4 Leadership Lessons To Learn From David’s Failure

2 Samuel 6 tells the story of David’s efforts to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. His first effort failed miserably. He didn’t take the time to consult God or God’s regulations for transporting the Ark. Instead of having the Ark carried by priests, he placed it on a cart pulled by oxen. In transport, one of the animals stumbled and Ark began sliding off the cart. The man who reached out his hand to steady it was immediately struck dead (no man was allowed to touch the ark).

After a time of repentance and mourning, David tried again and did it the right way. The day began with sacrifices and ended with celebration.

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Wise people learn from the mistakes of others. What can we learn from David’s mistakes? As I read this story, Here are

4 LEADERSHIP LESSONS DAVID LEARNED TOO LATE.

1) Listen to God. Check His Word for wisdom.

2) Pay attention to details. Obey in small things.

3) Think of the people you lead before you think of yourself.

4) Take responsibility and learn from failure.

Whether you are leading a major organization, a small team, a family, or just yourself; these principles will help you become a better leader.

Pastors Must Be Peacemakers

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conflict between two other people? These situations are always awkward, especially when everyone is friends, and deep relationships are at stake.

2 Samuel tells an interesting story from the life of David that provides us with three great principles to remember when you find yourself trying to help resolve conflict.

David and his followers are on the run from Jerusalem. His son, Absalom, has led a rebellion and seized control of the capital city. As they leave, they are approached by a man named Ziba who brings them many gifts of food, drinks, and animals. David knew that Ziba was the servant of Mephibosheth (a crippled descendant of Saul to whom David had shown great kindness). David asked Ziba where Mephibosheth was, and Ziba answered that his master had stayed in Jerusalem to welcome Absalom.

After the rebellion was squelched, David returned to Jerusalem and began to deal with all those who had been loyal to Absalom. Mephibosheth came to greet him, claiming that he had wanted to go with David, but Ziba had not assisted him (he couldn’t leave on his own because he was lame). Mephibosheth claimed that Ziba had seized the opportunity to overthrow his master and ingratiate himself with David.

Faced with two completely opposite stories, David makes a wise decision (the outcome of which ultimately demonstrates Mephibosheth’s loyalty).

Read the whole story in 2 Samuel 16 and 2 Samuel 19.

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Out of this story come THREE IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES to remember when you find yourself trying to negotiate conflict:

1. The first story you hear is almost never completely right.

I find this to be true so often. Someone will come to me with a story about another person, and when I talk to the other person, I hear a completely different tale. Usually, you need to talk to both parties several times, and ultimately bring them both together in order to get close to the truth. (I’m not saying the truth always lies in the middle, but it is often somewhere in-between)

The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.

2. Don’t be beholden to the one who comes “bearing gifts.”

Often those who NEED to convince you they are right will “sweeten the deal” by bearing gifts. These gifts may not be tangible but may come in the form of flattery. Not too long ago, I was in a meeting with a person who has typically not been my biggest fan. However, in this context he realized that he could benefit from my support; and surprisingly, he began to extol my many virtues in ways I’ve never heard before. While it feels good to receive gifts (and we need to avoid being overly cynical), we should also be careful of having our judgment swayed because of gifts we’ve been given. Proverbs says:

A man who flatters his neighbor
spreads a net for his feet.

3. Beware of the one who quickly slanders others.

Ziba sought to gain David’s favor by tearing down Mephibosheth. In any conflict, it is very easy to be distracted by “ad hominem” attacks rather than dealing with the actual issues. It is easier to simply say bad things about another person and call their character into question, rather than try to determine the truth behind specific events that have happened.

A few years ago, in a different church, a group of people became very irate with some of my co-workers. I spent hundreds of hours sitting down with many of them attempting to resolve the conflict. In the end, though, it was fruitless because we could never consistently identify exactly what was causing the problem. Sadly, all I ever heard was attacks against the character of other people.

Someone who tries to win an argument by slandering, likely doesn’t truly have a case to make. Proverbs says:

He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.

Hopefully, you’ll not often be in a situation like this. Hopefully, you’ll spend much of your life in the midst of healthy relationships and people who love one another. However, if you do find yourself caught between two friends…

Remember David, Ziba, and Mephibosheth.

When Tragedy Overwhelms Your City

I am a pastor in Dayton, Ohio.

