Monday, April 14, 2014

The Most Valuable Quality in a Leader

An recent poll asked the question, “What a quality do you value most in a leader?” The possible answers were:

  • Builds effective relationships
  • Delivers results
  • Energizes the team
  • Models personal excellence, integrity and accountability
  • Shapes the future

The results (from least to greatest) were:

  1. Shapes the future - 4%
  2. Delivers results - 8%
  3. Energizes the team - 14%
  4. Builds effective relationships - 23%
  5. Models personal excellence, integrity and accountability - 51%

What fascinates me about these results is that the things the leadership gurus push the most are the things that are the lowest on the list. But a majority view integrity as the most important. And building personal relationships also is significant.

That doesn’t mean we can say that the others aren’t important, but modeling personal excellence, integrity and accountability is just so important that most people favor it over all the others. Too often, we see leaders who want results, no matter what. Even if it costs them their integrity. Clearly, it is the opinion of those who took the poll that leaders like that have missed the boat.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why Would You Trust a Four Year Old Over God Anyway?

The book Heaven is for Real came out a few years ago. Now, there is a movie based on the book. I won’t be watching it. If you read the review of Heaven is for Real, you’ll see why. In brief, I saw nothing in the book that I couldn’t attribute to the imagination of a four year old, and too much that was inconsistent with what God said about heaven. I’ve seen the trailer for the movie, and even if I’d liked the book, I don’t think I could stand sitting through the movie.

But a lot of people have purchased the book and it is likely that a lot of people will watch the movie. In this age when so-called scientists are promoting the religion of evolution as proof that heaven isn’t real, people are looking for evidence of its existence. People are looking for the smoking gun that they can point to and say, “Look, we have proof that heaven exists.” That is why they turn to stories about people who have visited heaven and came back.

Haven’t you ever asked, “what if?” What if we could look up into heaven and see what’s there? What if someone who died could come back and tell us about it? What if we had something that could only come from God, so we could show it to people as proof of heaven?

I’ve heard people say things along the lines of “with spiritual things, God expects us to believe without proof.” That may sound spiritual, but the Bible doesn’t say that.

Suppose you heard the voice of God. Suppose you saw people who had gone to heaven and came back. Do you suppose that would be enough evidence for heaven? I think so. Other people might doubt that you had seen what you saw and heard, but it would likely settle it for you.

Peter had that experience. Look at 2 Peter 1:16-21. What is he saying here? Peter heard God speak. You recall that God spoke when Jesus was baptized. He also spoke on the mount of transfiguration. Peter was so excited about what he saw on the mount of transfiguration that he was ready to build tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. It was a significant experience in Peter’s life. But look at 2 Peter 1:19. “we also have a more sure word of prophecy.”

What could possibly be more sure than the experience Peter had on the mount of transfiguration? In 2 Peter 1:20, we see that it is the Scripture. That Bible that you carry to church with you and maybe pull out a few times during the week, under the inspiration of God, Peter is telling us that it is more sure than the experience he had on the holy mount.

We don’t have to talk to people who have returned from the dead. We don’t have to be able to look into heaven. We don’t have to hear the voice of God in our ear. We already have proof that is better than that. Though many people have tried to discredit it, the Bible is evidence of God and heaven. It is easy enough to make up a story about going to heaven and seeing stuff, as we see with Heaven is for Real, but that story can’t be verified without going to heaven. The Bible, on the other hand, is so astonishingly accurate in every detail that when we compare it to historical facts, scientific facts, and observations of about the human condition, we find no evidence that it is wrong in any area that we can confirm. If a book has never been proven wrong on any detail, then it is wise to pay attention when the author tells us about things we have no ability to verify.

To put it very simply, why would we trust the stories of a four year old over what God said in Scripture?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lord, Where's My Stuff?

“Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

I don’t suppose there’s anyone who has looked at that verse who didn’t wonder why God hasn’t given them the desires of their heart. All of us have had something that we wanted more than anything else and though we prayed long hours with tears streaming down our faces, it didn’t come. Where was the Lord? Why didn’t he answer? Did we somehow fail to delight ourselves in him? How does one delight himself in the Lord anyway?

If you read the rest of Psalm 37, you’ll see that even as he was writing this song, David was struggling with some of the same thoughts. Look at verses 1 and 2. Do you think he would’ve said something like that if he’d never questioned why evil people appeared to prosper, even as the just suffered at their hand? (Psalm 37:12) The saints of David’s day were facing the same problems as the saints of today.

When we begin to look at it in context, we being to realize that the promise of the desires of our heart doesn’t necessarily mean right now. We don’t have standing to go to God and say, “I’ve delighted in you, so where’s my stuff?” Though some preachers will tell you that’s exactly what you ought to do. Psalm 37:7 uses words like rest, wait, and fret not. And then Psalm 37:10 states, “yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be.”

