Strong Leader

Psalm 148: 13 – 14      GW

Let them praise the name of the Lord because his name is high above all others. His glory is above heaven and earth. He has given his people a strong leader, someone praiseworthy for his faithful ones, for the people of Israel, the people who are close to him. Hallelujah!

As we read this passage, we easily think of the strong leader God has given his people as Jesus. When this was written, however, Jesus had not yet come to earth. The people of the Old Testament were no less convinced that God had provided for them in the person of the coming Messiah.

What makes Jesus praiseworthy? This psalmist was full of praise for the Father and called upon all creation to praise the Lord, even the stars, and sea creatures. He called for the sun and the moon and crawling creatures to praise the Lord. What was happening inside this poet that would cause him to imagine whales and centipede would stop and praise the Lord?

While we think of Jesus as praiseworthy, how often do we give voice to those praises? Are you one of those who finds it easy to shout praises to the King? I hope you are but for the rest of us, perhaps a little practice would help. For myself, I like to get alone and sing praise songs. There are praise albums that you can purchase which not only help one to praise but which lift the spirit. They are my secret weapon. Maybe you have a tool which aids you in praising the Lord.

I want you to praise Father and Son because of what it does for you. Praise is an aid to dealing with problems, it helps alleviate stress and it feeds the soul and spirit. When we praise God, we release the joy of the kingdom and the power in praise goes to work resolving issues we didn’t know how to address. Let this be your power tool. Sing, shout and lift up praises to your strong leader. See how it changes your world.

Call to Duty

Job 26: 2

How have you helped him who is without power? How have you saved the arm that has no strength?

“These are the times that try men’s souls” (Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1776). Undoubtedly those revolutionary times challenged the would-be Americans down to their souls. Truly, though most of us live in much more stable environments than pre-revolution America, each person usually must endure a season of great challenge. It is in these times that we find the strength of God rising to meet us in our times of great need.

When we are powerless, when our arms lack strength, when we are weary down to our bones, our Father fills all the voids and strengthens us. He sustains us and restores our souls. We see this miracle of grace throughout the psalms but it is when you see it manifesting in your own life that your own life takes on new depth and new meaning. And when you approach these trying times looking to the Lord our God, you find that his fulfilling grace is palpable. You can almost touch it, almost see it. It is real.

I am going through one of these challenging times of life and I truly want to learn and grow through it. One of my loved ones is dying of cancer and there is nothing the doctors can do. We must all face these times but they can be easier in the grace of God. So far I have learned two important lessons. First of all, allow people to help you. Allow people to be a blessing to you. Superman is a fictional character so don’t try to be a superhero. Let those who love you express their love and concern for you. It is part of their grieving and healing for you both. My friend Carol, encouraged me to share this difficult time with you. She is teaching me to let people express their love for me. Lin, our graphics genius has inspired me with such wisdom. One of the statements she made to me was, “Ivey, you give to us every day, let us give to you.” This is such a hard thing to do but I recognize that their wisdom is flowing right from the heart of God.

Secondly, I have learned that God fills us up through His power flowing right through the atmosphere and the Holy Spirit to anoint your home, hospital room and your heart. That was not unexpected but what I have learned is that He greatly uses other people and their prayers to minister His anointing, His grace, His love and His mercy in the time of need. As I make my heart tender and vulnerable, as I simply open my eyes I see the anointing of God on total strangers. People come to you in your time of need. People you don’t know will reach out to you in that Spirit which is from God. You will connect at a level which is beyond this physical realm and it will bring comfort to your soul.

Some people will not be able to rise to the challenge. Don’t judge them. They just haven’t grown in that area yet. Some of the people you think will jump to your side won’t. It’s okay. Pray for them. No, really. Pray for them, it will do your heart good and the Blessed Father will show you their own hurts and limitations. It will give your heart peace. 

In conclusion, I want my challenge to help me grow, learn and to empower me to help others. Many of you have known deep sorrow. Some of you have undergone exactly what I am going through now. We are all learning and growing and part of that growth is to learn to be vulnerable. Another important sign of spiritual growth is showing an active compassion; that is compassion which isn’t passive but which instead moves into action.

