Taking the Word to the World

Archive for August, 2011

Seven Landmarks to Fuller Potential – Part 2

Effectiveness comes through reaching your full potential. Sounds easy, but how do you arrive at this destination of full potential? I have listed seven landmarks for the journey (not in the order of importance).

Part 1

Photo by Collin Key (off and away)

4. Strengths: Ask, “What am I really good at?” Spend the majority of your continuous improvement time developing your strengths. This is the secret to making a mark of excellence. Spending all your time developing your weaknesses will only allow you to become average. Spend your time doing what you do best, and delegate the rest away. You cannot do everything, and you should not attempt to. Work smarter, not harder.

Bob Buford in Halftime says, “My passion is to multiply all that God has given me, and in the process, give it back.”

5. Success: It doesn’t happen overnight. It is a journey. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Right decisions done repeatedly over time will compound success. Peter Drucker says that you should work on things that will make a great deal of difference if you were to succeed. What is success? John Maxwell in The Success Journey reveals, “Success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.” Vaclav Havel adds, “The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him.”

6. Servant: Maintain a servant’s heart. A servant is not only willing to serve, but goes beyond the expectation of others. Biblically a servant that does only what is expected, remains unprofitable. “And the servant is not even thanked because he is merely doing what he is supposed to do” (Luke 17:9, NLT).

Sometimes it will be necessary to just say, “No!” to some tasks in order to do a better job at what you should be doing. Effective leaders learn when to say, “No!” Buford says that you should not accept work that you do not want to do, or that you have time to do. Unwanted work becomes a chore, and becomes an unpleasant taskmaster.

7. Stop: Take stock. Take time-out regularly to inventory, and reflect on what you have accomplished, and what you intend to accomplish in the future. Measure everything that comes your way according your vision, passion, giftedness, and personal ministry.

There are many roadblocks on the journey to reaching your full potential, and each one will try to detour you from you destination. A zillion motorists disguised as important work assignments will endeavor to slow you down. Keep your eye on your vision. Watch for the landmarks along the way. Slow down, and occasionally stop to make sure you are moving in the right direction. Get back on the road, and keep moving. Your destiny is in sight. Your fullest potential is just ahead.

Seven Landmarks to Fuller Potential – Part 1

Effectiveness comes through reaching your full potential. Sounds easy, but how do you arrive at this destination of full potential? I have listed seven landmarks for the journey (not in the order of importance).

Photo by SadJr

1. Stewardship: We are personally responsible for our own stewardship. Ask, “Where and how should I invest my time, talents, and treasure?” Have you ever noticed how quickly others can identify someone that works? They tend to pile work on workers, and give little thought to the person’s priorities, strengths, or time schedule. We have to be the ones to guard our giftedness. Invest well to bring forth the greatest dividends. Not all investments yield the same profits. We want to yield one hundred fold (Matthew 13:3-9).

Robert Slocum in Ordinary Christians in a High-Tech World says, “Even if the future is in God’s hands, I have in my own hands the stewardship responsibility for developing my own talents, aptitudes, and abilities.”

2. Specialize: Someone has said that if you do a little of everything, you will end up doing a whole lot of nothing. Life has many general practitioners, but few specialists. Being a specialist is the order of the day. Find something that fits both your gifts and a need in the organization, and give yourself to it. Become a professional. Look for things that you can do that no one else is doing (or can do). Not only will you gain a reputation, you will make an impact, and establish your ministry.

Paul said, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV).

Max DePree in his book, Leadership is an Art explains the concept of roving leadership. “Roving leaders have the special gifts, or the special strengths, or the special temperament to lead in these special situations.”

He claims that in many organizations there are two kinds of leaders—both hierarchical leaders and roving leaders. Max gives an illustration of roving leadership. In the church service on Sunday morning, a man slumps over apparently having a serious health problem. What did the leader, the senior pastor do in this situation? Nothing. But in a few seconds a nurse was at the man’s side. She quickly attended to the man. Who was the roving leader in this situation? The nurse. “Roving leaders are those indispensable people in our lives who are there when we need them.”

3. Significance: Get involved in something that makes a difference in eternity. What are you doing that will outlast you? Have a vision of what the Lord would have you to do. Life is too short just to aim for success. Shoot for significance, make an impact, and leave behind a legacy.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got ahold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

To be continued…

Called, Chosen, Faithful (Part 3)

Part 1 – Called

Part 2 – Chosen

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

Those that are with Jesus Christ, in the Book of Revelation, are identified as:

  1. Called
  2. Chosen
  3. Faithful

This is the first—and only—time that these three words appear together. In a nutshell, these three simple words highlight the three phases of our spiritual journey. They are three stages of Christian maturity.

