Category Archives: Shepherding

Guard the Weapon that is Your Tongue

6860078139_19f5db3a3f_bBlood was everywhere. A friend had borrowed my brand new Swiss Army knife to slice an apple, but sliced his thumb instead. Thankfully, we were able to find some napkins and stop the bleeding quickly.

I’d never expected my pocketknife to be a weapon. I bought it for useful things like cutting cardboard, tightening screws, and opening bottles. But its sharp edge had the potential for great harm.

Did you know words can be a weapon too? The Bible warns “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness… Every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed… but no human being can tame the tongue” (James 3:5-6).

Watch out. Your tongue is a weapon of mass destruction. It could spark a fire that will do irreversible damage.

So let me ask you, how’s your language? Do you ever boast or blaspheme? How about complain or gossip? Do you ever lie or use a harsh tone of voice? All these are sins of the tongue.

Jesus says our words reveal what’s in our heart, and that God is listening all the time. A divine tape recorder is running day and night, being stored up as evidence when we stand before God in judgment. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37).

For some of us, that’s a frightening prospect. But it doesn’t have to be. God has the power to cleanse our hearts and transform our foul mouths into voices of praise. David prayed, “Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Psalm 51:14-15).

Once our hearts are washed clean, our tongues can fulfill the purpose for which they were created. To sing. To pray. To bless and build up others.

Your words don’t have to be a weapon. When God gets a hold of your life, that tongue can become a useful tool for good.

This article first appeared in The Minister’s Message page of our local newspaper, The Hi Desert Star.

Photo credit: djwtwo

The Most Important Quality in a Leader

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Humility is perhaps the single most important quality in a leader. Like the pillar of a bridge, it may lie below the surface, but the integrity of the entire structure stands or falls on that one area.

Oswald Sanders writes, “Humility is the hallmark of the spiritual leader. Christ told his disciples to turn away from the pompous attitudes of the oriental despots, and instead take on the lowly bearing of the servant (Mt. 20:25-27). As in ancient days, so today humility is least admired in political and business circles. But no bother! The spiritual leader will choose the hidden path of sacrificial service and approval of the Lord over the flamboyant self-advertising of the world” (Spiritual Leadership, p. 61).

I would rather have a humble man with mediocre skills and mold him into a servant of God, than to have a naturally-talented man who is full of arrogance. It doesn’t matter how gifted a man is in preaching, or music, or biblical languages, or theological prowess. If he’s cocky and divisive and looking for others to serve him, he’s going to do far more damage than good in the church.

So how do we cultivate humility? I recently had this discussion with some guys at the church, and we brainstormed a number of ways to develop a humble heart that delights the Lord: Love and serve your enemy; Encourage one another; Depend on the Holy Spirit; Admit your spiritual emptiness before God; Pray for God to give you a heart of humility; Practice the spiritual disciplines and fight the flesh; Have a “big view” of the greatness of God.

C.J. Mahaney gives many more practical suggestions in his little book Humility: True Greatness

  • At the beginning of each day: Reflect on the wonder of the cross; Acknowledge your need for God; Express gratitude to God; Practice spiritual disciplines; Seize your commute by memorizing and meditating on Scripture; Cast your cares upon him; Stay charged up with a prayerful attitude.
  • At the end of each day: Avoid cosmic plagiarism (taking credit for your gifts); Accept the gift of sleep; Make your final thought an expression of gratefulness to God for His sacrifice in Christ.
  • Plus some other ideas: Study the attributes of God; Study the doctrines of grace; Study the doctrine of sin; Play golf as much as possible; Laugh often, and laugh often at yourself.

God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). May He find much reason to fill our church with His grace.

Question: In what areas of ministry do you feel most susceptible to pride? Click here to leave a comment.

Photo credit: Lee Harkness

What’s My Spiritual Gift?

questionWhen we finished up our series on Elder Qualifications a couple weeks ago, I mentioned that teaching is a spiritual gift. Not everyone will have the gift of teaching, but every member will have a spiritual gift.

Several people said afterward they would like to learn more about spiritual gifts and what gift they might have. I preached on this subject a few years ago if you want to hear more, but here are a few main points I would bring out:

