Meekness is the Leverage of Leadership

In today’s world, meekness = weakness. God does not view it that way, however. The Bible says of Moses,”Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) And in a world where power is everything, Jesus entered the scene in a wooden manger surrounded by barnyard animals. He grew up in an humble village, the son of a carpenter, of modest means. He lived His life serving others, yet Jesus was certainly the most influential leader in all of history.

If you study the lives of Moses and Jesus you’ll find something interesting – they were both great leaders. Both were willing to boldly confront sin and error. Both would rebuke those who believed and lived lies. Both were willing to venture out into the future with faith. Yet they were the meekest men in history. How can this be? You see, we’ve misdefined meekness. Biblical meekness is not weakness, it is really just the opposite.

The Bible’s word for meekness is used in reference to a broken horse, which has all the power to destroy its rider but refrains out of respect for authority. The word is also used to refer to a soldier who has all the might to take on the enemy, yet submits himself completely to the authority of his commanding officer. Meekness is the key to having leverage in leadership. It’s the refusal to demand respect in exchange for commanding it with a life of integrity. It is “controlled power.” Meekness is the willingness to supress those urges to lash out at the wrong time, opting instead to wait for further orders from our commanding officer, Jesus.

Is meekness displayed in your life? How can you submit yourself to Jesus more today? How can you lead others with boldness and courage?

Why Honoring My Wife Matters So Much

Honor Your WifeIf I’m not honoring my wife, I cannot possibly claim to be growing spiritually. Neither can you. I’m planting and pastoring a church. I write articles for Christian blogs and websites. I’m Editor of one of the world’s leading websites for Pastors. I also consult with ministries on social media and communication strategies. I’ve spoken in a conference or two. But if I don’t honor my precious wife, I could count all of that other stuff pretty much worthless.

Here’s how the apostle Peter put it:

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

1 Peter 3:7 NLT

Notice the last line, where Peter lays down the gauntlet. If you don’t honor your wife, your conversation with God will be hindered. Your spiritual growth will be stunted. Success in the secular world often demands an inflated ego and self-confidence. Success in marriage, which is prerequisite to successful spiritual growth and therefore ministry growth requires death to self and a self-sacrificing servant’s heart.

Honoring your wife means assigning value to her. The word “honor” is used elsewhere to describe how we worship God. No, we shouldn’t worship our wives the way we worship God, but there is a similarity in which we lay down our wills, our agendas, and our egos at the feet of those who deserve our sacrifice. She is God’s gift in this new life we share in Christ.

I’m going out on a limb here. I’m going to offer advice in the form of ways to honor our wives that I have personally struggled with. My wife graciously loves me, and she means more to me than anyone else on the planet, but I have a lot of growing room as a husband. These are areas I’m determined to address in my life and my marriage, and you may struggle with these as well. So consider this a list of gentle reminders to me and to you.

Be Honest

I struggle with this along with many other men in the sense that I often hold back my feelings and failures for fear of being criticized by the one person whose opinion I value most. But here’s the brutal truth – nothing destroys intimacy more than deceit and dishonesty. Honesty is the only path to trust and closeness. You can’t stay connected to your wife if you’re aren’t open, honest, and transparent.

Be Thoughtful

I’m addicted to a solid daily routine. I like to wake up early, have my coffee, do some studying and writing, have some interaction with the world, get my work done, hang out with the family, lock all the doors and go to bed. That’s a safe routine. The problem with safe routines, however, is that they require little thought. I’m sometimes ashamed that I try to be so creative in my approach to ministry leadership, but I fail to apply my creative abilities in the realm of how I show love to my wife.

Be Attentive

My wife wonders sometimes if she should be worried about my health because I forget so much. I can remember stupid and pointless details (did you know that wasp stings contain pheromones that signal other wasps to sting?), but I sometimes forget whole conversations that I’ve had with my wife. What stinks is that a fellow Pastor can suggest an idea and I excitedly tell my wife who reminds me that she shared the same idea a week before while I was staring into outer space or at a computer screen. If this doesn’t seem like a big deal, think of it this way – failing to tune into what our wives are saying is essentially declaring their words of little or no value. To “honor” is to convey value. So listen up!