I am calling you each into active duty today. This is a request for you to pray for me and my loved ones. We have been borne up by the prayers of our friends and family. It really does make a difference. So, pray for me.

There is a second part of this call to action though. We are a body, a family. Everyone who reads this daily devotional is important to me personally as well to others. We should stand for one another. I want you to write to us when you need prayer and I want us to be able to rely on each other for prayer and prayer support. We will be using the upcoming website as a medium for us all to connect with one another. I envision a person posting a prayer request and every one of us who reads the Word of the Day saying an immediate even if brief prayer for that person.

There are people reading this devotional all over the world. We need to join hands and become a people of prayer and of support for one another. Our faith was never meant to be passive but active and living and fully expressing the power and love of our Lord Jesus and our Father who sent the Holy Spirit into the earth to give us strength and miracle working power. Join hands with me as I join hands with believers all over the world. Let us reach out and make a difference in people’s lives through the love of God. Give God’s love wings through prayer. Together we are very powerful. Alone we are weak. Be the leader and lover you have been anointed to be. In Jesus’ name.

Leadership Trait

2 Chronicles 32: 1 – 8

After these acts of faithfulness Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and besieged the fortified cities, and thought to break into them for himself.  Now when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem,  he decided with his officers and his warriors to cut off the supply of water from the springs which were outside the city, and they helped him. So many people assembled and stopped up all the springs and the stream which flowed through the region, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find abundant water?”  And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, and built another outside wall and strengthened the Millo in the city of David, and made weapons and shields in great number.  He appointed military officers over the people and gathered them to him in the square at the city gate, and spoke encouragingly to them, saying,  “Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him.  With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people relied on the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

You’ve heard it said that attitude determines altitude. A person’s attitude towards the situations of life determines how they will come through those circumstances. King Hezekiah shows us the attitude of a good leader.

The scripture says that in the face of Sennacherib’s threats Hezekiah gathered the people and spoke encouragingly to them. That is what we should be doing. Encouragement is a big deal. In fact, God has told us to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5: 11). Since discovering that God commands us to be encouragers I have been watching people. Some people are very good at it. Some people even seem anointed of God as encouragers. Then I discovered something. Leaders are encouragers. It turns out that encouraging others is a big part of what it means to be a leader. I didn’t know that.

Hezekiah saw that the threat to the people of Judah was not only to their persons but first to their psyche. The Assyrians were not knocking on their door for a tea party. Hezekiah knew that people would begin to be afraid so he gathered them together and encouraged them. You don’t have to hang out with God, the Father very long to find out where Hezekiah learned this skill. God constantly encourages and uplifts. We have all heard this verse from Ephesians, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (4: 29). We have focused on restricting unwholesome words but there is a second mandate; make it a point to speak words which build people up. That is what edification is, building people up. When someone does a good job, leaders tell them so.

I wonder sometimes if we have become such a broken people that we feel like we are diminishing ourselves if we lift others up. Really the opposite is true. We build ourselves when we lift others. This is such a big deal that the Apostle Paul wrote about it at least five times. I like what he wrote in Romans 15: 2, “Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.” Did you know this was the message of Christianity? Can’t say that I did but now none of us have the excuse of ignorance any longer. We have all been called by Christ as leaders. We are the ones who are supposed to be encouraging the frightened, and lifting up the weary. Start today being an encourager. If you cannot find someone to encourage, you aren’t trying very hard. Be a blessing of the Lord.

Wisdom is for the Wise

Proverb 9: 7 – 9

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do no reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you, reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man, and he will increase his learning.

This has been one of the hardest lessons of my life to learn. I thought that everyone wanted to know truth and to learn but it just isn’t true. And brother, if you want to alienate some folks in a hurry, correct them. You see, I have been willing to be corrected because I really wanted to know the truth. I didn’t want to continue in ignorance when there was someone who could teach me. My biggest frustration has been in finding someone who would teach me. But this is not the way of the majority. Most folks prefer the status quo no matter how uncomfortable.

