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Godly Wisdom

A few years ago I spoke to a group of about 5000 Christian leaders of churches and ministries. They were a fun group. As I was introduced, they playfully pointed out that they had obtained the rarest of speakers, a "Christian" lawyer. Ha, ha, everyone laughed. I told them I’d pray for their souls. They loved it. Then I launched into my topic...Christian leadership. It began like this.

John must go to London, but he has his own jet. As he boards the plane, he asks the pilot what route they’ll be taking and what all the switches and buttons in the cockpit are for. The pilot patiently answers, then to his surprise, John dismisses him, saying that he’ll fly himself to London. What do you think of John? The men laughed and shook their heads. A few shouted out, He’s an idiot. I moved on.

Carol goes to her doctor and learns she has high blood pressure. The doctor gives her a list of things to do, saying that if she doesn’t follow his advice, she could die without warning. Upon leaving the doctor’s office, Carol tosses the list into the trash, convinced she can take care of herself. What do you think of Carol? Some of the men laughed as a few shook their heads. Many looked uncomfortable. I moved on.

Alan is a godly man and has a lot of godly friends with wonderful spiritual gifts, talents, insights, and wisdom. He’s convinced God has given him a vision for a ministry, which he shares with his friends. He asks for their prayers, but never their gifts, talents, insights, and wisdom. Though they have much experience, Alan never seeks their counsel. Then I looked at my audience of Christian leaders. What do you think of Alan? No one laughed. No one answered.

There’s a serious problem in the Body of Christ and it affects each of us. Every week I see it in the emails we receive. I read it in the Christian publications I pick up and I hear it in the Christian media. Men and women receive a vision, an opportunity or a decision that God sends their way. It may concern a church, ministry or some new Christian effort. It may be a personal opportunity, a career change, or major life decision. They pray, they analyze, they plan...and then they go mess it up.

They become single-minded. They pray, read their Bible, ask others to pray for them, but mainly sit around and wait for that writing on the wall. They don’t fully trust God. Oh, they think they do. Just look at all that time praying and reading. But what they really trust in is that fire from the sky. If they fully trusted God, if they truly believed in His word, they would not ignore His simple caution:

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

Each day we get the same message over and over, Please pray for me as I seek to do this. Very seldom is the request, Please pray for me and what do you think of my direction? It isn’t that people should seek our counsel. There are many gifted and experienced people in Ciloa, but we certainly don’t know everything. Yet far too many make decisions without ever seeking Godly counsel at all. They have good intentions but not enough knowledge, good hearts but not enough understanding. So they fail even to realize that they don’t know what they’re doing. And what does God say will happen to our plans when we choose not to get Godly advice? They will fail.

Are you a Christian leader? Seek out Godly counsel. Are you trying to find out what God has in store for your own life? Seek out Godly advisers. Listen to different perspectives. Gain a better understanding of what’s going on. God’s wisdom rests in His people, too. Then when you pray for His guidance, you’ll discover how much easier it will be to find.

Preaching and Teaching Tips That Will Change Lives
by Rick Warren

I’ll say it over and over: The purpose of preaching is obedience. Every preacher in the New Testament – including Jesus – emphasized conduct, behavioral change, and obedience. You only really believe the parts of the Bible that you obey. People say, “I believe in tithing.” But do they tithe? No? Then they don’t believe in it.

That is why you should always preach for response, aiming for people to act on what is said. John did this: “The world and its desires pass away but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17, NIV) And in 1 John 2:3 (NIV), “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”

After about 30 years of preaching, here are nine things I’ve learned about preaching for life change:

1. All behavior is based on a belief
If you get divorced, it’s because you believe that disobeying God will cause you less pain than staying in your marriage. It’s a lie, but you believe it. When somebody comes to you and says, “I'm leaving my husband, and I'm going to marry this other man because I believe God wants me to be happy.” They just told you the belief behind their behavior. It’s wrong, but they believe it.

2. Behind every sin is a lie I believe
At the moment you sin, you’re doing what you think is the best thing for you. You say, “I know God says to do that, but I'm going to do this.” What are you doing? You believe a lie. Behind every sin is a lie. Start looking for the lies behind why people in your church act the way they do. When you start dealing with those, you’ll start seeing change.