Photo by Amydeanne

Faithful:

The called and chosen in Revelation stood faithfully in the Lord despite trials, tribulations, sufferings, adversities, afflictions, persecutions, and conflicts. They were trustworthy. They continued in the faith. They were grounded and settled. They refused to move away from the hope of the gospel (Colossians 1:23). They would not give a foothold to the devil (Ephesians 4:27). They must resist the danger of being swept back into the clutches of the devil. They were over-comers (Revelation 12:11), more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), and triumphant. They proved they were faithful (trustworthy) to Him (1 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 2:2). They could be relied upon. They were fit for spiritual battle. They are the doers of God’s Word (James 1:22). They made their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). Today, we carry on their example and follow in their footsteps. It is only those that endure until the end that will be saved (Matthew 24:13). The choice is ours. It is not a one time thing. It is a decision made day after day. We commit to the choice and persevere to the end. As we remain loyal to God we become the true “called, chosen, and faithful.”

According to Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible victory is assigned to us because of:

  1. The character of the Lamb: Jesus is the King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15), Lord of lords (Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalms 136:3; 1 Timothy 6:15), and God of gods (Psalms 136:2; Joshua 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:17). All power in heaven and earth is given to him (Matthew 28:18).
  2. The character of His followers: They are called, and chosen, and faithful. They are called out by commission to this warfare; they are chosen and fitted for it, and they will be faithful in it. Such an army, under such a commander, will be victorious.

Clarence Jordan earned two doctorate degrees but felt called to poor people. His farm was burned down and many of his friends and followers ran away. The next day, a reporter came to report on the closing of the farm. He asked, “After fourteen years of hard work, all is now gone. How successful have you been?” 

Clarence replied ’I think you misunderstand, sir. We are not about success. We are about faithfulness.”

Mark Hatfield tells of visiting Calcutta with Mother Teresa and touring the so-called “House of Dying,” where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield asked, “How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?” he asked. Mother Teresa replied, “I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.”

Clarence Jordan, and Mother Teresa, understood something that hopefully all of us comprehend. It isn’t enough to be called and chosen, we must be faithful.

David Fraser said, “To rule with Christ in his kingdom, we must hear God’s calling, respond to the calling with a changed life and be faithful to that calling until the end of life.”

It is only then that we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

Called, Chosen, Faithful (Part 2 – Chosen)

Part 1 – Called

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

Those that are with Jesus Christ, in the Book of Revelation, are identified as:

  1. Called
  2. Chosen
  3. Faithful

This is the first—and only—time that these three words appear together. In a nutshell, these three simple words highlight the three phases of our spiritual journey. They are three stages of Christian maturity.

Photo by Amydeanne

Chosen:

Being called doesn’t necessarily mean you are chosen. One must still respond, in faith, and be obedient to the plan of salvation. Everyone has the power to respond. God wants all to come to repentance. It is not His desire that any be lost.

God chooses a person to receive eternal life when such a person accepts the truth, repents, is baptized in Jesus name for the remission of sin, and receives the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).

Roger Foster said, “They are called to surrender their wills to God—to repent and receive God’s holy Spirit. Because they choose to allow God’s Spirit to guide both their hearts and their conduct they are chosen for salvation—to have a part in His eternal kingdom. They prove their faithfulness by enduring trials and obstacles as evidence of their continued commitment to obey God.”

Many are called or invited, but few respond. Responders show by their lives that they were chosen to salvation. The choice is left up to us. We are freewill moral agents. The Gospel is preached throughout the world, in nation after nation, and in city after city. Yet, few make the necessary steps toward God, giving their lives to Him, yielding to Him, submitting to His desires for us, and obeying His Word. They reject the mercy of God and rather chose, for themselves, the judgment of God.

Those that respond to God’s call are chosen by God to be His disciples and to work with Him in the Church. They are steadfast and unmovable. They adhere to—and keep—the truth. The chosen are “in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and have “put on the Lord Jesus” (Romans 13:14). Such a person puts God first in his life. He puts God’s Word into daily practice. He abides in Jesus and Jesus abides in him (John 15:4-6). He does not become entangled in the affairs of this life.

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15, Emphasis mine).

Called, Chosen, Faithful (Part 1- Called)

Ever read through a Scripture passage, wonder what it meant, but never take the time to check it out? I’m guilty of that from time to time. Thankfully, I do eventually get around to doing the biblical research. In this lesson there are two particular Scriptures that have arrested my attention. They refer to being called and chosen. One verse takes it the extra step and includes being faithful.

Here are the two verses:

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

“For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

Those that are with Jesus Christ, in the Book of Revelation, are identified as:

  1. Called
  2. Chosen
  3. Faithful 

This is the first—and only—time that these three words appear together. In a nutshell, these three simple words highlight the three phases of our spiritual journey. They are three stages of Christian maturity.

Photo by chiaralily

Called:

In general, the entire world is called. It is the call, extended to all of us, to leave the kingdom of darkness and turn to the kingdom of light; to be born again; to initiate a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the call to obey the plan of salvation.

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39).

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

When we obey the plan of salvation we become part of the body of Christ; the church of the living God. The church is the ekklesia; the called-out ones. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words tells us it was used among the Greeks to identify a body of citizens that have gathered to discuss affairs. We get together to talk about the business of the king.