What’s David saying? Don’t worry about all this bad stuff that’s going on because of the wicked, because the day is coming when they won’t be here, but you will. That’s not that the Lord won’t give us a partial fulfillment of this promise now, but the ultimate fulfillment will come when Jesus takes his proper place as King of all heaven and earth. The wicked will be cut off and nothing we desire will be denied us.

Of course, our desires will be much better than they are now. That’s why it is important to consider what it means to delight ourselves in the Lord. If we’re going to get a partial fulfillment now, we need to learn to delight ourselves in the Lord and we need to manage our desires. Not everything we desire is good for us.

Psalm 37:3 gives us a hint at what it means to delight ourselves in the Lord, “Trust in the Lord, and do good….” As does Psalm 37:5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him….” But we can look at the rest of the Bible for help as well. When we look at the other places the word delight is used, we often see it used with the concept of obedience to God and meditating on the law of God. Obedience and trust go hand in hand. If we delight ourselves or take pleasure in someone, don’t we trust that person? Don’t we trust that if we do what they ask us to do that good things will happen?

The word delight is used once in the New Testament. Look at Romans 7:22. Here again, we see this concept of obedience to the law of God. So often, we hear people talk about our freedom in Christ and how we don’t have to follow the law. But what many of them really think is that we can ignore the law. Such is not the case. The saints delight in the law of God, even as we struggle with our fleshly desire to sin. We delight in the law of God because it is the instructions that God has given us. By delighting in the law of God, by obeying the commandments he has given us, by meditating on his word, so that we know what he has told us to do, we are delighting in the Lord. Only then can we expect any fulfillment of the promise to give us the desires of our heart.

But what you discover when you begin to obey the Lord and to meditate on his word, your desires start to change. That’s not to say that God will tell us what he’s willing to give us and our desires will be only those things. What God is willing to give us is far more than we can comprehend. Rather, as we draw closer to God, the things we shouldn’t desire will become less important to us. And the things that are left will be things that it won’t be offensive to God for us to ask for. We may not receive everything we desire, because God is still allowing evil to exist on earth, but we can be sure that the Lord desires to give us those things.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's None of Our Business

You may have heard that Mark Driscoll is having problems right now. Without going into the details, his book marketing strategy has been seen as unethical, and perhaps, illegal. I’ll let others sort that out. Now, a letter of apology has been making its way around the Internet. I’ll let you read the letter, if you like.

But what I find more interesting than the letter is the response that some people have given it. While my doctrinal views don’t completely align with those of Mark Driscoll, I felt the letter was very appropriate for the situation. Others did not agree. One person suggested that Mark Driscoll make himself accountable to someone outside his own congregation.

While there may be people outside his congregation that deserve and apology and an apology doesn’t remove any legal obligations that might exist, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything in scripture that says a pastor must be accountable to anyone other than the church and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church. And when I say church, I mean that local visible body of baptized believers that he pastors. There are differences in how individual churches choose to govern themselves, but it appears that, at Mars Hill Church, it is the Board of Advisors and Accountability that is authorized by the church to hold their pastor accountable.

Short of any legal concerns, for those of us outside of that church, it is none of our business. Mark Driscoll is accountable to that church and he wrote a letter to that church. It is not my place to criticize the letter he wrote to them or to question his sincerity.

That’s one of the things I hate about the view of “the church” being everyone who ever accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. People take that as authority to stick their nose into the business of a church they have nothing to do with. You won’t find them visiting the sick of that church, or even attending their worship services, but they’re all too eager to tell them how long the rope should be to hang their pastor.

There’s nothing wrong with talking about the things we can learn from this situation. Don’t do what Mark Driscoll did by allowing a ghost writer to plagiarize material, for example. Or when you do something wrong, do like Mark Driscoll and apologize. But unless you are a member of Mars Hill Church or some other institution that has authority over Mark Driscoll, it is not your place to decide what should be done to him. That is especially true for Christians. If Christians can’t recognize the value of forgiving someone after they apologize, no one will.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sinning Baptists

A few decades ago, Baptists were known for their hellfire and brimstone preachers who spoke of the evils of drinking, dancing, and going to the movies. People were excluded from the church frequently “for heresy” and many eventually apologized to the church and were welcomed back into the fellowship (though some did not). But today, the world is a different place. No longer do the Baptists who drink hide it, just in case the preacher comes around, they post pictures of it on Facebook. And many have lost sight of why dancing was considered wrong. Many people have the idea that as long as the dancing doesn’t happen in the church building, it is okay. If you read Psalm 149:3 and Psalm 150:4, it seems like that if there is anywhere that dancing is okay, it ought to be “in the congregation of the saints” (Psalm 149:1). And as for movies, now churches bring them in and show them on the big screen in the auditorium.

