Friday, November 21, 2014

Ruling or Leading

I just read a tweet that set apart leading from ruling. The President made a speech last night. I guess that's the reason for the tweet.

But it causes me to think about my role as a pastor. I must confess that there have been times in my 32 years of ministry that I have tried to rule rather than lead. I apologize for that! People are much more receptive to leaders than to rulers. (Should I remind you that the President made a speech last night?)

The Bible refers to pastors as shepherds. God's people need to be led toward fulfilling the Great Commission, to confess sin, to love one another, to live moral lives, etc. I could stand in the pulpit (sadly, I have) and demand action and response. That almost always results in no response or the opposite response I was demanding. But shepherds lead the sheep. Once the shepherd gains their trust the sheep will follow him anywhere. They trust him to be looking out for them and leading them to the right places.

A church will follow a leader much better than obey a ruler.

Years ago I worked as a training manager for call centers. One of my trainers was a bit of an independent type. She was a good trainer but not so much a good employee. Finally, I had to sit down with her to develop an action plan based on her misconduct. I had a couple of options. I could call her in my office and tell her what the rules were and demand she toe the line or else.

Instead, I chose to sit down in the training room with her. I had a blank piece of paper on which we would outline the action plan. In my mind I knew what I wanted to write on the paper and usually I would have already written it down. But as we talked about the situation, the company's policies, and the expectations for employees, she crafted an action plan that was almost identical to the one in my mind. By asking questions and getting her involved in the problem-solving process we walked away with a plan we both owned.

I felt like I had been a good leader.

People in your workplace, school, family, club, or church will follow a leader. They might rebel against a ruler. (Remember the speech last night?)

OK, I'm headed to Google to find articles on effective pastoral leadership.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

First Reactions

Deana and I left for Israel on November 4. We'll be home on November 13. It's been a great trip with 52 friends and new friends - all of us associated with Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock in some way.

I married in.

It's time to pack for the trip home so I'll make this short. But I'll share more in the next few days…or weeks. Actually, I'll share my experiences for the rest of my life.

  1. The blue-ness of the Mediterranean is unbelievable.
  2. Being in a boat on the Galilee was emotional.
  3. The Via Dolorosa is a bit too commercial.
  4. A trip to Israel really does make the Bible come to life.
  5. I felt safe the entire time.

I plan to come back and bring some of you with me. Who wants to go?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

A Telling Anecdote

As a preface, I'm not bashing individuals. I'm not ranting. Just making a statement based on three anecdotal observations.

Halloween is a fun time for lots of people. I'm an introvert so I don't really want to draw attention to myself by dressing up and parading anywhere. When I was a kid I loved Halloween because of the candy. As I think about it, that's still why I like the day. But I'm not going to a costume party and since Riley's a teenager, I don't have to go trick-or-treating…which really cuts down on the candy!

You can't see another house from our house. We live on a fairly busy road but there's not much reason for people to trick-or-treat our house. Trick-or-treating works better in neighborhoods where kids can score a pumpkin full of candy in a few minutes. But we turned on the porch light and had candy waiting for any kids whose parents would risk the one-house-stop. We had four kids and I loved seeing them, getting hugs from them, taking their pictures, and handing out candy. It reminded me of riding on the tailgate of my grandfather's pickup truck as we headed down Fifth Street in Paris, Arkansas forty years ago.

Halloween is not really a holiday, is it? Businesses don't close. Governments don't shut down. I'd guess that few people miss work on October 31 because they get to show up dressed however they want.

But I've read on social media that some people claim Halloween is their favorite holiday. And some of these people are Christian - maybe just cultural Christians. My concern is that people who claim to be Christian would put a day that has very little if any Christian significance (I do realize that this is also Reformation Day when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door) above the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior - the Incarnation of God. Secular pleasure overtakes spiritual significance.

Then I heard a news broadcast on the radio. The anchor was reminding people to set their clocks back one hour Saturday night / Sunday morning as Daylight Savings Time comes to an end. On the lighter side, I thought, "Hey, that's my job! These twice-a-year reminders are about the last thing the government and culture allows pastors to do without harassing us!"

