Tag Archives: Integrity

Want Ad: Servant Leaders Needed!

One of the greatest paradoxes of leadership is: The greatest leader will be the greatest servant. There is no dichotomy between leader and servant, in reality they are synonymous. A real leader is a genuine servant.

There are many who have assumed the title “leader” today in business, media, and political America. They’ve spray painted it on the choice parking spots, stenciled it on doors, plastered it across websites and Facebook, and embossed it on letter heads and calling cards, but they are the only ones who think they are leaders. A leader has followers. If you can hear clearly the chirping of crickets as you march through your achievements pursuing your goals, it is likely no one is following you. And—if there’s no one following you, regardless of what your card, website, or signage says, you are not a leader.

Leading is an honor that is earned by serving others regardless of whether or not those you serve ever follow you. Leaders serve regardless of whether their service is received, appreciated, or acknowledged. Service bends the knee and the back, joining those who grease the gears, shovel the nasty stuff, and sweat genuine sweat. True servants, who lead, are not afraid to bend low, wade through the muck, or lift up a fallen comrade. And in their service, they rise to leadership.

Leaders are not born—they are developed over time as they grow through their willingness to serve others. Leadership is not a gift or a talent—it is earned through serving. If you are unwilling to do what you would ask or expect another to do—you are not fit to lead!

Titles are sold cheap and positions often go to the bidder willing to pay the asking price. Honor, respect, and trust are not commodities bought or traded on the market. They are the warp and the weave of the invisible fabric that protects and promotes a true leader. High character, strong morals, and unwavering beliefs are the enduring resources of a genuine leader. Standards don’t change when the cultural or political winds do. Leaders don’t lead by checking the wind—they lead by drawing strength from who they are and what they believe. Leaders are not swayed by the wind—they stand fast in the face of the wind.

We desperately need some leaders, men and women, who are more interested in serving others than achieving their personal agendas or the agendas of those who’ve paid for their offices and appointments. We don’t need Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, black or white, male or female, or a thousand other things competing for dominance in a country slowly swirling its way down, around and aroun in the toilet bowl of history. We need leaders who will serve. When the servant leaders arise, rest assured—the rest will follow. Otherwise, we will disappear and fade into pages of history along with all the other causes, groups, and nations who were led by “leaders” who would not serve!

Show me a person willing to serve anyone at anytime and I will show you a man or women destined to lead!

Family Matters! A Tribute to More Than a Friend

Stunned describes the way I feel today. A phone call early today knocked the breath out of me and it seems almost impossible to catch it now. Late night or early morning phone calls are never bearers of good news. This one wasn’t either.

As a pastor, most people expect you to say the “right” things at the “right” moment so that those who are suffering might feel “right” once again. But there are no words to say that can make anyone feel “right” once their life has been marred by death.

Today, I am not the pastor with the “right” words (I never have been because those guys really don’t exist)—I am just another human being struggling with my own emotions at the loss of a dear, dear friend. I’m processing the reality of the moment and not getting very far. Shocked is another word that expresses my state of mind. All those questions we are afraid to ask, like why? and how? are relentlessly pursuing me, clamoring for an appointment in my mind, intent on way-laying my faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore I choose to write the words I can’t seem to formulate with my tongue or lips. Words come hard at times like these. They seem cheap if they come too fast. This morning I just hugged my friend’s mate and cried…there are no words that will make the moment better. But perhaps these words will remind others who knew Johnny well of the sort of stuff he was made of.

The memory of his smile has illumined my day today. Every time I thought of him—I could see his pearly whites. He was not a somber, gruff man as so many are. His smile disarmed you—made you willing to take another look. It was not phony smile of someone hiding something or the bogus beauty queen smile we all know so well. That million dollar grin mirrored the state of his soul. His smile emanated from the inside; it was not just window-dressing on the outside. It was genuine—real—one hundred percent sincere. Johnny’s smile was capable of knocking walls down and reaching into the hearts and souls of those who needed a touch of compassionate attention.

That smile was often followed by a laugh. If you knew Johnny you know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t—well it was laced with a certain kind of joy and echoed a grace that is sort of indescribable. Let me put it this way—if Santa ever needed a day off, Johnny could have slid right it, taken the old guys job, and none of us would have known the difference. That laugh put you at ease. It took the edge off tough situations with its disarming tenor. It made you feel comfortable and confident. It lifted you up and made you realize that he was a real guy in a real world doing the best that he could. Perhaps that’s the best word to describe his laugh—real.

In fact, real describes Johnny the best. There was far more to him than what meets the eye. He was far more than a pretty face. Johnny had a servant’s heart. He had trouble telling others “No.” It was a word I don’t ever remember him using. If you needed something and he knew it, he made himself available to do whatever needed to be done and more. If you asked him for help, you could count on him.