Be Gentle

My wife and I have had arguments. In fourteen years of marriage, sometimes we’ve said things that cut fairly deep, and when things get intense and my blood pressure goes up, I struggle with the tendency to blow up. No, I’ve never been physically abusive, but I have made the terrible mistake of thinking that if I yell loudly enough, I’ll win! Wrong. Every time I’ve ever yelled, I’ve lost. Why? Because even if I proved a point (which is rare), I’ve stripped away my wife’s sense of being cherished and protected. If another man yelled at my wife, I’d spring into action to defend her, but I don’t always stop myself from hurting her in this way. To honor her as the weaker vessel (Peter’s words, not mine), I need to lead with gentleness.

Be Affectionate

I’m not a hugger. I don’t mind hugs, but it’s not my natural way of relating to people. But I read a statistic today (wish I had the source) that said the average married couple kisses for five seconds per week! In King James language, brethren, these things ought not to be so. There is something electric about human touch. Babies need to be touched to develop socially and emotionally, and grown-ups are just the same. Hug her. Kiss her. And hug and kiss her for far more than five seconds per week.

Be Her Biggest Fan

My wife followed my to college (okay, I pretty much followed her on that one). She has followed me from one ministry to the next. She followed me to southern California and back. She has changed careers and resigned positions to follow me. Why? She loves me and she’s my biggest fan. But I don’t have half the giftedness of my wife when it comes to things she’s good at. She’s been a social worker, therapist, teacher, and women’s ministry leader. And as God opens doors for her to serve, lead, and excel, I’m going to be cheering her on. I’m her biggest fan. Her identity isn’t wrapped up in me or “my ministry.” She’s awesome on her own accord.

Be Her Lover

I know what you’re thinking – he finally mentioned sex! Nope. I don’t think you’ll be hurting for sex if you truly honor your wife in the ways I’ve mentioned. Instead, I’m talking about understanding how she receives love. I have a tendency to say nice things about my wife. While she appreciates this, words aren’t really the way she receives love. Instead, she responds when I show my love for her in unexpected ways and spend time with her. It’s not enough to love her in the way that comes easiest for me. To honor her, I need to value the way God wired her to receive love.

Be Her Leader

I believe that God wired women to respond to the servant-hearted leadership of their husbands. And God wired husbands to lead at home. Because of depravity, some women don’t want to be led. And because of depravity, some men are either wimps or overlords, neither of which was God’s intention. But when we find our biblical roles and really lead well spiritually, financially, and socially, we create an awesome climate for connection. So lead, just the way God intended!

Honoring our wives means more than saying the right words. It requires that we be willing to stretch beyond our comfort zones, to think, to be intentional, to be a bit radical, to be honest and transparent, and to step up to the plate to lead! When we honor our wives the way God intended, our spiritual roots can grow down deeper than we ever imagined.

The Lord Who Heals and the People Who Worship

I must confess, as a Baptist, it took me a rather long time to come to understand the healing nature of God. We Baptists, as Adrian Rogers put it, “believe in miracles, but trust in Jesus.” I still believe this is best. But I also freely admit that in our reaction to the extremism of “healing evangelists” like Binny Hinn and other obvious hucksters and false prophets, that we have a tendency to write off all supposed healings as a mere charade.

Scripture, however, clearly teaches that the Great Physician, through His miraculous touch, heals the bodies of many people. Such was the case for the entire camp of Israelites in the wilderness when they reached the bitter waters of Marah. I’m inclined to believe that these poisonous waters made many of the people quite ill. So God steps into the picture, sweetens the waters, and heals the people. So He reveals to them another title for Himself – Jehovah who heals you.