It’s a kinder, gentler church environment, but are we better off for it? I’m not sure how to answer that. Some say we are. Some say that it really wasn’t necessary for the preachers of the past to take such a hardline approach, because it is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin and our responsibility is to love people. Telling people that what they are doing is wrong will just run them off—perhaps to a church that doesn’t teach the truth, or out of church altogether.

One approach that seems to work for pastors is to take the high road. Just preach through the Bible. Pick a book and preach what it says. When a pastor gets to Matthew 19:9, he’s going to preach about adultery and divorce, no matter how many in the church have been involved in those things. And it isn’t he who is picking on them; Jesus is the one who said it.

It doesn’t work that way on the Internet. Even if you write posts by moving chapter by chapter through the Bible, people will pick and choose what they read. If you write about the Book of Jude, people are going to read what you say about homosexuality, not what you say about “[giving] all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation.” And if you participate in social media, others will pick the topic and you are left to either participate or not. If you mention what the Bible says about what people are doing, it may be seen as “judging.” But if you say nothing, either they won’t realize you are reading their posts, or they’ll assume that you approve of their actions.

I struggle with this every time I post something on the Internet. If I post what I really think about some of the things I see, I’m likely to make someone angry. If all I do is post things that are all touchy feely and nice, I might as well not post anything at all, because people don’t read that stuff. So, since I don’t know how to answer my own question, I’ll end with a quote from the first Baptist, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why Would God Make Man?

When I was a kid, I used to play in the dirt. I had a few favorite places. I had a spot on the hillside. I had a hole in the chicken yard. Sometimes I would go over to the neighbor’s house and play in the pigpen. It’s a wonder I’m still alive.

As you get older, you begin to realize that dirt is something people avoid. People who make lots of money don’t have to play in the dirt. They pay other people to do the dirty jobs. A few will play in the dirt, just for the fun of it, but having money and respect means you get the choose when you get dirty. The boss never gets dirty. That’s for the common worker.

We know that Jesus, who is God, chose to humble himself as the lowest human being he could be. (Philippians 2:5-11) We also know that God sent his Son because he loved the world. (John 3:16) But why did God create man in the first place? And what does that have to do with dirt?

Some people will tell you that God’s creation of man had something to do with God’s glory. Though God is glorified by man, I have a hard time believing that is why God created us. He had plenty of glory without us. And we’ve been an awful lot of trouble. And yet, Jesus humbled himself and made himself obedient to death, just so we could be saved. He will be glorified because of it, but it is the love of God that caused him to make that choice.

Now think about that dirt again. And think about when God created man. Look at Genesis 2:7. God formed man from dust and then he breathed into that dirt the breath of life. I’ve often looked at this passage and thought about how low man is. We’re nothing but the dust of the ground. But think about how low God had to make himself, to give us life. We have this image of God stooping down and shaping the dust. Then he bends over it and breathes into it. Man is the only part of creation that God had to touch, and we were nothing but dirt. Where is the glory in that? And if it weren’t bad enough, most of us will reject him. Where is the glory? What makes it worthwhile for God to humble himself to make us, and then humble himself to pay our sin debt? Why didn’t he make something else?

When we look at it in terms of God’s love instead of his glory, it starts to make sense. Unlike us, who don’t experience love until we get to know someone, God loved us before we were made. In fact, God has the ability to make those he loves. So it isn’t farfetched for us to say that the reason God would stoop down to form man from dust and breathe in to his nostrils is because of God’s love for man.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I'm Going on a Mission Trip...Probably

Our church is planning a short-term mission trip this summer and my intention is to go. I’m excited because we’re going with the intent of helping a BMAA church planter. The BMAA is where much of our church’s mission money goes, so helping a BMAA church planter with a project is one way to multiply the effectiveness of the money we’re already sending.

I’ve helped church planters and churches before, but not with quite the level of organization it appears we’ll have for this trip. This will be a new experience for me, because when I’ve helped church planters in the past, I’ve just shown up with tools and work clothes. I don’t remember there ever being a T-shirt, and there wasn’t a fund-raiser because you paid your own bills.

For this trip, the cost is expected to be $400 per person. The handout we were given says that participants are expected to pay only $200 of that and the rest will come from fund raisers and existing funds. If I go, I intend to pay my own way. I realize there’s something to be said for allowing others a blessing by giving for part of the expense. But I have sufficient funds to pay my own way, so maybe those who give will receive a greater blessing by giving to support those who can’t.

I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a vacation that didn’t involve visiting family or sitting through meetings. Not that those are bad things, but this will be different.