Saturday, August 25, 2018

Oh, But I’m Not a Leader

by Sylvia Gaston

I’ve heard those words quite a few times and every time I do, I wonder what it is about the word ‘leader’ that makes people intimidated. Do they feel unqualified? Is it too much responsibility to lead someone besides one’s self?

According to the dictionary, someone who follows is said to “act according to the lead or example of someone”. That’s not so intimidating.

Do you have a spouse, kids, a dog? Do you have friends? Co-workers? Then you are leading. Whenever those around follow your example, you are leading.

Now, how we lead is a completely different matter. We can lead well or we can lead badly. Either way, others are watching and will choose to follow us or not.

God has created each of us uniquely. He gave you particular talents, personality, character, and intellect. These vary greatly from person to person. Think about the specific things that make you….you. These are the things that you can share with the world - things that could make it a better place if you passed them on. These are the areas where you can, and should, lead.

Jesus ministered to, and led, many during His time here on earth. He saw the best in everyone, even if they weren’t at their best at the time. Although He didn’t come to be our leadership mentor (He came to sacrifice Himself for our sins), we can learn a lot about the way He led others. Here are just a few:

1.    Jesus led by serving others. He did nothing to gain personal attention or prestige. He took every opportunity to lead by example, serving the lowly in status, the outcast and the wretched.  As He did so, He taught His disciples, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-37)
2.    Jesus led with humility. He never threw his weight around nor demanded that others follow. As He taught, loved, and performed miracles, He gave all the glory to God. He said, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me.”  (John 8:54)
3.    Jesus equipped and released others to lead. He invited 12 simple, uneducated men to accompany Him. They saw how He humbly served. They learned by watching His example. Then Jesus released them to heal and minister to others. He said to them, Give as freely as you have received.”  (Matthew 10:8). In other words, pass it on. Lead others in what you have learned.

We all leave some type of legacy behind. How wonderful to know that you had passed on to others some of the great things you were given by God Himself! How beneficial it would be to certain individuals, and even the world, if you left behind the best of yourself.

We are all leading. Accept it, be intentional about it, and follow Jesus’ example, and say, "Hmmm, I AM a leader." 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

2018 Are You Making The Right Changes?

by Tim Howard 

Records reveal when I was born on February 13, 1951 I weighed 8 lbs. 2 oz. My hands were only an inch or so long, my hair didn’t exist and my skin was all shriveled up.  Even though my parents used the term ‘cute’ to describe me, I’m not sure that was absolutely true.

Years later, however, some major changes have taken place. I’ve grown to 5’8” tall, my hands are much larger, I’ve managed to put on 160 lbs, and I don’t want to talk about the hair thing because it seems like I’m regressing back to my infancy in that area.

Growth produces physical change but external change is not the only thing we humans need.

Speaking directly and bluntly, Jesus confronted the religious leaders about their emphasis on external change without any focus on what was happening internally. Matt chapter 23 puts it this way.

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something… People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds.” MSG

From this very insightful scripture, it’s clear that God desires more than mere behavioral modification!

I’ve had times in my own life when I looked like I had it together outwardly but was a mess internally. My life was incongruent and the inside didn’t meld with the outside. I’ve learned you really can’t always judge a book by its cover because looks can be deceiving!

God wants to change us from the inside out. Yes, He is concerned with your behavior, but He is ultimately concerned with your heart and attitudes because all your actions flow from your heart. King Solomon said: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Changing from the inside out will require God’s involvement.  Christianity is not about human effort and conforming to certain spiritual laws but being transformed into God’s likeness by the power of Jesus Christ.

Just like a skilled doctor who is able to do heart transplants for those in physical need, Jesus is able create a new spiritual heart within each and everyone who asks.

You can live without an arm, a leg, one kidney or one eye but you can’t live a life pleasing to God without A heart transplant. He will do it if a person asks!

Here’s God’s promise to those who do ask: 

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Out of Control

by Candace Cortez

Most mornings, my routine includes sitting and reading scripture, praying, listening to worship music, and making lists to organize my thoughts for the day. Literally, the simple act of writing my thoughts and tasks down allows me to relax about some of the things in my head. After I write this list, I often read the news and try to get updated on what’s happening in the world. This next habit, if I let it, will literally try to snatch away the peace gained by mediation and organization. It is often a highlighted reminder that I am not in control.

