Servant Movers (Character and Conduct)

December 10, 2012 at 11:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Previously we looked at the principle of commitment in servant leadership. Commitment will produce character. Character involves not only a person’s integrity (how he behaves when no one is watching), but it also goes into the perception people have of him based upon his integrity.

Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Acts 6:3 (emphasis added)

Character produces conduct, and, for a servant leader, spirituality is more important than personality. Conduct, again, implies that we are going somewhere: a “conductor” rides on a train that is moving. A conductor on a non-moving train is not really a conductor. He’s a tour guide. As servant leaders, our job is not to lead people on tours of the church grounds or buildings. The person who helps people find a seat is an “usher,” but we have got to start “conducting:” getting them up and getting them moving.

A non-moving Christian is in trouble. Physically speaking, a lack of exercise leads to a condition called “atrophy,” which is weakness resulting from non-use. It’s the same way spiritually. Christians who don’t “exercise,” don’t grow in Christ.

As servant leaders, our conduct must be the conduct of men who are in love with Jesus Christ. Vance Havner once said, “A revival is the church falling in love with Jesus Christ all over again. We are in love with ourselves, in love with our particular crowd, in love with our fundamentalism, maybe, but not with Him.”

Here’s the solution:

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

John 21:15

Feeding lambs is busy work. Leading necessitates moving. The Bible describes the Christian life as “walking” with God.

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

I Thessalonians 4:1 (emphasis added)

Worshiping, studying the Word, praying, witnessing may be done while sitting, standing, or walking in the physical sense, but they are not “sedentary” activities, spiritually speaking. Servant leaders need to feed God’s people and fight for God’s people. We feed them the Word, and fight against the enemy with the Sword of the Spirit.

Break It Up!

February 10, 2012 at 10:01 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes, Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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We might suppose that God is chiefly in the business of building.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

However, the Bible tells us that there are times ordained by God for breaking, as well as building.

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

Ecclesiastes 3:3

When we think of some of the heroes of the faith who were themselves broken before God, like Job, Jonah, Isaiah, David, and Peter, just to name a few – and when we recall all the times that God, in loving discipline, has had to break us in order to bring us back to Himself – we might be very glad that God condescends to use broken things.

Vance Havner once said that God uses “broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.” If you are feeling broken right now, maybe to the point where you feel useless before God, take heart! The body of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, was broken for you on Calvary’s Cross, so that you might draw strength from Him. The Apostle Paul understood this principle.

When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.

Acts 20:11

When you are experiencing a dark night of brokenness, call upon the Lord, and when His sun “breaks” the morning sky, get up and depart from your bed of sorrows, ready to serve Him with new energy.

And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

I Corinthians 11:24

Leading Instead of Watching

May 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Selected Psalms | 10 Comments
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Psalm 105 is remarkable in the way it extols the wondrous works God had done among and for His people without really making much mention of the failures of His people. As Christians it would be a mistake to completely ignore our past failures, but the focus of our praise should be on God, not on us.

You may have heard Christian testimonies which go to one of two extremes. On the one hand some Christians almost seem to be bragging when they talk about how “bad” or how “tough” or how “lecherous” they were before they were saved. They seem almost nostalgic as they go into too much detail about what prolific and skillful sinners they were. Sometimes this is defended by the testifier as necessary so that his or her lost listeners can better “identify” with the testimony, and so that they won’t feel like the person giving the testimony is trying to be “holier than thou” now that he is saved. The other extreme, of course, are the testimonies which overly minimize the pre-salvation sin of the Christian – possibly out of shame for past behavior and possibly out of a failure to recognize the true “sinfulness” of sin.

I have probably been as guilty as others of leaning toward one or another of these extremes myself at times. When I try to give a sober analysis of my state before Christ redeemed me, I am forced to admit that I was indeed a rebellious sinner, but there was nothing noble about my rebellion when I was lost. I was not like Robin Hood – robbing from the rich to give to the poor. I sinned because I liked to sin. When I was able to ignore my conscience, sin felt good to me, and I loved me more than God, and I wanted me to feel good, and I was able to rationalize it in my own eyes by saying it didn’t seem all that bad to me. The fact is, I was a degenerate – a filthy worm – but another fact is, that such a statement is probably not worth a lot of my breath. The Bible says that those of us who have breath should praise the Lord! We should talk more about how great He is than about how bad we were.

