Nehemiah Did So Much More Than Build a Wall

15 04 2019

The Old Testament man of God called Nehemiah was a king’s cupbearer turned leader of Israel.

 

He is well-known and honored for his obedience to leave a very comfortable position serving king Artaxerxes to return to his people, the Israelites, to rebuild the walls and gates around Jerusalem. It was a daunting task, but Nehemiah continually spoke faith-filled words like, “The God of heaven will give us success.”  The assignments were handed out and the walls were being rebuilt even through opposition.

 

But were the walls his most meaningful feat?  I actually think there were others that were just as important – perhaps more important.

 

First, Nehemiah saw something amazing happen in Israel as they went to work on the walls together. In chapter nine we are told the Israelites, under Nehemiah’s lead, gathered together to fast and pray.  The result?  Repentance.  They confessed their sin and the wickedness of their forefathers.  Then in chapter ten, we are told what followed confession was a new-found desire to once again obey God’s commands.  They took an oath to follow the Law of God, given to them by Moses.

 

Following this, the Israelites started tithing again, including a tithe of their crops and a tithe of the tithe to the treasury.  They would stop neglecting the house of their God!

 

Finally, Nehemiah reestablished the Sabbath.  With repentance, with obeying God’s commands through His Law and with tithing, Israel would also find rest in God’s Sabbath principles.

 

Nehemiah’s Initial response challenges me, “When I heard these things, I sat down and I wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”  (Nehemiah 1:4).  Am I hearing God’s commands for me in the midst of my day?  Am I willing to step out and obey?  Am I willing to do something that others see as radical?

 

But perhaps most important for each of us, this story causes me to think that Nehemiah’s obedience and passion require a profound question: what breaks my heart; what am I weeping over?

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God Knows He’s Not Getting a Perfect Leader

18 03 2019

In a vision the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, has (Isaiah 6:8), God asks who He should send as a prophet to His people.  Isaiah immediately responds in two sentences and five total words, “Here am I.  Send me!” Have you ever said, “Here am I, send me” to God or have you hesitated, knowing He just might take you up on it? When I was a parent of younger children and asked who was available for a job, my kids would tend to make themselves scarce quickly. That reaction to a voice of authority is not uncommon.

 

However, leaders, like Isaiah, do not wait to see if anyone else is going to step up when something needs to be done.  Leaders initiate, take initiative.  They are raising their hands and are not hesitant to stand and speak up.  Leaders make decisions to lead and are willing to take the jump at short notice. Leaders obey God and know when to step aside and leaders obey God and know when to step in.

 

True Holy Spirit led leaders also know they are not capable within themselves to lead, they walk in a Holy sense of inadequacy.  At the same time, leaders who know the voice of the Spirit, walk in a confidence that their adequacy is from the Lord only.

 

I have been a leader for a long time.  I’ve wanted to be a leader and have been committed to growing my leadership skills.  I have never been a perfect leader, but often felt like a mistake- ridden one.  It goes with the territory.  But when you as a leader respond to God with, “Here am I. Send me,” God knows He’s not getting a perfect leader, but rather a leader He is perfecting.

 

Leaders need grace like everyone does, especially when making a mistake.  There is no perfect leader, only leaders our Father is perfecting.





John Wesley’s 21 Accountability Questions to Start Out 2019

14 01 2019

On a recent prayer time away from my office, I carried John Wesley’s 21 accountability questions with me.  I have gone through these numerous times and really enjoy doing so.  I thought that if you were not familiar with them, you just might like to consider a look as well.  On that note, here they are:

 

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
  3. Can I be trusted?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today?
  7. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
  8. Am I enjoying prayer?
  9. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  12. Do I disobey God in anything?
  13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  16. How do I spend my spare time?
  17. Am I proud?
  18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  20. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?

And, one more we might add to these: Have I told myself the truth as I answered these questions?





A Life of Integrity or A Life of Regret?

24 09 2018

Life can be full of regrets, but integrity and high moral character will never leave one feeling remorseful.  This blog is not for those who walk in disappointment, but rather those who are doing their best to avoid moral failure and the loss of integrity.

 

Job’s wife once said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”  But the Bible says that even after all of Job’s loss he did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.  What amazing character this man walked in.  If you’re like me, you are tempted but if you long to be more like Jesus, you realize perfection will never be reached.  However, lifelong integrity can be your testimony and that testimony begins today.