Titus 3:3 (NIV) declares, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.” When you live in sin, you’re living in deception and believing a lie.

When you look at your congregation, you don’t see the lies they believe, but you do see their behavior. You know they’re unfaithful; you know they’re uncommitted; you know all these things. The tough part is figuring out the lie behind the behavior. The wiser you get in ministry, the quicker you’ll start seeing the lies. You’ll grow and mature in ministry and become more discerning, because you’ll start seeing patterns over and over.

3. Change always starts in the mind
You’ve got to start with the belief – the lie – behind the behavior. Romans 12:2 (NIV) commands, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act. If you want to change the way you act, you must determine the way you think. You can’t start with the action. You’ve got to start with the thought.

4. To help people change, we must change their beliefs first
Jesus said, “You will know the truth and it will set you free.” (John 8:32 NIV) Why? Because to help people change, you’ve got to help them see the lie they’re basing their behavior on. That’s why when you know the truth, it sets you free.

5. Trying to change people’s behavior without changing their belief is a waste of time
If you ask a person to change before his mind is renewed, it won’t work. He’s got to internalize God’s Word first.

For example: Your belief patterns are in your mind. Every time you think about a belief, it creates an electrical impulse across your brain. Every time you have that thought again, it creates a deeper rut.

If you want to see change in your church, you must help people get out of their ruts and change their autopilot. For instance: Let’s say I go out and buy a speedboat with an autopilot feature on it. I set the speedboat to go north on autopilot, so the boat goes north automatically. I don’t even have my hands on the wheel. If I want to turn the boat around, I could manually grab the steering wheel and by sheer will power and force, turn it around. I can force it to go south, but the whole time I'm under tension because I'm going against the natural inclination of the boat. Pretty soon I get tired and let go of the steering wheel, and it automatically turns around and goes back to the way it’s programmed.

This is true in life. When people have learned something over and over, being taught by the world’s way of thinking, they’re programmed to go that way. What if a man is programmed to pick up a cigarette every time he’s under tension? But one day he thinks, “This is killing me! I'm going to get cancer.” So he grabs the steering wheel and turns it around forcibly, throws the pack away and says, “I am going to quit!”

He makes it a week without a cigarette, a week and a half, two weeks … , but the whole time he’s under tension because he hasn’t changed the programming in his mind. Eventually, he’s going to let go and pick up a cigarette again.

If you want to change people radically and permanently, you have to do it the New Testament way. You have to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Just telling people, “You need to stop smoking … You need to stop doing this … You need to stop doing that …” isn’t going to work. You’ve got to help them change their belief pattern.

6. The biblical term for "changing your mind" is "repentance"
What do most people think of when I say the word "repent"? They think of a guy on the street corner with a sandwich sign saying, "Turn or burn. You’re going to die and fry while we go to the sky." They think of some kook.

But the word "repentance" is a wonderful word - metanoia - which means in Greek "to change your mind." Repentance is just changing the way we think about something by accepting the way God thinks about it. That’s all repentance is. The new words for repentance are "paradigm shift."

Pastors, we are in the paradigm-shifting business. We are in the repentance business. We are about changing peoples’ minds at the deepest level - the level of belief and values. But let me clarify this with the next point.

7. You don’t change people’s minds, God does

1. "And the servant of the Lord must not strive (argue)... in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth" 2 Tim 2:214, 25. God must give them repentance, change their minds so they acknowledge the truth. Sumner's addition

2. 2 Corinthians 2:13 (NLT) helps us keep this in focus: "We speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths." In real preaching, God is at work in the speaker.

3. 2 Samuel 23:2 (NIV) says, "The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me. His word was on my tongue."

So keep in mind: You don’t change people’s minds, of God does.

8. Changing the way I act is the fruit of repentance
Technically, repentance is not behavioral change. Behavior change is the result of repentance. Repentance does not mean forsaking your sin. Repentance simply means to change your mind. John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:8 (NIV), "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." In other words, "OK, you’ve changed your mind about God, about life, about sin, about yourself - now let’s see some fruit as a result of it."

9. The deepest kind of preaching is preaching for repentance
Because life change happens only after you change somebody’s thinking, then preaching for repentance is preaching for life change. It is the deepest kind of preaching you can preach.

