I Know The Plan

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One of my favorite football coaches was asked a question about his leadership following the game.  He had just been beaten badly by a rival, he was navigating ongoing player discipline issues, and he looked exhausted and discouraged.  A reporter asked him, “Do you think you’ve lost the team?” and he answered, “I don’t know.” Two days later he was fired. I learned a valuable lesson from that coach I respect so much. I learned that one of the most important tools of a leader is confidence in the plan.  

As Christians we have an unfair advantage when it comes to leadership.  We’re trusting the Lord Jesus who always knows the plan (Jer. 29:11) and is faithful to establish us (2 Thes. 3:3),  so we can be confident He will complete the plan in us (Phil. 1:6, He. 12:2). But our feelings will betray us.

Elijah experienced overwhelming discouragement and burnout in 1 Kings 19.  He was being threatened and chased because God had used him mightily. The Bible says that he was so exhausted he lay down and prayed that he might die.  An angel came to encourage him to eat because the journey was too great for him. If we had asked him that day how would overcome Jezebel, I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.”  If we had asked him if he would survive the difficulty, I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.” If we had asked Elijah that day about his leadership ability I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.”   These battles of uncertainty are exhausting and scary, and each of us has been there from time to time. Later in the chapter, Elijah’s confidence in the Lord’s plan is renewed and he goes back to work.

Paul said in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me… 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith.”  Paul knew how to answer every question and was confident in every overbearing difficulty. He knew we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:10).  

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost recently said after starting the season 0 and 5, “it would have been easier to stay where we were comfortable, but there’s not going to be a place where it’s sweeter or more fun for me than here, when we get this right.  Wherever I’m going to coach, we’re going to teach our players to play with a desire to excel with no fear of failure.  ”

Dear Christian leader, the next time you’re in a great difficulty, or you’re exhausted or discouraged, and you’re asked a question about your leadership, be careful not to say “I don’t know.”  Start with what you know. Be confident in who He’s created you to be and what He’s called you to do. Be confident that He will complete it, and your only work is to believe (John 6:29). Remain in fellowship with Christ so that you can be full of courage and not shrink back (1 John 2:28).  Communicate the confidence you have in following Christ, and demonstrate humility by inviting other wise counsel into the discussion. After sharing what you’re confident in, ask other key leaders what wisdom they can share with you, and acknowledge the “I don’t know” when it comes to the details.  And always, when you’re just really not sure, “lay down before you hurt yourself,” and allow the Lord to minister His Bread to you until you can get up in confident humility again.

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What To Wear

What To Wear

Recently one of our family members came out of their room frustrated saying, “I don’t have anything to wear!” For many of us we have pretty strong opinions about what we wear. We have our favorite outfits. We feel frustrated if the clothes we want to wear aren’t available And worse yet, we get upset if someone like our spouse tells us we can’t wear that!
I’m part of a very diverse church that includes men who wear suits, women who wear hats, men who wear shorts and crocs, and women who wear jeans. Occasionally I will hear conversations and opinions about “What is appropriate for church?”
Recently I was reading about a missionary to China named Hudson Taylor. He struggled in obscurity and isolation for many years. “One day a man asked Taylor to explain why he had buttons on the back of his coat? Taylor realized then that his western-style dress was distracting his listeners from his message. He then decided to dress like a Mandarin, a Chinese teacher. He was amazed at how dressing Chinese allowed him to travel more freely and be accepted more readily by the people. Taylor’s goal was not to have the Chinese become like English Christians, but to have them become Chinese Christians.”1
This presents many questions for me as an American pastor. The first set of questions may include…Do I expect people who come to our church to dress like me? Do I show respect for God when I dress up for Him, or do I show respect for the gospel when I dress down for someone who doesn’t know Christ? Do I show respect for God when I judge what someone else is wearing as legalistic or disrespectful? And are dressed up Christians more reverent than casually dressed Christians? Or are casually dressed Christians more relevant than dressed up Christians? And should we come to a conclusion on those questions and pick one or the other and expect everyone at church to dress that way? Or are we all missing the point?
In reflecting on Hudson Taylor’s ministry I think the second set of questions may be, “Am I willing to change the way I dress so someone could come to Christ? “Who are the lost people God is calling me to bring to church and how do they dress?” And what do they hear by the way I dress?
I confess for me honestly, I get so distracted debating the first set of questions, I don’t think I know the answers to the second set of questions. And maybe that is what is really disrespectful to God and His Gospel?
In 1 Samuel 16:7, when Samuel saw who he thought he was supposed to anoint as the next leader, God intervened and said, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7
This is what I know, I hear a lot more about what man looks at than I do about what God looks at…

For other articles by this author see http://www.choosemercy.org

1 http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/hudson-taylors-heart-for-chinas-millions-11630493.html

The Success of Fruit, Feedback, and Fuel

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I was recently asked what defines ministry success for me?  Is success being liked by everyone?  Having everyone get along?  Everyone saved?  Everyone’s needs met?  Having a lot of money?  So I have spent time thinking about what the Bible says about success and I think there are three “F”s of success to consider… Fruit, Feedback, and Fuel.

Years ago I had the privilege of working on a farm.  Whether we were planting or harvesting, ultimately everything we did all year was to have a good crop.  The same is true in our organization.  The Bible says, “Every tree is recognized by it’s fruit.  People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers”  Luke 6:44.  People do not seek out prickly, upset, or hurtful people.  The Bible says we can grow in the fruit of the Spirit, becoming more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, full of the goodness of God, faithful, gentle, and long suffering.  We will be successful if we communicate the FRUIT of the Spirit.

When we were harvesting we would have to stop to unload when the combine was full. We were receiving feedback from the machine.  Some farms have a grain cart so they unload while moving.  The combine driver and the driver of the grain cart have to be able to communicate and listen to each other, and the cart has to be perfectly positioned under the combine spout or there will be grain all over the ground.  The cart driver can be confident he’s doing well, but if the combine stops for a rock and the cart driver doesn’t listen, grain will be spilled.  Often times in a position of leadership, we feel really sure we know which way to go which leaves no room to listen to others.  However God never meant for this to be a one man show.  He intended it to be a body with many parts.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “ I don’t need you!”  And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 1 Co 12:21We will be successful if we listen to FEEDBACK.

If the weather is good and we can unload on the go, the only thing that stops the harvest are the needs of the machinery.  While Air Force One can fuel on the go, our tractors and trucks have to stop for fuel.  Each morning we would spend an hour greasing and fueling the equipment.  Often late in the day we would have to take a break and refuel.  Sometimes we would have to stop to attend to a breakdown.  I’m so thankful the farmer doesn’t have to pick each piece of grain or carry it all to the elevator by himself. So he’s willing to stop and make sure the equipment has what it needs.  The Bible says God gave (church leaders) to prepare and equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith Eph 4:12  We will be successful if we take time to FUEL others, preparing, equipping, and supporting those who serve with us.

May we experience ministry success as we grow in Fruit, Feedback, and Fuel.