Perfect Leadership

Luke 22:3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

Leadership is hard work. It is hard for all kinds of reasons and those who make much money out of packaging the snake oil of easy leadership are liars, or have never really tried to do real leadership. Or they just don’t tell the stories out of their leadership experiences that contradict what will get us to buy the snake oil. How refreshing it would be to be a part of a leadership seminar or read a leadership book, that did not give the impression that the principles being promoted will guarantee desired results. How refreshing to not be given the impression that the leadership qualities being sold are success in a can – guaranteed – maybe – if one uses them properly. Well, maybe there are such books and conferences. I hope so.

Satan entered into Judas Iscariot. Well, Satan did not enter into a neutral party. Judas was a thief from the beginning. There, some might say,  was Jesus’ first leadership error. He did not screen his team properly. He lets Judas into the band and for three years Judas fumes within himself about how Jesus is not heading toward what Judas hoped for. For three years he helps himself to the money entrusted to him by Jesus. By the time of the betrayal Judas is fed up. He has been patient. But he knows that if things are going to go the way they should, they are going to have to happen with someone other than Jesus. What would Judas have said to Jesus if there had been a confrontation? What would he have said to Jesus regarding his leadership abilities? Why couldn’t Jesus have allowed Judas enough input to at least give him a sense of being a contributing member of the team? Why didn’t He sit down with Him and seek to help him get over his issues and lead him away from his sense of isolation and frustration? Well, perhaps He did do all of that. Even good leadership garners opposition and there are some people who just can’t be satisfied and there are some people who wouldn’t respond to good leaders even if it was God Himself – Oh wait, that was who Judas had as his leader.

Leaders makes mistakes and there is no doubt that every leader on the planet can become a better one. But Jesus couldn’t. He couldn’t become a better leader. He was the best leader there ever was. He was perfect in His methods and goals and abilities to communicate them to His team. And still not everyone on the team was a supporter. Sometimes the old adage “I coached good but boy did they play bad” really is true. It was in Jesus’ case. He coached flawlessly. He had vision, goals, purpose, and He knew what to do to reach them. He was training His team for leadership after His inevitable departure. He discipled them flawlessly.

The problem with Judas was his heart. And a wicked heart will not respond to even flawless leadership. Those of us who have a calling to lead others should assess ourselves on a regular basis. When things go awry and people complain about the direction they are being led, we need to check and see if their complaints have any merit. When they do, we need to say so. We cannot, like Jesus, respond with the knowledge that our leadership is flawless. Leadership involves repentance.

But there are times when even a sinful leader’s motives and actions are right. There are times when the vision is right, the purpose statement is bang on and the chosen path for achieving the goals is as it should be and those who do not like what is going on, are wrong.  This is where the real test of leadership comes into play. How he handles success, or being right, says as much about a leader as how he handles failure.

When we are being led by people of integrity and honesty and they are right and we are wrong we need to admit it and get ourselves in line. But it is very rarely the case when there is complete rightness on one side and complete wrongness on the other in a dispute. And what needs to happen in the vast majority of cases is repentance and forgiveness from both sides. Two people, one who has done wrong and one who has had wrong done to him, both seek reconciliation, because both are believers. Sometimes it must be the leaders who do this. Sometimes it must be those who are following them. Most times it is a combination of both. Sometimes, people are so sure that where the leaders are taking them is so off base that they pick up their ball and go elsewhere. Sometimes the leader is so sure that because he is the infallible leader that he sees to it that the opposition gets out of the way. It is amazing that God gets His goals and purposes and grand vision realized at all. But He always does. The only ones who suffer are those who refuse to get in on what He is doing.

This was Judas’ problem. He came to see that he was indeed wrong. But his evil unrepentant heart would not let him repent or seek to get back on the right track. God’s purposes were achieved. Judas unwittingly helped get them done and lost his own soul in the process. It is a tragic tale, from Judas’ side of things. He had no one to blame but himself. He had the perfect leader. His sin resented that. He chose badly and he was lost to the greatest movement the world has ever seen.

How we all, leaders and followers alike, need to be constantly taking stock to make sure that our own hearts and minds are not taking us to places where we will miss what God has for us. The consequences, hopefully, will never be as tragic for us as they were for Judas. We need to constantly be cultivating a self examining spirit that never confuses one’s own desires and perceptions as always being God’s. His way is best. Leading is not about defending one’s own direction and following is not about knowing that one is being led astray and has the calling to take over.

