Three Imperatives in the Selection of Godly Leaders

20 03 2018

A Christian community can admirably follow a course of prayerful decision-making only to abort God’s direction in a faithless choice in the final hour.

A latent agenda of a power faction, seeds of doubt, or the desire by a leader to control the outcome – these are among the ways a community can be deprived of God’s appointed leadership, even after prolonged, submissive prayer.

The first congregation resisted this temptation. Peter stood up among the 120, who had been committed to prayer, and said they needed to replace the vacancy created by the death of Judas (Acts 1:15-20). Their example shows us three imperatives in selecting godly leaders: Calling, Message, Unity.

  1. The CALLING to sacrifice must be clear.

Other than places where the church is persecuted, leadership has become a desirable occupation. You should see what some churches use to lure the talented one: the salary, the staff, vacation time, further studies, conferences, attendance numbers, housing package, retirement plan. And you should see the line-up to snag these lucrative positions! Oh, its big business.

Peter said to the congregation, as he looked over at the few men who had followed Jesus and said:

“one of these must become a witness (Greek, martur) with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1:22)

Do you want to handle your congregation the way God handled His first church plant? Make sure all your leaders know they are called to sacrificial witness.

  1. The MESSAGE of the gospel must be declared.

The resurrection of Christ was the hope and joy of this mid-sized congregation. But down the stairs from the upper room and into the raucous streets of Jerusalem, the resurrection was hogwash after a downpour.

We must not miss the fact that God’s leaders are called to deliver the very message that is foolishness to the world – the sacrificial death on the CROSS, the BURIAL of His corpse, and the bodily RESURRECTION of Christ to live forever and save the lost.

I grieve what I see and read today, where preachers and writers are reframing the foolish message into a more palatable blend. Yes, justice, compassion, formation, healing, are all aspects of the good news. They can also inoculate from having to give the tawdry facts of sin, judgment, forgiveness, and the cross.

Teachers, we are responsible for what we give. Let us not get creative with the message entrusted to us. Resist the drift! Faithfully tell the old, old story with the fervor of a pardoned criminal.

  1. The UNITY of the people must be guarded.

I recently heard of a church where the pastor of over 30 years has announced his retirement at some time in the near future (Alert: Fuzzy timeline). He says he is going to work with the elders to secure a good replacement (Alert: Controlling). And he does not want an interim pastor but instead wants to guide the new pastor for some time to ensure a minimal loss of attenders (Alert: Naïve).

Sir, I ask you. Whose church is it? Why can you not trust your congregation? And should they mess things up (which they well might) why can you not trust the Head of the church, working with the Holy Spirit, to pull them through stronger in faith?

I note that when the first church of Jerusalem pulled through their leader selection process, the day of Pentecost arrived and “they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1).

No selection of godly leaders should ever have an ungodly effect on the congregation. And no casting of lots should ever result in the casting of insults.


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He is food for the soul

11 05 2017

I can understand why some disciples left Jesus after they heard this. Jesus seems to have drifted into the terrain of the weird, yet in fact He was plowing further into the soil of truth.

Here’s the background in summary (John 6:1-50):

  • Jesus had fed thousands of listeners on a hillside. He told His disciples that He was the bread of life which would bring not just temporary satisfaction but eternal fulfillment.
  • He’s the bread that ends undernourishment of soul, the supply that can end spiritual starvation.
  • Why? Because He delivers the truth, and nothing but the truth, straight from God the Father. Manna in the desert was great for a while, but 40 years of the stuff got oldy-moldy. But the bread of life is pure satisfaction.
  • Believe it, He says, and you will have eternal life.

If Jesus had stopped there He would have kept His large crowds.

The “bread” I’m talking about, says the One who came down from heaven, is my flesh. If you want to have this life, you must eat my flesh. That’s not all. If you don’t drink my blood you do not have this life I’m talking about. But if you eat and drink, I will raise you up on the last day. “He who eats this bread will live forever” (Jn. 6:58).

At that point, the congregation dwindled. This stuff was too hard. Uncomfortable.

Let’s hang with the inner core disciples and say, in effect, “No we are not leaving because as weird as You are talking right now, you have the words of eternal life.”

What could it mean for us to eat and drink Jesus?

How do we consume a meal?

First, we hunger. We have an appetite for nourishment, realizing that we need food. This must be true whether the food is tasty or bitter. We hunger for food because it is good for us, and often sweet to taste. Peter wrote that we should desire the pure milk of the word so we can grow from it.

Second, we take it in. We put it in our mouths, we chew it, and we swallow it. Some of us heard our mothers say, “Chew your food, don’t just inhale it!” This is a cooperative venture between food and eater, between Christ and the disciple. We slow down and eat His words. We read, study, reflect, ponder. Meanwhile, Jesus functions as nourishment, delivering truth from the Father.

A final thought is that the nourishment becomes a part of us. Ever heard “You are what you eat”? We are changed by the nourishment we intake. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him.” The Son of God progressively enters the soul and inhabits a larger space. And, “he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” (Jn. 6:56-57)

eats my flesh

Where do we go with this today? I got to thinking about this idea of consume.

  • A “consumer” is one who purchases, who uses, who takes for himself.
  • To “consume” is to imbibe or devour.
  • A marriage is “consummated” through profound intimacy.

