The five people you can count on most

If you would take a leadership role in the Kingdom of God, you will be needing fellow workers. You will not be able to do this alone nor will you be asked to do so.

The question will arise as to whom you can trust. You will have to decide the quality of the men and women with whom you are surrounded, particularly in determining your inner circle of leadership and responsibility.

Paul answers this for us by citing the examples of Onesiphorus, Timothy, Epaphroditus, Stephanas, and, if you will, Aquila/Priscilla.  See what he said…

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Suffering: But wouldn’t a loving God always please us?

Some guy in Alabama ticked me off.

I was driving back to New Orleans from two weeks of ministry in Tennessee and Kentucky when I bought a Birmingham (AL) News in Tuscaloosa. At a rest stop in Mississippi, I scanned it and was snagged by a letter to the editor written by an outspoken agnostic.

After reading it and steaming a little, I tossed the paper in the trash. Later, wished I’d kept it just for reference here. So I’m going by memory.

The writer wanted the world to know that the tornadoes Alabama had just experienced proves beyond doubt either that there is no God or if there is, He is a tyrant who delights in doing cruel things.

He was clearly proud of his great letter. Betcha he clipped it and is displaying it somewhere prominently in his house.

I’m wondering now if anyone responded to the editor and answered the letter. Probably not. The Bible cautions against answering fools, and this guy surely belongs in that category.

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Christians, lose the naivete. This world is not your friend.

Is this vile world a friend to grace, to lead me on to God? (Isaac Watts)

God’s children keep getting surprised.

On a state or secular college campus, the atheistic professor has complete freedom to spout his religious views without protest from the students or interference from the dean. Let a Christian instructor relate his personal story to inform the students of his worldview so they can better understand where he’s coming from, and he’s harassed and soon out of a job.

At a convocation of students on the average secular campus, freedom of speech and the First Amendment are championed. Let a student stand and own up to being a follower of Jesus Christ who attempts to live by the Bible, and he/she is hooted down.

Ironic, isn’t it, the hostility that those of a secular bent have toward belief in Jesus Christ.

It’s more than just a prejudice, however. It’s a full-blown hatred.

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The Apostle Paul’s surprising gift to preachers

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. (I Corinthians 2:3)

For reasons I cannot explain, this line from the great apostle has lodged itself in my heart over the past few days. The more I reflect on it, the more I appreciate Paul’s admitting it.

In this and every other case where Paul mentions some kind of physical infirmity, we wish we had more information. Was he sick? Ailing? Still healing from previous beatings?

John MacArthur writes: Paul came to Corinth after being beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, run out of Thessalonica and Berea, and scoffed at in Athens, so he may have been physically weak. But in that weakness, he was most powerful. There were no theatrics or techniques to manipulate people’s response. His fear and shaking was because of the seriousness of his mission. (The MacArthur Study Bible)

I suppose we preachers are a lot like horses and mules and dogs: hit us often enough and we become “gun shy.” We want to stand and deliver with boldness and power, but we’re ready to duck.

Thank you, Paul, for telling us this. And if you will allow me, I will draw a few inferences from it that I find helpful to all of us who stand to proclaim God’s Word.

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The one trait great pastors and coaches have in common

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and shunned evil. –Job 1:1

Job, you have instructed many.  You have strengthened weak hands; your words have upheld him who was stumbling; and you have strengthened the feeble knees.  –Job 4:3-4

Authenticity: Job had it.

It’s my observation that in sports the best coaches and in church the most effective pastors are all authentic.

They are the real deal.

They don’t try to be someone else.  While they have surely picked up traits and lessons and insights from others, they do not do their imitation of other people.  They are themselves.

The word–I love finding the root meaning of words–comes from autos, meaning “self,” and hentes, Greek for worker, doer, author.  So, we might say “authentic” means “coming from the author” or “genuine.”

The Bible is authentic.  It comes from the Original Author (of all things!).

What started me thinking about this was a sports discussion on the radio one morning recently.  A former UCLA coach made the observation after the LSU-Alabama slugfest back in November, that both coaches, Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron, are authentic.  They are originals, copying no one, imitating no one, just being who they are.

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Why the righteous suffer

…and the prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:25)

They’re always listening.