Fast-forward about fifteen hundred years to Matthew, chapter fifteen. A Gentile woman comes to Jesus and His disciples, begging for a demon to be cast out of her daughter. I am especially moved by her form of worship. First, the text declares that she “cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is demon-possessed.'” Amazingly, “He answered her not a word.” She chases God and He delights in the pursuit. She was apparently persistent for the disciples asked Jesus to dismiss her, saying, “for she cries out after us.”

Jesus continues to stonewall her by explaining that He was sent with Israel as His first priority, so why should He perform miracles for a Gentile woman? His remaining just beyond her reach is really an attempt to lead her on in her pursuit of the Almighty, and of course it works. “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!'”

Instead of responding to her cry, Jesus argues that He really shouldn’t be casting such great miracles before the dogs of the Gentiles. She wisely continues her pursuit, presenting a responding argument that as a dog, she’ll gladly take the crumbs that fall to her. What a great lesson she teaches us. Our worship must always have a heartfelt ring of “Whatever, whenever, however God, just bless me!” to it. So He gives in and heals her, thrilled at her great and faith-filled pursuit. Oh, for such demanding hunger that argues with God for His blessings!

In the next paragraph, Matthew records for us that multitudes came to Him and were healed, “so the multitude marveled when they say the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”

Jesus is the Great Physician, the mighty Healer of the children of men. I find it sad how we overlook the miraculous nature of God. We like to bring Him down to our level. “Well, you know I just think that in modern times, He heals through modern medicine…” Yes, He invented all of it and yes, He uses it, but let us never forget to look for the miraculous and to ask, to beg, to plead for His blessing.

I had a conversation a couple of years ago with a good friend who used to sit under my preaching every week, but who had moved to another town, gotten married, and attended a church of a different denomination. He related to me the story of a funeral that he attended. As he watched the mourners pass the casket to pay their last respects, his heart cried out within him, “Why did nobody ask God even once to heal her?”

Our answer, as good traditional Baptists, might be, “Well, it was just her time, it just wasn’t God’s will to heal her.” Though my friend and I may not agree on all things, I support his question. Why do we no think to ask, to beg, to plead with a worshipful heart to the Almighty Healer to perform miracles. I don’t believe He will always heal, for people do get sick and die, but shouldn’t we at least ask Him?

The theological argument that has arisen from this issue relates to the atonement, and whether or not physical healing for all of God’s people was purchased at the cross or not. I think it’s a moot point either way. The cross proves He heals in the ultimate way, spiritually and eternally. Healing didn’t necessarily have to be purchased, in the sense of a financial transaction, by His atoning death. He was already able to heal, but His atoning death was the ultimate picture of the great work of an Almighty Physician to heal the diseases of the spirit, the soul, and the body.

I think we have naturalized God and have forgotten that He’s a God of tremendous power, who is overwhelmed with compassion, and who desires to give unspeakable peace and joy to His children. He is just as alive and well today as He was in the days of Moses and Jesus. As the old song puts it, “He is able to deliver thee!” So ask, pray, beg, be an intercessor, anoint with oil, believe that He will work miracles, but ultimately trust His decisions no matter what.

Life… In All Its Complexity

The blog has been put on hold for a couple of weeks now, primarily because of all that my wife and I have been experiencing in our personal lives. Here’s a recounting of it…

On Monday evening, October 30, Angie left her ladies’ Connection Cafe meeting feeling well, but by the time we drove from the church to our house (just a couple of minutes) she was in terrible pain. We decided to go to the emergency room. Our beloved friends, Cory and Lachelle McCaig, came to sit from about 10:00 pm until 4:30 Tuesday morning while Angie was subjected to numerous tests, which found essentially nothing wrong.

On Tuesday morning, October 31, we went for a follow-up visit at her physician’s office and he became concerned about some possible internal bleeding. He decided to admit her to St. Mary’s hospital where he would perform a laproscopic procedure simply to explore any potential problems. He, like the emergency room physician, sought to rule out the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy. One he began the procedure, he discovered the worst scenario, an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, which can be deadly.