You are likely to run into this problem too. As you learn and grow in the things of God you increasingly see more victory and more ease in your life. You are going to want to share what you have learned with those you care about. That’s all good. But, when they start doing the very things that have led them into disaster time and time again and you have already shared with them what has worked for you then let it be. They do not want to be corrected. It seems most people would rather live with their adversity than to change. There is some perverse comfort we have with our own calamity that makes it easier to live with than endeavoring to change ourselves. 

There are two things you can do. First, of course, pray for them. Second, is to just keep living your life in the glorious glow of Jesus. Hopefully, your friends and family will see the grace that the Lord has blessed you with and will ask you for your secret. 

The other problem is that some of these “friends” will become very critical of you. They want what you have but are unwilling to do what you have done. They see you growing and experiencing life as they want it and they become jealous. Sometimes they will treat you unkindly. Again, the best thing you can do is to continue to live a life of grace doing as the Bible and the Lord Jesus instruct you. “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2: 15). We want people to see the magnanimity of our Father but we cannot preach them into acceptance. We must lead, but mostly by example. Every once in a while a person will come along who is that wise person spoken of in today’s verse; one who is seeking to be wiser. These people are a joy and a delight and I pray that your life be filled with them.

Leadership Through Encouragement

Hebrews 3: 13

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

We all need encouragement and by this verse we might conclude that we need it daily. People need to hear that they are a blessing or that they are doing things well. I am learning that leaders are encouragers. Several times this spring God has impressed upon that a large part of leadership is encouraging others. I can’t say that I knew that before. I’ve probably heard it but it certainly never sank in. Now I see that encouragement is a key piece of leadership and effective management.

As the Father has impressed this on me I began to ask why we are not naturally better at encouraging others. I have concluded that we are not good encouragers because we are so needy ourselves. We are working so hard at getting what we need and what we want that we have little time or inclination to attend to the needs of others. It is not that we do not wish to be sources of light. It is just that we are consumed with our own stuff. We don’t even look up at others and attempt to be a blessing to them.

However, think of the people that are encouragers in your life. Their emails and phone calls are like a breath of fresh air aren’t they? You really know who these people are. They are the first ones to tell you that you did a good job. They compliment your work, your attire and everything they can find which is well done. And yet these people will never lie to you. They seem to know the value of speaking the truth. They won’t tell you something is excellent unless it is and that makes their praise even more valuable. Another thing about them is that you never have to solicit their compliments. They are free with earned praise. We love having these people in our lives. Now the next step is to become like them.

My sense is that this is an expression of the love and kindness of our Father. Encouragers have received the love of God in their hearts and they are compelled to share it with others. It just flows out from them like a river. They don’t seem to strain, they don’t have to concoct a compliment or cogitate over it. It just flows out from them easily and freely. They are satisfied that God loves them so their striving is done. They are no longer grabbing for all the comfort they can get so they are able to lift their eyes off of themselves and see the grace, beauty and hard work of others. They have peace in their souls so that they can hear the Father’s words of encouragement bubbling up inside them; then they ever so effortlessly just release those words into the lives of others.

Today I wish to celebrate all those people who extend themselves to others to keep us encouraged. I also wish to offer a prayer for all of us that our Father would fill our needy souls with the certainty of His abundant love and acceptance for us. Lastly I wish to exhort each one of you to speak a word of encouragement to someone today. Perhaps we could even make it a goal to encourage one person a day every day.

The Wise Follower

Hebrews 13: 7

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

On two occasions the Apostle Paul encouraged people to imitate him. The first occurrence is in 1 Corinthians 4: 16 where he wrote, “I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.” I find that remarkable. What kind of confidence does it take to tell people to examine your life and imitate it? Isn’t that exactly what today’s verse teaches though? The second time Paul instructs people to follow him by imitating his life is in 1 Corinthians 11: 1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” The key is in the last phrase. He was confident in his following of Christ. “Follow me as I follow Christ,” he might say.