Every week I try to communicate God’s Word in such a way that it changes the way people think. The word "repentance" has taken on such a negative image, that I rarely use the word. But I preach it every single week.

Repentance is the central message of the New Testament. What did the New Testament preachers preach on?

  • John the Baptist: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near." (Matt. 3:2 NIV)
  • Jesus: "Repent and believe in the Gospel." (Mark 1:15 NIV)
  • What did Jesus tell his disciples to preach? "So they went off and preached repentance." (Mark 6:12 NAB)
  • What did Peter preach at Pentecost? "Repent and be baptized everyone of you." (Acts 2:38 NAB)
  • What did John preach in Revelation? Repent.

I believe that one of the great weaknesses of preaching today is that there are a lot of folks who are afraid to stand on the Word of God and humbly but forcefully challenge the will of people. It takes courage to do that, because they may reject you. They may reject your message; they may get mad at you and talk about you behind your back.

And because so many pastors have been unwilling to challenge people and cause a change in belief resulting in behavior change, our nation is falling apart. Proverbs 29:18 (NCV) warns, "Where there is no word from God, people are uncontrolled."

P.T. Forsythe says, "What the world is looking for is an authoritative Gospel spoken through a humble personality." An authoritative Gospel spoken not as a hammer, but with humility.

So now, I have a personal challenge for you - life application. Are you going to use the Bible the way it was intended or not? Will you repent of preaching in ways that were not focused on application that could change people’s character and conduct?

How Champions are Made

Have you noticed that we usually do what we want to do?

On the day following a disaster drill, an employee made this comment in the Long Beach (California) Veteran's Administration Hospital. No kidding. The employee said, "We emptied the place in six minutes and that was pretty good, until quitting time at 4:30 when everybody got out of the building in three minutes."

English thinker and politician John Burns said, "The tragedy of (most people) is the poverty of their desires." The poverty of desire may still be the greatest kind of poverty we face worldwide. Most of us could do, have or even be practically anything if we simply wanted it enough.

Consider Robert Louis Stevenson. He conceived the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde one night when he couldn't sleep. Though bedridden with advanced tuberculosis, he wrote the whole book in three days, rarely pausing. Then, dissatisfied with the first draft, he tore it up and rewrote it in three more days! It was an unbelievable feat - he set down 64,000 words in six days; more than 10,000 words a day. Just 1,000 words a day for an accomplished writer of fiction is considered average.

I've heard it said: "Champions aren't made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision."

What we will accomplish is limited only by our desire. And without it, we will forever live in poverty, regardless of how much we own.

An Audience of One
by Os Hillman

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2

What audience do you play to? Each day you are seen by many who will make a judgment about the way you handle yourself among different audiences. Politicians have learned to play to their audiences, customizing messages for the needs of their particular groups. Musicians have learned to play to their audiences. Pastors play to their congregations each Sunday morning. Workplace believers play to the audiences who will buy their product.

Christ has called us to play to one audience - the audience of Himself. When you seek to please any other audience in your life, you become susceptible to situational ethics and motivations based on the need for the moment. Your audience becomes a pawn in your hands because you know what they want. Is that wrong? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

Pure obedience to pleasing God in our lives will often meet the needs of those around us. It is God's will that you and I love our spouses, provide good services to our customers, and look to the interests of others before ourselves. This will result in meeting many needs of the audiences in our lives.

However, there are other times when our audiences are asking for something contrary to God's will. Politicians are often forced to appease their audiences, even though it may go against God's laws. When we are asked to go with the flow, we discover which audience is most important in our lives. Is it the audience of One, or the audience of many?

Today, be aware of which audience you are playing to. Ask yourself why you are taking a particular action. Is it to please the audience of One? Or is it to please the audience of others who might negatively impact you should you not play to their tune?

Leadership Tips

Want to take your leadership with men to the next level? Take these tips, suggestions, and questions to heart:

1. What your ministry to men looks like 10 years from now will mostly be decided by the time you get home. What is your vision or dream?

2. Set an appointment within one week to begin implementation.

3. Think about how to make your ministry to men an all-inclusive, intergenerational, interdisciplinary template that overlays all the programs in your church.

