Friday, April 29, 2011

Psalm 23, Verse 1

Psalm 23:1  A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Who better than David to write about shepherds?  That's how he started working for his family.  And he doesn't start by saying "my dad is my shepherd" or "the king of Israel is my shepherd".  He says the Lord is his shepherd.  We can love, respect and trust almost anyone.  But no one can lead and guide us safely, in the same way that God can.

There have been negative connotations to religious movements that do what is called "shepherding".  A movement in the '70s and '80s took on that connotation.  The originators felt there was a lack of personal accountability.  The extreme of their efforts was that some church leaders required accountability directly and only to themselves.  From listening only to what people thought God was telling them, to listening only to what a particular leader said.  From one extreme to another.  None of it truly balanced by the Word. And that's not what David was describing.  We know that, with a few exceptions, David had a close personal relationship with God. And that relationship included following those in leadership over you. Not to the exclusion of personally hearing from God, not to the extent of a leader's personal interpretation of the Word when it opposed proper interpretation.

And what of the sheep?  Well, sheep are not very bright.  They tend to follow the crowd, even if the crowd is headed toward cliff's edge. That's why the shepherd, sheepdogs and hirelings are there -- to guide the sheep in the right direction.  Even though sheep would go in one direction together, that isn't necessarily the best direction for them.  So, guidance is essential.  

And that's why Jesus says in Luke 15:4, "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?". Because individual sheep sometimes get separated from the flock -- with no flock, no sheepdog or no shepherd to guide them.  A good shepherd will always go find the lost sheep.  He knows that the hirelings, sheepdogs and the flock itself will keep the rest of the sheep together, going in the right direction.  But the sheep that got separated from the rest is prey to all the problems of becoming trapped in the wrong place or becoming prey. The shepherd knows this and goes to protect him and bring him back to the flock.  Have you sometimes wondered why your pastor sometimes preaches on subjects that don't seem to be a problem in the congregation?  He could be getting the flock closer together before there's a straying problem or he may be going after that lost sheep.

The end result is, as Matthew 6:33 tells us, "all these things shall be added unto you."  "I shall not want."  I will be spiritually fed and protected from the elements and the predators.  Having worked as a shepherd, David knew how to be a shepherd and how to follow a shepherd.  Follow a man who follows God, but never just follow a man.  And definitely follow God.  Then you can lead others, because we all influence someone, if only briefly.  And we always want to give God's influence, not our own.  And we shall not want.

Be guided by God, guide others to Him.  And don't forget to pray for Libby.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some REALLY Random Thoughts

If you liked Part 3 of our "Fear Not" series, take a look at Pastor Pete Wilson's "Stuck in Saturday", here: http://bit.ly/fmsxhA. It highlights the modern day equivalent of being between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, that point of spiritual uncertainty.  Definitely worth reading.

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Now that Easter is over, I have a couple of last thoughts.

It struck me, this Easter season, how really led of God Joseph of Arimathaea must really have been.  In most cases, those who were crucified either had families who had burial plots or those put to death had no one who really care if they ended up in a mass body dump.  And here was Jesus, on the Cross till late afternoon, no burial plot.  The sabbath started at sundown and, by law, if a person wasn't buried before the sabbath, the burial had to wait till after the sabbath. Which would have left Jesus' body at the mercy of scavenging animals, possibly.creating bodily damage that might have prevented Christ from fulfilling some of prophecy.  But Joseph of Arimathaea came forward and offered his burial tomb.  I can't help but wonder at the spirituality that led to the timing!

One of the things I've never quite understood is what I'll call "the battle for Easter".  There are parts of Christianity whose main Easter season focus is the three hours on the Cross, almost to the point of downplaying the importance of the Resurrection.  And there are others who so emphasize the Resurrection that it almost makes the Crucifixion seem unimportant.  In truth, none of us can deny that without the Resurrection, nothing else would have the spiritual impact that it does.  But let me ask you a question. If, instead of the Cross, Jesus died say from a brick falling off a house and hitting His head, would the Resurrection be taken as seriously as it is?  Or would it become no more than a spiritual magic trick?  We have to remember that, in God's economy, nothing (and no one) is wasted or unimportant.  The Crucifixion adds meaning to the Resurrection and the Resurrection validates the Crucifixion.  One without the other would mean much less.

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And now for a couple of gems from Twitter.

