Consider Your Ways

Our techno-savvy world does not encourage much thinking.  We are ‘amusing ourselves to death’ according to Neil Postman.  We have access to entertainment 24-7 but do we really need that much? Are we really ‘thinking’ as much as we used to think?

When the LORD of hosts urges a nation to think, it should pay attention. This is exactly what God did in Habbai 1:5-6

‘Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.’

Think about it. Think about what is going on in your life. Think about your economic situation. Has God been trying to get your attention?

Take inventory. What do you have? Who gave you what you have? Who determines what your lot in life will be?

Father, everything I have is a trust from you. Help me to be a faithful steward. May I not waste the resources You have provided. May You remind me that ‘whoever is faithful in little’ is ‘faithful in much.’ Thank you for the treasures, talents and time you have allotted to me. May what I do honour and glorify You.  Amen!

 

God’s Message to Political & Religious Officials

We are in the midst of an election campaign here in Ontario, Canada. Political ads, social media posts, critiques and commendations are flooding our radios, televisions and other electronic tools. Each leader has a message to get out. I’ve often wondered who is ‘behind the scenes’ shaping the message to be communicated.

In Haggai’s day, Judah was in a rebuilding mode. After 70 years in Babylonian exile, the people of God had been permitted to return to Jerusalem and to begin the process of reconstruction. In the early years of this rebuilding process, God sent a message through Haggai.

King Darius, the world leader at the time, had only been in power for two years. Haggai historically dates the message God had sent him to deliver. ‘The word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai…’ He is the channel for God’s message. Prophets brought the LORD and His message to the people. Priests brought the people and their concerns to the LORD. Both were functional roles in the community.

To whom is the message addressed?  To leadership. To the political and religious leaders of the day. Why? Because leaders need to be led. Leaders need guidance. They lack wisdom, as we all do, but the scope of their decisions is significant.

So the LORD sends a message to the governor, named Zerubbabel, and to the high priest, a leader named Joshua. They were in charge. They were guiding the people politically and religiously, but they too required guidance.

The message the LORD wanted to be drilled into the hearts of the leadership was one of priorities. What priorities were the people exhibiting? What role did the leaders have in shaping those priorities? Who was responsible for reshaping these priorities?

The people were postponing obedience. God had provided for the rebuilding, but it never seemed like the appropriate time. Prioritizing is hardly an optional extra for leaders or followers.  Seek FIRST the kingdom of God… Jesus exhorted. ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of FIRST importance…’

So what is of first importance for our leaders today? Acting wisely or being politically correct? Speaking the truth or propagating lies? Handling resources with care or wasting them carelessly?

Would you join me in praying for our leaders, political and spiritual? Paul urged Timothy to prioritize prayer, did he not, as he penned 1 Timothy 2:1ff

 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

God calls us to prioritize what He prioritizes. Let’s follow His guidance in a season when our province and our nation (Canadian speaking) desperately needs rebuilding!

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

What excuses have you used to defend your disobedience? If ‘the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked’ (Jeremiah 17:9), then we should expect to battle self-deceit and wickedness on a regular basis. Thank God for His Spirit who enables us to put to death whatever belongs to our sinful nature. Thank God for His Word, which if used properly, and hidden in our hearts in the proper season, will keep us from sinning against God.

I have been led by God to explore again the short Minor Prophet named Haggai. To begin today’s venture, take a look at this excellent overview crafted by The Bible Project.

Here’s the link to Haggai – The Bible Project ‘edition.’

 

Day 4 Streams In The Desert

I love water. I drink it regularly, probably not as much as I should, but I’m still an avid drinker. At work, we have a water dispensing unit that indicates how many ‘bottles’ we’ve saved by using refillable containers.

On the farm where I grew up, we had two sources of water. Water on ‘the tap’ was for washing. Water from the bucket was for drinking.  Years ago my great aunt had asked for a house location after her first farm home had been consumed by fire. She had come from Scotland and urged her husband to explore the possibility of locating the farmhouse at the top of the hill. ‘It depends on the water,’ was his reply. And so, a well was dug by hand and the next day, as history records, beautiful, clean water was in abundant supply.

