(76) “THE DANGER OF BEING EDUCATED BEYOND OUR EXPERIENCE”
“But anyone who hears My teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against the house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
I will never forget the time a young man came to me to share a concern that Bible study was becoming a danger to him. He went on to tell me that he was regularly attending 4 Bible studies and that he was struggling to take in all he had been learning and to apply it to his life. As one great leader said, “The Bible was not given for information, but for transformation.” It was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives.
It caused me to think about the importance of balance in our lives and the dangers that can surface when we lose certain balances; like when our competence gets ahead of our character and we lack the maturity to handle the responsibilities that have been entrusted to us as leaders.
Jesus said, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”
(James 1:22) People who are educated beyond their experience can easily be filled with pride and become sermon tasters, critics and blind guides (Matthew 23:24). One of my greatest fears as a teacher was that people would be hearers of the word and not doers of the word. It was such people who were highly educated in the scriptures that became Jesus’ greatest critics and had him crucified.
It is important to remember that with knowledge comes responsibility. We are not to measure our growth by our increase in knowledge but rather by how much our lives are growing more like Jesus because (unapplied) knowledge puffs up but love (applied knowledge) builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)
Bible study is important but it was never meant to be an end in itself. Beware, or you might end up “Straining your water so that you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:24)
Now that’s a mouthful!
(77) “WHEN I SAY ‘YES’, I CAN ALSO BE SAYING ‘NO’ “
It wasn’t long after I first accepted a call to join the ministry team of a large church that I began to feel overwhelmed by the demands that were being made on my time and energy. This was a whole new world for me, one in which I felt vulnerable and conscious of the need to not disappoint people whom I had been called to serve.
Further, my job did not fit into clearly defined set hours and soon I was compromising the time I was meant to share with my wife Sue, and the time I wanted to spend in prayer and Bible study and personal development.
I was learning that when I say “yes”, I can also be saying “no”. I was about to learn one of the most important lessons of my life and my mentor would be Jesus.
As I read the Gospels I began to see that there was something different about the way Jesus would use His time.
Every call for help was not necessarily a call from God. It would have been impossible for Him to meet the needs of every individual that was drawn to Him. On one occasion one of Jesus’ disciples found Him and said, “Everyone is looking for you,” to which Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well….” Mark 1:37-38
On another occasion when vast crowds came to Jesus to hear Him preach and to be healed of their diseases we read, “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:15-16
When Jesus was told that His friend Lazarus was sick, “He stayed where He was for the next two days.” John 11:6
“Our Lord sets the perfect example of strategic use of time. He moved through life with measured steps, never hurried though always surrounded by demands and crowds. The secret of Jesus’ serenity lay in His assurance that He was working according to the Father’s plan for His life. He was conscious of a divine timing in His life.”
J. Oswald Sanders
What can we learn from Jesus about our use of time?
1. Time is a gift from God and we are to be good stewards of our use of the time He has entrusted to us.
2. There is always time to do God’s will. At the end of His life, Jesus gave an account of the use of His time, I brought glory to You (Father) here on earth by completing the work YOU gave me to do.” John 17:4
3. He chose to be a pleaser of God rather than a pleaser of people.
4. Jesus, like Paul, could say “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10
5. He never said , “I don’t have time.”
6. Time cannot be hoarded or retrieved, it must be spent as we receive it.
7. The need is not always the call.
8. “….to Jesus, there were no such things as interruptions. ‘Unexpected’ events were always foreseen in the Father’s planning, and Jesus was therefore undisturbed by them.” J. Oswald Sanders
Jesus has been a wonderful mentor to me in regard to my use of time. I commend Him to you. I am glad to say with the passing of time that when I say “yes”, I am more often saying yes to my Father so I can say at the end of my life,
“Father, I have brought You glory here on earth by completing the work YOU gave me to do.”
(78) “BURNING ON WITHOUT BURNING OUT”
I remember the time a doctor took Sue and me into his office to ask us a very personal question; “Tell me, Rod and Sue, after all you have been through with extended family sicknesses that have brought you much stress, how is it that your marriage is still holding together? I haven’t come across many couples who have endured all that you have, and stayed together in a loving relationship.”
We were quite surprised to hear the doctor’s comments and to realise he had been observing us in our painful journey.
It brought to mind a science experiment that I had observed in a chemistry class where the teacher had heated an empty kerosene can and then placed the lid back on the can and started to cool it down. In the process the can imploded as the outside atmospheric pressure became greater than the pressure inside the can.
And that is the challenge in times of trial. To make sure that the power inside of us is greater than the pressure outside of us. To be assured that no matter what comes our way, we can burn on without burning out.
This was the lesson that Moses had to learn if he was going to successfully lead the Israelites out of Egypt toward the Promised Land. His first attempt at rescuing his people was somewhat of a failure. He thought he could do it in his own strength, only to escape with his life and live in a desert for forty years.
And finally he came to realise his inability to live resiliently, and God encountered him in the desert by way of a burning bush. Moses was amazed that although the bush was on fire, it did not burn up. What an object lesson for him!