Andrea Lucado highlighted "How Much Does Our Faith Depend on Our Pastor's?" at:  .  It's a great discussion of whether we believe what we do because we came to our own conclusions or we were influenced in some degree by the teaching we got from the pulpit.  It's a great read and the comments to the article are really interesting.

One of my favorite feeds is @desiringgod, which I believe comes from John Piper's ministry.  One of my favorite tweets today quoted J. D. Greear:, “Love for God is genuine only when God is a means to nothing else but God.” (Breaking the Islam Code, 97).

Until the next time, love God, love people, in that order.  And don't forget to pray for Libby.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fear Not, Part 4

Mark 16:1-6  And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.  And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.  And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?  And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.  And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.  And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 

After the unhappiest sabbath the disciples ever experienced, the news that He is Risen!  It's interesting that, although women were second class citizens in Middle Eastern society, the angel didn't tell the women to go get the men so he could make an announcement.  He told them the news for them to tell the men.  Even more interesting is that the one name that is mentioned in all four Gospel accounts is Mary Magdalene.  Not only was she considered lower because she was a woman, but even lower than a normal woman because she had been a prostitute.  It was as if all the Gospel writers wanted us to recognize that both God and the angel considered her worthy enough to receive and pass along the news of the Resurrection!  What an amazing picture of the grace of God!  No matter where you start in life, if you accept Christ's salvation, you gain equal standing with the other believers, you gain God's love, protection, grace and mercy!  Wow! That's truly a special thought.  Resurrection life lifts up not only the Savior, but the saved, as well.  Fear Not!

I had some other thoughts about the Easter season.  And this is shorter than most of my posts.  But I think this is  good to meditate further on, without distraction from other thoughts.  So, we'll leave the rest for another day.  But have a blessed Easter.  And don't forget to pray for Libby.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fear Not, Part 3

In the preceding section, I didn't include several other possible points of trial for Jesus.  

As much as we focus on the person of Christ through the events leading up to and including the Crucifixion, there was a lifetime of mental anguish.  We see times throughout Jesus' life, even including His childhood preaching in the temple and recognized for the spiritual content, where He is thought of as being no more than just a carpenter's son.  Both Judas' and Peter's actions were predicted by Scripture or Jesus Himself.  But I can't imagine the mental pain and anguish of Jesus' Godhood's awareness of each event as it occurred. And, even more, Jesus' anguish through His life, being aware of all the rejections that were eternally separating some of His creation from Him completely and finally, to a place originally intended only for Satan and the fallen angels.  I left those thoughts out of yesterday's post to keep it from becoming overly long.  And, even though I want us to consider those thoughts, I keep them brief today because that's not the real focus of today's meditation.

So, here we are, past "Good Friday", but not yet having reached "Easter Sunday".  Just like Jesus' original apostles and disciples.  Have you ever noticed that there's nothing said in any of the Gospels about that period between Jesus' burial and when the women went to the grave to find the stone rolled away?  It doesn't say whether His followers scattered or gathered together, whether they ate or fasted, whether they prayed or just cowered in fear.  Some of each was probably true.  But we can picture it being a time of confusion and fear.  Before this, they had Jesus to guide them.  Now?  What seemed like nothing.  People still against them.  Satan, thinking he had won, deciding to get even with them in every way he could.  

The apostles and disciples?  With no "reality" of the Christ to hold onto, probably questioning some, battling the doubts and fears with whatever human resources they could muster along with the spiritual resources that God had given them.  And we know that God will only put us through things that He has given us the spiritual resources to successfully overcome.  But I wonder what their capacity was to use those resources.  We certainly have a greater amount of spiritual information about what occurred in Biblical times, who Christ was.  In that sense, even though the disciples had seen miracles, heard Jesus' teaching, this was a time when they were required to exercise faith in ways and to a degree that we don't have to.  And it brings to mind all those people we meet who have a "measure of faith", but just don't quite seem to "get it".  Who somehow make it through each day but seemingly nothing more.  The ones who mostly get to see Jesus through us.  And, if Jesus is truly what we give them - not just giving ourselves - we get the blessing of seeing amazing spiritual growth because the reality of the Savior is what will take us all to new heights.

A new day is dawning, more tomorrow.  And don't forget to pray for Libby.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fear Not, Part 2

1 Corinthians 10:13  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 

That verse was written to the Corinthians.  About their own foibles. But it really brought to my mind why "fear not" is the real battle cry of a true Christian.  Because our best example IS our example.  It's common Christian teaching that, in order for the Messiah to fulfill His function of substituting for mankind, He must faultlessly go through all the things that we do, though we are far from faultless.  In fact because we are not faultless.  And, as our substitute, He must go through all that as a man.  And that got me meditating not just on the things that Jesus endured, but the possible ramifications of those circumstances.