Johnny loved people, kids, and animals—and not necessarily in that exact order. He treated all of them with love and respect, and in most cases the kids and the animals responded. I can still see him riding his horse Colonel in the local Christmas parades—blue jeans, big gold buckle, boots, Stetson, and having the time of his life or training his Blue Healers with their bandannas tied smartly around their necks.

My mind is alive with memories of driving through Tennessee Amish country looking for good deals on syrup and horse tack, loading trailers on a Sunday morning at the birth of a new church or chuckling together in the aftermath of rabid raccoon bite and its subsequent pain-filled treatments. I will especially treasure my memories of Johnny willingness to do whatever was needed on Sunday morning as we struggled to put together a credible worship service that would not embarrass God.

Perhaps what I’m trying to say with these inept words that keep filling my mind, but failing mightily, is Johnny was far more than a friend…he was family. And family matters!

Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice of the Church (Part 4)

Whenever God speaks he speaks truth, whether it is in Scripture or through a personal prophetic word. He cannot lie. If a revelation is from God, it is true and we can therefore put our full faith in it. God is infallible, but we are not. Therefore we must learn to test what we think we have heard.

When God speaks we can mess up what we hear if we are not careful. Every prophetic word has three parts: (1) the revelation—what is said, (2) the interpretation—what it means, and (3) the application—what we are to do about it. We can mess up revelation by not hearing correctly or adding to it. We can also mess up the interpretation by not asking God what he meant, choosing instead to go with what we know from past experience or personal knowledge. And we can mess up the interpretation by a misinterpretation of the action God expects or desires.

Let me illustrate what I mean. I love to teach. I enjoy the research and the process of putting together information to share with others through speech or in a book. Over the past few years, God has given me opportunities to teach in Romania, Germany, and Mexico. Often what I teach is new to my audience or the way in which I present it is different from what they are used to. In a sense, I am revealing something they might not have known, and in that sense, it is revelation. My purpose is for them to hear what I am teaching, understand it, and know how to apply it in their lives.

For this to happen, I have to have an interpreter to put it into the language of the people I’m speaking to. I only speak English, and I do that with a deep, slow Southern drawl. Most of my interpreters speak English as a second language. They don’t always understand the nuances, colloquialisms, and southern idioms I use. In other words, some of the things I say just does not translate well—or at all. So it is very easy to say something that is extremely vital to the message and then have it misinterpreted because my interpreter is translating word for word—not interpreting or making the proper application.

Several years ago, I was teaching a group of German students about having an intimate relationship with God. I made a statement that communicates well here in the U.S., but when they heard it, they fell apart, laughing hysterically in the aisles. It was not a humorous statement. I was confused—I didn’t know what to do. So, I look at my interpreter with that “please help me—I’m dying here” look.

The statement I had made was: “Too often we don’t share God with others, instead we keep him locked in the closet.” The pastor who was interpreting did it word for word translation, but a closet in German is not a place to hang your clothes, it is the potty—the commode—the water closet. The kids were howling—wanting to know why “my God” was in the bathroom. Needless to say, what I was attempting to communicate was missed. They missed the revelation because my interpreter did not hear what I meant, and thus the interpretation was missed and the application lost.

This happens all the time with personal prophetic words. To fully benefit we must hear the word correctly, interpret the word accurately, and apply the word appropriately. If we hit two out of three—we fail and God’s revelation is missed.

Humility and prayer are the essential tools for hearing revelation, discerning the interpretation, and implementing the application. We have to do the work. We cannot accept a word from someone without humbly asking God, “What does this mean and what am I supposed to do with it.” We must pray over the word to make sure it has been heard correctly, interpreted precisely, and the application is exact—or we miss what God is saying.

The apostle Paul, in the very first epistle he wrote, put it this way, “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise ( don’t look down on, hold it in contempt, or see it as below your status) prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NASB).

Out of the Ashes

Out of the ashes of apparent failure success often arises. All of us fail from time to time. It is a necessary part of success. Thomas Edison failed a thousand of times before he discovered a scorched cotton thread made the best filament for an incandescent bulb and today we enjoy light at the flip of a switch. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He eventually went bankrupt five times before he built Disneyland, whose idea was rejected by the city of Anaheim because the city fathers felt it would do nothing but attract riffraff. Imagine that! One of Beethoven’s early music teachers called him “hopeless as a composer,” and yet he composed five of his greatest symphonies after going deaf. Failure is far more common than success.