All believers have the perfect Leader. And it is a joy beyond description to know that when things go differently than the way we wanted, it is not because of faulty leadership. “Come follow me” our flawless Leader says. And there is never a place where He will take us that we need fear to go. Judas missed that. Let us learn from him and never make the same mistake.

A Christmas Rant – A Little Late

OK, so it’s not Christmas. But I wrote something around Christmas time that didn’t get finished. I finished it the other day and thought that I would post it regardless. A month late, but for me that’s tantamount to early. It’s a rant anyway and you can save yourself some angst by ignoring it altogether. You’ve been warned.

A Facebook friend of mine posted this . A few weeks before Christmas. Actually, more than one did. Then a few days later another posted this  .

The lyrics of the song are:

If you don’t see merry Christmas in the window,
no you don’t go in that store
If you don’t see merry Christmas in the window,
yes you walk right by that door
Oh it’s all about the little baby Jesus and my Savior’s day of birth
It’s the one and only reason that we celebrate the season
wishing love to all and; peace upon the earth
If you don’t hear ‘Merry Christmas’ when they greet you
when you’re walking through store
Simply turn and say ‘It’s very nice to meet you’
As you walk right out that door
Words are chosen every year to hide it’s Christmas
the reason for our hol-i-day
They’re not happy what we’re singing
but they want their tills a’ringing
Trying to sell my Christmas every other way
come and stand out from the crowd,
say Merry Christmas and be proud
Christmas isn’t just another holiday
What would be missing, now lets see,
if not for Christ’s nativity
No silent night or first noels No Santa’s sleigh
No jingle bells
No star atop the Christmas tree
No special day for family
No bells that ring for angels wings
No dolls and trains that Santa brings
No drummer boy or Tiny Tim
No Mr. Scrooge, we all know him
No list of those whose been good or bad
Well maybe that won’t be too sad No candy canes or mistletoe
No Christmas lights out in the snow
No stockings hung with so much care
hoping Santa finds them there
And one more thing there wouldn’t be
no partridge in a rum pum pum pum
If you don’t believe the reasons for my Christmas
then it’s sure okay with me
Please don’t tell me what to say, or what music I can play
after all my Christmas is my special day
Come and stand out from the crowd,
say ‘Merry Christmas’ and be proud
Christmas isn’t just another holiday

Really. Continue reading

New Year’s Eve

Every New Year’s Eve our church gathers at 11 :00 p.m. for a service of singing, Scripture reading and testimonies from our people regarding the goodness of God to us in the last year.  The testimonies are always a highlight and here are some of what was said this year.

There is nothing earth shattering in these testimonies. They are the stories of ordinary people who are glad that an extraordinary God cares for them in the everyday realities of their lives. It is wonderful to hear what people thank God for.

I led things off by telling the folks that a couple of weeks ago I had a very rough day. Heather had gone to bed before I had and when I got to the bedroom there was a note on my pillow with II Corinthians 4:1 written on it

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,we do not lose heart.

I thank God that He gave me a wife with such a heart and the knowledge that the Word of God is what I need when I have rough days.

Some of the other testimonies:

A lady whose health issues keep her away from us most of the time – “I thank God for His presence in my life, for my Thistletown family’s love and support. Before I was a Christian I didn’t know anything, not even why there was a thing called Good Friday. I knew the catechism but not the bible or Jesus. I knew the priest couldn’t forgive me but I did not know who could. We are sinners who do not know what to do and Jesus comes and saves us.”

The wife of one of our deacons – “I thank God I am here united to my fellow believers. I thank God for the good and the bad, for the unity in our family and I thank all of you for your prayers.”

One of our newest members who struggles with great pain – “It is a great joy to be here tonight. My arthritis and fibro myalgia keep me from church. I am free enough from pain to be here tonight”.

A working mom whose husband is away and who is a refugee in Canada – “When I remember where I was and now see where I am I am thankful. I thank God for my church family – the prayers help most of all. I am thankful for being kept safe in the ice storm, that my husband arrived home safely and that my children are well.”

One of our AWANA leaders -”Pastor Davis told a joke a few weeks ago about a man who whispered to the bank teller that he wanted to make a deposit. When the teller asked him why he was whispering the man replied that he was afraid his car would hear that he had some extra money and then break down. My mother gave me some money for Christmas and it got used to repair my car.”