The Son of God knew this teaching would turn away casual followers, so He pushed ahead and told the whole truth in expectation that a few of us would stay the course.

I want to accept the invitation to His table every day, bringing with me all my emotions, frustrations, and hopes. I want to consume His flesh and blood, and nourish my hungry soul.


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The sound of many waters

9 05 2017

carlon falls

I discovered a great hike in the Sierra’s and a wonderful waterfall.

The trail was easy for the most part, then moderate as one ascended up to the top of the falls.

As I reached the “top” I discovered not one fall, but a cascade of 10 or 12 successive falls. It was magnificent!

And LOUD!

The roar reminded me of the scripture where in the Revelation the apostle John turns to see the voice speaking to him in the vision.

“His voice as the sound of many waters” (Revelation 1:15)

And I love what that voice says, then and now…

“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:17-18).

Hear the voice which calls out today as the sound of many waters.





So, you’ve visited the cross lately

4 05 2017

visited cross of Christ

If you are a follower of Jesus, like me, the cross is not only a past event of history. It is a recurring spiritual experience. That’s why I suggest you have visited there lately.

I believe that one of the fantastic results of our Savior being ALIVE today is that He meets us in these experiences. Here is how I define it:

–>> the ever-available spiritual altar on which you can sacrifice to God anything that impedes His will and your holiness.

I am in my 60s and as I look back over my life I can point to several major events that have brought me back to the cross of Jesus.

  • One was when I faced a crisis of deciding what career path to pursue.
  • Another was when my wife and I faced years of infertility
  • Yet another visit to the cross was when God asked my wife and I to go as missionaries to Kenya.

That’s why I am quite sure that you or someone close to you has also been called back to a cross-like experience. Really, this should not surprise us since Jesus said that anyone who wants to be his disciple must take up their cross and follow him.

Hasn’t God been showing you these truths? I would love to help you examine your experience in light of these Biblical teachings.

I have developed a series of five emails called “Following Jesus.” In those brief lessons, I give you a look at:

  • the spiritual experience that preceded your cross-visit
  • the spiritual experience that follows your cross-visit
  • and God’s real purpose in calling you back to the cross

I would love to send these lessons to you. There is no charge; no gimmicks. Just your permission. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.

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From sadness to lament

3 05 2017

I am not an expert on this topic, but an explorer of my own experience and emotions. Maybe you, my reader friend, can help me out.

lament is sadness shared

Is there a difference between sadness and lament?  I am using “sadness” in the sense of the raw emotion which results from loss or other event which causes my inner being to be weighed down, disheartened, or despairing.

During this time period my adult children and I have been feeling sad about the loss of my wife to cancer. So there is a connection between sadness and grief; perhaps grief if a specific expression of sadness, I don’t know.

Then there is the idea of “lament,” which is less often used but worth reconsidering. I am a Christian so I gravitate toward the Bible’s frequent use of lament. There are many lament psalms, and an entire book in the Bible called “Lamentations.”

In my attempt to deal with our sadness (and grief), I am thinking through ways in which lament is possibly different that sadness. (I am thinking as a non-professional.) Here are some.

quote lament

Characteristics which I hope are true of lament:

  • While sadness is a raw emotion that can settle in my heart and rot, lament is sadness honestly felt and expressed to others and to God.
  • Lament is felt and expressed knowingly in God’s presence, for His “ears”. therefore the sadness is heard, weighed, and understood. If we have someone we trust with our sadness, we can lament with them and feel understood.
  • Both sadness and lament are my personal experience. But with lament, I am aware that my emotion is shared, and therefore not as lonely as sadness.
  • Sadness leaves me feeling helpless. But since God shares my lament in at least hearing it, and since the sad thing does not cause God to despair, I am partially helped.
  • This all is, of course, by faith. Sadness is an emotional response. Lament, as sad as it is, has the value of making me reach toward God even in this very unpleasant way. Lament with God has purpose.
  • God feels sadness too. (We get our emotions from being made in His image.) For God, hope is stronger than sadness. So when I lament with God, I have the right to draw hope from Him. Lament with God brings hope.

I have tried to navigate my journey in a healthy way, but it is very unpredictable. I have lamented with a very small circle.  I find there are rainy day friends who come around when a sad things happen. They are curious. but when a sad thing happens, you really only want to share with someone who has shown they love you over the long haul, when things were good. That is the person who has earned trust.

It is hard for me to share sadness.

Perhaps you can identify with some of these personal observations:

  • I have always been able to “handle” myself emotionally. I am handicapped when it comes to sharing transparently. (This post is an attempt to learn)
  • It is a relief to share sadness. Part of the weight is lifted, at least temporarily.
  • Judging who to share with is tricky business. In lament I put myself out there, very vulnerably.
  • I am overly sensitive to how my friend responds. If I don’t feel empathy from him, I am embarrassed for having shared.

I have meditated on this theme often. I am in process.  Here is a post called Suffering. That which you avoid is what you need.
And here are some thoughts on how the gospel pattern helps with Prayer when suffering

Would you be willing to journey with me? I regularly blog about ways I am growing in Christ. I have a series of lessons about what I have learned in recent years about how God conforms us to Christ through what I call the “Gospel cycle.” Please get on my email list and I will send you the first lesson. I APPRECIATE IT!

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