In chapter 4 of While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks, Tim Laniak writes of ‘Streams In the Desert.’

Here are some of the insights that grabbed my attention as I read and reflected on this chapter.

  • The clouds seem to forget their annual assignment to covey water to a parched landscape.
  • Humans and flock animals are not designed to survive drought. The dread of it never subsides.
  • When the sky does give empty life-giving buckets of water, the challenge is to manage access to it.
  • Though the psalmist’s ‘throat is parched’ in a wilderness setting, he prays, ‘Save me, o God, for the waters have come up to my neck…’
  • What a shepherd really desires are the still waters that follow the rains. Sheep can safely satisfy themselves by the puddles and pools left once the floods have passed.
  • The Messiah came offering living water that could quench a soul’s thirst.

The imagery of thirst permeates the pages of Scripture. The illustration of desperate need could not be more vividly conveyed. So the question is ‘How thirsty am I for God?’ ‘Where am I seeking to get my thirst quenched?’ Like our farm supply, the cistern water was pathetic compared to the fresh, clean water from the basement well.  Too often, like God’s people in Jeremiah, I am tempted to forsake the ‘fountain of living waters,’ and dip my cup into a broken cistern for a drink.

On this new day, let’s heed the invitation of Jesus Christ, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’

My thirst is quenched. The thirst of others may be quenched if I do not grieve or quench the Spirit of God who longs to impact others through my life.

How I praise Thee, blessed Saviour, that Thy love laid hold of me.

Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me, that I might Thy channel be.

Channels only blessed Master but with all Thy wondrous pow’r,

Flowing through us, Thou canst use us, every day and every hour.

May this be your experience today. Quench your thirsty soul with the Living Water which Jesus Christ alone supplies!

Redefining & Refocusing Leadership

Day #1 of this week’s Church Revitalization course at Heritage College & Theological Seminary will focus on  ‘Redefining & Refocusing Leadership.  Dr. Rick Reed, our President, will be leading the class to assess their –

  • Vision for the Mission
  • Shepherding
  • Leading
  • Preaching/Teaching
  • Spiritual Vitality
  • Godly Character

Would you join me in praying that today will be a day of leadership revitalization? Revitalized churches are led by revitalized pastoral leaders.

Pastors are both sheep and shepherds. As sheep they are under the care of the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd.  As shepherds they provide care on behalf of the One whose care they are under. The flock is owned by Christ. He purchased the sheep with his own blood.  (Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. – Acts 20:28)

Shepherding is not an optional extra. The command of Paul, the apostolic foundation layer, is not ‘Be preachers’ or ‘Be teachers’ or ‘Be leaers’ although preaching, teaching and leadership are clearly giftings of God’s Spirit required for the office of eldership. Rather the assignment is explicitly, ‘Be shepherds.’

To ponder – ‘What does a shepherd’s heart look like?’ ‘Who, in Scripture, apart from Jesus Christ, models shepherding skills worthy of imitation?’ ‘Who, in your church experience, has reflected these skills in their ministry?’

May I encourage you today – Pray for your pastoral leaders. Encourage your pastoral leaders. Bless them as God blesses you through them!

Sola Deo Gloria

 

 

Biblical Church Revitalization

{Let me interrupt the journey through Dr. Laniak’s excellent book While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks with a brief post on Church Revitalization. I’m urging every reader of this blog to join me in prayer for next week’s 5 days of equipping instruction designed to be biblically-based, pastorally-focused, church revitalization principles.}

Harry L. Reeder, author of From Embers to a Flame: How God can revitalize your church writes the Foreword to Brian Croft’s simple, yet not simplistic, book on church revitalization. He provides three principles to initiate the reader’s journey through this book.

1) The objective is church health, not church growth.

Statistical growth is only one way of measuring growth. What does it mean to ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?’ He notes “We must dismiss both the notion that ‘big defines success’ or that ‘small defines faithful.'”