First, there's Jesus' time of temptation by the devil in Matthew 4:1-10 -- 40 days of fasting, followed by tests of survival based on going against the plan of God, pride in self exaltation, and greed based on again going against God.  And we know from Scripture that Jesus passed these tests with flying colors.  But the real success was not that He got through them, nor that He used the Word as His weapon to win those battles (although that's important), but that those things are true while He was dealing with them as a man!  In order for those tests to mean anything, Jesus had to limit Himself to only using the qualities found in us to deal with them!

Have you ever considered Jesus life while He was growing up?  The times that weren't recorded in the Bible.  We know about Jesus teaching in the temple as a young lad.  When everyone was amazed at His wisdom.  But I suspect there were more times away from the temple when He shared His wisdom.  And I can picture some well meaning individuals suggesting to Jesus that He was a dreamer and would be better off just working at becoming a good carpenter and making His "father" Joseph proud.

And, throughout His public ministry, there was the experience of the taunting and ridicule that He and His followers went through.  And, since it was preordained that God would not interfere with Man's free will, they had to endure.  What's more, Jesus had to endure the sad knowledge that those taunts were signs that the taunters were choosing a path strait to Hell.  How much sadness and anguish that must have brought Him!

Then there were Jesus' last days.  He endured all of Satan's kingdom coming against Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, trying to keep Him from fulfilling prophecy. There was the anguish of the false accusations and mock trials.  There was the extensive scourging. There was the trek to Golgotha, carrying the Cross.  And, finally, there was the Crucifixion, with Christ's total separation from the Father for that period when He substituted for everything that had separated us from the Father.  And He still asked the Father to forgive.  And all endured as a man!  Because only God had the capability to redeem mankind, but only another man could fulfill the redemption.

After all that...came Resurrection.  In full Godly capability, the full return to life.  Not just spiritually, but physically, as well.  Because, without the Resurrection, nothing else really matters.  He is Risen!

Have a blessed Easter.  More tomorrow.  And please...remember to pray for Libby!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fear Not, Part 1

Acts 18:9  Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:

"Be not afraid" or "Fear not."  The concept of not needing to be afraid runs throughout the entire Bible.  And it's one of God's main points to us as believers.  Look at the verse above.  That's one of the times when Paul encountered the Lord in person.  Here was one of the most feared killers of Christians, suddenly he had been humbled, suddenly he had his spiritual eyes opened.  Now, he was traveling as a missionary for Christ.  Perhaps there were less spiritual Christians who weren't sure of Paul's conversion and maybe were willing to kill him for self preservation.  There were definitely Jews willing to take Paul's place as a Christian killer, only now Paul was a potential target. Yes, Paul had some protection because of his lineage in the Jewish community and because he was a Roman citizen.  But I think Paul realized that, if there was someone as zealous as he had been, those things might not be much protection.

On top of everything going on around him, Paul had to go from the despair of knowing how spiritually weak and inadequate he was, describing himself as, "O wretched man that I am!" in Romans 7:24a to saying: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." in Romans 8:28-29.  And it took a vision of Christ to help him move along the right path.  And then, there's us.

Jon Acuff was asked how to be funny.  He said, “The secret to being funny is the willingness to be unfunny a whole lot.”  And he continued, "You simply have to have the courage to say 100 unfunny things before you stumble on 1 funny one."  As Jon pointed out in the rest of that discussion, that applies to anything.  In most cases, we can live our Christian faith without fear of torture or death.  Yet, how often we may be less than completely open about our faith and convictions.  Uncomfortable with what others might think of us, afraid of some level of ridicule.  Perhaps afraid of what some stranger will think of us, as we share the Gospel.  But, when that one individual recognizes and accepts Truth, just like Jon Acuff's "100 unfunny things", the multitude of rejections are meaningless in the light of the joy of one salvation. "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:".

More next time.  Don't forget the Easter play (details in the previous post).  Pray for salvations.  And don't forget to pray for Libby.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Because He Lives....