“I picked up a bag that someone had dropped and ran to give it to him because the Bible says that to know to do good and not do it is sin”

Our church treasurer – “I thank God for His provision. He gives me everything I need for life and godliness. He provides for my spiritual healing through the cross. One day, we will be completely healed – physically and spiritually.”

One of our worship leaders – “I thank God for my health, my job, which  love, for a wife who keeps me healthy, for this church and especially for being allowed to be a part of the worship team. It means more to me, to be able to help lead the church in singing, than I can say.”

Our Missions Committee chairman -

“Psalm 31:1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
3 For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;

Please pray for me that I have a closer walk with God.”

A 12 year old girl – “I thank God for my church family.”

Just a small church gathering to worship God on New Year’s Eve. No fanfare, no flash, no great scenes of miracles. But a wonderful place to be as people chosen from before the foundations of the world, stood to thank God for His grace. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Read This

There are other things to say on the first week of a new year. But this really needs to get around. This is great stuff that is a tragedy that it needs to be written. Please – read this. It’s called “Sincerely, One of Many Girls Who Care”

http://bemalleable.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/sincerely-one-of-many-girls-who-care/

Happy New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

We truly pray that this will be a year when you come to know Christ, if that is not true of you yet, and that it will be a year when you come to grow in your knowledge of Him if you already do.

Children of God have the great comfort of knowing that they have been predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. By coming to Christ, you can know it too.

Romans 8:29 – For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

That growth into Christ’s image begins now as we behold the great glory of the Lord – the Gospel.

II Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

May your 2014 be a wonderful year of this growth into Christ through the Gospel. Allow nothing to slow you down in this glorious pursuit.

Here are a few more texts related to the thing that is forefront of our minds on New Year’s day – time. God bless you all.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 – For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Psalm 90

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
7 For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12 So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

Philippians 3
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Jude
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Christmas at Thistletown

Christmas Shepherds2

Well, it’s Christmas and we just want you to know how we will be celebrating it this year. You are invited to everything mentioned here and our prayer is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be at the forefront of all your worship and preparations for Christmas.

Here are the specials we are a part of this year:

Sunday December 15 – 7:00 p.m. – Our annual Christmas concert. Very unprofessional, but filled with lots of laughter and good Christian fellowship and, we pray, a clear presentation of the Gospel. This year the focus is on “peace”.

Sunday, December 22 – 6:30 p.m. – Annual carol sing in the Fireside Room of the church. We sing a lot of carols and throw in quite a few secular Christmas songs. A piece of Scripture will be read and this year Pastor Davis will read a Christmas story, maybe one of Leacock’s ( The Errors of Santa Claus) or maybe O Henry (Gift of the Magi). We have a lot of fun at these sing-a-longs and we hope you can join us.

Tuesday, December 24 – 7:00 p.m. – Our annual Christmas service. A brief (one hour) service focussing on the birth of Christ. There may be a visit from the real Saint Nicolas explaining what he was really like. One of the major reasons for this service is for us to worship the Saviour absent of all the noise and fuss that we have been involved in getting ready for Christmas. This is an opportunity to come away and rest and refocus on the God who has visited us.

Tuesday, December 31, 11:00 p.m. – These services on New Year’s Eve used to be called “Watchnight” service. We watch the old year disappear and watch the new one come in. At our service we ask people in the congregation to tell us how God has worked in their lives in the past year. It is thrilling to listen to people tell a small snippet from their year and how they experienced God in it.

No Hunger, No Thirst

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Whatever this utterance by Jesus means it cannot mean that the true believer will never have spiritual wants or desires. It cannot mean that he will never doubt. It cannot mean that he will not experience times, perhaps even lengthy times of doubt and fear and feelings of an empty soul. Can it? No, it cannot. It means that once a person has truly come to Christ, they will not look elsewhere for their spiritual sustenance. It means, as Carson says in his commentary on this verse, that “there is no, longer that core emptiness that the initial encounter with Jesus has met”. There will be doubts. There will be times of great emptiness of heart. But they will not result in abandoning Christ for other things or other people. The feelings of emptiness of soul will cause one to flee to Jesus Christ, not abandon Him. God Himself uses such seasons of emptiness to bring us to a joy in Christ that makes it all worthwhile. Jesus will never be the reason for desiring other. Jesus Christ satisfies. And the child of God in his darkest days, struggles to get back to no one else but Christ himself.