Failure is where we learn the ropes, pay the price, and determine whether or not something is worth doing. Failure separates the genuine from the “wanna be’s.” Failure is the galvanized foundation that success builds on. There is no such thing as an instant or overnight success. Elvis Presley was fired from the Grand Ole Opry in 1954 after only one performance and told, “You ain’t going nowhere son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.” Although Van Gogh painted over 800 pictures during his life time, he only sold one to a family member for about fifty bucks. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

Failure is not a title we sow on our uniforms as we play out the game of life. Failure is the grass stains on our game jerseys from having been knocked down only to rise again. If you get up every time you will never be a failure. Jesus spent 3 ½ years pouring his life into twelve men and what happened? One sold him out for thirty pieces of silver, one denied him three times, and the other ten ran away and hid like cowards. The Roman government condemned him and executed him as an enemy of the state. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. At the end of that day, I’ll bet most everyone who knew him or knew of him thought, “What a failure!” But—three days later, out of the ashes of apparent failure Jesus arose, the ultimate success story and victor through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What about you? “Well, I’m not Jesus,” you might be thinking, but you’re still breathing! You’re not dead yet! Don’t give up your dreams! The same power that raised Jesus up from the dead lives in you and you belong to Jesus. Perhaps your nose is bloodied and your arms and legs are weak—get up anyway! Perhaps you are ready to give up. Don’t! Get up! Those ashes of what should of, would of, or could of been may just be the launching pad for a rising star. You will never know—unless you dust them off and stand up.

Standing Firm (Part 9)

Watch out for those fiery darts!

What consumes your thinking? What are the issues, dreams, or fantasies running laps like a track star in your head right now? Are they wholesome or destructive, good or evil, productive or worthless? You are the sentry who stands guard at the entrance to your mind. Whatever you allow to squeeze in has your permission to be there. It is your mind after all.

The mind is the battlefield on which spiritual warfare is first waged. It is the first line of defense. Therefore it is very important to learn how to defend it and wage warfare from a mind set on Christ.

The enemy’s favorite tactic is to launch a fiery dart (a thought that opens one up to temptation, elicits a wrong emotion, or spurs a bad idea or action). In ancient warfare, arrows were dipped in boiling pitch and set afire. They were designed to set anything they touched aflame. When a fiery dart hit, the burning tar would splatter, throwing tiny droplets of liquid fire everywhere, creating multiple fires and panic. This is what the devil wants to do in our mind. If he can set it ablaze with a thought, he will simply stand back and watch us burn.

His goal is to entice us to conform (to be pressed into a mold) to the world’s belief system (his own personal system in disguise) rather than God’s. Consequently, he will tempt us with was is exciting, popular, satisfying, or intriguing. He will present good and normal things that are legitimate needs, but his goal is tempt you into satisfying those things illegitimately. Temptation is a trap he presents, but you have to jump in it for it to be successful.

The devil cannot make you do anything. All he can do is pitch the bait and stir up your thought life. He needs a partner to be successful. That is why it is so important to protect your mind. What you spend time things about for long periods you will eventually do.

You cannot stop the thoughts from coming. They are like arrows being shot at you by the enemy. But, you can decide which ones you will allow to cross the threshold and remain. We are to take every thought captive. That is, to stop it at the entrance of our mind and question its value. You would never let a stranger in your home without asking a ton of questions and verifying the information. Don’t allow the strange thoughts the enemy sends knocking entry either.

Shut the doors of your mind and install some screens on your thinking. Look hard at what you allow to enter through your sense gates. If you don’t want Satan to build a vacation resort in your head for him and his demons, then don’t be deceived by those invitations he sends through the mail to your mind. Deal with it like you do junk mail—throw it in the garbage in Jesus name!

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 15)

So your list is complete? If you are not sure—make sure! This is the place where you deal with it, or you keep running. You have made it this far, so why not ask the Holy Spirit one more time if he has anything (anything at all, no matter how insignificant it seems) he wants you to add to the list.

You may be tempted to file the list and do it when you have more time. Don’t! You may also be surprised out how long your list is. The time has come to face it. Remember—God is with you and he’s your partner in this. He will not abandon you, and he will walk with you no matter how long this takes—as long as you are willing and obedient. Obedience, not speed, is the issue now.

Ask the Holy Spirit where he wants you to start. He will often start with an offense that is relatively insignificant or simple. In fact, it will probably be one that makes you wonder why you haven’t already forgiven it. Our greatest fear is that God will take us to that one wound—you know which one I’m talking about—the one that paralyzes us with fear and pain. The voice telling you that this is what God will do and paralyzing you with fear is not God—it’s the enemy. Ignore him, or better yet, command him to leave because he is no longer welcome because this freedom party is about to get into full swing.