Is the title of a well known Christian song.  And part of the title of a great Easter play, "Because He Lives, a Centurion's Tale".  Greater Grace World Outreach church has a reputation for great Easter plays, both for edifying the Body of Christ and as an evangelical outreach.  Performances are Monday 4/18/11 through Friday 4/22/11 at 7:30pm, except Wednesday (for the regular midweek service).  And Saturday 4/23/11 at 6pm.  If you're in the Baltimore area, the address is Greater Grace World Outreach Church, 6025 Moravia Park Drive, Baltimore, MD 21206.  And, because of the popularity of the play, I'd suggest coming early.  And if you know someone who needs to know the Lord, bring them.  It's free and all are welcome.  If you can't attend,  I believe the Friday and Saturday performances will be streamed over the web at http://www.ggwo.org.

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Recently, I tweeted, "If you give God rights to your schedule, He may use it, He may change it, but He'll never waste it or abuse it."  I truly believe that a real walk with God requires giving Him complete control of your schedule, especially in ministry.  And, as the saying goes, "There's an app for that."  It's called PocketInformant and integrates a number of different calendar views with access to your contact list.  So, you have the ability to schedule appointments and include people from your contact list in the appointment notation.  And you can schedule tasks.  I include regularly recurring events like meetings and church services in my calendar so that, if I'm scheduling a time to meet with someone, they can see I have those regular event times unavailable.  PocketInformant is available for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry.  When I first discovered it, there was a Windows Mobile version, as well.  As always, there is some variation between platforms, but each that I've tried has given me a better handle on my schedule than the native phone app.  It's certainly made my life much easier to direct the way God would have it ordered.

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Update: The doctors are apparently still unclear on the cause of Libby Spradlin's health issues.  You can read her mom's latest post on how things are going at http://bit.ly/fZ34Kg.  My original post is in my March 21 entry and includes a link to the original post that brought Libby to my attention.  So, please continue to keep Libby and her family in your prayers.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

All things....

Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 

The above verse wasn't originally going to be the topic of today's post. But it's what my Pastor preached on, this morning.  And the verse has come up multiple times in my own counsel for several people I've been talking to over the last two weeks.  The verse is a dichotomy.  It's the easiest and yet the toughest to live in.  It's easy because, if you believe the verse, any of your circumstances become easy -- you don't have to deal with them, God does.  The verse is the toughest because you can't just say you trust God.  You really have to trust Him.  Or the verse will give you no peace and comfort at all.

Romans 8:31b follows up with, "If God is for us, who can be against us?".  It all comes down to what or how much we believe.  Do we believe that martyrs for the faith like Richard Wurmbrand went through torture and prison because there was something wrong with their walk with God or with their faith in God?  That we get in car accidents or some level of poverty because of sin in our lives?  Or do we believe that God is omniscient, omnipotent, all loving, orchestrating circumstances to benefit us, or others, or both? Because how well that verse helps you really depends on how much you believe it.  And, maybe, whether you've experienced it.  

If we really do believe that "all things work together for good....", then we automatically have the peace of mind to rest in whatever circumstances come our way.  And we understand that the statement "If God is for us, who can be against us?" has a different meaning in the spiritual warfare going on around us -- not that we won't be a target, not that we can't be wounded or spiritually injured, but that we can't be spiritually killed, that our spiritual wounds will heal in such a way that we will succeed in all circumstances.  Better after the results of the battle than we were before the battle.  So, just believe and rejoice.

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And, today, I wanted to share another techie tool and blessing.  One of my greatest ministry tools is Twitter.  And my use of it has evolved over the time I've been using Twitter.  My intent was always to edify and share thoughts on the Word.  And to follow the thinking and people that interested me.  I started with one account that combined a bunch of stuff I was following.  Then I added Mashable.

Mashable is probably one of the very best techie catchall sources. And a profuse tweeter.  It became obvious that it overwhelmed everything else.  Much like the strains of a gentle acoustic guitar get lost when surrounded by a stellar rock band playing at concert volume via concert speakers.  Which brought my second account into existence.  I moved my tech related stuff and Mashable to that account.  And, in the meantime, started adding more spiritual sources to my primary account.  All the while, I was tweeting scripture and thoughts about God's Word on my primary account.  I soon realized that I had followers to both accounts and each group was different.  And the tech followers I had weren't likely to get tweets that built them up to sail through lifes little quirks.  So, I started tweeting the same material on both accounts, via copy and paste.