On a more serious note, she went on to say that if you didn't adjust your clock Saturday night / Sunday morning you would be an hour off schedule MONDAY MORNING. And she said to take advantage of the time change by sleeping in SUNDAY MORNING. Our culture has long ago left the perspective that church matters. I knew that but when the news broadcast totally ignored a worship service possibly being on someone's Sunday schedule…

I shouldn't be surprised. Even last weekend should have prepared me for this weekend. The NFL season has included playing one game in London the last few years. That was last weekend. Last Friday, the sports radio show I listened to hailed the idea of televised football on Sunday at 9:00 A.M. since the morning would otherwise be void of any usefulness. Again, church attendance and participation (and importance) are ignored.

So Halloween is the favorite holiday and Sunday mornings have little to do with going to church.

If we ever were, the United States certainly is not a nation of Christians today.

I heard a story this week that I had heard before that is appropriate for our situation. A shoe company sent a salesman to an African country. After a few weeks the company received a telegram from the salesman: "I quit! Nobody wears shoes over here." The company sent another salesman who sent this telegram a few weeks later: "Send more shoes. Prospects everywhere!"

I'm not lamenting (much) the state of Christianity in America, but recognizing the sobering reality that the fields are white unto harvest. Just look out the front door. OK, maybe I'll have to drive a quarter of a mile to see the fields.

The Great Commission demands that those who are truly followers of Christ are to make disciples. My pastoral ministries professor aptly defined this as "winning people to Jesus and building them up in the Lord." Let's don't cry in our cereal; let's pray for workers for the harvest and let's be those workers.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Surrender = Victory

Leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention is calling for prayer for revival and spiritual awakening. I've been convicted about the need for a stirring among God's people and particularly within our church so I am preaching a series of messages based upon the model demonstrated within the convention. Dr. Ronnie Floyd, President of the SBC, leads prayer gatherings around the country. I participated in Little Rock a few months ago and it was a powerful time.

Yesterday was the third Sunday of preaching about praying for revival. The first sermon challenged us to cry out to God to open the heavens and pour out his blessings upon us. Last week we talked about confession and repentance. Then yesterday the topic was surrender.

Jesus is a great example of surrender. He prayed just minutes before he was arrested that God would allow the subsequent events to be different. Jesus would be arrested, beaten, falsely convicted, and crucified. I would have asked for another plan, too! But the crucifixion was necessary because of sin, and Jesus could be the only perfect sacrifice to die for our sins. There could be no other plan.

Despite knowing what would happen over the next few hours, Jesus surrendered his desires for the Father's will. He did this because he trusted the Father's plan for redeeming the lost and he agreed that the lost were worth redeeming.

Do I trust God's plans? Do I agree with God's purpose? If not, I won't surrender to him. I will continue to follow my desires, my will, my plans. I'll continue to cater to me!

In surrender, I am saying that I trust God's plans and I agree with God's purpose. Are you willing to say this? Are you willing to follow Jesus (and Jesus' example)?

The passage in Luke 22 that tells us of Jesus praying in the garden teaches us that surrendering to God's will brings about great victory. After the crucifixion, Jesus arose to live again, he fellowshipped with his friends, he ascended to his rightful place in heaven, and he will return gloriously to establish his eternal kingdom. That's all victory!

Even his death is a victory because in death Jesus secures forgiveness for all who will turn to him.

We don't usually equate surrender and victory. One army surrenders to the victor. But in God's design, surrender equals victory. Will you surrender to God's will? If you do you will gain victory in this life and in eternity.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Love, Dad

My three sons - the Loyd Boys - are 30, 28, and 13. Jim, Caleb, and Riley have sure made this Dad a proud and happy man. I haven't produced clones and wouldn't want to but sometimes I wish they were more like me. And sometimes I wish they were less like me. In his infinite wisdom, God chose to pass along to them from me as he did. I don't understand. I'm not supposed to.

A person who had never met me told me last night that she knew I was Caleb's Dad because he and Jim and I look alike. Maybe she was exaggerating but it made me feel good.

Caleb is getting married today to Keegan. It's a happy and exciting day. Caleb asked me to officiate. Keegan let him ask me. For that, I am very thankful.

So to Caleb and Keegan I say...

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 10:6-9)

I pledge to pray daily for you. I pledge to always give you my love and support. I pledge to be an example of a godly man, father, and husband.

Love,
Dad

Friday, October 10, 2014

Things That Last

I love taking pictures. My Dad and sister are much better at it than I am. My Dad bought a Minolta 35mm SLR when I was a kid. I never used it much but thought that kind of camera was so cool! My sister was on the Annual Staff and roamed the halls and sidelines recording memories for our high school. That was before digital cameras so she learned to develop the film in the school's darkroom.