This week, our community is dealing with the brokenness of our world. Every Friday I send an email out to our church. Below is what I wrote in response to the week’s events.

This is a re-run. Other than a few edits, the first half of this email is identical to one I sent you several years ago after the Las Vegas shooting. I’ve updated it and added some extra thoughts at the end.

Dear Friends,

Sunday morning, we woke up to the terrible news that a man had chosen to destroy the lives of hundreds of people and families in our city. In times like these, it is difficult to know what to say. We have questions about why God would allow this and why these people’s lives were ended without any apparent reason.

As I pondered these questions and this tragedy, I was reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 13.  Pontius Pilate, the cruel Roman leader, had ordered the deaths of many Jewish people. Their executions were carried out by Roman soldiers in the temple while they were offering sacrifices. This horrific act seemed senseless and horrific. For the Jews, it raised several of the same questions we are asking about Las Vegas.

In Luke 13, Jesus was asked about these events and in his response, he also referenced a tower that had fallen and killed 18 people. Here are Jesus’ words:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Consider the important points behind what Jesus is saying:

  • These people didn’t die because of their sin. Sometimes, in a fallen world, bad things happen.
  • Let this be a reminder to you that death comes for all of us, often unexpectedly.
  • Are you ready to die?

As we grieve for this great loss of lives and as we seek ways to reach out to those who are hurting, let us also take time to reflect on our own lives. Are we ready to meet our maker? How well have we invested the time and resources He has given us? What will I do today that will matter in eternity?

Also, let’s not forget, that in the midst of this pain and suffering we have great hope. We can still live with joy because we know that this present evil is only for a short time compared to the eternal inheritance our Father has prepared for us. We can be grateful to Him, we can have hope in the future and we can pour love and joy into the lives of those around us.

img20190805115507_1200xx4032-2268-0-378.jpgUndoubtedly, over the coming days, you will be drawn into conversations about this tragedy. During these times, remember the words of James:

James 1:19-20 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”

Conversations are good and they can be helpful, but perhaps they would be more healthy and more productive if they happened after we’ve processed the grief and sorrow and after we’ve had a chance to better understand what actually happened.

Consider these principles as guardrails for your conversations. These thoughts are all taken from Proverb 16:24 which says, “Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

  • Pause before you speak to be certain you are using the right words at the right time with the right tone.
  • The right words are always true.
  • Don’t bend, twist, or ignore the truth for convenience or to win an argument.
  • False words may provide temporarily feel good but they have no long-term benefit.
  • Some words are true but are not appropriate for every situation.
  • The truth and power of your words can be lost if your tone isn’t helpful.
  • Every word you speak carries incredible potential.
  • Your words can be weapons of mass destruction.
  • Your words can be tools of monumental construction.
  • Kind words can encourage those who are unsure of their own ability.
  • Attractive words can empower those who are under-performing.
  • Pleasant words can heal wounds from the past.
  • Angry and destructive words are withdrawals which bankrupt relationships.
  • Corrective words can be attractive if they are the right words at the right time with the right tone.
  • Use your words to encourage those around you and you’ll find yourself being more encouraged than anyone.

Have a great weekend! I’ll see you on Sunday.

Preach Through The Bible In One Year

June doesn’t seem like the right month to be thinking about preaching through the Bible in one year. However, my assumption (sadly, I’m likely wrong on this) is that most pastors plan ahead. I would hope that most have already figured out their summer preaching schedule, and many have planned their fall and even their advent preaching calendar.

If you need help putting together a preaching calendar, here are 4 Simple Steps to Create a Preaching Calendar.

Perhaps 2020 is the year you will preach through the entire Bible. You could even do some neat play on the 20/20 them by naming the series “Perspective” or “Perfect Visions” or something more clever than I can create.

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Below are three lists which can help you think about preaching the entire Bible in one year.