 

If you walk in integrity and avoid moral failure you will be:

 

  • Maintaining a personal testimony and walk before God
  • Maintaining an uninhibited marriage of oneness (spiritually, sexually, emotionally)
  • Not having to work at winning a spouses trust back
  • Maintaining family by not embarrassing them and not losing their respect and trust
  • Not having to walk away from a job or ministry position
  • Not having to relocate
  • Not having to face newspaper articles, publicly printed communication and social media about personal failure
  • Not having to face rumors, gossip and lies
  • Not having to face untold and far-reaching negative consequences either based on truth and fact or hearsay and lies
  • Not having to face the law or possible law suits
  • Not losing or forfeiting many friendships and local church relationships
  • Living without wounds and scars
  • Not feeling as though everyone is watching
  • Not suffering from overwhelming thoughts of failure
  • Not continually reliving the past and coming up with regret and loss
  • Living without continual condemnation and guilt or false guilt
  • Able to sleep at night
  • Waking up in the morning and looking forward to a new day
  • Not having to be concerned about who one may face in the day
  • Not suffering the loss of vision
  • Not having to go through biblical discipline and a restoration process
  • Able to look at one’s family and all others in the eye
  • Able to look at oneself in the mirror without feeling like a failure
  • Having a clear conscience; walking through life without a cloud over oneself
  • Not losing one’s peace and joy
  • Not suffering the loss and grief of broken relationship with God

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”  (Proverbs 10:9)





The Redemption and Reentry of a Predator

10 09 2018

I had this question posed from last week’s blog, Signs of a Predator in Your Church, (and I’ll paraphrase here), “What about the reentry of a ‘predator’ to the church after experiencing redemption?”  It was a great question and calls for a follow-up answer because a major role of pastors/leadership in the local church is to protect its members.

Redemption means to be bought, paid for by another.  To redeem is to atone for a fault or mistake.  When one is redeemed by the cross they are repurchased, made right through Christ.  However, that redemption does not remove the consequences of one’s sin.  If someone is guilty of murder, goes to jail and then experiences true redemption, they will still be incarcerated and rightfully so. Salvation does not stop the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Keep in mind all of us needed redemption; none of us is or was without sin.

With that, what would be our response to this repentant one?  It is said that it takes a lifetime to create a sexual predator. What that means is they perhaps have a history of being abused and abusing.  There is most certainly a not so good background preceding the life of a predator.  And there are a lot of factors to consider, but through the love of Christ we are welcoming to the saint and the sinner.  We do not judge their heart, but hope for the ongoing completing work of salvation to wholly change a life.  First Corinthians six is very clear and concise when it says, “And that is what some of you were (the sexually immoral).  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  It does not get any clearer than that.

Please remember not all abuse is the same, however.  Some is accomplished without ever touching the victim through exhibitionism or voyeurism. There are presently over 550,000 registered sex offenders in the Unites States.

Does this mean as the church we have an open arms policy and immediate access to our teens and children’s ministries?  Does this mean we pose no boundaries or period of caution for the one that struggled with this sin?  It clearly does not.  So, here are some suggestions when dealing with this person and their reentry into the local church. (Note: By the way, there are 600,000 persons who leave prison every year.  A reentry program for your church is something to consider.)

A few considerations

  1. You are not looking to enable an abuser in any way or further traumatize a victim. So we err on the side of caution and not on the side of mercy.
  2. At the risk of sounding harsh, if you are dealing with a registered sex offender, then in all humility and an attitude of, “If not for the grace of God there go I,” the congregation needs to be aware and the former offender should give permission to make this known. It does not need to be a public announcement, but every family should receive an email or some form of communication.  In this effort, you are protecting the whole and not just the one or two.
  3. Often the one who has been incarcerated enters a “reentry program” before reentry into society at large. Create a reentry program with clear boundaries, e.g., counseling, close accountability, Internet watch programs, close supervision in church activities and certainly no access to minors (which means no activities, no transportation and no children’s church functions unless it involves their biological children). Create boundaries in the spirit of love and not in a spirit of retribution.  (Suggestion: Designate a reentry person and assign them to this member.)
  4. Be clear on these person’s probation boundaries/terms. If this individual was arrested for their crimes and convicted, they will have probation/parole guidelines to follow and will most assuredly be on Megan’s List.  They will have a public record of criminal convictions.  Obtain this record and be informed.  Discuss their attendance to your church with their parole officer to be sure it falls within allowable guidelines.  (It’s not a bad idea to receive written permission from the PO that this person can attend your church.)
  5. This person normally spent years learning how to “groom” and “grooming” victims in that it became a lifestyle of action and thought. Time to heal, time to rebuild foundations and time to learn another way of thinking and acting is crucial.  Be aware of the propensity of the offender to be a reoffender.
  6. Be assured of ongoing counseling and one-on-one accountability in this person’s life. Depending on the level of their crime, it is not too far-reaching to have their designate reentry person with them at all times when on your church property.
  7. A violation of these guidelines will result in immediate action taken to remove this person from the fellowship.
  8. Know your states laws when it comes to sex offenders. For example, in Iowa it is illegal for a convicted sex offender to be on any school premises or public libraries.