When Christ walked on the earth, He personally called His disciples (Mark 1:17, 20). Today, He calls lost souls through preaching: “Whereunto he called you by our gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2:14).

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

Jesus used the expression, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). These words are used in the context of a wedding banquet. The story explains the process by which the called are actually chosen. Everyone was invited to the wedding. The invitation went out two times to two separate types of people. Although those in the original group refused to come and made worthless excuses, many in the second group did come. One that came did not have on the customary wedding garment. He was thrown out. Those called are expected to be clothed in righteous acts; possessing a changed way of thinking that led them to a changed way of living

Some refuse the invitation and, as a consequence, are not chosen. They are too busy pursuing the pleasures of this world. They are choked by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches (Matthew 13:22). Others outright reject Christianity.

God provides a royal feast for the perishing, hungry souls. He issues the invitation. He calls all to be saved:

“Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40).

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17, ESV).

God called through the Old Testament prophets. Few responded. God continued to call through John the Baptist. Still only a handful responded. Jesus called, saying “The kingdom is at hand.” People still ignored Him. No wonder Stephen said, “You do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51). The call went forth to the Jews. They resisted. The call persisted to the Samaritans in Acts 8; and to the Gentiles beginning in Acts 10.

Living Inside Fifteen Pages

Life is like a book. Some books are long. Some are short. Some chapters are long. Some chapters are short.

 “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-9).

The New Living Translation notes this as “Paul’s Final Words.” As I sit here rereading those words I am saddened by the finality of it all. I wonder how many months or years had passed since Paul had written, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). How long was it between, “I press on” and “I am now ready to be offered…the time of my departure is at hand. I have finished…”?

  • Fifteen pages (Lord, teach me to number my chapters. That’s how many pages, in my Bible, between the two verses)
  • 440 verses (Lord, teach me to number by verses)
  • Six years (61 AD – 67 AD) (Lord, teach me to number my years)
  • That is 2, 190 days (Lord, teach me to number my days.)

Photo by Jeffrey Simms

And lest you think Paul had it easier than you, remember that both verses were written while he was in prison.

“An Arabic proverb teaches that the dawn does not come twice to awaken a person. Opportunity knocks but once. An opportunity missed will eventually bring ample repentance. I have one chance to impact my world.” 

Clarence Mac Cartney told a story of an old rabbi. He used to say to his people, “Repent the day before you die.”

“But,” they said, “Rabbi we know not the day of our death.”

“Then,” he answered, “repent today.”

“Are there opportunities you are neglecting today that may soon vanish forever? Today is yours. Tomorrow may be too late.” (With the Word Commentary by Warren Wiersbe)

“We must capture the moment. Take the opportunity when it arises. Do not hesitate. Do not waiver.”

I arrived in Africa one week before my twenty-third birthday. I used to hide under the cover of being young. There, they value age. I would mention to Sister Rodenbush about being young but knowing that one day (when I get old enough) I would accomplish great things for God. She was always kind and encouraging. But when I was about thirty, she told me something like, “Jim, you’ve often said when you are older you will accomplish great things for God. You’re older. You need to stop saying that. Now is the time to start doing it.” It was a major turning point in my life. I think God sends several notable turning points in life. They become God-moments and road-posts in the journey.

Robert K. Rodenbush once said, “Very few people remember how you start your ministry, even less remember what you do in the middle. But, everyone remembers how you end.”

I am beginning to have my aches and pains. But, I don’t want to reach the end of life with the “pain of regret” so I will now suffer the “pain of discipline.” Endure the pain of discipline today so you won’t have to endure the pain of regret tomorrow.


Going Back To The Basics of Christianity

I feel crippled by the unknown. I ponder the next step in God’s plan in the maze of my troubled life. I try to make sense of who is really in charge and to decode their motives. I struggle with being suffocated by frustration and taunted by hopelessness. I deliberate over who owns the controls of my life. Is it me? Is it others? Is it God? Is it a combination of all three? In turbulent times it is essential to allow God’s Word to thunder.

The great coach, Vince Lombardi, of the Green Bay Packers, had an interesting way to approach pre-season training. At the first team meeting the legendary leader wasted no time getting to the point. He delivered one of history’s best one-liners. He held out a football to his players and said, “Gentlemen this is a football.” In those five, simple words, he took his team back to the basics.

Four simple words unfold the Bible in Genesis 1:1 serve as the platform of the basic tenants of Christianity.

“In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1)

Photo by Ian B-M

If I don’t believe that then my Christianity shakes on insecure footing. Every decision point on the path I trod becomes questionable. I become captive; chained by apprehension. Without that firm foundation I am tempted to throw in the proverbial towel, sulk under the closest tree, or hang myself out to dry in the nearest desert (not that I’m feeling dramatic or anything).

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

Ladies and Gentlemen, regardless of what you are going through today, let us return to the basics of Christianity. They provide stability in unsettled time, direction in the fog of your future, and answers to life’s pressing, perturbing questions.