The world is constantly watching when God’s people go through disasters, experience heartaches, and deal with bankruptcies and setbacks.  How will the so-called “God people” handle these trials?  Will they grow angry and curse, lose their temper and drown their sorrows in the bottle? Or will they live up to this heavenly rhetoric they’ve been spouting?

The world wants to know whether our faith in Jesus Christ is just so much talk, just another religious alternative, or the real deal.

God is going to give us the opportunity  to convince them.

This might not be pleasant.  But it will be worthwhile.

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The team member who is your biggest headache

“…a thorn in the flesh was given to me …lest I be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

They’re standard equipment, these “thorns in the flesh.” Burrs under the saddle.  Pains in the, well, you know.  They come with the territory.

I’m reading Jack “Dusty” Kleiss’ memoirs of his service in the Second World War.  “Never Call Me a Hero: A legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers The Battle of Midway” is the lengthy title.  I recommend it highly.

As a student of the Second World War, I must have read a dozen or more of such books, memoirs of veterans of this greatest of all conflicts.  In spite of the title, Kleiss deserves the recognition and accolades of a hero as much as anyone ever has.  Again and again he risked his life flying planes of all kinds throughout the Pacific in the war against Japan.  He kept good records, his team did great research, giving us details on the days he served, the planes they flew and the men he served under alongside, which included Admirals Kimmel, Halsey, and Nimitz.

All is good, except for one guy who keeps popping up throughout the story.

Lt. Clarence Dickinson was his thorn in the flesh.

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If you would serve the Lord, expect obstacles.

“A great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (I Corinthians 16:9). 

“Is this vile world a friend to grace to help me on to God?”   (Isaac Watts, “Am I A Soldier of the Cross?”)

This is a quiz.  Name the enemies George Washington faced in the Revolutionary War.

If you answered, “The British,” you’d be only partly right.

Washington did fight the British, as the thirteen colonies asserted their independence from the Mother Nation.  But Generals Howe, Cornwallis, and Clinton and their armies were only the most visible of the forces Washington had to contend with.

He had to fight the weather.  Think of Valley Forge and even without knowing the full story, your mind immediately conjures up images of a harsh winter with all the snow, ice, sleet, and freezing temperatures that includes.

Washington had to deal with starvation and deprivation.  No one knows how many thousands of his soldiers perished from the cold and starvation at Valley Forge and how many deserted in order to save their lives.  Many surrendered to the British at Philadelphia in the vain hope that the conquerors would feed and clothe them.

Washington had to deal with a Congress that was either ignorant, misinformed, or outright hostile to his situation. He wrote letter after letter detailing the misery of his army and pleading for help.  Finally, a delegation came from the national capital, temporarily at York, PA, to see for themselves, after which congress began to act.

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You’re going through a transition: What to do.

The Lord is my Rock.  Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.  Shelter me under the Rock.  (found all through the Psalms)

You’ve just been released from one job (position, place of service, ministry, etc) and you are preparing for the next one.  What to do in the meantime?

You’ve lost your spouse of many years, whether by death or divorce or something else.  What do you do until the way opens up before you?

You’ve moved from the only home you ever knew to a new city/country, and you’re finding it difficult.  What now?

Keep your eye on the Rock.

Changes can be hard.  But they can be lifegiving and life-altering.

Life is about change.  Anyone who does not like change is going to have a lot of trouble in this life.  Any Christian who cannot handle change is going to have trouble following the Lord Jesus.

Here are our top ten suggestions to you on how to make the most of the transition time…

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The most difficult aspect of praying

“We do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26).

I know some things my  pet does not.

My dog thinks he wants to fight that pesky cat next door. By his barking and straining at the leash, Albie gives every indication that chasing that cat would be the high point of his day.  It wouldn’t.  It would be his greatest nightmare.

That little cat sits on the driveway, completely unmoving when my dog walks within 10 feet, barking and snarling and threatening.  The cat hardly blinks an eye.  Another day at the office.  Another house dog who thinks he wants a piece of me but has no idea the trouble he’s asking for.

I know what a fierce cat can do to a sweet little house-broken dog that has never been in a real fight in his life.  I know his instincts tell him to chase the cat–that this is what he was put here on Earth for–but I know better.

I hold the leash and lead this lovely little canine on to other things, and as far away from that fierce little feline as we can get.

And just so does our Lord lead His children.

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