Psalm 106, though, is sort of an alternative view to Psalm 105. In order to extol God’s longsuffering and enduring mercies, the psalmist shows the magnitude of the people’s sins.

We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.

Psalm 106:6 (emphasis added)

We, as 21st Century American Christians, have to stop blaming our parents for our situation. Yes, they (their generation) sinned, but we are responsible when we repeat those sins.

The most serious kinds of heart surgery are not easy to perform. The skin has to be slit open; the rib cage cracked apart; the organs sorted through. But sometimes that’s the only way to fix the problem. Spiritual heart surgery can be daunting and messy as well. We should spend more time looking within us for the source of our own sin, than looking around us or at the past.

Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea.

Psalm 106:7

People who have been rescued and set free sometimes fear the responsibility of freedom. They want the old security of bondage. Bondage does not require faith. There were times when the Israelites wouldn’t follow God, but at least they would follow Moses. Are you a Moses or an Israelite? In other words, when it comes to walking by faith, are you a leader or a looker?

He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left. Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel:

Psalm 106:9-13

Are you leading by faith or are you just a spectator of God’s miracles? Vance Havner used to say that, in Christian ministry, we are not running a show boat; we are running a life boat. If you have been in church long enough, you have probably heard some preacher somewhere say the trouble is that too many folks are singing “Standing on the Promises,” while in reality they are just sitting on the premises!

We have developed into a generation of onlookers and spectators. You go into a department store, and when the clerk comes up and asks, “What do you want?” you say, “Just looking.” In the same way, all over our nation, there are television viewers sitting there in their living rooms “just looking.” There are children sitting in front of the internet “just looking.” People come to church, and someone asks them, “Did you come here to do business with God?” If many of these people were to tell the truth, they’d say, “No thank you, just looking!”

Vance Havner Warns Us to S.W.I.M. with Care

March 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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Time and time again we meet those who went to foreign fields or undertook vast enterprises under mistaken leadings. It is so easy to confuse our wants with God’s leadings. The work of the gospel is too often made the springboard from which to dive off into water too deep for us.

Vance Havner in “The Gardarene, Matthew 8:28-34,” from Reflections on the Gospels

Brain “Washing” Produces “Clean” Living (Part 1)

February 25, 2010 at 10:15 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 15 Comments
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Right thinking produces right living.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9

The mind controls the body. They can’t be separated. The Apostle Paul before King Agrippa:

And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

Acts 26:24-25, emphasis added

In our modern vernacular we say, “He’s beside himself,” when someone has lost his temper. In ancient times many people believed that a person’s mind or consciousness could come out of his body, causing him not to be in control of his tongue anymore. Paul wasn’t “beside himself” – he was “in control of himself.”

The Bible tells us to present our…

… bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:1-2

Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice is a process of learning to think the right way: “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Too many Christians today are hoping to be transformed by the removing of their minds. So we have “Christian” relaxation techniques, tantric yoga, the power of positive thinking. Everyone wants to feel fresh and renewed – but the only way for a Christian to “think right” is to think like Christ.

The way to think like Christ is to let Him control your mind. Some will say, “I can’t do that – nobody can know the mind of God…”

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:5

That verse is not just speaking symbolically. Its primary reference is to having the attitude of a servant, but we must not set aside the plain literal truth of the Bible. As Vance Havner used to say, “I hope you’re not up there on Mount Olympus in the stratospheric heights looking down your nose in lofty condescension at us mere mortals who believe it just like it reads in the Book.” You can have the mind of Christ in you when it comes to what kinds of things you’re going to think about.

What are some examples? How do I know what sorts of things will be right to think about?

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Colossians 3:2

We naturally think about what we desire to have. Desire Godly things and your mind will begin to think upon them. Desire worldly things and your mind will begin to devise ways to get them.

