When I was growing up, I had little timeless treasures – you know, things that didn’t have meaning to others, but had a special meaning to me. These were things that brought joy or a smile to my face. I would tuck these special timeless treasures away in boxes, drawers, or other special places I found to keep them.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I reflect on how much I miss my mom who passed away several years ago. I also reflect on the timeless treasure the Lord has given me these past years in a woman named Mrs. Louise Crawford.
When I was young, I lived in the same neighborhood that she lived in. I went to church with her and became good friends with her children. The Lord was setting the stage. Many a Sunday, her son would invite some of us to go home with him for Sunday lunch. It never mattered if he had asked Mrs. Crawford, for the table was always open and ready for many guests. Eventually she and her husband moved to the country and built a new home. Years later, my husband became the pastor of their church. I became Mrs. Crawford’s pastor’s wife and she became my spiritual mom – another timeless treasure in my life.
Her home was always open and it was there that I walked through many hard times and was comforted by her through some dark hours in my life. She taught me the art of hospitality – not just what you put on the table, but what you bring to the table.
She would stop by my house on occasion with a beautifully wrapped gift for me. She told me from time to time that she would give her daughters a “happy gift.” I truly felt like one of her daughters.
She has been a friend of mine for many years even though we live so far apart. She has supported my two sons on their mission trips to Russia and around the World – financially and with prayers. What would our lives be like without the prayer warriors the lord places in our paths!
The Lord, in the book of Philemon, brought a slave into Paul’s life to refresh his soul in times of his bonds. Mrs. Crawford has refreshed me often. She is a timeless treasure. Wisdom is her clothing and she always imparts Scripture to me when we have our chats over the phone.
She is now caring for her husband who is very ill. I call and there is a tiredness in her voice, but her faith in God is strong and rules life’s challenges. She still refreshes my soul by her steadfast love for the Savior and her love for me.
Through the years, every Mother’s Day I make her a homemade Mother’s Day card. She told me that she has kept each card over the years and places them in a special box. I am blessed to be a part of a timeless treasure for a lady who has bless my life. My dear “spiritual mom.”
Malachi 3:17 says, “And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.”
Mrs. Louise Crawford, my timeless treasure, you are His jewel and I tuck you away in my heart, never to be removed.
Happy Mother’s Day to my Spiritual Mom!
The spiritual leader lives with a higher calling. At the core of this calling lies the reason – the gospel. Not only has the gospel redeemed his life from destruction, it is the conviction that motivates every spiritual leader to invest himself in those in his sphere of influence. The gospel fuels his conviction, because within the gospel is the bread of life – Jesus Christ. The cross is his wisdom and informs every aspect of his ministry. It defines and hones his message and ultimately gives credence to true success – whether the God of the gospel is glorified or diminished. The gospel is not peripheral; it is central.
So, when steps to effective leadership are given, they should not be manmade steps born out of human reasoning. Those steps must have biblical gospel implications – the humility of our Lord, His forgiveness, His grace, a commitment to His glory, and undeserved love.
The Gospel-centered leader reflects Christ to others in his leadership. He is passionate while being grounded in the truth. He reflects a sanctified life in his interactions with those he leads. These traits are genuine, not forced. They are fruit born out of a life that is centered in the person of Christ. They are not profound truths except in their ability to transform a life.
Let’s take a look at a few.
1. Genuine love
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 [ESV]
2. Walking in the Spirit
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:16&17 [ESV]
“In these days he [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12 [ESV]
4. Love for the word
But he answered, “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4
“Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
These are a good place to start for any who aspire to leadership.
To do or not to do often weighs heavily on our minds and hearts, leaving us uncertain as to the right path. Decision-making can be a troublesome responsibility.
However, many decisions are made long before we are confronted with them. Our priorities are set either on purpose or by default early in life. If we are not intentional about setting priorities early in life, then unintentional priorities are set, and our decision-making map is drawn by this “unintentionality”.
This is the way many parents operate. Because they do not look beyond the immediate, they make parenting decisions based on comfort, convenience, or external pressures rather than on character, and more importantly, kingdom concerns. When a child cries or complains loudly enough, decisions are made in order to stop the crying rather than with the future in view. Friendships, activities, and any number of matters are addressed without the future of their children or their children’s children in mind. The course is thus set for the next generation; and the next; and the next; ….
Pastors and church leaders are often participants in the same kind of decision-making. Many, if not most, decisions are made without the next generation as a priority. Complaining church members do not need to be patronized but discipled in the priority of Gospel living, Gospel church life, and passing on a godly heritage to the next generation. Churches are weakened and their future Biblical effectiveness undermined when we compromise our message with a weak, man-centered Gospel and give the impression that the church can take its cues from the world instead of bearing witness to the uncompromising truth of the Word of God.
So what can we do to avoid the trap of “unintentionality” in our churches and in our homes. I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I will offer some important matters to embrace. Commit yourself to the glory of God and the purity of the Gospel in the church and in the home. The two are vitally connected, because the Gospel is “the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Everything in the Christian life flows from the Gospel, and everything is done to the glory of God in Christ. Pastors must model the centrality of Christ in their lives and in their preaching. They must also mentor it with God’s people. Fathers and husbands must model and mentor it as well with their wives and children. Christ-centered living, Gospel-motivated living leads us to make decisions not based on the comfort and convenience of the moment, but for the glory of God and the Biblical good of the next generation. Our descendants can live without many earthly things – but not without Christ and a pure Gospel.
Be ready to pay the price for Biblical priorities. As a young man entering my first pastorate, I set some priorities for ministry on the front end. I was committed to the consistent exposition of God’s Word; to challenging men to be spiritual leaders in the home; and to supporting the cause of the Gospel around the world. By God’s grace I saw some respond, and I have lived long enough to see fruit in the next generation in other families and my own. But their have also been times when kingdom priorities cost me and my family in some painful ways. With God’s help I am able to echo the words of the Apostle Paul: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of The Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
Last night I had the opportunity to speak to the leadership team of Global Encounters, of which I am blessed and privileged to be a part. It was a joy to share with a group of people who, first of all, want to grow as leaders and secondly listened with open hearts. This year, God has put together a team for short term mission trips that only He could develop. They are ready by God’s Spirit to lead others to proclaim the gospel in other lands.
Nothing profound was shared. Just a few thoughts from my years of leading teams whether short term or a daily basis in an organization. I leave you with the things I highlighted. They are simply forged from a life that is and has been on a journey with Christ. I am over whelmed at the grace of God in my life. I know He is not done with me and the journey ahead – though challenging it may be – will teach me more. He truly works all things for my good.
1. Be the disciplined one – set the example
2. Be a student of the word
– Know what you believe
– Don’t just read but study
3. Make the word of God primary
– Gives focus and direction instead of randomness.
– Study what you will teach beforehand. Be ready to teach.
4. Build a relationship with your team
– Make time for individuals
5. Grow with your team
6. Discern your team members
– Be attentive to team members needs
– Know their personalities/how they respond or don’t
– Are they growing weary or pushing too much
– Watch the signs/discern
7. Play to your team’s strengths
8. Empower your team
– Don’t micro manage
– Trust people
– Let them make mistakes & learn
– Rebuke in love
– Firm action is last resort
9. Make time for rest
10. Remember to have fun
11. Do not remind people you are in charge
12. You will make mistakes
– Walk humbly
– Be quick to ask forgiveness
13. Working with outside leadership
– Discern culture tendencies
– Don’t over commit your team
– Learn the art of saying no
14. Communicate with your leadership team
…much more could be said but that is all for now.
We are excited to introduce the first annual Legacy Conference.
April 24 – 26, 2014
Hosted by Westwood Church, Evansville, IN
For Pupal/Parent/Pastor/People of God
[There will be a kids program for ages 5-12]
Stay tuned. More information coming soon!
During the course of my life, I have made a mental list of things I would like to accomplish and places I would like to travel. I have learned in recent years that this is called your “Bucket List.
Well, if I had a written bucket list, whale watching would certainly be on it!
This past summer, I traveled to Ecuador on a mission trip. One bright day we had some down time and some of us on the team prepared to go whale watching on the Pacific Ocean. I boarded a boat with about 9 other team members and snapped my life jacket on. The mountains and the Pacific waves were vast an amazing.
I sat in the center of the boat and I noticed a huge strong rope tied to the front of the boat that ran down the middle all the way to the back of the boat. Hmm, I wondered what this rope was for. No one seemed to know why it was there.
As we looked out in the ocean, we could see a different kind of movement in the water running along side of our boat. This is it – the whale we are going to see. The drivers of the boat cranked it up and we started going very fast as we chased this whale. All of the sudden, we hit a high wave at a very fast pace! I thought I was going to fly right out of the boat. I went up and came down very hard. Whew…just then I realized what the rope was for! It was for you to hold onto tightly – to keep you secure in the boat. You guessed it, I was now holding on to this rope until we hit land again!
As we were cruising across the ocean, I was thinking how so many times in my Christian life I do this with the Word of God and the Gospel. It is there like that rope – something for us to hold on to in order to keep us secure and on track. We think we are okay cruising along and we don’t hold on to the rope. We don’t find out what the rope is for! I am so grateful the Lord is my rope and my strength that I can hold on to. He is the one who keeps me on track because of what Christ, through the gospel, has done in my life.
Psalm 121:18 says, “The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore.” Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me your way, O Lord, I will walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” I must never let go of Christ and must never neglect making His word and gospel the center of my life.
So, you are asking, “Did you ever see the whale?” The boat stopped and this huge humpback whale came up out of the water and his tail came flapping back and forth in the air – it was truly an amazing sight.
Bucket List – Whale Watching – Check!
I am holding to the rope and I am not letting go, Lord – keep on teaching me and showing me your ways.
The Unseen Hand
A. J. Simms
There’s an unseen hand to me
That leads through ways, I cannot see
While going through, this world of woe
This hand still leads, me as I go
I’m trusting to, the unseen hand
That guides me through, this weary land
And some sweet day, I’ll reach that strand
Still guided by, the unseen hand
I long to see, my Savior’s face
And sing the story, of his grace
And there upon, that golden strand
I’ll praise him for, his guiding hand
I’m holding to, the unseen hand
That guides me through, this weary land
And some sweet day, I’ll reach that strand
Still holding to, the unseen hand
I know this is an emphatic and bold statement to make – a leader is a reader – but let us take a moment to consider:
Leaders give vision and direction to an organization and its ideals. Born out of an inner compass that is rooted in conviction, they are motivated to maintain true conviction and see it continue for generations to come.
However, how can a leader direct an organization or group of people when he fails to grow? Leaders do not grow unless they feed themselves with the proper resources and tools that stimulate the mind and heart, inspire, and most importantly fundamentally teach what it means to lead. If a leader is not growing, he cannot motivate and direct others to grow, achieve, and most importantly promote and continue that conviction they work from. Leaders can only lead from a life that gives evidence of the very conviction he promotes. Leaders lead by example.
This is where the medium of reading comes in. Through words, sentences are built and through sentences, ideas are forged in the mind and ultimately in the heart – becoming unwavering conviction. This is why books are so powerful and can alter or radically change the reader. Through the truth of God’s word, an individual’s heart is transformed. Through stories, journeys are taken that inspire and bring hope. When history is read, we learn from the mistakes and triumphs of fellow leaders. Through the written word, ideas change the course of civilization or direct the path of individuals who affect so many others. If you want to learn and grow as a leader, then you must without delay be a reader. The un-stimulated mind and heart never has and never will grow when left alone.
I leave you with a list of books that have changed and forged conviction that motivates me as a leader. Read them. Make your own list to share. Leaders not only read; they encourage other to read.
A little over a month ago, I preached a message at the Westwood Church Men’s Retreat. It was such a joy to fellowship with these men of my own local church. The Lord blessed our time in the word and fellowship with one another. This year’s theme was ‘Transformation’ from Romans 12. I was given the choice on what to speak and for some reason I chose humility. Not sure why I did that, but the Lord worked in my own heart and and the hearts of those who heard. Below, you will find the recording of the message ‘A Life Transformed by Humility’. My hope and prayer is that the word would bless and transform your life as you listen.
There are those rare times when you read a book and you know before you are done with it that it will change your life and you will read it again. I love to read and more importantly, I like to read things that will challenge me to move beyond my comfort zone and set me on a course the will grow me in my relationship with Christ and as a leader. ‘The Conviction to Lead’ is one of those books. From the moment I began the book till its finish, I have had a rough time putting it down. I have posted excerpts from it on Facebook and Twitter multiple times. This book has been my inspiration in my latest series of blogs on leadership. In short, it’s a profoundly great book and you should read it.
I have read a plethora of books on leadership in the last ten years. Each one has brought something to the table that the other did not. Each one has expounded on principles that every leader needs to ponder, digest, and apply. However, the stark contrast between past leadership books read and the newly completed ‘The Conviction to Lead’ is the reason its gives on why we are to lead. Others have touched on it, but this one expounds upon it. Based upon biblical understanding and personal lessons in his own journey of leadership development, Dr Al Mohler [the author] gives clear reasoning on why conviction is the bedrock reason we lead. His writing style is easy yet packed with meaning and insight as he lays out for you a clear understanding of what biblical conviction is and what it looks like for the leader in his day-to-day life. Dr. Mohler is very gifted in communicating and leaves no rock unturned, yet he gives valuable and concrete application for what convictional leadership looks like.
So, as Lavar Burton says in the classic PBS kids television show ‘Reading Rainbow’, “You don’t have to take my word for it.” You can find it here on amazon.com. Buy it. Read it. And change forever the way you view leadership.
During the course of our life, the Lord graciously brings people into our lives to teach us and instruct us. I had the privilege, years ago, of sitting under the teaching of Elizabeth Elliot. Her life has been amazing and the Godly wisdom she shared was powerful.
I think sometimes when we attend conferences or meetings, we are looking for earth shattering or grandiose happenings. What I learned that weekend was not earth shattering information. But, what I learned spoke volumes to my heart.
We wrestle with the will of God and all that our busy lives throw at us. Elizabeth Elliot uttered four simple words: “Do the next thing,”
I would like to share with you the poem that she shared with us in that meeting.
So, do the next thing – read it!
Do The Next Thing
From an old English parsonage, Down by the sea,
There came in the twilight, A message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, Deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me, Teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours The quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration- DO THE NEXT THING
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, Let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, Guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, DO THE NEXT THING
Do it immediately; Do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, Tracing His Hand,
Who placed it before thee with Earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, Safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings, DO THE NEXT THING
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering) Be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence, The rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance Be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, Praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee, DO THE NEXT THING