I bought my first Canon SLR in the film days then replaced it with the first digital SLR Canon produced. And I still have it. Its 6.3 megapixels don't come close to what cheaper and smaller cameras produce these days. My iPhone's camera has more megapixels than that. But the camera phones and the point-and-shoots don't take pictures like an SLR.

I'd love to upgrade but that will have to wait for another day. I have a philosophy about cameras and golf clubs: Why pay more money for new ones when you don't really know how to use the ones you have? I have a lot to learn about photography...golf, too.

Some things are obsolete almost as soon as you buy them. Some things wear out over time with use. Some things last forever but get replaced by the latest and greatest.

Computers, running shoes, and cast iron skillets.

But one thing never becomes obsolete, never wears out, and can never be replaced. God's Word - the Bible - is God's expression to us of all we need to know to make sense of this life and make it to eternal life. Times change, people change, and circumstances change but God's Word is the ultimate guide to knowing Jesus. Whether a person lived before my lifetime, lives during my lifetime, or will live after my lifetime, nobody will ever discover God, forgiveness, love, and redemption outside his Word.

Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Luke 21:33).

The psalmist wrote, "Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens" (Psalms 119:89).

Peter quoted Isaiah 40 when he wrote, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever" (1 Peter 1:24-25).

I have bookshelves laden with books. I have electronic devices loaded with digital books. None compare with the Bible. Yes, I have different translations and a favorite translation, but it is what God says to me in his Word that is so precious.

I still have my Letterman's jacket from high school...but it doesn't fit anymore. I have photos from my childhood...but they are faded. I have memories of special events...but some of the details may be missing.

I have God's Word. It will always fit. It will never fade. It will always be complete.

I hope to have enough money someday to buy a new camera. Then I'll put my old one on EBay or give it away to someone. But I'll never outgrow God's Word or get too smart for it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Consider

This thought crossed my mind today. It was jaywalking because it was not in the regular traffic pattern of my thoughts at the time. Rather than demanding the thought pay attention to my thinking pattern, I decided to go with it. I chased a rabbit. I'm a preacher, I can do that.

The word "consider" popped into my mind; I'm not sure why. Then I began to think about the times it is used in the Bible. Logos Bible software gave me hundreds of hits of the word in English. After a little clicking here and there I found that many Hebrew and Greek words are translated "consider" in our English Bibles.

Since I was chasing a rabbit and needed to get back to the task at hand I decided to just consider a few verses...in English.

Job 1:1 says, Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?"

Luke 12:24, 27 say, "Consider the ravens" and "Consider how the lilies grow."

Acts 15 tells of the Jerusalem council considering the question of circumcision.

Consider this... Each of these passages calls us to consider someone or some object or some issue. What is common about them? Each invitation to consider is an invitation to learn something about God.

The story of Job is not about his success, loss, and regained success. God is the center of the story. When we consider Job we see how God impacts a person's character in both good and bad times. We see God at work with complete authority over all things. We see God having no equal. We see God being merciful and gracious. We see how God's ways and thoughts are so much different that the way we think. Considering Job teaches us so much about God.

Ravens and lilies are not simply parts of creation for which God cares and to which God tends. Ravens and lilies show us God's dominion over creation so we can be confident he has dominion over our lives and problems, too. Considering God's activity in the least of creation causes us to realize he will be actively involved caring and providing for us. We do not live in a world of Deism where God created but no longer attends to the world; God is ever-present and ever-active in our lives. Considering the ravens and lilies teaches us so much about God.

The Jerusalem Council convened to discuss what it meant to be a Christian. Was Christianity an advanced stage of Judaism? If so, then circumcision must be part of the Christian experience. The council rightly determined that circumcision was not necessary to be a Christian. In other words, the trappings of religion may get in the way of truly knowing God. The circumcision given to Abraham's descendants was an act of obedience marking the people as God's chosen ones. Paul referred to the true faith-descendants of Abraham being marked by a changed heart, not a changed physique. The Jerusalem Council agreed that God is looking not on outward appearance but upon the heart. Considering how a Christian lives teaches us so much about God.

Consider this... God created you to be in a love relationship with him that brings honor to him as your worship him. Your sin stands in the way of that relationship but Jesus - God in the flesh - gave his own life as the penalty for your sin so that the relationship can be restored as God desires. Will you turn from your sin and toward God's purpose of relationship and praise? Will you follow him? Will you serve him? Will you consider following Jesus?