The short, one-hour procedure turned into a two and one half hour operation with a large incision. I was so moved as I waited in the surgery waiting room as about two dozen members of our church surrounded me, waiting to hear that Angie had come through the surgery okay. We were delighted to hear that she would be just fine. The physician explained that she had sustained heavy internal bleeding and that her risk of possible death had been higher than he had anticipated.

Angie’s Dad brought her Mom down from St. Louis to help take care of her for a few days but her stay was interrupted by yet another family emergency. On Thursday, Angie’s grandmother suffered a heart attack and was in intensive care in Washington, Missouri. The family had hoped that she was improving, but in the middle of Thursday night, a call came alerting us that she had taken a turn for the worse. Angie’s Mom borrowed my car and drove through the night to be at her mother’s side. Ella Briggs (our daughter’s namesake) went home to heaven on Friday, November 3.

Later that afternoon, Angie and I loaded up our van and began the trip to St. Clair to attend the funeral, but wisdom along with some forceful but loving input from our family, prompted us to turn back and stay at home. Angie was recovering a little each day, but it may be a total of six weeks recovery time before she is completely healthy again. We’ve taken a much needed one night sabbatical to a nearby vacation spot and have attempted to settle back into a routine, with Angie returning to work on this past Monday, November 13.

The Sunday before all of this began, my text included Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” That Monday night, Angie testified at Connection Cafe that she had (at least we thought at the time) a miscarriage, but that God was faithfully teaching us to trust Him. It isn’t merely a cliche that “everything happens for a reason.” When you’re a believer, nothing is left to chance anymore. You realize that God has a sovereign plan that allows His children to endure some very difficult crises in life in order that we might enjoy “the fellowship of (Christ’s) sufferings.”

Since we learn how to be disciples through the tough stuff, what have I learned from all of this?

First, I’ve learned the importance of God’s timing. Had Angie not been persisent with her physician in his office, he would have sent her home where she may have bled to death. We’ve heard numerous testimonies from others who experienced the same trauma and were in grave danger. God rescued Angie just in time. On a similar note, I’ve learned the mysterious nature of God’s timing. Why would Angie’s grandmother pass away just after Angie’s surgery when her mother would have to make a midnight dash for Missouri and when Angie could not attend the funeral? All I can conlcude us that God is ultimately wise.

Second, I’ve learned the value of a loving church family, a fellowship of believers. I was surrounded in a waiting room by numerous friends and members of our spiritual family. Once home, people provided meals as well as company with their visits. We’ve experienced an outpouring of love and compassion for which we will be forever grateful. I’ve often heard others say, “I don’t see how people make it through things without a church family.” That statement was exemplified in our tragedy.

Third, I’ve learned what a beautiful and courageous woman I married! I sat in the surgery waiting room virtually helpless. I could do nothing to ensure her safety except to pray. I could do nothing to help her recover except play nurse and fetch water. Yet I watched as Angie handled the situation like a champ. Note that champions have weak moments, moments of curiosity about the activity of God and moments of emotional break-down. Tears rarely come from cowards. I’ve learned a new respect for her. While it was our baby that died so prematurely in a pregancy complication, it was her body that experienced such drastic trauma. I wish I could be half as strong as her!

More than anything, we’ve learned “in all things (to) give thanks unto God, for this is the will of God for (us) in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) At our former church, we used to have a responsive chant: “God is good… all the time… and all the time… God is good.” God really is good. We don’t always get what we expect or want, but God never ceases to be holy or loving. God has been glorified in our lives in so many ways in the last few weeks, all we can do is humbly give Him praise, cry our tears, and go on in faith that God will always be good!

Whom Do You Love?

“Love not the world… for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world, and the world passeth away…” -1 John 2:15-17

Remember Louis Armstrong’s great What A Wonderful World? Angie and I had that song played at our wedding. This truly is a wonderful world in many respects. It’s the place where we view the glory of God in creation. This world is where Jesus came to minister and to give His life a ransom for many. This world is where Jesus found me and saved me and is now using believers across the world to extend His Kingdom. But this world is not everything. In fact, it isn’t even permanent.