Ang God after forty years, told Moses that He was sending him to bring His people out of Egypt and He would be with Moses. And just as the bush was burning on without burning out, so it would be with Moses as he trusted God that His sustaining grace would be sufficient for him.
Just as Paul would learn many years later that God’s (sustaining) grace would be sufficient for him, for God’s power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Rod and Sue, “Why aren’t you divorced?” “Doctor, we are burning on without burning out because the power inside of us is greater than the pressure outside of us.”
And so it has been for Sue and me in the ensuing years. So, how is it with you? Are you burning on without burning out? Have you learnt the secret of God’s sustaining grace that is tailor made just for you and is available just when you need it.
(79) “WE ARE ALL GIFTED”
“Every person is a genius in some direction” William Booth
Ministry is full of challenges and one of them is to make sure that all activities remain fully staffed. At times this can be easier said than done. Like the time my leader of Children’s Ministries came to me one day to tell me that a shortage of leaders existed in our Children’s Church (Sunday School). In fact, it was difficult to see how Children’s Church could operate the following Sunday. What to do?
I did something I hadn’t done before. I felt led to announce in our church service;
“There will be no Children’s Church today. Children will have to remain in the adult’s worship service while there exists a shortage of leaders. Two options exist. Either we discontinue Children’s Church or there are gifted people in this church who are yet to volunteer to serve in this department.”
I made this announcement because I believe that:
* Jesus is the head of the church and that He is building the church and is a good builder.
* each person in the church has been given special gifts to use and that the church can only function properly when each person discovers their spiritual gifts and uses them. We are all ministers. “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:16)
* we are stewards and if we do not open our gift box and use our gift/s we will lose them and the church will suffer.
* when we all use our particular gifts (when we are a round peg in a round hole) we get great fulfillment and we bless other people and the church grows.
* the life of Jesus is still being lived out on the earth today, no longer through one body in one place, but through an amazing body called the church which is made up of many members who share the one life, the life of Jesus.
* the leader of the church is responsible for helping each member to discover their spiritual gifts and put them into practice.
* we are to focus on developing the spiritual gifts we do have, not the ones we don’t have.
“The church is primarily and fundamentally a body designed to express through each individual member the life of an indwelling Lord and is equipped by the Holy Spirit with gifts designed to express that life. It follows that there could hardly be anything more abortive or pathetic than a church which fails to understand this and substitutes instead the business methods, organisational proceedings and pressure politics of the world to accomplish its work. This is a certain recipe for frustration and ultimate death.” Ray Steadman BODY LIFE
You may be asking what happened to the Children’s Church at my church. The following Sunday I made this announcement; “I am pleased to announce that Children’s Church will resume this week with a full compliment of gifted leaders. I thank the Lord of our church for the way He continues to build His church and for the gifts He is giving each person to make this possible.”
We are all gifted! Do you know your spiritual gift/s and are you using them for the glory of God? Do you have a spiritual gift discovery course in your church? Remember, “Every person is a genius in some direction.”
(80) “STRENGTHS TAKEN TO EXTREME CAN BECOME WEAKNESSES”
It took me a while to understand that my strengths could be valuable assets, or they could be destructive liabilities. Like a wild horse, my strengths needed to be brought under control (broken in) if they were going to be of any use to me. Consequently, I learned that meekness, strength under control, would be an important lesson to learn if I was going to maximise my potential as a leader. My strengths needed to become servants that were sensitively used to add value to people around me and the world in which I lived and not masters to use indiscriminately and thoughtlessly.
Examples of leaders using their strengths to extreme include:
* decisive leaders who over control
* relational leaders who lose sight of the job at hand
* detailed leaders who shut out creativity and enterprise
* perfectionistic leaders who make impossible demands and compromise team spirit
As I studied the life of Jesus, I found in Him a person of great strengths, but also a person who meekly submitted His strengths to the will of His Father in heaven. He was the powerful majestic Lion of Judah but He was also the submissive sacrificial Lamb of God. He was the strong revolutionary who overturned the money changers’ tables in the temple and He was the one who would not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smouldering wick.
So how do we keep our strengths under control so that they are not taken to extremes, and become weaknesses?
* Give trusted people permission to point out your blind spots (see WORDS no. 74 “We All Have Blind Spots”)
WORDS THAT HAVE SHAPED MY LIFE 68 – 75 | Rod Denton (roddentoneng.com.au)
* Bring your gifts of the Spirit under the control of the fruits of the Spirit.
* Relate to people according to their personalities. I can think of three people in my leadership team with different personalities that I needed to relate to in different ways so that I might effectively connect with each one of them.
* Engage a good mentor to help you.
* Study the life of Jesus.
* Grow in meekness , strength under control
* Finally, remember the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
(81) “CREATE A MEMORY…..wherever you go!”
Jesus is the most unforgettable person the world has ever seen. Not a day passes without large numbers of people being transformed by the power of His love and life and words. So much has Jesus impacted my life that there was a time when I determined that wherever I went I would have a goal of creating a memory in the lives of people I met. And now in my senior years I am more focused than ever before on this goal. Each day is a gift from God to be able to create memories in the lives of people I meet.