No one walks this journey alone. There is no such thing as a self-made person. We all stand upon someone else’s shoulders. The wise among us are better at this than the rest of us. They don’t let their ego inhibit their growth. For some people, advancing on the journey is more important than trying to be their own leader. There is an expression in legal circles that an attorney who represents himself in litigation has a fool for a client. The same sort of wisdom can be applied to our spiritual journey. Only a fool would nominate himself as his own leader. How can I lead myself where I have not yet gone?

I am increasingly aware of and impressed by the number of times the Bible addresses humility. It is one of the overarching principles in the Bible. Humility goes with honor. Pride is associated with one’s destruction (Proverb 16: 18). Pride is often joined with foolishness while humility is the hallmark of the wise.   The reason this is important is that the number one reason we do not submit to another’s leadership is ego. If we can embrace humility, then we can benefit from the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

There are people in the body of Christ who have been appointed as leaders and they bear a tremendous burden because they have been given the responsibility for leading the flock. Having been appointed to positions of leadership has not made them perfect but still they lead the way for us. As today’s verse teaches, we are able to consider the result of their conduct, which is the same as beholding their fruit. If the fruit is good then humble yourself and receive the benefit of their instruction. 

I want you to be a follower even if you have been chosen as a leader because only good followers make good leaders. I do want you to be wise in who you follow though. Let us look again at today’s verse. Beyond being a person who bears good fruit they also must be one who speaks the Word of God to you. I don’t care how wise or how awesome they seem, if their advice is worldly then they are deceived and will soon lead you in to deception. And by now we all know who the author of deception is. Paul intones, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” In like manner we might say, “Follow this advice which I have received from the Lord Jesus.” We also should follow those who are following Christ. There is no one of this earth who can give us wisdom that eclipses that of God. So, why would we listen to those fools? And yet we do. In plain language let us be clear. Do not take financial advice from someone who does not tithe. Do not take relationship advice from someone who does not have a deep and abiding relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit. Do not take business advice from someone who has not made Christ the Lord over their business. We have learned what happens when we follow worldly fiscal and business advice. We end up in an upside down economy such as we experienced in 2008 and the years following.

Lastly, I wish to strongly encourage you to honor those who are leading you. Read today’s verse again. Who does it bring to your mind? Who has spoken the Word of God to you? Of course our pastors spring to our minds and I wish for you to show them honor and gratitude because theirs is a difficult job to say the least. Perhaps there are some other people who have given you the benefit of their walk with the Lord. Hearken to their voice and bless them however you may.

Honor and Humility

Proverb 13: 18

Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline but he who regards reproof will be honored.

This is a difficult verse and certainly for the maturing Christian rather than cultural Christians. Cultural Christian is my term for people who are Christians but who are not pursuing spiritual growth. We might call them passive Christians. This is not a passage for them because this one causes one to look introspectively. 

The word which is translated here as discipline can also be translated as instruction. So the honored among us are those who do not neglect instruction and correction. No one likes being corrected. Few will even stand instruction but for those who are masters of their egos rather than a slave to it there is honor and promotion. So, let us all look inwardly for a moment? From whom do I receive instruction? To whom am I submitted? Christians are expected to receive daily instruction. I think that can be seen in the number of devotionals which are available. Of course the master instructor is the Holy Spirit and we should all be tuned in to his daily program but let us not deceive ourselves. The Holy Spirit also uses people for his purposes.

First of all, not everyone is sensitive and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and some are just better receptors than others. Secondly, he employs people in every area of expertise to speak his wisdom. So each one of us should first of all submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit and take our direction from him rather than being our own leader. Second, we are deceiving ourselves if we think that we are not supposed to submit to human leaders. To think we should lead our own parade is just the voice of ego. You may be the leader of hundreds or even thousands but you should also have someone from whom you receive instruction and if need be, correction. 

The other side of the coin is, don’t follow someone who isn’t also a follower. We are all at various stages in the journey. Make sure that the person you are following is still travelling; a stagnate person can only lead you to stagnation. We should all be growing in the things of God. None of us has yet arrived but like Paul said, we press on to that high calling. If you want to follow that high calling you should submit yourself to another’s leadership and make sure that person is also submitted. Then we are all receiving instruction and growing the result of which is the unveiling of the mystery which is in Christ Jesus.