Philippians 4:8 tells us exactly what sorts of things are good to think about. We’ll look at those next time, and we will also examine how to keep out thoughts that are not good – the fiery darts of Satan.

Arise: Naboth’s Vineyard, Ahab’s Vice, and God’s Vengeance – Part 1

October 29, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Arise | 24 Comments
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To “arise” means to get up – to get moving – to stir, and to get busy.

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria…

Matthew 4:18-24

And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

Matthew 8:21-22

When Jesus got ready to recruit disciples, He had been preaching repentance and the Kingdom of God, but when He called disciples, He didn’t give much of a sales pitch. “Follow me,” He said. Have you ever wondered why they did it?

The answer, I think, lies not in the command “follow.” There’s no shortage of people who want to tell you what to do – to give you a command. The answer lies in the “Me” – that short little two-letter Word is more than just the direct object of the sentence. The ME is the King of Glory – the Son of God – the Prince of Peace – the God over all gods – the King over all kings – the Maker of Heaven and of Earth – the Alpha and Omega – the Author of Salvation.

They really didn’t need the “follow” to be convinced. All we really need is the “ME.” When you begin to understand the greatness of Jesus – His infinite worth – you want to – no, you have to – be with Him. And you put the Person – “Me” – together with the “follow,” and you’ve got a Person and a Path.

He says, “Arise. If you want the ‘ME,’ you’re going to have to go places. But it’s okay – because you’ll be going with ME.”

The disciples followed, and it seemed great at first. Matthew 4 says Jesus did miracles. He healed the sick and fed the hungry, and gave sight and the ability to walk. And they became famous, and crowds followed, and people loved them – as if someone said, “Here, free candy – just for coming to church.” Most everybody likes candy. Why? Because it’s sweet. It doesn’t require much effort. It sort of melts in your mouth. But once in a while you get a surprise – a different kind of candy – the kind of candy that, when you say, “Hey, you’re giving me candy, I’ll follow you” – suddenly things turn sour.

Jesus says, If you’re going to follow Me, sometimes things are going to get sour. Sometimes you’re not going to have a bed or pillow or shelter. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to be loved by your family. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to do all the things you want, because you are a follower – and a follower follows a leader – and a leader is in charge – in command.

When a leader says, “Let’s go, you don’t have time to bury your father – let the dead bury the dead – we’re following hard after my Father now…” Do you spit it out? Give up? Too sour? Not what you bargained for? Or do you just keep sucking it up – knowing that one day things will be sweet again – sweeter than ever?

I hope – when things in your life seem too hard – too hard deal with the way a Christian is supposed to deal with them – the way the Bible says to deal with them – that you’ll remember this simple little lesson – you’ll remember Who you are following. Don’t shy away from doing the hard thing. Jesus – if you are really His – loves you even when you taste bad. He is worthy to be loved and followed through any circumstances, trials, troubles, and hardships.

I. The Pious Patriarch

Naboth was the owner of a vineyard in the little town of Jezreel. (A vineyard is a piece of land used for growing grapes.)

So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers.

Numbers 36:7-8

Naboth, years later, was the patriarch of one these families in one of these tribes. A patriarch is the male leader of a tribe. Naboth’s vineyard had come to him, through his forefathers, directly from God. It was really God’s vineyard. Naboth was a steward over it for God, and for the good of those that God had placed into his care. Every one of us are stewards over the gifts God has given us, and we are to use these gifts to help others, so that God is glorified. Naboth had a command from God: Keep this land in your family. He had a blessing from God: You may enjoy this land.

We have every reason to believe that he did enjoy it. Perhaps in his own childhood, he had played there. Perhaps his wife’s family had worked and played in this vineyard. Perhaps Naboth and his fathers and sons had driven out lions and foxes from this vineyard. Perhaps Naboth enjoyed watching his own children frolic in the rows of grapes, and play in the soft fertile dirt. I call Naboth the Pious Patriarch because when there was a strong temptation to do what was easy, Naboth, instead of doing what was easy, did what was right. But he did so because of a devotion to God.

And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. And Naboth said to Ahab, The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.

