Leadership that Works

A football team has a quarterback. A school has a principal. A school district has a superintendent. A company has a CEO. A bank has a president. With any group of people, having a leader is a must. Dwight D. Eisenhower, arguably one of the greatest American generals, led over 200,000 allied troops during World War II. General Eisenhower once used a simple string to demonstrate his theory on how to lead: he would place the string on a table and say, “Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all.” You can’t use force. You’ve got to lead. Fortunately for Christians, God laid out exactly how He wants the church to be led, and those guidelines haven’t changed in over 2000 years because they work! The position of elders and deacons are laid out quite clearly in the New Testament. “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17) “Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” (1 Timothy 3:8-10) The church can’t go wrong when it conforms to the direction God lays out. Other things in the church have changed and will continue to change, but the structure of leadership God dictated in the first church must always remain the same.

The Book is Better

Have you tried to put together a toy at Christmas and become so frustrated that you almost threw it away? Then you remember—an instruction sheet came in the box. You dig it out, study it, put the toy together and it works! Isn’t that how life is sometimes? You encounter a difficult situation with co-workers or your marriage is on a bumpy road to divorce or a child is on a downward slope to disaster. You’re trying to solve the problem at work but no one seems to cooperate. You’re going for professional counseling to help with the marriage but you’re almost ready to move out. Your child finds his situation so tempting that he’s not willing to listen to you. Did you forget the instruction book for each of these situations—the Bible? Had you taken advantage of the opportunities at church to study it or had you opened, read and studied it for yourself instead of watching TV, you might be better prepared to handle life’s problems. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (MSG) tells us that all Scripture is “useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” While you might have to consult an instruction sheet only one time to put the toy together, studying the Bible—all of it—needs to be an on-going, life-long process.

It’s a Heart Thing

The lady was well-known around town as being “sinful.” That didn’t keep her from coming to see Jesus. In fact, it was her sinful state that motivated her. She clearly understood she needed the forgiveness that only Jesus could give. When some of the more “religious” people pointed out her sinfulness, Jesus focused on her love and her gratitude. Here’s the point we hope you understand. Today there are two kinds of people attending Back-to-Church Sunday at First Christian Church. There are sinners who have accepted Jesus’ forgiveness. They will worship with grateful hearts, not because they are good, but because they are forgiven. There are also sinners who have not yet accepted Jesus’ forgiveness. If you fit in this group, we welcome you and ask you to consider the words Jesus said to the sinful woman. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  Luke 7:50 (NIV) We can only speculate about why the woman was considered “sinful.” It really doesn’t matter. When she left Jesus, she was forgiven. While Back-to-Church Sunday may start with two kinds of people, our prayer is that everyone who leaves will go in peace–forgiven.

That Awkward Silence

Jesus taught by using many methods. He told parables, preached and performed miracles. He taught by example or modeling behavior that all should emulate.   One of the subjects Jesus taught by example was prayer. He demonstrated several ways to pray. Jesus sought out opportunities to pray with those closest to Him. There were times when He prayed for others and times when He prayed for himself. He would often pray alone, seeking solitude, focus and connection with the Father.   Matthew records one of Jesus’ greatest teachings on prayer. In Matthew 6:9-10 (NIV), His powerful lesson begins by telling us how to pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This lesson has been repeated countless times and has touched so many people with its simple, yet powerful meaning. This prayer is often very familiar to non-Christians. Most of us memorized the Lord’s Prayer as children. However, we must recognize the power is in the meaning of the prayer, through the connection we make with God and not in a memorized repetition.   Jesus did not tell us there was only one way to pray. He provided various methods. He demonstrated that prayer can and should happen at all times and places. It takes effort and time. Prayer builds our relationship with God, a relationship that is rich in energy, connection, power, and emotion. There is no “new and improved” or easy way – just the way that Jesus taught.

Front-Porch Sittin’

A new study performed by UCLA reveals that the increase of use in digital media has led to a decline in social skills among children. Face to face interactions between people are decreasing as more time is being spent with digital media through computers, smart phones and tablets. The study points out the use of non-personal technology for general and relational communication is decreasing our sensitivity to emotional cues. We’re losing the ability to understand the emotions and needs of other people. We only see the surface and often have to guess what feelings stand behind the words we see on our screens. But Jesus called us into a personal relationship with Him and others. Jesus spent three years of intimate face to face time with his disciples teaching them His ways. He prepared them to carry on His mission after He was gone—even though they would face many difficult times. The early believers understood the value of being together. From Acts 2 we read “Every day they continued to meet together. They broke bread in their homes and ate with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” God’s plan for our lives is that we would rely on each other for support, encouragement and accountability as we seek to serve Him. This world is too big and too tough to expect that we can successfully navigate it on our own. Simply put, we all need authentic relationships with other Christians.

All You Need is Love

Many of us have read the passage in Matthew 25 (NIV) where Jesus says; “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me. Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me!”   Sunday, October 12 is Service Sunday. This day and every day we have an amazing opportunity to love people and serve others at the same time. Matthew 20:28 says; “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus came to serve, not be served. He came longing only to give and sacrifice himself for others. What a beautiful image of what we are all called to do for each other.   Serving others means giving our time, strength, energy, finances and talents to another person without expecting anything in return. God has created each of us with a purpose to love and serve one another. Our greatest joy and fulfillment is found by living according to His purposes for our life.   So let our service for our friends, family, classmates and even strangers today be performed as though we were actually serving Christ. Because in truth, we are!