Month: July 2018

Five To Focus 40. Wages According to Labor

The most encouraging truth you might hear today is what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:8. You will be rewarded according to your labor, not according to the growth. We need to persevere in our service to God even if we get disappointed with what we think is happening as a result.

 

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Don’t Negotiate With God

Last week we looked at Jepthah’s example in Judges 11 of how to lead with faith by being empowered by God’s work in the past. This week, let’s finish that conversation by knowing that leading with faith means we are persuaded by God’s promises for the future.  

Jepthah seemed like a rational guy when negotiating with the king of the Ammonites. But when the King of the Ammonites would not listen war couldn’t be avoided, Jepthah moves into battle with the Spirit of the Lord upon him.

It is important to note that God empowered Jephthah for the battle that is coming, and Jephthah had already declared that the king of the Ammonites was really messing with God, not him. You would think that Jephthah knew that he was being used by the Lord to bring about justice on the Ammonites. But then you read the crazy account of verses 30-40, which centers on Jepthah’s vow to the Lord in Judges 11:30-31:

And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”

The first thing out of his door when he returned home was his only child–his daughter.

Why did Jephthah feel like he has to make a vow to the Lord when he clearly knew God’s work and power in the past?

He sounds like a desperate, scared person at the end of his rope—if you do this, then I’ll do that.

Jephthah is not persuaded by God’s promises for the future. The Spirit of the Lord was already upon Him. Instead, he reverts back to negotiating, but this time he tries to negotiate with God and not men. Negotiation has its place among people, but don’t negotiate with God–you really do not have anything that He needs.

Negotiation can be masked as making a commitment. If this, then that. Lord, I’ll do anything if you just help me…  But it’s a form of bribery. Lord, I really want a certain outcome, so I’ll offer up my services to you.

You’re basically saying God, you really need what I have to offer, so why don’t you do this, and then I’ll let you have what I have to offer.

What a flippant statement to make to the Creator and Almighty of the Universe! Negotiation is the antithesis of faith because we aren’t trusting God to do what we know he can do; we’re trying to bribe God to do what we think he should do.

When you lead, you need to be persuaded by God’s promises for the future. In other words, leading with faith based upon the promises you find in God’s Word. You need to submit your decisions and actions to the Word of God.  

We need to lead with faith, powered by God’s work in the past and persuaded by His promises for the future.

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Let God’s Track Record Keep Your Leadership On Track

This is the craziest request I’ve seen by a young man asking a potential father-in-law to marry his daughter.

Adoniram Judson, the first Baptist missionary from America, married Ann Hasseltine on February 5, 1812. They boarded a boat two weeks later and headed to Burma, where they had a rich marriage and a fruitful ministry.

Before he married Ann, she told him he had to get permission from her father. And so he wrote him a letter:

“I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair.” (Quoted in Courtney Anderson, To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson [Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1987], 83.)

If you have ever read about George Mueller, you will be familiar with the amazing accounts of how God provided bread and milk for the children in the orphanage where he ministered.

How could Mueller and Judson’s father-in-law lead with faith? Because they had confidence in God’s character; they could stay on track because of God’s track record.

I’m encouraging you to lead with faith, and I think we do that by being powered by God’s work in the past and persuaded by His promises for the future. I’ll explain the first part of this today through Jephthah’s example in the book of Judges, and then I’ll explain the second part next week as we seek how to lead with faith.

In Judges 11, Jephthah was brought in to lead Israel in battle against the Ammonites. Jephthah showed that he knew and was guided by God’s work in the past. He didn’t run recklessly into a fight. Though he was a “mighty warrior” he attempted diplomacy first.

He sent messengers to communicate with the king of the Ammonites, asking him why he was attacking Israel. When the king gave an answer, Jephthah gave a rebuttal. He gave historical facts (v.14-22), declared that it was the Lord’s work (v.23-24), questioned the timing of the fight (v.25-26), and reminded the King that his problem is actually with the Lord, not with Jephthah (v.27-28).

This was leading with faith that was powered by God’s work in the past.

Leadership can be scary ground. You might not know what to expect. You’re not sure which decisions to make or how it will affect people. But as a Christian, we have to be empowered by God’s work in the past. We find comfort in knowing the character of God and how He will lead us.

Jephthah had to find some comfort in knowing how God has worked in the Israelites in the past. He was confident that the king of the Ammonites was really battling against the Lord. That’s a battle Jephthah would stand in because he knew he wasn’t alone.

When you consider your leadership, always remember God’s character and what he has done in the past because that is going to remind you how He will continue to work.

Photo by Andrew McElroy on Unsplash

Five To Focus 39. Remember What the Lord Has Done

Never forget. We hear those words spoken about September 11, 2001, but they can be a powerful help for you in times of trouble when you remember what the Lord has done.

