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Each of us comes into the world the exact same way — but no two people leave it alike. What we become by the time our clock runs out is the result of the choices we make. There are consequences for good choices and consequences for bad choices. Which kinds of consequences would you like to deal with throughout the course of your life? Are the choices you’re making moving you forward or setting you back?
Are you unintentionally sabotaging yourself through your choices? You don’t have to. You can stop the nonsense you may have been putting yourself through — starting today. And by today, I mean that, literally.
The single most important life management thing you can do is set and protect your start-of-the-day routine. Whether you work third shift or no shift, you can’t afford to go through life on autopilot when it comes to how you start each day. You need to have a start-of-the-day routine that sets up the rest of your entire day for success — so you can live in keeping with being the very best version of yourself.
Today will take it’s place as a tile in the mosaic of your life, the masterpiece in the making. Create a beautiful tile. Don’t worry about tomorrow. But you definitely do need to focus on today by creating and protecting your daily routine. The truth is, the entire mosaic of your life hinges on whether or not you do this. If you create and guard your start-of-the-day routine as if your life depends upon it (because it does), everything in all of life will begin to fall into place.
Your morning routine is deeply impacted by your end-of-the-day routine, but that’s for another time for us to explore. Right now, I want you to think about your start-of-the-day routine. What time do you get up? Do you start the very first moment of the day surrendering to your Creator, asking Him to fill you to the overflow, and thanking Him for a fresh start? Remember, yesterday came to an end at midnight, so don’t bring yesterday’s problems into the new day.
How do you move forward when you’re running out of steam? The Apostle Paul’s dedication, expressed to his understudy, Timothy, is both perplexing and empowering — because Paul faced more difficulty and opposition than we can comprehend. If he faced it, and endured, we can, too, if we embrace his not-so-secret secret of success.
The man who faced an insane amount of hardship could not be stopped. “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering,” he wrote, “and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day —and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, NIV)
Take a look at a mere summary of Paul’s hardships in 2 Corinthians 11:16-30:
“Let no one take me for a fool . . . Whatever anyone else dares to boast about — I am speaking as a fool — I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
Like the Corinthians, we might mistake Paul for a fool — but that’s what everyone who is not sold out to Christ thinks of those who are. Paul was unstoppable because he kept his eyes on Jesus, who he was in Him, and what He called him to do. That’s how he could fall forward after so many “setbacks.” His setbacks merely laid the brick and mortar for his comebacks – and a legacy we admire ages later. Paul fought the fight, finished the race and kept the faith. The same can be true for you.
An apostle, a prophet, priest, pastor or missionary you may not be. But you may be a parent, a son, daughter, business person, student, employee, or retiree. Don’t let a title trick you. Your title is not nearly as important as your task — and you must make sure you don’t swerve from it. Your task is to pour yourself out – in Jesus and for Him – wherever you are, throughout your lifetime.
In Jesus you have a bottomless reservoir of resilience – if you ask for it. Paul drew from His waters – and found the secret Source to keep giving. If you drink from the same Well, you will, too.
Following God, truly following Him, is a battle. But it’s the right battle, a good battle. God didn’t call you to run a sprint. He called you to run a marathon. Keep your heart, mind, strength and soul on Him and your pace will be preserved. He would not call you to pour out what He would not supply. You have your supply in Jesus.
Jesus does, and so should you. In life, it’s vital to keep the main thing the main thing. The whole point of identifying with Christ as a “Christian,” is to become like him in character. If we miss this point, we miss the whole point. A person who says they are a Christian, but who doesn’t have a commitment to Christ-like character, is like a couch potato identifying as an Olympic athlete.
If Lady Gaga is a “Christian woman,” then I am an eighteen-year-old, Native American female astrophysicist.
Last week, while dressed like a prostitute in the middle of a concert, Lady Gaga stopped mid-song, extended her middle finger, and shouted a four-letter word to the President and Vice President, calling VP Pence the “worst example of a Chrisitian.” The crowd roared in approval. Then, in an amazing instance of the pot calling the kettle black, Gaga identified herself as a “Christian woman.”
VIDEO: Lady Gaga stops a song to shout out a four-letter word, and then calls herself a “Christian woman.”
What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong is that the majority of people don’t understand that being a Christian means being like Jesus Christ. We want six pack abs while gorging ourselves on cheese doodles.
If Lady Gaga is a “Christian woman,” then I am an eighteen year old, native American female astrophysicist. Does saying so make it so? Hardly.