  1. Every member has a gift. If you are a genuine Christian, then Christ’s Spirit dwells inside of you, and you are uniquely gifted by God. This gift was sovereignly endowed by God and needs to be cultivated and exercised for the building up of the church. There are several passages in the Bible where you can find a list of spiritual gifts: Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28, 29-30; Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 4:11. Here is a comparative chart of all 18 gifts mentioned in Scripture.
  2. Don’t underestimate your gift. You may think, “I’m too old, or too busy, or too afraid of people to use my gift.” But God can still use you. Don’t compare yourself to others or undervalue your gift. Many gifts can be exercised far away from the spotlight. You will probably never see your liver or pancreas, but they are essential to your survival. In the same way, some gifts may seem “less honorable,” but they are no less important (1 Cor. 12:22-23).
  3. Don’t overestimate your gift. In reality, everything you have is a gift. Paul asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7). And the answer is, “Absolutely nothing.” Because everything you have came from God. So keep things in perspective and remember your spiritual gift is on loan from God. It is not for your glory, but for His.
  4. Pray for opportunities to serve. The first step to identifying your spiritual gift is to pray for opportunities to serve. I guarantee that if you humble yourself before God and ask Him for direction, He will open up a door for you to use your gifts.
  5. Have a servant’s heart. Be patient and available to help. Help anywhere and everywhere that help is needed. Don’t have a consumer mentality (“this is what I want”) but rather a servant’s heart (“how can I help?”).
  6. Take a spiritual gifts test. There is a free one online here. Now, bear in mind, these tests are not fool-proof. And they’re certainly not biblically required. The Holy Spirit was doing just fine for almost two-thousand years before these tests came along. If you take one, you’ll notice that they are more a survey of what you enjoy doing and perceive about your own abilities. They can’t factor in the essential role of others in the Body of Christ to affirm your gifts (see #7 below). Nevertheless, the questions are interesting, and the results can be surprisingly accurate. If you’ve never done a spiritual gifts analysis, it may be one helpful way to “think with sober judgment” (Rom. 12:3) about your gifts. (FYI when I took one a few years ago, it said I was gifted in Pastor/Shepherd, Teaching, and Administration, and for the most part, I think that’s accurate)
  7. Listen to the Body of Christ. Remember, we are all members of one Body, with Jesus Christ as our Head. Often, the greatest way to discern your gift is to ask other people in the church. Listen to the advice of others. Seek their feedback and even their criticism. Notice what things they delegate to you. Watch for areas where God brings blessing and fruitfulness. In particular, cherish the counsel of older men and women in the church who know you well. These people love you and want to help you serve the Lord.

These seven points should help get you started. It may take you months or even years to find your “niche.” But most important, just do something. Get busy doing kingdom work. As long as you are serving faithfully in the church, God will be glorified.

Question: What spiritual gift(s) do you think you have? How did God reveal this to you? Click here to leave a comment.

Photo credit: Ciccio Pizzettaro

Fit for Duty – Pastoral Qualifications

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Before a man or woman can join the US Marines, they must first pass a series of written and physical examinations. The ASVAB measures a recruit’s mental abilities and will determine their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). A criminal background check ensures the person is in good legal standing and will not be a threat to national security.

After a full examination by a physician, each recruit must also pass an Initial Strength Test (IST) involving pull ups, crunches, and running. In addition, the Combat Fitness Test (CFT) is an annual test to ensure each enlisted troop and officer stays in good shape and ready for the physical and mental strains of war.

Only then, after all these tests have been completed will a recruit be declared “Fit for Duty” and be ready to begin the rigors of Basic Training.

The Bible teaches that a spiritual leader, too, must pass a series of tests before he is qualified to lead in the church. These are recorded in 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1; and 1 Peter 5.

Over the past couple months, I’ve been preaching through the qualifications in Titus 1. These are especially pertinent for our church as we begin a transition to biblical eldership. If you missed any of the messages or would like to hear one again, you can find them using the links below:

Rise Up, O Men of God – An urgent plea for male leadership at home and church.

Titus 1:5 Fit for Duty, pt. 1 – Character – A leader must first be above reproach (no audio available).

Titus 1:6 Fit for Duty, pt. 2 – Family – What happens in the home is a good indicator of how a man will lead the church

Titus 1:7 Fit for Duty, pt. 3 – Discipline – Pride and a hot temper have no place in the church — especially among leaders.

Titus 1:8 Fit for Duty, pt. 4 – Love – A leader must have a love for strangers, for good works, and for restraint.

Titus 1:8 Fit for Duty, pt. 4 – Love, continued – A man of God will love what is right and holy.

Titus 1:9-16 Fit for Duty, pt. 5 – Doctrine –  A leader must be committed to knowing and defending sound doctrine.

Photo credit: Slagheap

Created for More

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Wash, Rinse, Repeat. These directions used to appear on shampoo bottles, but over time, they’ve become a symbol for any mundane, never-ending activity.

Does your life follow a similar cycle? Wake, Work, Sleep, Repeat.

For many, that’s what life is about, with short breaks in between to escape the daily grind.

But God says we were created for more — much more! According to Ephesians 2:10, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God made you and saved you for a special purpose—to worship Him in love and obedience.

1 Corinthians 10:31 puts it this way: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” What? You mean I can eat to God’s glory? I thought only “spiritual” things like reading my Bible and going to church glorified God! Certainly, those things are important, but when God’s glory is our goal, every activity becomes an act of worship.

The morning commute. Filing paperwork. Changing a diaper. Fixing the car. Playing with the kids. Serving at church. Whatever you’re involved with, it is not a brainless waste of time. It’s a new opportunity to serve the living God.

Photo credit: Josh Kenzer