God usually starts with the insignificant and works toward the significant. He does this to build your faith in him.  God’s desire is not to hurt you, embarrass you, expose you, or destroy you. He knows exactly how much you can emotionally deal with at any moment. He will not push you past the place you cannot emotionally go. He understands the pain in your heart and soul, and the way you are made. Just trust him!  Go ahead and ask, “God—where do I start?”

You will hear his voice. He has a specific plan for deconstructing the list you hold in your hand. “Go to #____ and start there—now!” Start wherever he tells you.

Now comes the moment when you must verbalize what you have written down and make the choice to forgive. What follows must come from your heart. These are not just words you say, but rather it is the verbalization—the speaking into life the choice you are making.

“God, I choose to forgive (name the person) for (name the offense, the hurt, or the wound) in Jesus name. I release and forgive this person for what he/she did. Please forgive me for my sin of unforgiveness in Jesus name!”

Once you’ve done this, date it, and mark it off the list with your pen. Ask the Holy Spirit which one you are to go to next. Then do the same thing again. This may take some time—several days, weeks, or even months depending on the length of your list and the depth of your wounds. Don’t give up and don’t listen to the accusations and condemnations of the enemy. Tune him out and turn him off. The reason he is screaming so loud right now is that he is losing control in your life and his power and influence are being evicted.

If you reach an offense you find impossible to forgive, ask the Lord to give you his strength. Cry out for his grace. Ask for him for the power you need! Invite him to show you where he was when the trauma happened. Then trust him and act! Take only as long as he desires in empowering you to respond.

When every item on the list is dated and marked through, toss it in the garbage can or strike a match and watch it go up in flames. It is done! You have made the choice and acted on it. God is now free to complete the healing of your heart, mind, and emotions. He can now heal your soul. This is the first step.

In the next blog, I want you to understand what you don’t have to do before we proceed. 

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 14)

Over and over, throughout this blog series, I have reminded you that forgiveness is a process empowered by God. The first step is usually the hardest step. The first step is often the most misunderstood and misrepresented. If a person can get passed the first step correctly the process usually goes smoothly. This is especially true with forgiveness. We have all been told and taught things about forgiveness that is totally unbiblical and completely wrong. And—all that unbiblical stuff hinders us from doing what God demands.

The first step is the hardest—or so the song goes. Forgiveness begins with a simple, but profound act of the will. You must choose to forgive (to pardon, remit, or overlook the mistake, fault, offense, hurt, or injury of the offender without demanding penalty, punishment, or retribution) the person who has hurt you. You willingly turn this person over to God. That means accepting what has occurred, absorbing both the cost and the pain, while at the same time giving up your desire to get even or reap your revenge. Just remember—most people who hurt other people either don’t know what they’ve done or they don’t care.

When something is painful, we tend to want to bundle it all up in a sack and deal with it in a wholesale manner. Forgiveness doesn’t work that way. You can’t say, “I forgive ______ for everything he or she has ever done to me.” What was done to you was usually not done in a wholesale manner, but rather one act at a time. And—each act hurt and caused very specific wounds. Therefore if it wasn’t done in a wholesale manner, it cannot be forgiven in a wholesale manner. Each incident must be confronted, verbalized, and forgiveness specifically applied.

Each incident is a like an arrow in stuck in your soul. If you are not specific, the devil will continue to grab that arrow and twist it to cause as much pain as he can. As long as the offense is embedded there, the pain will never go away and the wound will always be just as raw as the moment it happened.

Offering forgiveness for each specific offense allows you to remove those arrows one by one and hold them in your hand, which gives you authority over them. They no longer control you—you now exercise control over them. Those arrows are not who you are, but rather they are what someone did to you. Once you have removed an arrow of offense, confessed and verbalized the pain out-loud, and forgiven it, God takes the arrow from your hand and beings the healing process in your heart and soul. As long as the arrow of offense is sticking in your heart and soul, healing won’t come no matter the length of time that passes. Time does not heal all wounds; it is what you do with the time and forgiveness is your only option.

How do I do this? By simply naming the person (if you know their name) and the offense, sin, or hurt that was perpetrated against you. Find a place that’s quiet where you can be alone. Take a pad and a pen. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you anyone or anything hidden in your heart or soul that you need to forgive. When he starts speaking—you start writing. Don’t argue! Don’t rationalize! Write it down! Write the offense down—put it into words. Express how it made you feel. Write the person’s name down if you know it or write as much of a description of that person as you can if you don’t. Number them in the order the Spirit of God reveals them. List them by name and offense as long as the Holy Spirit keeps talking. When he stops, ask him if there is anything else. Be still for a few moments and listen.

This may take a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks, depending on how much stuff you’ve accumulated in that room at the end of the hall in your soul. Allow the Holy Spirit access so he can thoroughly clean it out. Don’t give him limited access and whatever you do—don’t be selective in what you write down. Write everything down!