In today’s politically correct, self-identifying world, it’s easy to self-identify as anything we like — but is that enough when it comes to being a real Christian? Watch it yourself, here. Her claim to be a “Christian woman” is about the 1:05 mark:
Yup, I get it. You may say “nobody is perfect,” and you’re right. Yes, there are conservative Christians who haven’t represented Jesus well. But there are liberal Christians just as guilty. Hypocrisy is hip these days — but that doesn’t make it right.
Using someone else’s failures as an excuse for our own does nothing to shape Christ-like character in us. Poor conduct from others is no excuse to continue as we have been, or for ignoring blatantly bad behavior from hypocrites. We’ve each got to call out bad behavior, starting with ourselves.
It’s one thing to behave badly. But real Christians, when they recognize their bad behavior, apologize, repent, and get back on their horses. If that’s not happening, something is wrong at the most basic level.
A genuine Christ follower has a growing concern for personal purity and Christ-like character. He or she has to exhibit, at some point and in a growing manner, a genuine, obvious commitment to being perfected — to becoming more like Jesus Christ in character. If that’s missing, genuine faith is, too.
You’ve heard them, I’ve heard them, and you may have even said them. They’re popular pithy phrases people toss out these days, and if you’re not careful you’ll believe what you hear (and perhaps even promote). The only problem is that the phrases are entirely false, and here they are, in all their splendor:
“Jesus didn’t judge.”
In today’s “I can believe anything I want and still be anything I want to be” world, the above statements seem credible — until we go to the book where we get our concept of the historical Jesus in the first place. There, we find that not only did Jesus judge, and not only is he going to one Day judge again, but that anyone who claims to follow him must do the same. Don’t take my word for it. Take it from the Good Book yourself:
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2, NIV).
Did you notice that Jesus will be judging — and that real Christ followers must do the same? See the words “correct” and “rebuke”? Do we understand what they actually mean? In order to correct, something must be out of whack. In order to rebuke, someone must be off base. These words describe judging people.
Yes, my friend, Christians must judge people. Have the humility and the courage to confront your own sin, and use the same when confronting the sins of others.
Jesus judged people his first time around (remember the cross?) And, Jesus will judge again. There is no escaping it.
2 Timothy 2:3 gives the reason we should judge, especially in today’s politically correct, upside-down, wrong is right world:
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3).
America has become the land of the free and the home of the brave, to our detriment. We want freedom without restraint, and are brave to our own embarrassment. We are a nation where itching ear syndrome has spread far and wide. Plug your ears and stand your ground, or you will be infected . . .
Jesus judged. If you claim to follow him, you must judge, too. If you reject this, and buy into the “don’t judge. Jesus didn’t judge” nonsense, you don’t have the most basic concept of what it means to really identify with Jesus Christ.
It’s time to stand up, speak out, and be courageous. Judge, because the time has come and itch ears abound. Start with yourself, and it will go a long way in helping you judge with love and compassion, not just the expression of truth.
If you’re not careful, you could go through life thinking your circumstances determine your impact and legacy. In reality, you have the ability to shape not only the circumstances of your life but also those of many, many other people — no matter what your circumstances. Life isn’t about the hand we’re dealt, but about how we play each hand. Your decisions, not your circumstances, matter most.
MLK, Jr. changed the world from a remarkably tiny office. He did it without a fax machine, a computer, a smart phone, or a social media account. How, and what lesson is there for us, today?
One of my life’s most transformative moments was our 2016 family visit to Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. co-pastored with his father from 1960 until his 1968 assassination. Amazingly, the pulpit, chair, and platform from which he preached are still used in the sanctuary. Yards away, the body of the small giant lay (he stood only 5’7″ tall) along with that of his wife, Corretta Scott King. That my wife and sons (then eleven and nine years of age) were with us, made it especially significant. My prayer is that the trip forever inspires them to be leaders in the thick of the leadership vacuum gripping our nation.
Life isn’t about the hand we’re dealt, but about how we play each hand.
King didn’t let the size of his office determine the breadth of his influence. Neither should you let your influence be determined by your circumstances. Far too often, we get it backwards. What if King let the size of his office dictate the scope of his impact?
Your family needs you. So does your neighborhood, your church, and your nation. Don’t let your circumstances dictate the size of your impact. Commit yourself to be an agent of positive change. You’ll end up influencing your circumstances, and the people around you, rather than your circumstances limiting you.
Be thankful! We hear it all the time. Here’s a powerful suggestion that will show you how to develop an attitude of gratitude that will change your life!
People have asked me if I’ve ever heard God’s voice. The answer is “Yes, I have.” Inevitably, they want to know what it sounds like. “Does he sound like a man?” they wonder. “Is his voice deep?” they probe. “No,” I say, “God sounds remarkably like my wife.” It’s true. He often speaks to me through Janet. I know for certain, because almost every time I have ignored or belittled her advice there were negative consequences. Maybe you can identify. And if you can’t, maybe it’s time you did.