This seems to be where so many of us miss it. While claiming to hang on to Christ we seek out other philosophies or techniques, or psychologies to help find contentment, inner peace, untroubled souls. We imbibe the values of the culture and wonder why the thirst that Jesus said would not come – comes.  It appears that we believe that Jesus can get us to heaven but we need more than Him before we get there; other than Him, better than Him, more than Him, to find a satisfying life.

No.

Jesus Christ is the only way to God. He is the only way to God after we die and enter into His presence. And He is the only way to God before we die and seek to live a life that has meaning and purpose and peace of soul and mind. It sometimes looks like we want to keep Jesus as our ace up our sleeve just in case He was right about how to have eternal life while at the same time not finding that He is sufficient for us in the hurly burly of everyday living. Of course, we will not, or cannot bear to, abandon Him completely. So we keep “believing” in Him for the big story at the end, while putting our faith in what Paul called “empty deceit”, “human tradition” and “elemental spirits of this world” (Colossians 2:8).

People who “believe” in Jesus and yet find that Jesus does not satisfy their thirst, will be very reluctant to admit that such is the case. Some will say that they have not abandoned Jesus, but only the traditional ways that a system has built around Him. They will say the church has destroyed the real Jesus. They will say that the system, the organization, the unbiblical traditions that the church has built up over two thousand years has masked, or hidden or even destroyed what true Christianity is all about. But for all the ways some of those accusations may be true, it does not explain why, in their quest for the real Jesus, they are still thirsty.

I have made no secret of the fact that I have suffered with depression for most of my life. My mother was seriously mentally ill and all of her progeny managed to inherit various aspects of her mental state. I thirst for mental and emotional well being. I have no time for those who believe that mental health is the one thing that all believers are guaranteed to have simply because they are believers. That is a lie. It hurts people and causes untold grief to real believers who think that their mental struggles are because of counterfeit or inadequate faith in Jesus Christ. Sometimes medication is necessary. Sometimes we will find help from people who do not know Christ. Sometimes medicine and psychiatry can do some good – sometimes. But none of that means that we should be looking to the religions, philosophies, and values of the world to find something that the sovereign Saviour of the whole created order cannot supply.

The Bible thoroughly equips us for every good work. We are born again by the living word of God and it is sharper than a two edged sword that cuts even with the ability to divide soul and spirit. The God who supplied that is not telling us that we can find true inner peace and contentment in philosophies that deny Him.

Jesus-satisfies-the-soul. “Well”, the response echos back, “He hasn’t satisfied mine”. And of course we are meant to believe that this is Jesus’ fault. The understanding is that if we keep up our end of the bargain, then He must keep up His. I believe, now why isn’t He coming through? But we do not come to faith in Christ with the understanding that He must now give me what I really want. Jesus is the goal, and for those who have Him as their goal He is very satisfying. But if our goal is peace of mind, or money, or health and wealth or a sense of purpose or any number of even good things, then Jesus just becomes an avenue for getting what really matters to us. That is not saving faith. That is God denying, self destroying, idolatry, disguising itself as faith. It is putting the sovereign Creator of all that is, the God Man, the Saviour of the world, the judge of all things, in the same category as a ticket to your favourite band or sports event. The goal is the band. The ticket is what gets us to the band. We will regard that ticket with great reverence but only because we need it to get to what really matters. Is Jesus our ticket? Yes, in a sense, Jesus is the ticket. He is also the fare that buys the ticket. But most of all, He is the event. And until we realize that and come to value Him above what He can do for us in terms of the temporal blessings of life, we will have great hunger and great thirst and when we encounter texts such as John 6:35, we will be perplexed. When Jesus is the prize at the end of the race and when,  in all of life’s struggles, we keep our sights set on Him as we run the race, we will find Him very satisfying. Set your sights on anything else and Jesus will be an obstacle that gets in the way of the real prize. And there will be great emptiness of soul. The souls of those who claim to have Jesus but do not, will be more empty than even those who reject Him altogether. It cannot be otherwise. At least those who reject Christ have their lives in order enough to chase after what they want without pretending that they want something else.

The Gospel is not just about getting to heaven later on. It is about having our sins forgiven and living a life of worship. That worship starts now even while we wrestle with sin and all kinds of troubles. It will continue in the eternal state without sin and troubles. And both here and now, and there and then, we will find Jesus very satisfying, never hungering or thirsting.