John and other New Testament writers often used the word “world” (kosmos) to refer, not to the physical creation (though that was the literal meaning of kosmos), but to what we might call today, secularism. The “world” of which John spoke was the human realm of thinking, devoid of God. It’s the realm in which Satan attempts to pull us away from God through his three primary tempting agents: the lust of the flesh (that which feels good to our body), the lust of the eyes (that which appeals to our sight), and the pride of life (that which fills us with a false sense of fulfillment or self-achievement).

Preachers used to speak of “worldliness” more in churches, but it was usually in reference to cultural stigmas such as going to dances or movies or having the wrong haircut. Worldliness is much broader than these or any other simple actions. Worldliness is thinking in temporal terms, living for the here and now with total disregard to eternity. We’ll either live in fear of an eternal God or we’ll be left to our own devices (i.e. worldliness).

When left with the choice between living in godless humanism or godly cosecration, let us remember the words of Peter Marshall, “It is Christ or chaos!” Are your everyday decisions informed by Scripture or society? Do you think in spiritual terms or cultural tones? Does Christ have all of you or do you have one foot in the church and the other in the world?

Run for Cover

“The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” -Amos 3:8

I was sitting out on my back deck recently working on a message late at night when I heard a strange noise from the woods that surround our home. It was the sound of the crunching of leaves under the heavy tromping of some kind of large animal. Then, I heard a huff of breath. I assume the animal was a deer, which would pose no particularly serious threat, but since the night was pitch black and I could not see my potential attacker’s identity, I closed the laptop and headed in for the night.

It’s natural for us to become a little alarmed when we hear animal noises around us. We take heed, we size up the situation, measure our danger, and take cover if necessary. Amos, the farmer, was a practical man. His message was one of simple wisdom: If you heard a lion roar, you’d react with alarm and fear right? Well, God has spoken, why don’t you react by fearing Him and repeating His warning to others?

It seems so simple. God has given us His instruction book for living life to the full. But in our day when discernment is dead, we live by shallow emotionalism more than by the meaty doctrine of the Word of God. God has spoken, have you taken heed? God has revealed everything you need to know about Himself and His will in the medium of His Word. Have you searched it out?

To the Bitter End

“And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords (of the Philistines), and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life… And he judged Israel twenty years.” -Judges 16:30-31

The old Testament is filled with stories that seem very disconnected with us culturally and religiously. Samson is no exception. His life seems to be a series of moral failures and yet God sovereignly uses him to punish the Philistines (though never totally subdue them). When we read of one of God’s wild men in the Bible, we may be tempted to convince ourselves that we can live inconsistently and still be used of God. But listen to C. I. Scofield’s observation about Samson’s life…

The character and work of Samson are alike enigmatical. Announced by an
angel he was a Nazarite who constantly defiled his Nazarite separation through
fleshly appetites. Called of God to judge Israel, and endued wonderfully with
the Spirit, he wrought no abiding work for Israel and perished in captivity to
his enemies the Philistines. What was real in the man was his mighty faith in
Jehovah in a time of doubt and apostasy, and this faith God honored.

Because Samson had a mighty faith in God, he was used to temporarily punish the Philistines. But because Samson gave himself to the power of the flesh so often, he was never used to actually lead Israel into national revival or to defeat the Philistines in a final sense. The only tribute to his life was a pile of bodies, including his own. He broke his parents’ heart, disrespected his wives, misrepresented his nation, and devalued his Nazarite calling.

Let us never think that there is any thing good to come of our flesh. Let us instead give our lives to the struggle for consistency. The calling of a Nazarite was to a life separate from the world, the flesh, and the pleasures thereof. It was a picture of the high and holy calling of every believer in Christ. We are not called to compromise, but to consecration. May God use us to subdue the enemy and to lead our nation in revival through a holy and separated life.