Somewhere along the line, my life and Twittering became more mobile.  And all of this got moved to my phone.  And I added some local police and news sources to read.  Those and Mashable forced a third account.  And Mashable got moved to being read via an RSS feed in another app.  My primary Twitter account allows me to follow quite a few spiritual sources, post my own thoughts and retweet some great quotes from others.  My second account has all my techie reading and allows me to retweet my primary account posts to the techie community.  My third account has my safety, news and entertainment feeds, plus allowing me to retweet my spiritual posts to those groups.

Remember: Love God, love people, in that order, and don't forget to pray for Libby.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Which Are You?

2 Timothy 1:7  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 

Great words with a lot behind them  And brought to mind by a link tweeted by a friend of mine.  The link was to an article titled "Consumers or Creators: Being of the World or Being God's People", by S. Michael Craven.  You can read the whole article here: http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/michael-craven/consumers-or-creators-being-of-the-world-or-being-gods-people.html. Mr Craven made some interesting comparisons.  It basically came down to the "consumer" needing his experiences and self worth validated by external approval, whereas the "creator" draws his validation from within.  Status symbols vs.real need.  Superficial relationships vs. true friendships.  But the point that really spoke to me was that, as Christians, we're called to be "creators" because we are called to bring "shalom" or peace into the world. Craven cites a number of Old Testament verses where the Hebrew word "shalom" is translated as something different than the English word "peace"...because that peace comes from God prospering the believer.

When Mr. Craven talks about the "consumer", he mentions the superficiality.  But it strikes me that what he's describing is immaturity.  An individual who hasn't developed beyond that adolescent "spirit of fear" that goads him to conform because conformity to his peers' norm gives him validation.  Yes, there are boundaries for everything.  But boundaries ought to be for protection, not validation.

The "creator" is an interesting contrast.  Because he's gone beyond the fear and understands who he is.  That gives him the spiritual "power" to contend with whatever his physical situation is.  Which may be great or little prosperity in terms of wealth, but he deals with either extreme (or something in between) with equal finesse. He has received that love from God and is able to share it with others.  And that "sound mind"?  Philippians 4:7   tells us, "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. "  Inner wisdom and strength from a Godly perspective banishes that "spirit of fear". And, yes, Mr. Craven mentions my favorite verse, Matthew 6:33. Because understanding God's view of any situation takes out the fear and gives us a solid inner direction.

Now, to keep things in proper perspective. each of us probably has aspects of both.  But, by hearing from God, through His Word, we can move from the "consumer" end of the spectrum toward the "creator" end.  And the "creator" can be blessed by the Creator.

Have a blessed day.  And don't forget to pray for Libby.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On the Other Hand....

As much as Derek Sivers makes some good points about following and, in particular the "first follower", I think he's missed an important part of the equation.  Mark 4:24 tells us to be careful what we hear and Luke 8:18 tells us to be careful of how we hear.  What the vision is, how we see it and who it comes from are as important as who heeds it. So, without the right leader and the right vision, following is inconsequential.  The Romans considered Jesus and his followers to be a wacko cult.  The Jews agreed, but considered Him sacrilegious as well.  But the fact is, only He could fulfill more than 60 of the Old Testament prophecies for the Messiah.  Certainly stellar credentials to be a leader.  And His vision? That we love God and love people.  In that order.  And, the more of us did that, the more our present life would improve.  Possibly in physical ways, definitely emotionally and spiritually.  And the right life changes would lead to eternal life changes.  A true leader with a Godly vision that produces eternal results.  Not a leader and vision made by followers.  But followers blessed by  the vision of the Son of God.

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I've been pretty open about the fact that I'm a techie.  The Word of God guides my life, technology helps keep it in order.  Where the two meet can be really interesting.  So, periodically, we're going to share some of the things that we like and think might benefit your walk, as well.

Since we mentioned the Word of God, I'd like to focus on a couple of my favorite smartphone Bible apps.  These make having the Word handy a really easy thing.  And, even if I carry nothing else with me, my phone is always there.  I have had Palm PDAs, along with smartphones running several versions of Windows Mobile and Android.  And I now carry a Blackberry Torch.  

Just like there are great utilities and great productivity apps for those, one of the things I'm beginning to appreciate is that some things just need to have cross-platform compatibility.  So, while there are Bible apps that are limited to one phone platform or another or are much more complete on one platform, but not even close on another, I believe that a purchased Bible library ought to to be usable on your next phone, whether it's the same smartphone platform or not.  So we're going to look at two apps that meet that criteria.

