Monthly Archives: May 2015

When I Pinned a Sandwich on our Office Bulletin Board

Soon, I’ll be launching a new blog called “Leading with Joy” (at least, that’s the working title now) that will provide some sharpening and accountability regarding leadership issues (preaching, productivity, leadership, dealing with people–with joy!) that God is working in me.

For instance, in our office, I put up a ‘sandwich’ that I found online that I found helpful.

3039412-inline-criticism-sandwich

I hope you’re encouraged that I didn’t pin an actual sandwich on the bulletin board.  But this sandwich is so very helpful in dealing with others. I have shared this with previous associates, not because I’ve seen it out there, but from experience.  I’m thankful this picture came out to validate that I wasn’t off my rocker.

If you have some constructive criticism, always, always, always surround it with positive remarks and strong points about what they are doing. Now, when I say, always, this is at first.  It will depend on the situation.  For instance, Paul started off 12 of his 13 letters in the NT with a measure of thankfulness at their faithfulness.  The one?  Galatians.  It depends on the situation, as well as if the situation keeps repeating itself and no improvement is seen. Then, you get more to the point.

But this sandwich is so critical in being socially aware in your relationships.  John Maxwell is right, “Leadership is influence.”  Leaders need to let those whom they lead to know they are valued.  Those with a low emotional intelligence do not value those who disagree with them and are harmful and hurtful to any organization. Those with a high emotional intelligence value those, even if they aren’t totally aligned. They are most helpful to an organization, for they find themselves in a position to bring about unity.  Another Maxwellism:  “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

So this is a healthy sandwich in which to partake. What are some examples of how this has worked for you?

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We Are Called to Invest, Not Simply Rest: More on the Joyful Urgency of a Believer

In reading the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the Master entrusted His three servants with five talents, two talents, and one talent. Notice here that the owner distributes his property, in this case, a talent to each as he sees fit.  A talent is an incredible amount of money.  Many of your Bibles help in understanding this amount by using a footnote.  And what does it say?  In the ESV, it says, “A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer.”  Twenty years? All at once?  That’s what the owner gave. This is a generous amount of money!  This shows that this owner had high expectations of his servants!

So, supposed you made the median income for one who lives in Denver, which is around $60,000.  Multiply that by 20 (for the years), and you’re looking at $1.2 million.  That’s the Denver equivalent of a talent!  Five talents?  Six million dollars.  Two talents?  That’s 2.4 million.  Then the one talent of 1.2 million.  This is high money.  Jesus is making it clear again to his disciples:  “To whom much is given, much is expected.” And the first two saw the urgency and the joy in serving and investing the Master’s resources.

We must realize what Christ has entrusted to His church.  Has he entrusted us with money?  Sure he has.  But he has also entrusted us with

  • His gospel (Romans 1:1),
  • with His grace, with the faith to believe (Ephesians 2:8-9),
  • with works to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10);
  • with the fruit of the Spirit in order to accomplish the work (Galatians 5:22-23),
  • with spiritual gifts to plug in to various areas to which He’s called us and equipped us (Romans 12:3-8),
  • and most of all, with Himself (Matthew 28:20).

Look at all He’s given to us!  How do we view which is of more value: (1) of what the parable literally says in God giving out 150 years’ worth of wages, or (2) all that God has entrusted to the church?  If you’re worldly minded, you think, “How can I spend the gospel, gifts, grace, faith?  Those won’t pay bills or fund my hobbies.”  But if you have your eyes set on Christ, it’s not even close!

But what’s clear from this parable is that He intends us to invest, not simply to rest.  Verses 16-18 tell us what each servant did.  The first two invested everything given to them!  That’s 140 years worth of wages—invested!  Traded!  Now, keep in mind, this was not a one-and-done investment.  This was an investment.   With urgency.  With joy!

To listen to the full sermon, Don’t Waste Your Worship, click here.

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The Joyous Urgency of the Believer

In reading through the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), we see the similarities of the one whom the man gave the five and two talents, respectively. Both immediately took what the owner gave them and began investing and trading, trading and investing until the owner returned.  There existed an urgency in obeying the master.

But also notice, each were commended by the master upon the return, when he said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . .  Enter into the joy of your master.”  This joy existed at this stage because of the joy they had in serving their Master in the initial stages.

The problem with the servant who buried the one talent with which he was entrusted was because neither joy nor urgency in the Master existed. He exhibited the ‘wicked and slothful’ nature long before the verdict was handed down by the owner. “But I thought God was a God of grace,” you may say.  We should never used the grace of God as leverage for disobedience . Let’s flesh this out.

But what about this: is there a parallel—is Christ ‘hard’?  This depends on how you look at this.  God is a God of high expectations.  And what He expects is obedience.  He expects His servants to follow through on His commands.  The apostle Paul prayed in his letter to the Colossians that God would open a door to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.  Christ makes commands—these He entrusts to us.  Just like the word ‘rest,’ the word ‘grace’ is misunderstood. We sometimes believe that since God is gracious, he’ll overlook disobedience.  After all, everyone makes mistakes.

Don’t use God’s grace—don’t use the death of Christ on the cross that provided forgiveness of sin—as an excuse for laziness.  This piggy-backs on what Scott preached last week:  theology matters:  he expects us to know His work and way!  God being ‘hard’ does not mean he is unfair or unreasonable.

Has the joy of the Master left you?  Is there unconfessed sin that is hindering fellowship with you?  Are we a people where theology matters, so that we know our Master well?  Do we have a fear of the future?  All of these things, if not dealt with well, could expose our wicked or our wise motives that could serve as a trajectory to our destiny in hell or in heaven.

May God grant us a joyous urgency.