Last week Janet was across the country visiting family. Temporarily abandoned, I had to fend for myself – and be reminded of how lost I am not only without Jesus, but also without the helpmate he provided for me through my wife. The boys and I had a great time, but not nearly as great as it would have been if Janet were with us.
Character, not gifting, is the one thing we have a huge say in – and godly character is often lacking in difficult people.
During one of our phone conversations she again assumed the voice of God, saying “I think I know why the country is in the condition it’s in. It’s because of the Church. Church leaders have failed to lead, and that’s why our country is in the condition it’s in.” Lord, I couldn’t agree more. We need to make some fundamental changes in how we’re leading so that everyone will benefit – for the best.
The main problem with many church leaders today is that we aren’t leading. The leadership void in our churches will be filled one way or another – it’s just a matter of time and people. Someone is going to lead your church, and their leadership will have holy or hellish consequences. There is no in-between. Who is leading your church, and is their leadership allowing the Holy Spirit to move with as little resistance as possible? If not, it’s time for a serious check-up – not only of your lead leader, but also of everyone in a leadership position.
The lead leader in your church will not be as effective as he will be if supporting leaders don’t pull their weight. Elders, deacons, and department leaders must all be leading effectively in support of one another toward a common goal – with zero tolerance for bad behavior and secondary agendas. Yes, we must be gracious, but people in leadership positions (staff or volunteer) need to be firing on all eight cylinders. Once someone is in a leadership position, basic conduct, leadership and interpersonal relationship skills need to already be in place. A leadership position is not the place to learn the basics.
Once you see this consistent phenomenon, look at how successful leaders – the ones who kept moving forward – dealt with difficult people.
If one of your leaders is under attack, the rest of your leaders are faced with a decision. Do you sit back and watch, or stand up and defend? If you do nothing, you’ve forgotten an age-old tactic of our adversary: isolate, divide, and conquer. When a difficult person in your church punches a fellow leader in the nose, it’s not always biblical advice to turn the other cheek. It sounds so spiritual to do so – and you can even find a chapter and verse to support the turning. But the Bible interprets itself, and each verse must be put into context with others.
If a church leader is struck by an adversary, sometimes the worst thing other leaders can do is turn the other cheek. Why? Because people who are willing to strike a shepherd are also willing to devour the sheep. The first responsibility of church leaders is not to feed the sheep, but to protect them. If the leaders don’t protect the sheep, they won’t be left with a flock to feed.
I love creampuffs, but as a dessert, not a leadership style. Today, many folks think the job of pastors, elders and deacons is to appease people and simply oversee a democracy of people so that everyone can simply get along and maintain a smile on their face. But the truth is that smiles on faces don’t necessarily reflect the happiness of God. 2 Timothy 2:4 (NIV) says “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” A biblical leader always wants to please God. When he or she does, that leader pleases the people he or she needs to please. The opinions of other people don’t matter. Get over it so you can get on with it — and help your fellow leaders follow your example.
When church leaders fail to lead, the flock will flounder, things will get distasteful, and darkness will overcome the light.
The larger a church, the less her people have in common. The larger a church, the more competing ideas there are about how it should be run, what real ministry is, and about what it means to be a church that is truly led by the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day, the sheep are not called to graze without shepherds who provide direction, protection and influence. If church leadership does not understand and revisit this truth, it will only be a matter of time before the sheep try to lead themselves without direction and protection from leaders. That’s when hell breaks out. Literally.
God calls leaders to be salt and light (Matthew 5). Think about that symbolism used by the Master Teacher to describe the impact we should have. Salt preserves – but it does far more. It also changes the flavor of whatever it touches. It’s not a passive ingredient that remains unnoticed. Salt changes what it touches. The same is true for light. It overcomes darkness – even in the smallest amount. Strike a single match in a pitch-black room and the room is no longer pitch-black.
When church leaders fail to lead, when the fail to act as salt and light, the flock will flounder, things will get distasteful, and darkness will overcome the light.
I have a challenge for you that may change the way you lead. Go through the Bible and look at the leaders God consistently used to advance his agenda. You’ll not only recognize that God used them, but also how people opposed them. Once you see this consistent phenomenon, look at how successful leaders – the ones who kept moving forward – dealt with difficult people.
Now, don’t wimp out and think it’s up to God to deal with unruly people, because that’s a cop-out. Nearly every time God dealt with difficult people, the instrument he used was, you guessed it, human. Leaders are God’s instrument to deal with difficult people. Until you are willing to deal with difficult people in your church, the difficult people will deal with you. They will wreak havoc on more than your leadership team. By the time they affect your leadership team, they will have most likely caused at least one major relational train wreck among the people in your flock.