LIST ONE: Choose the 52 Key Chapters in the Bible

  • Genesis 2
  • Genesis 3
  • Genesis 12
  • Exodus 12
  • Exodus 20
  • 1 Samuel 16
  • 2 Samuel 2
  • Psalm 19
  • Psalm 119
  • Psalm 150
  • Proverbs 6
  • Ecclesiastes 12
  • Isaiah 52
  • 2 Chronicles 36
  • John 1
  • Matthew 1
  • Luke 2
  • Luke 4
  • Matthew 5
  • Matthew 6
  • Matthew 7
  • Mark 2
  • John 11
  • John 13
  • John 15
  • Luke 23
  • Acts 1
  • Acts 2
  • Acts 9
  • Acts 11
  • Acts 15
  • Romans 1
  • Romans 6
  • Romans 12
  • 1 Corinthians 1
  • 1 Corinthians 12
  • Galatians 5
  • Ephesians 4
  • Philippians 2
  • Colossians 1
  •  Colossians 3
  • Hebrews 8
  • Hebrews 11
  • James 1
  • James 2
  • 1 Peter 2
  • 1 John 1
  • Revelation 4
  • Revelation 12
  • Revelation 20
  • Revelation 21
  • Revelation 22

 

LIST TWO: Choose 12 Themes And Preach One Of Them Each Month

  • Beginnings / The Prologue
  • Patriarchs
  • The Law of Moses
  • Judges
  • The Monarchy
  • Captivity
  • Poets and Prophets
  • Parables of Jesus
  • People who Met with Jesus
  • Jesus’ Last Night
  • From Jerusalem to the End of the World
  • The End of the World

LIST THREE: Choose 12 Books And Preach One Of Them Each Month

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Ruth
  • Samuel
  • Kings
  • Ezra
  • Mark
  • Acts
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 1 John
  • 2 Timothy
  • Revelation

There are other options as well. Many people wiser and more experienced than myself have probably created their own lists which would be worth a look. Have you ever done this? I’d love to hear how you planned it out.

The Criticism Of Others Is A Valuable Treasure

The best “How To” guide for the ministry I have ever read is the book of Proverbs. I truly believe pastors should read Proverbs every day and find at least one “next step” every day. Our ability to lead well would be greatly enhanced by this practice.

Today is not the 25th of the month, but I am going to make an observation from Proverbs 25 anyway. Verse 12 says this:

Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.

I have only ever owned one gold ring. It is precious to me. Several years ago, I was on a youth mission trip and was playing an old African drum with my hands. Suddenly, my wedding ring flew from my finger… in two different directions. I was devastated. No earthly possession was more important to me and now it was destroyed. (read to the end for the conclusion of this story)

A gold ring (or other gold ornaments) is valuable because it is created from precious metal. The reason my ring was so important to me was because it represented my relationship with Marianne. Gold is not at the heart of this proverb. Value is the primary idea.

Solomon (the author) is telling us that we must place a HIGH VALUE on those who are willing to reprove us.

“REPROVE” = reprimand, rebuke, reproach, scold, admonish, chastise, chide, upbraid, berate, take to task, rake/haul over the coals, criticize, censure; 

If someone is willing to correct you or warn you that you are headed in a bad direction, don’t ignore them or attack them. Value that correction! We do not gain a great deal of wisdom from those who tell us we are doing everything right. We gain wisdom from those who tell us we need to change.

In Ephesians 5, Paul says to PAY ATTENTION to how you fill your life. He challenges us to walk wisely. Solomon makes it clear that a wise walk places a high value on those who challenge us to be better.

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In case you are wondering, the reason my ring broke was because I had spent so much time that summer in swimming pools (I was a youth pastor and a father of young children). The pool chemicals had exposed and then exploited a tiny weakness in the metal. I was able to get my ring repaired and today it is as good as new and as precious as it was the day Marianne put it on my finger.

David Platt, Donald Trump, and the Power of Prayer

David Platt is a well-known pastor of a mega-church in the South. That means in many other parts of the country, he is a relative unknown. This week, however, Pastor Platt got himself into some hot water because he prayed for Donald Trump in the service. Here’s a quick recap of the event (as I understand it).

Platt’s Sunday service was wrapping up. He had finished the sermon and stepped off the stage into some sort of green room. Before heading back to the stage for his traditional blessing/benediction, he was informed that the President had just arrived and desired prayer.

Apparently, Trump had finished a round of golf and asked to stop by Platt’s church.

Platt consented, went out on stage with President Trump and publicly prayed for him and with him.

Some applauded Platt. Some condemned Platt. Many shrugged their shoulders.

I am not going to tell you what you should think about this incident. Likely, my opinion wouldn’t sway yours. So let me throw a series of questions at you in case you’re willing to think through whether or not you think Platt did the right thing.