We are packing for a vacation, trying to soak up the last days of summer. In the process, I do everything I can to prepare for what could happen, and what I would need to still enjoy my time and provide for my family. I pack extra socks, in case for whatever reason we lose, or damage the ones that are appropriate for the number of days we will be gone. I bring snacks, things to entertain on the ride, and as many phone chargers as I can get my hands on. I screenshot the directions to our location in case my plethora of chargers bail out on me. We even have a basic first aid kit. But it never fails that when we arrive at the destination, something unexpected arises, and we need something we don’t have! It’s kind of frustrating. This is a reminder that I am not in control!

We have two incredible children, who are doing pretty well in school. We are doing what we can to raise them with care and help them love others through their words and actions. We have taught them about hard work and how to wash their hands. We are teaching them the importance of connection with God and how to hear His voice. We are forcing them to eat a certain ratio of vegetables each meal and are working to help them understand why. But then, I still get phone calls from family or from their school, letting me know that something unexpected happened. No matter how much parenting I put in, I am not in control.

I could go on with examples for days about the moments and ways I am not in control of all of the things that happen in our lives. I have experienced this position of being out of control result in a few different responses: anxiety, working excessively to regain control or peace. One of the ways that I can respond in peace to the unexpected things that happen in life is to remember that I may not be in control, but God is always in control.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Just because something is unexpected to me, does not mean it’s out of God’s hands! Just because it’s out of my hands, doesn’t mean it’s out of control. Sometimes the peace we need in our hearts begins BEFORE the crisis. You do not lock the doors and set an alarm while thieves are in your house. You guard your house before the invasion happens. Before you begin to lose your peace to the whirlwind of impossible or out of control, begin to protect your heart with God-given peace. This peace is beyond understanding. It can literally be confusing to others around you how calm you can be in times of chaos or emergency or the unexpected. It may even be confusing to you! 

Today, I admit, that I am out of control. But I stand firm on the fact that God has all power, and has my life in His hands. I have the ability to prepare, but my preparations do not guarantee an easy future. We all have some work to do in preparing the quality of our hearts. We can acquire peace that lasts through the trials. We do know that trials will come. Do you know how your heart will be when those trials arrive? I pray for peace, not for control, because He is already taking care of that.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Hold Your Head Up

by Andrew Cromwell

Our world has a devious way of beating you down. If it’s not the ‘through the roof’ utility bill this month, it’s the unexpected medical bill next month or a lost job or a cancer diagnosis. At least it can feel that way.

The old adage, “when it rains it pours”, generally holds true. Rarely does it seem like one crisis happens at a time. No, they all happen one right after the other. Like a perfectly timed one-two punch with a wicked uppercut to finish you off.

We all have seasons in our life when it feels like the hits just keep coming. If you’re in doubt, just turn on the radio and listen to the experts on the country music station. They’ll set you straight.

The Bible refers to seasons like this as an “evil day”. Evil days are days when the roof caves in and the bottom falls out. When the car breaks down, the money runs out, and the dog won’t look at you, you probably are experiencing an evil day.

The question is not whether you will have an evil day. We all will. And if you’re fortunate to live a while, you’ll probably live through more than one. The real question is, how do you respond in the evil day?

If you’ve ever watched a movie about war, you’ve seen a good example of what most people do when the bullets start flying. They duck and run for cover.

My personal experience of war is limited to the paintball field. A very poor parallel, I know. Nonetheless, when the adrenaline starts pumping and the paint starts flying, you become acutely aware of the pain you are about to experience. You remember all the past times you’ve been shot—in the head (which hurts REALLY bad, in the nose (which tends to bleed), and in the butt (which hurts, but mostly I just wanted to say “butt”). Almost without thinking, you find yourself crouched in a little ball, making the smallest possible target. You stop moving and you hide, hoping that the enemy forces will somehow forget you are there.

They never do.

More experienced players will tell you to resist the urge to freeze and hide under fire. They remind you to keep your head up and use your eyes to see what is going on. Once you drop your eyes, you lose sight of the enemy and put yourself at a major disadvantage. They tell you to keep moving because no one ever won by just sitting behind the bunker (except for that one time the other team kept shooting each other).

I believe the same advice applies to the evil days we encounter in life. Rather than dropping our eyes, rolling into a little ball, and getting stuck, we should stand up straight, look around and see, and keep moving. 

One of my favorite things to do when things go bad is to remind myself that I am a child of God, that He loves me, and that if I stay close to Him, everything is going to be just fine. Psalms 16 says, “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” 

So when the hits keep coming, I lift my head, put my shoulders back, and smile.