I do this by:-
* determining to be a good steward of the gift of every day that is given to me.
* realising as Jesus did, that my Father God is at work each day, and I want to partner with Him in the great purposes He has for my life. In doing so, I find myself regularly meeting prepared people I never could have expected to meet.
* believing that the Spirit that lived in Jesus lives in me and that He is the most creative person alive.
* knowing that every person is made in the image of God and is a person worth meeting.
* choosing to add value to people by bringing something to the table with every encounter I make.
* keeping my mind in gear and thinking ahead as I walk through the day realising that to whom much is given, much is required.
* praying for my neighbours and people as they cross my path.
* passing on small gifts to people as I am prompted to do so.
* giving two great gifts that are high on my list of creating memories, my time and my attention.
I remember being challenged by a pastor who said, “Everywhere I go they serve cups of tea, everywhere Jesus went He caused a revival.” Living the Christian life should be anything but boring and dull. Even in my relationship with Sue, I have determined that I will not let a day pass without creating a memory with her. Life is too short to waste on trivialities that are of no benefit to others. Start today to live a life of creating memories in the lives of others. It will be the greatest investment you will ever make.
(Dedicated to my wife, Sue who has filled my life with the most amazing memories.)
(82) “LIFE IS SHORT”
“What is life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14
I grew up in a generation where our theme song rather naively was, “I’m going to live forever.” I grew to realise that this is a lie and now in my senior years I find myself like David asking the Lord, “Lord remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Psalm 39:4-5
Interestingly, although life is short, Solomon was inspired to say that “God has placed eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.
Consequently, it should be a sobering thought to realise that God has given us a short time to live on earth, and yet upon this short time, our eternity depends. And time cannot be hoarded or postponed, it must be spent as we receive it because, “irretrievably, time is flying.” (Virgil)
Moses gives us helpful perspective in the one Psalm he wrote when he said, “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away….. teach us to realise the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Psalm 90:10,12
So, as one who is now living in what I call the “bonus years” the following are a few tips I have accumulated to pass on to those who as yet have not come to “realise the brevity of life, so that they may grow in wisdom.” For some who are reading this “word”, it may be the biggest and best wakeup call you could ever receive. For we have an enemy who would deceptively encourage us to believe that we are going to live forever.
To understand the brevity of life:
* is one of the most important contributions to living life with perspective (life from God’s point of view)
* helps us to deal with conflicts and regrets while we have time to do so. (I have a friend who recently called me and said, “Rod, I am dying. I have called you to ask you to forgive me for…… I don’t want to stand before Jesus with any unresolved issues in my life.”)
* inspires us to live lives of holiness.
* helps us to understand it is not how long we live that matters, but how well we live.
* reminds us that life is a gift from God and we will have to give an account of the stewardship of how we have used that gift. “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” Ephesians 5:16-17
* causes us to be thankful for the gift of every day.
* keeps us focused as Paul was. “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Acts 20:24
John Maxwell said that the difference between a career and a calling is that a career is limited, it has a retirement date attached to it, but a calling lasts a lifetime.
May you live your life in such a way that you finish well because LIFE IS SHORT!
(83) “DISCIPLINE: A GOOD SERVANT AND A MEANS TO AN END”
I was recently speaking with a young man who told me that while on holidays, he would excuse himself from socialising with his friends at a certain time in the evening and retire to his holiday home and go to bed. He had come to realise that he needed a certain amount of sleep each night and had developed a disciplined time table in order that he might rise early to spend quality time with the Lord.
This was a great example of a young man who was committed to growing the hardest person he will ever have to grow, himself. It is called self-leadership. He has already realised that he can’t lead others until he has learned to lead himself. He can’t take others where he has not been himself. The apostle Paul said, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:27
In his masterly book, Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders writes that “Without this essential quality (discipline), all other gifts remain as dwarfs: they cannot grow. Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self. A leader is a person who has learned to obey a discipline imposed from without and has then taken on a more rigorous discipline from within. Those who rebel against authority and scorn self-discipline – who shirk the rigors and turn from the sacrifices – do not qualify to lead. MANY WHO DROP OUT OF MINISTRY are sufficiently gifted but have large areas of life floating free from the Holy Spirit’s control. Lazy and disorganised people never rise to true leadership.”
From the time that Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, developed a conviction as a young man that God was calling him to serve in China, he began to prepare for a life that would call for physical endurance. He exercised more, exchanged his comfortable bed for a hard mattress, took on a spartan diet and rose at five in the morning to study languages. He knew that it was too late to prepare himself when the opportunity arose.
One of the great secrets of being a great leader is self-discipline, that starts at an early age. It is to be our servant and not our master, a means to achieving a great end and not an end in itself.
Remember, “Many who drop out of ministry are sufficiently gifted, but have large areas of life floating free from the Holy spirit’s control. Lazy and disorganised people never rise to true leadership.”