But before the rest of my questions, here is the most important one: What does the Bible say about this? It seems 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and Romans 13:1-7 are the most appropriate passage to consider. Feel free to read the two passages below and consider whether there is any direct or indirect application to this incident.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dign.png

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

And now, the rest of the questions:

  • Should pastors pray?
  • Should pastors pray in church?
  • Should pastors pray publicly in church?
  • Should pastors pray for other people?
  • Should pastors pray publicly for other people?
  • Should pastors pray publicly in church for other people?
  • Should pastors pray for other people who may not by Christians?
  • Should pastors pray publicly for other people who may not be Christians?
  • Should pastors pray publicly in church for other people who may not be Christians?
  • Should pastors pray for politicians?
  • Should pastors pray for politicians who may not be Christians?
  • Should pastors pray for politicians who do not always represent Kingdom values?
  • Should pastors pray for politicians who do not ever represent Kingdom values?
  • Should pastors pray publicly in church for politicians who do not ever represent Kingdom values?
  • Should pastors pray publicly in church for politicians who do not ever represent Kingdom values if that person is in the service?
  • What do you think?

Who Gets To Set The Pastor’s Agenda?

I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.

Have you ever had one of those days when your mind just raced from one thing to another, and you slowly drowned in the different (and likely difficult) issues consuming your life? Maybe you’ve experienced sleeplessness when your mind becomes full of the day’s cares.

What do you think Jesus would say to you if you told him about your stress and your anxiety? What would he tell you to do?

Living a life centered on Jesus means I choose to invite Him into my stress.

Especially on the days I’m overwhelmed, I must find the time and make the effort to shift my focus from my own issues and toward His agenda for my life.

Whichever “important” things have grabbed my attention, they pale in comparison to what Jesus says is important. If I can share his focus, I’ll find my life far less stressful and far more purposeful.

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Read and Contemplate 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul was addressing a church full of people who had their own agendas and were unable to get along. His solution for their dysfunction was to focus on Christ.

There are days when my life resembles that church. I feel pulled in so many different directions by that I can’t even get along with myself. I’m dysfunctional. I need to focus on Christ.

When I live by my own agenda, I reveal that I find my own wisdom sufficient to get through the day. Paul said true faith is resting in the power of God rather than the wisdom of men.

It is scary to center your life around Jesus’ agenda. It feels like the really important things might not get done. But if I pursue Christ’s agenda and rest in

God’s power, I can be certain that whatever does not get done, was not really important.

Today: Before you get too busy, ask yourself what Jesus would want you to do with your day. Center yourself on that goal, and let God take care of the rest.

An Incredibly Long Post Discussing The Nature of Spiritual Growth Through The Utilization of Several Lists

What is spiritual growth?

It is growth of the spirit.
It is growth brought by the spirit.

But what is growth?

Growth is something that can happen to an individual.

  • Samuel grew in favor with God and men (1 Samuel 2)
  • Jesus also grew in favor with God and men(Luke 2).
  • Proverbs teaches that the man who walks with the wise will grow wise (Proverbs 13).
  • Solomon claimed to have grown in wisdom more than any other man, but concluded that this growth was nothing more than a “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1).
  • Paul suggested that people can grow in their faith (2 Corinthians 10), and he suggested that this type of growth is typically accompanied by a change in activity (2 Thessalonians 1)

Growth is also something that can happen to a group, particularly the church.

  • Ephesians 4 provides detailed teaching about the church, particularly focusing on God’s plan to use certain gifted members to guide the church’s growth.
  • Colossians 2 teaches that the body’s growth comes directly from the head, Jesus Christ.
  • Ephesians 4 furthers this idea by suggesting that the goal of the church’s growth is to become more like Jesus.

The Bible seems to clearly teach that growth comes from God, not from our efforts.

  • Paul powerfully states in 1 Corinthians that it is God who brings growth, not the efforts of any man (1 Corinthians 3).
  • Jesus told many parables of growth (often the growth was kingdom growth, but occasionally individual growth). Almost always, the source of the growth was a mystery. On some occasions, Jesus even pointed out that no one knew how things grew (Mark 4).
  • During the Sermon on the Mount, in an effort to explain our need to rely on God, Jesus referenced the lilies of the field who grow even though they make no effort. His point is that God brings the growth, not our efforts (Matthew 6).
  • It would appear that God has given us the “milk” of His Word (Hebrews 5) as the primary instrument for our growth. Both Peter (1 Peter 2) and Paul (2 Corinthians 3) reference the need for spiritual milk.