So how spiritually healthy is your church? What biblical processes do you follow to assess health and make changes which such a check-up reveals?

This coming week our 5 days of instruction cover –

a) Redefining & Refocusing Leadership;

b) Disciple-Making;

c) Missional Ministry;

d) Navigating Change, Redeeming Conflict;

e) Comeback Churches and Ongoing Renewal.

Let’s pray for each leader as they take serious inventory of their own spiritual health and that of the community which they are called to lead

2) Statistical growth is not the objective of church revitalization but it is an expected consequence.

The church in Acts was a growing body of believers. Consider Acts 6:7 where Luke records that ‘the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.’  Was this an anomaly? Hardly! It was the normal pattern of health.

Reeder notes, ‘The objective of church  revitalization is simply yet profoundly a God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit empowered, Gospel-driven and Bible-shaped church expanding, not by church growth techniques but, by an intentional commitment to a Gospel disciple-making ministry….’

Let’s pray that this vision captures the hearts and minds of every leader in next week’s course. Revitalized churches begin with revitalized leaders.

3. Church revitalization is not simply a desirable strategy but when united to church planting it is the apostolic model to ‘turn the world upside down’ for the glory of God.

The Holy Spirit–through the body of Christ–turned the world upside down, Reeder notes.

The strategies for evangelism and edification are clearly illustrated in the book of Acts. The gospel must be lived, preached and built into the lives of new converts. Those who trust Christ must be strengthened in their faith and equipped to serve with their God-given gifts.

Join me in praying that by the end of next week, every leader who has engaged in the 5 days of training will declare, ‘The LORD has done great things for us and we are filled with joy!’ May these joy-filled, renewed leaders return back to their communities with a fresh vision granted in answer to the prayers of many.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us!!!

Sola Deo Gloria

DAY 3 “Called To Care”

Summary of Chapter 3

‘….God fully intends to use the shepherd image to shape the identity of his ministers.’

Though ‘modern’ leadership consultants prefer the C.E.O. model and have directed many churches to adopt this model, the Biblical paradigm continues. Pastors are shepherds. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd. Does He, as the head of His flock not determine the pattern for those who serve as undershepherds?

‘David, like Abraham and Moses, was a herder before he was summoned to spiritual shepherding. “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob…”‘

David’s farm experience didn’t harm him one iota! I have often wondered how many ‘farm boys’ ended up pastoring God’s flock. I have certainly met a number of them.

‘…the pages of Scripture are filled with stories of lesser-known figures who simply responded to a more general invitation to serve God’s people.’

My home church, years ago, used to sing ‘Ordinary People.’ God uses ordinary people. Skim the biographical sketches in a ‘Who’s Who?’ of the Bible and you will see God selecting ordinary people to do His work. They heard the call and responded in obedience from a variety of ordinary vocations.

“When Jesus called a group of unremarkable individuals to serve with him, he sent them out as spiritual shepherds to “the lost sheep of Israel.” This mission defined their ministry as an extension of his pastoral service to those who were sick and in bondage.  ….Every disciple was a shepherd called to the messy work of caring for people, for shouldering their various needs, and bearing them for Christ, the Chief Shepherd.”

Caring for sheep is a messy business. Just ask any caring farmer about his experience in lambing, shearing, cutting hooves, deworming and other ‘joys’ of shepherding!

‘Let’s remember our call to our particular ministry. …Not everyone is called to vocational ministry. Can we recall an occasion when a specific personal mission was planted in our hearts? …. This spiritual calling, this destiny, this identity is more transcendent than a job description. It is our life’s mission.’

We do well to track the guidance of God in our lives. How has He led? Where has He guided? How has He equipped us to do His will?

We are called to care. Let’s not become careless. Let’s not ‘care’ less, but let’s give ourselves without reservation to serve the Shepherd of the flock where He assigns us service.

 

 

Digging deeper into the depths of Scripture…

%d bloggers like this: