Monday, February 23, 2015

5 gifts every man should give his children

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth." Psalm 127:4

I am so thankful for my arrows. They are doing what "arrows" are created to do - inflicting harm to the enemy. Raising children to be used in the work of the Lord is the call of every Christian parent, but oftentimes we father's feel overwhelmed just doing our best to keep our heads above water. The "daily grind" becomes THE excuse for leaving the task of "nurturing" and "admonishing" our children to our wives. In the end, however, God will judge us men for how we have led our families.

God has given us these gifts and expects us to release them (as arrows) into spiritual battle. What are 5 gifts you should give your children that will help them "fight the good fight of faith?"

1) Fair expectations - I owe my children a heartfelt apology for the times I expected perfection - the times I was more concerned with image than integrity - the times I gave too much thought to the leering looks of critical church people who thought my children made too much noise or didn't look the part. Be fair in your expectations. I think this is what Paul meant when he warned fathers not to exasperate or frustrate their children.

2) Love - start by loving their mom, showing her affection, cherishing her friendship, respecting her feelings, inviting her thoughts. A girl learns how a man should treat a woman by watching her father love her mother. Affirm your children often. They need to hear two statements from you dad - "I love you!" and, "I'm proud of you!" Dr. James Dobson used to say, "Children spell 'love' T-I-M-E.

3) Prayer - Every-single-day! Pray for their heart. Pray for their salvation. Pray for their future mate. Pray they would hear the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit louder than the call of immature friends. Pray they would grow to love and serve God... that they would devote themselves to be "living sacrifices" to God.

4) Training/experience - Lead them and encourage them to serve the Lord and their fellow man. Give them opportunities to minister in the church. Look for ways to include them in your own ministry. Talk about serving God. Talk about the Word of God and the faithfulness and goodness of God. Teach them the importance of serving their family, showing love to the elderly, sacrificing for those less fortunate, encouraging the down-trodden, visiting the sick.

5) Forgiveness - The story of the Prodigal Son has always struck a chord deep in my soul. Here was a young man who essentially said to his father, "I wish you would hurry up and die so I could have my inheritance!" How that father's heart must have broken to see his son prefer the ways of the world to the warmth of his home. But what brings conviction to me as a father is the fact that this disobedient, undeserving, self-serving young man came to his senses and thought of returning home. Just the fact that he knew he COULD return home says something about the father, don't you think? Even though he had his speech prepared to say he would be a "servant," the very idea that his father would take him in after so much failure and disrespect, speaks volumes of the steadfast love of his dad.

Do my kids know I love them unconditionally? Do they know I will forgive them no matter how far they go or how bad they fail? Do YOUR kids know that? They need to... they REALLY need to.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Developing the Leaders around you

Good leaders aren't just a steady hand in an hour of crisis - they are constantly on the search for potential leaders they can pull into their circle and develop.  Every pastor should have a leadership team through which he runs the business of the church.  What are the benefits to such a team?

1) It will give you an opportunity to share your vision with those who are most likely to help it become reality.  Face it - you can do very little without the help of others.

2) It will foster a spirit of transparency and unity.  Sometimes people are guilty of "leading from behind."  They have a misinformed opinion about where the church is headed or how decisions are made.  Bringing others into the decision making process will quell some of the squawking that breeds division.

3) It will develop in your leaders the importance of teamwork and group-think.  Have you ever thought that some of the "freelancing" people do in church life may be caused by the way they perceive their pastor and how the pastor works?

4) It will improve your ideas.  Solomon tells us there is "safety" in a multitude of counselors.  If you surround yourself with people who have the freedom to express themselves without fear of harsh criticism, you will have some of your bad ideas culled and some of your good ideas improved upon. Just this Sunday afternoon I had a leadership team meeting and one of my leaders offered insight I had not even considered.  Through that insight, we were able to improve an idea.

5) It will give people a sense of purpose and a greater desire to be a part of the work of the church. We have some very talented people whose gifts are being wasted in the Lord's work.  There are people God has gifted who could be an incredible blessing to the church if invited to serve.

6) Another seldom discussed benefit to this concept of leadership is that people will give more when they take ownership of the work.

Why wouldn't you WANT others helping you carry the burden of leadership?  Are you afraid it will be a sign of weakness or that others might see it as a defect in you?  A fool calls it "weakness."  I call it "wisdom."

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Walking through a minefield

Does your church ever feel like a minefield... like there are explosive issues just below the surface that might cripple your ministry (or worse?)  Need help safely navigating these devices?  Things to remember:

1) Satan is a destroyer and ultimately he is the cause of this.  While people do dumb things and allow themselves to be used by the schemer to hurt God's Church, Paul said, "we wrestle" with principalities and powers not of this world.  Jesus told a parable of a farmer whose enemy sowed tares in his wheat crop.  Satan is the real enemy... not the former pastor... not a deacon who feels called to keep you humble... not a councilman who rejects your plans to build.

It's Satan who is attacking your family with turmoil and strife.  It is Satan who is tempting a board member to disrespect you.  It is the "accuser-of-the-brethren" that attacks through circumstances and people in your life to discourage you.  Put a face on it and remember, it isn't a deacon, your wife, or a rogue church member.

2) Spiritual warfare must be fought with spiritual weapons.  Fall on your face in prayer.  Ask God for wisdom, self-control, and courage to do what is necessary.  Fortify yourself with the prayers of spiritual men who don't need to know all the details of the situation before they commit to heartfelt prayer.

3) Keep a brief journal of your actions and conversations.  That journal will be helpful to you as you recall important details, as you see God's faithfulness to you. and as you help other men navigate their minefields.

Become that unflappable leader you've admired at various times in history.  You remember, those stone-faced, steal-jawed heroes of earlier times who created confidence in their followers by their courage and character and well-timed words.  They don't have to know about your fears.  They don't have to know about the many times you have fallen on your face not knowing what to do.

I leave you with the words of one of my favorite leadership passages (Joshua 1:9)  "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."