4 Posts from October 2010

Flexibility

Are you open to change?

People who make a difference can be stretched, pulled, pushed, and often changed. You heard it from me: traditionalism is an old dragon, bad about squeezing the very life out of its victims. So never stop fighting it. Watch out for those age-old ruts!

Let’s be careful to identify the right opponent. It isn’t tradition per se; it’s traditionalism. I’m not trying to be petty, only accurate. The right kind of traditions gives us deep roots—a solid network of reliable truth in a day when everything seems up for grabs.

Among such traditions are those strong statements and principles that tie us to the mast of truth when storms of uncertainty create frightening waves of change driven by winds of doubt. For example: believing in the authority of Holy Scripture, knowing and loving God, bowing to the lordship of Jesus Christ, committing ourselves to others, filling the role of a servant-hearted leader, and becoming a person of genuine encouragement. Such traditions (there are others, of course) are valuable absolutes that keep us from feeling awash in a world of relativism and a culture shot through with uncertainty.

However, a great deal of difference exists between tradition and traditionalism. By traditionalism, I have in mind mainly an attitude that resists change, adaptation, or alteration. It is blindly and forcefully holding fast to a custom or behavior. It is being suspicious of the new, the up-to-date, the different. It is finding one’s security, even identity, in the familiar and therefore opposing whatever threatens that. And if you’ll allow me one more, it is substituting a legalistic system for the freedom and freshness of the Spirit—being more concerned about keeping rigid, human-made rules than being flexible, open to creativity and innovation.

By now, you’ve guessed where I stand. Clearly, my position is on the side of openness, allowing room for the untried, the unpredictable, the unexpected—all the while holding fast to the truth. Believe me; there are plenty of people around who feel it is their calling to tell others what to do and what to say. They are self-appointed wing-clippers who frown on new ways and put down high flight. They work hard to squeeze you into their mold.

Whoever decides to soar must first fight through the flatland fog that hangs heavy over the swamp of sameness.

—Chuck

Kingdom Commitment

Ministers of excellence are those who see through the lies of the clutching greed of our times. They are pastors who have declared their undivided allegiance to Christ’s message, those who have humbled themselves to Christ’s sovereign authority . . . and to His control. That’s a mighty tough assignment!

If you are greatly gifted, you may be able to do marvelous things that would cause the public to be swept up by your skills and because of your abilities. In the process of your ministry, you will find great temptation to make a name for yourself, to make a big splash, to gain attention, to get the glory, to strut around, to increase your fees, to demand your rights, and to expect kid-glove treatment. You’re in authority now! People are talking about you! Please.

Let me remind you that if you’re in ministry only for yourself, you’ll have no endurance. On that precarious top of the ladder, you’ll always have to maintain your balance by maneuvering and manipulating, lying, deceiving, and scheming. But if you’re committed to kingdom-related excellence, when you go through times of testing, you can count on kingdom endurance to get you through.

If you’re the kind of pastor who really wants the whole purpose of God, then you dare not leave out kingdom commitment. That means your motives must be investigated. For example, every time you make plans to accept a speaking engagement with a handsome honorarium, or to write a book, or to build a new sanctuary—and such things as these—you must deal with it before God. Specifically ask: Is this Your will? Would this honor Christ? Does this represent a kingdom commitment?

Very often the actions we perform do not need to change . . . but our reasons for doing them definitely do!


—Chuck

First Place

If some ministry position is the god of your life, then something terrible occurs within when it is no longer a future possibility. If your ministry, however, is simply a part of God’s plan and you keep it in proper perspective, you can handle an unwanted dismissal just as well as you can handle a promotion.

It all depends on who’s first and what’s first.

Breaking the magnet that draws things ahead of God is a lengthy and sometimes painful process. But God loves us enough to wrench from our hands everything we love more than Him.

Everything was created through Christ and His power, and furthermore, it was created for His honor. That includes everyday things as well. If you have a satisfying position, it’s to be enjoyed for Him. If you have a fair salary, it’s to be enjoyed and invested for Him. Do you have good health? It is for Him. Are you considering more theological training? That, too, is for Him. You’re thinking about a career change? It needs to be for Him. That is true because He’s the ruler of our kingdom. He is Lord.

Perhaps, in addition to Sunday, you teach a number of times during the week. You want to publish a book, or lead a men’s group, or start a new outreach, plus continue a rigorous counseling schedule. Does Christ have first place in those decisions? Have you decided that continuing those ministries is just assumed . . . and other priorities—like family, time with God, and rest—just fit in the cracks?

If that describes you, then face it—Christ really isn’t in first place in your ministry. You are. (Hey, I’ve been there.)

Sometimes God is more glorified by what we say no to than by our taking on another ministry. Just remember: Whatever is in first place, if it isn’t Christ alone, it is in the wrong place.

—Chuck

Victory

Picture for a moment the barrenness and bleakness that happens in a life when compromise occurs. It doesn’t come immediately.

At first, there’s some zip, a little excitement; there’s a measure of thrill and pizzazz. But inevitably the fleshly investment starts to yield its carnal dividends. And when that happens, you suffer as you’ve seldom suffered before.

Perhaps the words very low paint a picture of bleakness that describes you at this moment. Even in ministry, the burden of struggle takes it toll. You have ignored God’s warnings and pushed your strong convictions aside as you trafficked in unlived truth. But now you are at the end of your rope. You’re discouraged. You have failed miserably. You’re thinking, What a terrible way to live!

All of us have spent time in that miserable camp called Reaping What Was Sown. En route, there’s enough pleasure to make it seem like fun, but when it’s all said and done, it’s downright awful. There is no discouragement like the discouragement that comes from self-generated wrongdoing. Enduring the consequences of one’s own irresponsibility creates feelings of grief and discouragement that defy description.

That’s enough about the problem. What we really need are specific suggestions that get us back on track.

First, you need to openly acknowledge what caused your condition. Openly admit to yourself and to God that you have failed to stand alone as a true child of God. You see, you weren’t built to live that way. You have allowed someone else to call your cadence. You’re marching out of step with your Instructor. And the Lord speaks directly: “You have not obeyed Me.”

Second, focus directly on the Lord, not on the odds against you. Everything depends on where your focus is. You must discipline yourself to focus directly on the Lord, not on those odds!

Get this straight and never forget it: you will not stand alone when outnumbered or stand tall when tested or stand firm when discouraged if your focus remains on the odds. Your eyes must be trained on the Lord.

—Chuck