When growth occurs, the Bible seems to teach that it is accompanied by a change in actions.

  • Jesus suggested in the parable of the soil that those who truly receive the Word will produce a “crop” (Matthew 13).
  • Paul implied that growth (both the expansion of the gospel around the world and people’s increasing knowledge of God) would be accompanied by “fruit” (Colossians 1).
  • Paul described the fruit of the Spirit as the result of a life lived while being submitted to the Spirit (Galatians 5).
  • The first listed fruit in Paul’s list is love, which coincides with the observation that it would appear spiritual growth will manifest itself through the depth of our love for others (2 Thessalonians 1). This idea seems to correspond well with Jesus’ teachings regarding the importance of our love for others (Mark 12; John 13).

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Given the above concepts, it seems reasonable to define growth as:

God-enabled change in individuals or groups which results in more Christ-like activity, particularly love toward others.

Measuring the above definition of spiritual growth is not difficult. One can easily create lists or goals based upon the fruit of the Spirit or rooted in current relationships, and then regularly assess progress or regression based on the completion or achievement of the lists and goals. Of course this type of measurement is still somewhat subjective, however, it is virtually impossible to imagine an objective way to measure the growth of something so ethereal as the human spirit.

Noticeably missing from this definition is any sense of change in our relationship to God. Further study will hopefully address this absence. For now, it should suffice to say, spiritual growth of any kind must also include a positive change in one’s relationship with God.

Particularly problematic is the question of how one measures a change in their relationship with God. Throughout history, people of all cultures and all religions have attempted to identify clear-cut methods for obtaining the ideal relationship with God. Buddhism points to the eightfold path. Islam demands its followers observe the five pillars. Judaism reverts to strict observance of the Torah. However, none of these routes provide a biblically appropriate path to a deeper relationship with God.

Of course, Jesus is the ONLY path to the Father (John 14). However, this simple truth does not seem to provide a means by which to measure the growth in our relationship with God. Thus, we often tend to seek out more tangible methods by which to measure our spiritual growth. Some may rely on depth of feeling, or moments and experiences when God seemed particularly close. Inversely, the absence of these moments and experiences seems to indicate an alarming regression or lack of growth.

Some seek growth through the accumulation of knowledge, sensing a closeness to God whenever they discover a previously unknown truth about God or His Word. Seeking “head-growth” as the sole measurement of growth is dangerous as the Bible carries many warnings about harmful consequences of over-dependence on knowledge (Matthew 23; 1 Corinthians 8).

An even more dangerous measuring tool of spiritual growth is a checklist. Benjamin Franklin famously kept a list of thirteen virtues which he desired to shape his life. He regularly selected one of the virtues to be a focal point of his life, and he evaluated himself daily on his performance regarding each of the values. A temptation exists for some to reduce their relationship with God to a similar checklist of activities. Checked-off boxes are easy to measure, and if I can check all my “God” boxes in a day (prayed, read the Bible, witnessed, etc.), I can feel very positively about the progress of my spiritual growth. However, such activity is dangerously close to imitating the spirituality of the Pharisees.

Jewish tradition identified nearly 700 specific laws given by God in the Torah. These laws were a combination of actual laws from the Torah as well as many laws created through the oral tradition which was considered to be authoritative alongside the Torah. A devout Jew in the days of Christ would have considered the only measurement of their spiritual growth to be the extent to which they were “keeping” these laws. Jesus condemned this kind of spirituality, pointing out in the sermon on the mount that God was concerned not only with our actions, but also with our motives, our responses, and our thoughts (Matthew 5).

While none of the aforementioned methodologies (feelings, knowledge, lists) should be the primary or only means by which to measure spiritual growth, they may all be appropriate means by which to occasionally assess one’s growth. The key is to utilize these tools within a framework that understands the nature of spiritual growth. It is altogether possible that a person may be experiencing significant spiritual growth which does not show up in any of these measurements. It may also be possible for someone to demonstrate measurable growth which is, in reality, not growth at all.

Consider the following three examples of spiritual growth or lack thereof.