4. The most important thing you can do for men is to help them change the core affections of their hearts. For you? Attend the core affections of your own heart. Minister out of the overflow of your own expanding relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus. If you can't, you must go into a quiet wood and stay there until you hear his voice, see his face, feel the warmth of his embrace, and feel the salty taste of repentant tears running down your face.

5. Do fewer things better.

6. Our job is not to produce a particular outcome. Our job is to be faithful to our call.

7. Repetition is reputation. Repeat your idea (vision, dream, purpose) in every meeting.

8. Men can already see your strengths, so reveal your weaknesses. God uses the weak things of this world for his glory. Make a seminal decision to be transparent.

9. Make yourself dispensable. The architect does not have to occupy the building for the building to stand. Develop leaders who can exceed you in ministry.

10. Do each thing to appeal to the men you have and the men you want to have.

11. The most powerful force in the world is a relationship (love). Build around relationships, not programs. The relationship is the task. If it's not going as well as you had hoped with your men, don't get angry. Love them more.

12. Plodders win, not at first, but ultimately, and after the hare has quit.

13. Managing expectations: All disappointment is the result of unmet expectations. It takes a long time to make a disciple. It is trench work. It requires a gritty, flinty-foreheaded kind of leader who will grab a shovel, get in the ditch, and grind it out. Richard Foster said, "Our tendency is to overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years." Think in terms of what you want to do over the next 10 years.

14. Evangelism must be central to your plan. The best method of evangelism is the one you will use. It will make some people uncomfortable: Woman to Moody, "I don't like the way you do that." "Neither do I. How do you do it?" said he. "Well, I don't," said she. "I like the way I'm doing it a whole lot better than the way you're not."

15. As the leader you will receive more credit and more blame than you deserve.

16. Do not teach men to be better. Call them to join the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to live in the shadow of that call.

17. When you think about "what's happening" what do you see? If you see the present you are naturally operational. If you see the future you are naturally visionary. Both are needed. Sometimes we must substitute discipline for a lack of natural interest.

18. What kind of men are we trying to produce? Disciples, not workers. Most men don't have enough Jesus for themselves, much less to give away. Help men fill up to the overflow in their relationship with Jesus. At a point, they will feel compelled to serve him.

19. Focusing question: If we know that we will only have a man and his family for, say, five years, what are the lessons so important to build into his life that if he should leave without them, we would have failed that man? This, then, becomes the discipleship curriculum.

20. Chinese proverb: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

21. Zechariah 4:10 says, "Do not despise the small beginning, for the eyes of the Lord rejoice to see the work begin." Hudson Taylor said, "All God's giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on his power and presence to be with them."

22. Planning without prayer is presumption. Prayer without planning is presumption.

23. "Go and make disciples." If the Great Commission is true, our plans are not too big; they are too small.

The Making of a Leader
Nehemiah 1:1-4

Proverbs 28:2 “…a nation will be strong and endure when it has intelligent, sensible leaders”…with honest, sensible leaders there is stability.”

I. Laws of Leadership

A. Nothing happens until someone provides leadership for it.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership”
Greatest Problem: Leadership Shortage
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Judges 21:25
Greatest need: Trained Leaders

B. Leadership is influence.
“Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 2 Tim 4:12

C. The test of leadership - is anybody following?
Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me.” John 10:27
If you’re leading and no one is following…you're just taking a walk! A true leader is one who gives instructions, leaves, and he is obeyed.  If you have to remind people that you are the leader, you're not.

D. The foundation of leadership is character not charisma. 1 Timothy 3:1-13
“Remember your leaders who spoke the Work of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Heb. 13:7-8

II. Characteristics of Good Leaders

They have a message worth remembering.
They have a lifestyle worth considering.
They have a faith worth imitating.

A. Leadership can be learned!
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put into practice.” Phil. 4:10
“He appointed twelve…that they might be with Him and that He might send them out…” Mark 3:14
“And the things you have heard me say…entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2

"Since most of us would rather be admired for what we do, rather than for what we are, we are normally willing to sacrifice character for conduct, and integrity for achievement."
-- Sidney M. Harris --

B. The moment you stop learning, you stop leading.
“If the ax is dull, and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success.” Eccl. 10:10

"Life is a grindstone; whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends on what you're made of." -- Jacob M. Braude --

"Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves' for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief for that is unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17.

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