I Kings 21:1-3

Saying no to a king is a dangerous thing. Saying no to certain people today – saying no to certain things – can seem very dangerous to us. It can be very difficult. Someone might tell you the same thing Naboth was told: “Give up what God gave you, and you’ll get a fair price for it.” Or, “You’ll get something better in return.” How much more popular could you be with your friends if you would sell your purity – your devotion to God? How much more money could you make if not for having to attend, and serve in, church? How much more rest could you get? How many fun and entertaining things could you see and do?

Naboth said no. He didn’t say, “In my childhood I played here. My wife’s family worked and played in this vineyard. My father and sons have driven out lions and foxes from this vineyard. I love to see my own children frolic in the rows of grapes, and play in the soft fertile dirt.” He didn’t say all those things, but he could have. Instead, he let it be known that he feared God more than the king. He loved God more than men.

Do you love God more than men? That’s the question you’re going to have to ask yourself every time someone tells you to give up what God gave you, and you’ll get something better, or you’ll get a fair price. Will you sink down into the muddy pit of conformity? Or will you arise and say, “The Lord forbid it me.”

II. The Pouting Potentate

A “potentate” is someone with “power” – someone who is “potent:” a king, a ruler, an emperor. King Ahab is the “Pouting Potentate” in this account.

And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.

I Kings 16:30

… Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

I Kings 16:33

Ahab married the wicked Jezebel – from Sidon – and, at her prompting, instituted and encouraged the wicked worship of Baal among the groves. The worship of Baal involved sexual debauchery, child sacrifice, and worship of “nature” instead of God. It happened long ago, but it sounds very familiar today. It’s just that we don’t call it “sexual debauchery, child sacrifice, and worship of nature instead of God.” We call it “hooking up, abortion, and environmentalism.” R.G. Lee called Ahab “the vile toad who squatted on the throne of a nation.”

And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread. But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread? And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it: and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard.

I Kings 21:4-6

Ahab, the King of Israel, who had lands beyond number, who had livestock, gold, jewels, money, orchards, palaces, servants, maybe 100 vineyards, was pouting like a spoiled little baby – or an over-indulged teenaged child – because he couldn’t have one little garden of herbs right where he wanted it!

Are we much better? Are we always wanting more? Do we worship things, or do we worship God? What is our energy devoted to obtaining? Clothes? Electronics? Cars? Nicer, more expensive luxuries? Or righteousness?

What could make the king of God’s Own people so depressed? As Christians we have access to the eternal riches of glory in Christ Jesus. And the wonderful thing is that God has made us stewards over everything He has given us, but He remains the Owner! The devil comes to you, and whispers in your ear – the way we will see Jezebel do it in Part 2 of this message – and he says, “Disobey God – just a little – and you can have this – you can enjoy that.”

But you say, “Devil, you can’t give me anything – because I have everything I could ever need or want in Christ Jesus!

He says, “Fine, you can’t be tempted with the promise of gaining something you don’t have – but I’ll take something away from you!”

And you say, “Go right ahead, I don’t own anything for you to take from me – this all belongs to God, not me.”

Vance Havner used to say, “What are you gonna do with a man like that?” You can’t give him anything because he has everything – and you can’t take anything away from him because he doesn’t have anything. You can’t head him off if you cut off his head!

I know the world laughs at this, but “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Timothy 6:6) I know whom I have believed – though He slay me, yet will I trust Him! (II Timothy 1:12; Job 13:15)

Ahab should have been arising. Rising up to praise God. But instead he was sinking down into a bed of sorrows – discontent, grumpy, pouting.

In Part 2, we will see Jezebel enter the scene.

Vance Havner Liked to “S.W.I.M.,” Too

February 14, 2009 at 10:00 am | Posted in Quotes | 8 Comments
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When the tide is low, even a shrimp has its own puddle.

-Vance Havner

It can be heartbreaking to see people bowing down to the cult of celebrity in our times. Men and women, boys and girls, all of whom God so gloriously created for His Own glory, seem to persistently ignore Him, and to make idols out of silly individuals famous for even sillier accomplishments.

-Ministry Addict


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