The first is BibleReader from Olivetree Bible Software.  I first discovered this app when I had a Palm T5 PDA.  And I've since used it on subsequent smartphones.  The BibleReader and some of the resources are free.  Others require license payments.  The app functions much the same on all smartphones, with some variations that are platform dependent.  And your purchased study library can transfer from one smartphone to another, even if each runs on a different OS.  The program is very easy to use, with an extensive library of study tools, devotionals and literature available.  It allows you to have all you need to study the Word with just your phone, a pen and paper.  The one shortcoming I've found is that I can't navigate around the Bible quickly enough in service to make it usable there, but that may just be me.  It is the most complete and easy to use cross-platform phone app I've found for study and devotionals. You can check out the possibilities for yourself at http://olivetree.com.

The second Bible app is YouVersion.  I discovered this one when I bought my Blackberry, so I can't vouch for the similarities across various platforms.  But, since it is strictly a Bible reading app, it's likely there aren't many variations between platforms.  And there a large number of translations in a variety of languages.  Some are downloadable onto your phone, others require continuing data access.  And, even accessing books online, it's quick enough to use in service or Bible study with lots of verse lookup.  And, best of all, it's completely free.  Go to http://www.youversion.com/mobile for more info.  To install the appropriate app version for your phone, point your phone's browser at http://youversion.com/download.  If there's no usable app for your particular phone, there is a mobile web version at http://m.youversion.com and a pc web-based version at http://www.youversion.com .

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Remember.  Love God, love people.  In that order.  And don't forget to pray for Libby.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Leader or Nut?

Matthew 16:24  "Then said Jesus to his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. "

It's been said that you can't be a leader if you don't have any followers. Derek Sivers had a different spin on that idea when he wrote, "The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader."  The leader must be public and easy to follow, but he doesn't become a leader till he has that first follower.  He goes on to say that, while the leader may be the flint that gets a movement fire going, that first follower is the spark.  He gives the first follower a huge amount of credit for the success of any movement, spiritual or otherwise.  Sivers suggests that it takes the first follower to help draw the rest.  He gives credence to the leader's vision, but the first follower also takes the risk of getting as much ridicule as the leader.  But you can read more here: http://sivers.org/ff.

Mr Sivers' comments got me thinking about our Christianity.  Both in what we believe and in how we evangelize. 

The New Testament tells us a lot about Jesus' birth, ministry, death and resurrection.  But most of His first thirty years on earth are a mystery.  So, we really don't know when that first follower connected with Him.  It could have been as early as that first time Jesus preached in the temple as a child, when so many were amazed at His wisdom.  It could have been preaching or a miracle that drew someone.  Or the promise of a new kind of peace entering their life. But someone was drawn to Him, shared his excitement, drawing others.  The rest is history.  But I can imagine that first follower, after some of the initial excitement wore off, starting to wonder about his own thinking.  We know there were men prior to Jesus purporting to be the Messiah.  And they and their followers might have been lucky to get out of town.  If not, they might have been stoned to death like Stephen was.  The first follower of Christ and quite a few after him had to be aware that committing to the Lord could potentially be their death sentence.  Yet, who Jesus was, how He led, how He loved, how and what He taught, and the promise of eternal life was compelling enough for them to risk death.  And so it should be for modern day evangelism.

When we evangelize, we need to be equally as compelling.  I don't know about your church and what it does.  But the one I attend will go pretty much anywhere to evangelize.  Which includes inner city gang areas and muslim territories.  And, just like the first followers of Jesus, they could be putting themselves and their families in harms way by becoming Christians.  We need to remember that when we and our message are rejected.  Or when it's accepted.  We need to be as gently compelling as Jesus when we share the Gospel -- we may be the first glimpse of God that they see.  And we need to be as loving and compassionate.  Jesus never left any of His followers flapping out in the wind for the "wiles of the devil" to draw back into their old life. In fact, He even promised the Holy Spirit would continue in His place after the Cross.  When we have a conversion to Christianity, like Jesus, we need to continue to disciple and give spiritual support, to give them the spiritual strength they need.

John Maxwell has rightly said that we all influence someone.  That area of influence is our area of leadership.  Christ's entire life was about influencing people to draw them to the Father, with no thought for Himself.  That's just the way our evangelism should be, too.  And, if we're not perfect at thinking and living that way, I suspect an omniscient God already knew that and has made contingencies for our shortcomings.  So, we can relax in being His follower.  And in being a leader of others as we draw them to Him.

Don't forget to pray for Libby.