 

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Pride Disregards Other People

I’ve heard it said that pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick but the one who has it.

Last week, we saw how pride connives and manipulates. This week, let’s explore how pride disregards other people by returning to Abimelech in Judges 9 as an example. Specifically, he disregarded others by murdering and getting revenge. If you search your heart honestly, you might find yourself acting in the same ways.

Murder. Abimelech certainly disregarded his brothers by killing all but one of them who escaped. Jotham, the one who survived, gave a scathing prophecy to the leaders of Shechem in Judges 9:7-21. The “Fire from Abimelech” in that prophecy is exactly what happened. Not only did Abimelech murder his own brothers to gain power, but he even murdered people from Shechem to maintain that power (v.49), even using fire to accomplish the job.

Revenge. The leaders of Shechem eventually turned against Abimelech, especially when a man named Gaal moved into the city and took some shots at Abimelech. Shechem began trusting Gaal as a leader more than Abimelech. Abimelech wasn’t happy at all about that. An arrogant person can’t stand the thought of someone turning on him, so he unleashes his vengeance on Gaal and the people of Shechem, murdering many more.

You can read this and think that you aren’t that bad. But these actions (murder, seeking revenge) stem from motivations of the heart. Jesus taught this principle in Matthew 5 regarding murder:  

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)

So, when you honestly check your heart, you will probably find more pride there than you thought. And pride will influence you to disregard other people, maybe through extreme ways of murdering and seeking harmful revenge, or by less subtle ways, like ignoring, gossiping about someone, acting in ways that purposely make life difficult for someone else, undermining authority, or destructively criticizing.

How else can pride influence people to disregard others?

Pride Connives and Manipulates

“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”

― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.”

― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

― Philippians 2:3-4

 

Pride is a topic in secular and Christian literature, but we find that the Bible is full of examples of pride and instructs us best in how to combat pride. Pride is at the root of any sin you will commit because ultimately you are acting on what you want more than what God desires and commanded.

We will use Judges 9 to identify key characteristics of pride in the life of Abimelech, one of Gideon’s sons. Hopefully it will serve as a litmus test for your life and help you search your own heart to rid it of pride.

Today we will examine one characteristic of pride from Abimelech’s life: Pride Connives and Manipulates. Next week, we will see that pride disregards other people.

Abimelech was unique among all of Gideon’s sons because only he was born to a concubine who was from Shechem. The rest of Gideon’s 70 sons were born to wives who were from Ophrah.

Shechem was a city in the land of Israel, right on the border of the the land alloted to Ephraim and Manasseh, and chapter 9 records Abimelech’s wicked plan to become the king of Shechem.

His conniving begins by going to his mother’s relatives in Shechem. He manipulated them by creating a power struggle that might not have really existed between himself and his brothers. He told his relatives to tell the leaders of Shechem that Abimelech should be their leader, and he even adds what is so common in manipulation: guilt. The guilt trip comes through these words: “remember I am your bone and your flesh” (Judges 9:2).

The relatives were convinced and participated in Abimelech’s corruption by giving him money from the house of Baal-berith, a place of idol worship! The amount they gave (70 pieces of silver) seems to indicate that the leaders of Shechem knew what Abimelech was going to do. They basically gave him one piece of silver per brother, whom Abimelech planned on exterminating.

Abimelech then hires “worthless and reckless fellows” (v.4) to follow him. I imagine if you are worthless and reckless that you’ll follow anyone to do anything. This was basically a hit squad who went with Abimelech to Ophrah to kill his brothers–seventy men on one stone.

His selfishness throughout this plan reminds me of something I read about Ronald Reagan. When he was governor of California, Reagan made a speech in Mexico City. About that occasion, Reagan said, “After I had finished speaking, I sat down to rather unenthusiastic applause, and I was a little embarrassed. The speaker who followed me spoke in Spanish — which I didn’t understand — and he was being applauded about every paragraph. To hide my embarrassment, I started clapping before everyone else and longer than anyone else until our ambassador leaned over and said, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. He’s interpreting your speech.‘”

Sometimes we applaud ourselves the quickest and longest. Abimelech was an arrogant man with a wicked plan. He manipulated the leaders of the town to equip him to carry out that plan, and then those leaders made him king.

My kingdom come, my will be done was Abimelech’s attitude, and he didn’t care what it took to accomplish his plan. Pride connives and manipulates, and next week we’ll see how pride disregards other people.

 

Photo by Ihor Saveliev on Unsplash

Five To Focus 38. Fight Your Struggles With Firm Faith

1 Peter 5:6-9 is the passage referred to in this episode to help you see why standing firm in your faith is the way to combat the striggles Satan presents in your life. See the connection between your faith and Satan’s attempt to devour you.

 

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