubborn nation, and cried out to God saying, “What shall I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me?” (see Exodus 17:4). We did not learn it from Paul, who was weak because of a thorn in the flesh, and asked God three times to remove it (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-8). When we expect ourselves or other leaders to be perfect, we appeal to the flesh and a standard no one can live up to (see Romans 3:10). The shouting great news is that God provides grace for us to serve Him in the places where He has called us. While we are leading, He invites us to lean into Him out of desperation and need so we can be the leaders He has called us to be. His grace will sustain you to do the job He has called you to. Aren’t you glad you can take off your label of perfection and put on your label of grace?

Our prayer:  Lord raise up the leader in me through the power of Your Spirt.  Let me always be desperate to lean on you for all I need to be the leader You have called me to be Amen.

Pastor Todd A. Brown
The greatest ability is availability
New Mount Zion Baptist Church

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

He hears you

Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat my desperate words as wind? You would even cast lots for the fatherless and barter away your friend.  Job 6:26-27
We all want to be heard, for our ideas to be valued. But when we feel unheard, especially by friends, and family our heart can slump into an unhealthy posture of dejection.  From time to time we all need correction, but not to the point of contempt, where it seems like every time we open our mouth, we feel under attack. There was a season in my life and work where I felt totally unheard. My supervisor acted deaf. The intimidation and innuendos were painful to my heart and almost damaging to my very soul (thank God I knew how to do as David and encourage myself in the Lord). Eventually, we parted ways.  
Job finds himself in a situation where he feels totally on the outside of a relationship that once throbbed with passion and possibilities. He tries to reason with an unreasonable person, his friend Eliphaz but, Job’s integrity is on the defensive. Like a swirling wind captures a feather, once Job’s words cross his lips, they are swept away and dismissed by a mind already made up. He tries to claw back with a straightforward and stingingly accurate civil discourse. Job learns: unfair accusations need to be addressed with a prayerful, direct response. Integrity hears first, then speaks (See Proverbs 10:9).  
Do you feel unheard, misunderstood or misrepresented? If so, be patient, pray, don’t become like the one who makes you feel undone. Ask the Lord what He wants you to learn. As you experience a crucible of sadness, seek quiet but honest introspection. Ask the Spirit to burn away the unnecessary and leave only what’s necessary for Christ’s purposes. By faith you learn to scale the mountain of God’s will in the valley of death to self. Humility listens and learns.
By God’s grace, seek to speak the truth with patient, defenseless clarity. Integrity has nothing to prove, only to lean into its proven track record of submission to Jesus. Chronic, non verbal passivity only compounds a communication break down. Instead, courageously practice saying what you feel like the young people say: "Say it with your chest!!". Always remember that an unheard heart must express its deep desire for an honest hearing. God always hears you.
Our Prayer:  Lord, thank You for hearing our heart so we have the boldness to share our heart amen.

Pastor Todd A. Brown
New Mount Zion Baptist Church
The greatest ability is availability

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Is it time to let go?

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
The writer of Ecclesiastes follows the verse above with a list of seasons, or “times,” such as birth and death, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing. He even includes “a time to plant and a time to pluck what is planted.”

I don’t know about you, but I remember when I was growing up in West Chester Pa. I didn't enjoy plucking up weeds and doing yardwork even though it was a necessity of growing up in the Brown household. Though I did not enjoy it I have learned a lot from it (thanks Mom and Dad). First of all, it takes time, and second, it can be taxing, and sometimes painful to pluck and uproot things. You know what I mean. You have a relationship or friendship God is asking you to relinquish. Sure, He planted it in a past season of your life, and it served its purpose. But now He is asking you to uproot it because He wants to do something different. Or perhaps God is saying about your job, “Let it go. I want to uproot it. I’ve got a new assignment for you.” Oh, but we’re so slow to let go because it can be painful, inconvenient, and sometimes just plain hard work (like mulching) But what do we forfeit if we insist on holding on to the old things that either we or God planted in old seasons?

When we refuse to let go, we forfeit the peace of knowing we are following Christ no matter what. We forfeit the joy we experience of being used by Him. Thankfully, we can rest assured of one thing: God never asks us to uproot anything in our lives without a reason and a plan. And He is faithful. He always asks because He wants to plant some kind of new seed to bring about a good change. 
Are you afraid to pluck up something even though its season in your life is over? Yes, you can be sure moving into the unknown with God will never be comfortable, but it will always be right, and great in the end.  You’ll know you’re exactly where you need to be. I encourage you to get out your spiritual gardening gloves today and get to plucking if that’s what God is calling you to do. 

Our Prayer:  Lord, please give the courage to follow you by letting go of anything you ask to that your will and what you ask may be accomplished Amen.

Pastor Todd A. Brown
New Mount Zion Baptist Church, Orangeburg SC
The greatest ability is availability