The early days of the church in Ephesus are recorded in Acts 19. After arriving in the city and witnessing the initial conversions of many people, Paul began to teach daily in a lecture hall. After teaching for two years, we are told that a series of events prompted several of the believers to give up their idols. The conclusion is that some of these people may have been believers for up to two years, sitting under the daily teaching of the Apostle Paul and were unable to give up their idols. We must wonder how Paul gauged their spiritual growth if they were not even willing to step away from their idolatry.

Few things in the Bible are as frustrating as the apparent lack of growth experienced by Jesus’ disciples. Reading the Gospels, we begin to wonder if these twelve men every understood a thing Jesus told them. Even at the last supper, after three years of walking with Jesus and hearing his teaching, they were still unable to comprehend the reality of Jesus’ mission. Even though he had regularly talked about his impending death, they were unable to grasp the concept. However, their inexplicable lack of growth over the three years is even more befuddling when contrasted with the amazingly accelerated growth which apparently took place immediately following the resurrection. The Peter we observe the night before the crucifixion is demonstrably different than the Peter we encounter in Acts 2.

Finally, Judas Iscariot presents a troubling tale of one who apparently demonstrated some level of spiritual growth, but clearly did not actually grow. Apparently, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus came as a complete shock to the other disciples. When told that one of them would betray Jesus, they were unable to identify who that person might be. Seemingly, to whatever extent the disciples exhibited spiritual growth, Judas did as well. In fact, one might suggest that Judas demonstrated a higher level of growth as he was entrusted with the group’s money, a task he would not have been given had he been considered untrustworthy. Yet, in spite of the outward evidences of growth, Judas clearly did not grow spiritually, as all evidence points to a reality that Judas was never even reborn spiritually.

What can we learn from these three observances?

  • From the Ephesians, we might conclude that spiritual growth does not happen overnight, and in some cases may take a great deal of time. We can also suggest that growth may not always happen immediately in the ways we would expect.
  • From the disciples, we can observe that spiritual growth may not always be a steady process, but might happen in spurts, prompted by significant or traumatic experiences.
  • The Judas story reminds us that measurements of spiritual growth may not always tell the whole story.

Much of our desire to measure is deeply rooted in modernity. The scientific method has become THE indisputable method for determining truth. As a result in every area of our life, we look for measurable factors which will demonstrate our success. We are likely to engage in actions which lend themselves more easily toward measurement, particularly, we are drawn to repeatable patterns and processes which correspond to the scientific method.

We sometimes apply these same ideas to spiritual growth. Since we want to be successful in our growth, we desire to measure it. Accurate measurement is much easier with consistent factors, therefore, we theorize that spiritual growth can best be measured if we can reduce it to identifiable consistently repeating factors. The result is a formulaic approach to spiritual growth which ends up placing undo stress on the methods and the activities instead of the result and the process.

Luke 18 records Jesus’ story of a man who measured his spiritual growth based on his ability to consistently perform spiritual activities. The man prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” Jesus made it clear that this man was not justified before God.

Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3) that, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Have you ever tried to wrap your hands around the wind? We see and hear measurements of the wind’s speed, but the reality is that those measurements are nothing more than averages based on moment-by-moment data. The wind is inconsistent, it is unpredictable, and it is uncontrollable.

Jesus said the work of the Spirit is like the wind. Spiritual growth is sometimes inconsistent and unpredictable. It is a process, but not always a measurable and orderly process. For this reason, we must learn to be patient with ourselves and others. Growth may not happen in the timeline we prefer and it may not take the path we prescribe. We must give grace to those who have not fully arrived (because we also have not fully arrived).

While opening ourselves to the Spirit’s work, we must also open ourselves to the possibility that He may have different plans for us than we have for ourselves.  If we must measure something, we should measure love.  Jesus measured love by sacrifice and we probably should also. But this post is already long, and that topic requires much more, so perhaps now is the time to bring this rambling writing to an end.

How Did Jesus Demonstrate Leadership To His Disciples?

If you aren’t sure what I mean by Leadership E-Words, go back and see this post about 6 practices of powerful leaders.

A while back, I came across some verses in Mark that prompted me to think about how Jesus guided the spiritual development of his disciples. So I used the Leadership E-Words as a template and was able to very quickly identify how Jesus used similar concepts to prepare the disciples for ministry.