But people don’t blaspheme in church, right? Think again. It happens all the time. It’s just that a great majority of church leaders today are so used to it happening that we no longer take it seriously.
When you read the Bible, you will quickly see that God is not afraid to confront difficult people whose attitudes and behaviors are a threat to his agenda. Church leaders, like their Chief Shepherd, must be courageous. Think about Moses and the rebellion by Korah and his followers. Think about Ananias and Sapphira, or about Hymenaeus and Alexander, two men referenced by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the young leader he was training, Timothy:
“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:18-20, NIV)
In the first century, a church was seen as an umbrella of God’s protective covering. We need to resurrect that understanding, today. To be handed over to Satan was to be out from underneath God’s shelter – and everyone would know it. Exposure to satanic elements would serve to bring Hymenaeus and Alexander to their senses, teaching them to no longer do what they had been doing while within the church: blaspheme.
But people don’t blaspheme in church, right? Think again. It happens all the time. It’s just that a great majority of church leaders today are so used to it happening that we no longer take it seriously. But we must. Paul’s statement was public, specifically identifying the people without concern for a lawsuit, protection of his own reputation, or the reputation of Timothy. Would there be backlash? Most likely. Anyone who is unafraid of God has no fear of people. If someone is willing to blaspheme God, they will have little problem doing even worse toward people.
If you’re a leader, stop whining about the difficult people in your flock. Deal with them — directly.
Paul’s words to Timothy are just one example of multiple examples of people who are forever canonized in Scripture as trouble-making flies in God’s ointment, like Alexander the Coppersmith and Diotrephes. They are people who church leaders were not afraid to mention by name – because everyone in the community was privy to their sinful conduct. One of the forgotten principles in the Bible that we need to resurrect is that we church leaders must deal with difficult people.
The arena of the sin determines the arena of the rebuke. The more public sinful conduct is, the more familiar the people are with the difficult people and consequences of their conduct, the more public leaders must be in addressing the people and their sin.
Why would we think things would – or should – be any different today? Like yesteryear, a church will not only be filled with people who want God’s best. It will also be filled with hurting, selfish, manipulative, unteachable people who are not at all led by the Holy Spirit. Yes, many of these people will be incredibly gifted individuals – but spiritual gifts are determined by God, not us. Character, not gifting, is the one thing we have a huge say in – and godly character is often lacking in difficult people. Difficult people typically overlook the importance of developing Christ-like character.
The first responsibility of a leader is to assess reality. Ministry is hard even when it’s good. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be by allowing difficult people to take you off point.
Outwardly, trouble-makers may be handsome or beautiful. Others may have impressive resumes they bring from the business world or prior “ministry” experience. But underneath it all their pesky problems persist. They have a history of broken relationships, an inability to resolve conflict in healthy ways, have a hard time following anyone but themselves, and have difficulty both forgiving and asking for forgiveness with genuine remorse. For them, repentance is a foreign concept. But repentance is a primary characteristic of the man or woman after God’s heart. Church leaders, are you paying attention? Do you want unrepentant, difficult people to influence the rest of your flock? Do you want that kind of ungodly behavior replicated?
Eventually, difficult people will cause hardship for others. Where surrender is lacking, hardship will abound. Any life that compromises on the calling to glorify God will cause problems for those who have taken the calling to heart and made God’s glory their number one pursuit.
If you’re a leader, stop whining about the difficult people in your flock. Deal with them — directly. If you don’t, those people will continue to present you with problem after problem – because in most instances they don’t care about God’s agenda. When all the dust settles, that’s the bottom line. Difficult people care only about themselves. They are not truly, passionately, concerned about God’s glory; they are concerned and consumed about their own. A key calling of every leader is to make sure that no one in your flock gets the rest of the people off track in this fundamental endeavor. Everything is about the glory of God, and whether or not you are willing to do deal with the people who aren’t passionate about the same.
The first responsibility of a leader is to assess reality. Ministry is hard even when it’s good. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be by allowing difficult people to hijack God’s glory and take you off point. Deal with the difficult people or the difficult people will deal with you. God’s glory, your effectiveness as a leader, the effectiveness of your leadership team, and the health of your entire flock, depend upon it.
Now, get busy and lead. Your title or position doesn’t mean a thing if you aren’t really leading.
THINK. PRAY. ACT: LORD GOD, help me to not confuse being in a leadership position with actual leadership. Help me to lead with courage, and to not take my calling lightly. Help me to depend on you, but to be responsible and do what you called me to do as a leader. Help me to be concerned about your opinion far above the opinion of any mere mortal.