Clinical psychologist, Anna Salter, wrote a helpful book titled, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders.  In that book she said, “Decades of research have demonstrated that people cannot reliably tell who is lying.  Many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Rachel Denhollander, the attorney who summoned her personal faith in her trial of her abuser, Larry Nassar said, “It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.”

Jesus set a man free from his bondage and then that same man begged Jesus to get into the boat with Him and His disciples. Our Lord’s response to him was, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…” (Mark 5: 19). Jesus might have been creating a boundary for further healing for this man as he left his sin-filled life and reentered his community.





We’re Always in Agreement; We Do What She Says

13 08 2018

At first I was a bit taken aback by the expression that was just spoken half jokingly. It went like this, “We’re always in agreement; we do what she says.” Do you find yourself all too often acquiescing to your spouse’s desires in order to head off an argument?  Should you be doing that?

 

Perhaps there’s a deeper issue.  It might be fear.  Or, it could be the more hidden root of mistrust.  Being fearful of push back, being wrong or feeling shamed is not a good sign in a marriage relationship.  Also, where there is fear present in a relationship, there is a lack of love and where there is mistrust, there is a root of unresolved past issues with hurts attached.

 

This leadership couple honestly confessed and was willing to talk about past issues with disagreement. They were willing to disagree. But what I think they were really saying was sometimes it’s more biblical to overlook an offense or a difference of opinion.  Proverbs 19:11 states, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

 

If we’re avoiding communication thinking that it will lead to a heated disagreement, then we’re not doing the two of us any good.  You have to be committed to work through the differences.  After all, it is those differences that in the end will create a better decision. Truthfully, both of you with your collective opinion, input and insight are necessary for healthy communication and dealing with conflict.  By the way, it’s not wrong to have conflict; it’s wrong to not resolve the conflict.

 

It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.  Proverbs 20:3





Raised Hindu with the “Favor” of Many God’s

14 05 2018

“I grew up in a Hindu family and was introduced to the worship of many gods,” said my new friend. “However, those ‘gods’ as I grew older, became more and more aggressive, unfriendly, demanding and evil.”  Her family told her this familiarity was highly favored and to be embraced, but nothing about this world felt favorable to her. At the age of sixteen, someone introduced her to Jesus and she received Him and His love into her heart.  She told me there was a profound change in her life and she soon realized that the “gods” she carried with her were actually demonic presences or spirits meant to torment her.  She wanted them gone from her life.

 

Some of her Christian friends gathered to pray over her, declaring the powerful blood of Jesus and one by one those unwanted spirits left and a new freedom was the result. After hearing this testimony, I looked straight at her and asked what her primary spiritual gift is today. Without hesitation she said, “I see spirits in and on others’ lives.”  I knew it; I just knew that the God who delivered her would now use her to bring deliverance to others.  It made me smile.

 

Looking straight into her eyes once again I asked, “Look at me and tell me what you see; do you see ANYTHING…any presence that does not represent the kingdom of God?”  I do not want anything that does not represent my King in or on my life.  I want nothing hanging out in my presence that does not represent or reflect the holy and the sanctified.  She focused squarely back at me without taking a breath and said, “I already checked you out and you’re clean.”  With a sigh of relief, I sat back in my chair and told her thank you…thank you for walking in this gift and ministering love, compassion and freedom to others.  I continued by saying thank you for not shying away from something that can be considered controversial.

 

“Thank you, Father, for Jesus our Deliverer.”  He cleansed the temple and He cleanses our lives just because He loves us and longs for us to be free.  (Galatians 5: 1 & 3:13)








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