These are all from the first half of Mark. I think you could do this exercise even better if you used the book of Matthew. It might also be interesting to look for similar patterns in Acts. I have no intention of doing either (unless some LifeWay editor is reading this and thinks it might make an interesting book, then I would be willing to write more… otherwise, probably not)

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Here we go:

Jesus ESTABLISHED a direction for his ministry.
Of course it was more about just identifying and clarifying God’s direction for His ministry… but that’s what we should be doing as spiritual guides anyway.

Mark 1:15 – “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus EXPLAINED to the disciples their role in the ministry’s direction.

Mark 1:17 – “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (aside: If you aren’t a fisher of men, are you sure you’re a follower of Jesus?)

Jesus EQUIPPED the disciples to accomplish their role.
Apparently, Jesus’ plan was two-fold: 1) Let the disciples/apostles hang around and 2) Send the disciples/apostles away.

Mark 3:14 – He appointed twelve—designating them apostles — that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach

Jesus ENABLED the disciples to be effective in their roles.
(an even better example of this step in in Matthew 28 and Acts 1, when Jesus gives the Holy Spirit as the ultimate enabler)

Mark 6:8–11 – These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

Jesus ENCOURAGED the disciples in their efforts.

Mark 6:30–32 – The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

Jesus EVALUATED their success and incompletions.
The two stories found in Matthew 6 (feeding the 5,000 and walking on the water) both serve as labs in which Jesus evaluated whether or not the disciples had learned from the job he had given them (going out and preaching).

Unfortunately, they failed their evaluation. Fortunately, Mark has 16 chapters, so it isn’t over at the end of chapter 6. The final evaluation comes in Revelation!

6 Practices of Powerful Leaders

Not everyone can be a leader all the time, however, at some point in their life most people engage in leadership. When you find yourself leading, consider these six “must-do” activities.

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Establish a clear direction. I did not say “choose a direction” or “proclaim a direction”. A good leader does not set agendas himself, he observes and listens to his followers/team and establishes a direction which reflects everyone’s gifts and passions. Before you can be a vision-caster, you must learn to be a vision-collector.

Explain with precision the roles of those you are guiding. Most people simply want to know what is expected of them. They want to know how they will be evaluated, and they want to know what they can do to help accomplish the “win.” While a leader may fully succeed in getting the right people in the right seats on the bus, if he doesn’t clearly communicate the expectation, he will fail. It should also be noted that a leader can never get his people into the right roles if he doesn’t know his people’s gifts, passions, and dreams. True leadership demands a great deal of listening and observing.

Equip completely with the training and resources necessary to accomplish the team’s shared vision. A good leader recognizes tht everyone with whom they work has an important role. They must equip them to accomplish that role. Equipping includes training and providing resources, but it also includes assisting someone in maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. A good leader recognizes that everyone they lead is unique and therefore they learn to develop creative approaches when equipping different people.

Enable accomplishment by unleashing people in their areas, by giving them necessary authority, and by regularly advocating their efforts in public. Nothing can be more disheartening for someone than to have a leader who doesn’t enable them to accomplish their tasks. As a leader, if you can’t unleash someone to do a job, it is an indictment against your leadership style. If you aren’t willing to give someone the authority to do a job, the likely reason is that you haven’t capably equipped them. On the other hand, nothing is more empowering than a leader who not only unleashes people to work, but takes every opportunity to publicly proclaim how much they value and trust the work of those they lead. A leads who does this will have followers who accomplish much.

Encourage perseverance by regularly collecting updates and providing assistance when asked. Those you lead will become discouraged, they will have setbacks. There will be times when they want to quit. You can intervene in those moments and encourage them to carry on. If you step in at the right time and help them to refocus on the ultimate goal, you may keep them from quitting. But you’ll never know if they are wearing down if you aren’t regularly checking in with them. However, don’t check in just to “monitor their progress”. Be certain they understand and believe that you are checking in because you want to see them succeed. “Progress reports” should be an exciting and anticipated time, not a dreaded practice. You’ll set the tone, and by doing so, you’ll create a culture of perseverance.

Evaluate the person’s work by rewarding effective accomplishment and by correcting issues which may have led to incompletion. Simply put, “those who have done well with a small thing should be given more. And those who has struggled with a large thing should be given less.” good evaluations will help you identify the proper load for all your team members.