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It’s There, Whether We See It or Not

Many of you know about my new passion for soccer, both in the states and globally.  It’s of endless fascination to me.  But what’s interesting to me is that five years ago, this game was not even on my radar. This is the most popular sport on the planet, and I didn’t notice nor did I care. I found myself quite content with what I grew up with:  basketball, baseball, and football–like an American!

We are surrounded here in Denver and in our country and in our world by thick, dark lostness. People all around us and even in our churches are enslaved by various and heinous sins that sink them further away from God and His gracious deliverance every second.  This is the most prevalent issue plaguing the condition of humanity–and we either do not notice or do not care.  For many, as long as they make a good living, slide into the American dream, and have plenty of recreational time is a good life.

But even though we do not notice, it’s still there.

And now that this situation is on our radar, what will we do. We cannot claim ignorance any more. We are without excuse.

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Preaching That Makes One Weep

I’m working through a book entitled Chaplain of the Confederacy: Basil Manly and Baptist Life in the Old South , a biography of Baptist stalwart Basil Manly, Sr (1798-1868).  While the title may be off-putting for some (Chaplain of the Confederacy), I’ve only made it to his life in the 1820s as he just begins his pastoral ministry.  He was a preacher of the gospel par excellence, whom God seemed to use to stir the emotions of his hearers, leading to a revival in the town of Edgefield, SC, where he first served in the pastorate.  This stirring is not a bad thing.  I was talking to a friend about various aspects of preaching and worship services, and he noted how so much of what has been done in churches bordered on manipulation rather than a reliance on the Spirit’s movement in hearts from the preached Word. 

The pendulum swings back and forth between preaching to the heart (formerly known as the affections) and preaching to the head.  Yet, which should the pendulum swing?  Clearly, one generation often seeks to compensate for the perceived shortcomings of the previous one—much like the previous generation seeks to compensate for the one before it.  The goal is to preach to both the head with the truth and the heart with the love of Christ/hatred of sin (see Ephesians 4:15). 

Jonathan Edwards gives some helpful insight:

A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble broken-hearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires. Their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable and full of glory, is a humble broken-hearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behaviour.

A preaching of the Word of God that seeks a transformation will preach to both head and heart.  It will strengthen the mind and soften the heart to the things of Jesus.  This type of preaching will help us pursue a union with Christ as Christ has pursued a union with us through the cross and resurrection and the sending of the Spirit. 

May God give preachers a message and the Spirit to strengthen minds and soften hearts to be sensitive to the truth. 

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The Athenian Balance of Evangelism

The apostle Paul preaching in the Areopagus in Athens, Greece (Acts 17:16-34)”God is pushing us as His people outside the walls of our building.” Have you heard preachers say that?  I bet if you were to go back to the sermon recording of most of your pastors (myself included), say this.  But let’s be clear–we spend the majority of our time outside the walls of this building.  It’s not that God’s pushing us out, He’s pulling us forward to make a difference in the place we spend the most time.

Generations ago, when new settlers built towns, they built them in a way that resembled a square.  They would have a square that is an open public space that’s used for gatherings of various sorts.  This square is surrounded by small shops, with a fountain in the middle.

It’s with this in mind that I approach this sermon with this particular shape.  The first point is that of Christ, the second of us and our relationship to Christ.  The third point dealt with our connection to Christ and the church.  But there’s more.  Much more.  It’s the intended command of Christ for us to connect with our community and our culture—that’s the fourth point that makes this square—the public square.

Local churches develop cultures in how they interact with the culture.  Reinhold Niebuhr wrote  a book a few decades ago called Christ and Culture.  In this book, he outlines ways that the church views Christ’s influence and interaction with the non-believing culture.

So many conversations about how Christians are to interact with the culture.  Should we turn into a fortress to keep ourselves and the culture completely separate, and nary the twain shall meet?  Should we engage the culture in such a way that we look almost exactly like it (assimilation)?  What should we do?  What’s the balance?

Whether we realize it or not, each of us has made our choice as to how we will interact in the public square of people and ideas.  We must certainly identify where we are in this so we know how to move forward.  The best way to do this is to shine the light on where we are, look at ourselves in the mirror and see reality, then move forward to God’s aim for us.

Before hitting these three, please take time to read Acts 17:16-34 (that’s ok–I’ll wait!).  Paul displays three needed mindsets in evangelism.

Provocation (Acts 17:16-17):  His spirit was provoked by the idols in Athens.  This word used for ‘provoked’ is the same word form used when Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” over whether to take John Mark on the second missionary journey (Acts 15:39).  Does the idolatry of our nation and other nations provoke our spirits, that they are trusting in a substitute for the real, living God?

Compassion (Acts 17:18-23):  He acknowledged their spirituality.  Paul did not blast the people of Athens.  He did not say, “You rotten, blasphemous idolaters–you’re going to hell!”  Although this is true for all of us outside of Christ, that doesn’t mean you come in with both barrels locked and loaded.  You take Ephesians 4:15 out of the garage and take it on the highway: “… speaking the truth in love.”  You interact with aspects of the culture in order to connect them to the truth of that which transcends every culture.  Do we truly have a compassion for people, or are we ready to fire away because we’re right and their sinners?  Do we realize that, as Christians, God’s grace in rescuing us from the law cleanses us from sin?  

Conviction (Acts 17:24-31):  He still addressed their need for an exclusive gospel of our crucified and resurrected Christ. God was patient with our ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.  Why?  A day of reckoning is approaching.  No, that may not sound politically correct, but it is biblically and historically correct–that is, Paul tells the people what will happen in history.  Does our compassion for people give us a reason to pull back on our convictions in order to please people?  Our compassion for people should propel us to share the truth with people in a winsome way that’s firm in the faith.

May God increase each of these in us!

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