Posted in Faith

A Lesson from the Mountains

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My commute to work is a blessing. Not only do I drive on a highway with little traffic, the view is spectacular! A river follows beside the road for most of the journey with trees lining the banks. I pass orchards and meadows and quaint farm buildings. Off in the distance two mountains, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, stand majestically against the horizon. On clear, sunny days the mountains are absolutely breath taking, capped with snow, symbols of the powerful handiwork of God.

However, there are days when the skies are gray or the fog settles in the valley. Search as I may, the mountains are nowhere to be found. With my human eyes, I simply cannot see them. Yet, I know they are always there.

The fact that Mount Adams and Mount Rainier are not visible to me in the moment does not cause me to doubt. I don’t have to pull out my Washington state maps or consult my Maps app to make sure they haven’t disappeared. I have confidence regardless of my own personal experience.

Isn’t it interesting that I have an easier time believing in the steadfast nature of the mountains than I do in the steadfast nature of the Lord and His Word?

Sometimes I wrestle fiercely with myself to trust the Lord when the situations around me look contrary to His promises. Nevertheless, He remains true, more solid and steadfast than the Barberton Greenstone Belt (located in East Africa and considered by many geologists to be the oldest mountain range on earth, formed 3.5 billion years ago). I can’t really even fathom 100 years, let alone millions and billions, but it helps to put God’s Word into perspective about His steadfast and faithful nature.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV)

Jesus said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35, NIV).

To be sure, there are times when skies are gray. Life doesn’t flow smoothly. Things are harder than we’d like; we face depression or other kinds of illness. Sometimes the fog settles over our lives, and all we can see are the problems. Regardless of the situation, we can be absolutely certain that the Lord is there. Unlike the mountains of towering strength that remain firmly in place, He also walks with us. The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth (Psalm 145:18, NLT). He is always near!

What about you? What circumstances in life cause you to doubt the faithfulness of God? Are there certain challenges that could potentially shake your faith?

As imposing as mountains are, given a large enough earthquake at the right location, they may be literally shaken and even moved. There may come a time when Mount Everest (the tallest mountain) is no longer there. Does it build your faith to realize we worship the God who is more secure than the mountains? Take courage, because the One who loves you is steadfast and faithful. His Word is true. His promises will be fulfilled in your life.

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you (Isaiah 54:10, ESV).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times I get overwhelmed by circumstances, when I focus on the problems rather than Your steadfast love. Like the mountains that are always there even when I can’t see them, remind me that You are always there, and You are always near. Thank You, that You are teaching me to trust You every moment of every day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

*Thank you to Nyna Babcock (no relation to me) for sharing thoughts that inspired this week’s post.

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Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Do You Need to Redefine Success?

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When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see someone successfully answering the call of God? Do you see someone who is dearly loved and treasured by Him? If not, why not?

May I just say that if you are doing your best to follow Jesus, you are successfully answering God’s call. And no matter what circumstances you face, you are deeply loved and cherished by Your Heavenly Father.

The world has such a narrow definition of success, and it has infiltrated the Church. As people God has called to lead, whether that be in a church setting or market place ministry, at home or in public, we must diligently guard ourselves from the deception that measures our worth by visible outcomes.

My husband and I were involved in pastoral ministry for over twenty-five years before we took a break. In the early years we were called to serve churches out in the middle of nowhere. We poured ourselves into the people of our community and saw Jesus work powerfully in lives. It was wonderful to be a part of radical transformation as someone encountered God’s love and learned to walk in relationship with Him.

Because we wanted to be the best that we could be for the Lord, we read the books popular at the time about church growth and dynamic leadership, and we diligently applied the principles. But despite our efforts, while we saw people grow, we were not successful at numerical growth. To say it was painful to evaluate our success based on our ability to apply someone else’s ministry model is a serious understatement. Yet how realistic was it to expect a similar outcome in a registered ghost town (population 500) as in a mid-sized city?

In addition to leading small churches, I also homeschooled one or more of my five kids over a span of 20 years. I believed the Lord had called me to invest in their lives in this way, and He graciously provided for our family to live on one income. But there were times I felt like a failure. We weren’t involved in homeschool cooperatives. Our schedule was simple and revolved around church, music, and occasionally sports. There were days I itched to do more. I knew I was capable. For some reason, though, when I would start to pursue more activity the Lord would reign me in. He would remind me, “It’s not time for you to be involved in this.” And again, I would slow down.

Everywhere we turn, bigger is better and more is the gold standard.

But that way of thinking doesn’t equate in God’s Kingdom.

So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:4 NLT)

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant (Matthew 20:26 NIV).

Humility. Serving. Less is more. Loving God and being faithful to Him trump everything else. How well are we doing in these areas?

Success is when we can look in the mirror and know we are being faithful to do His will.

And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people (Romans 2:29b NLT).
Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I confess that I often measure myself by the world’s standards. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on You and what You have asked me to do. Let me realize that being faithful to do Your will is enough. I surrender anew to Your plans and purposes for my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Three Important Traits for Aspiring Leaders

“I’d like to play the piano for your church services.” She stood before me with a confident smile on her face, a well dressed woman in her forties. She extended her hand and introduced herself. She had arrived toward the end of service and sat quietly in the back.

I shook her hand and said, “Please tell me a little bit about yourself.”

She strode over to the piano on stage, sat on the bench and started to play. “I was married to a pastor for over ten years. I know how hard it is for small churches to find people to help, especially with music.” She continued to fill the sanctuary with lovely music.

What she said was true. We had a small church in the middle of nowhere. And my piano skills came nowhere close to her expertise. It would certainly be nice to have some help.

When she finished, I smiled and thanked her. “You are a wonderful pianist! We’d love to have you join us here. Would you please come the next few Sundays? We’d like to get to know you better, and you should see if you like our service style. Then we can talk more about you playing for our services.”

Disappointment flashed across her face. “Yes, of course,” she said. She thanked me for my time and walked out of the building. I never saw her again.

People who aspire to lead, desire a noble task. Gifted people can be an asset to any church and organization. Unfortunately, while many people possess the knowledge and talent to lead, few of them are willing to develop the traits necessary to be a successful leader over the long haul. Most people want to quickly rise to the top without sacrificing much. However, the best preparation for leadership is to become an excellent follower.

This is not a popular message, but it is supported by the teachings of Jesus. Those who aspire to lead, must first develop some key traits.

Humility
Leaders must learn to serve others. They do not use their position to take advantage of others and use them as stepping stones to where they want to go. Instead they realize that God has granted them authority to serve and be a blessing to others.

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28 NIV).

Loyalty
Loyalty is the foundation of discipleship and vital to a healthy church or ministry. Loyal followers demonstrate complete and constant support for their leaders. This does not mean they agree with everything and are “yes-men.” Rather they deal with disagreement and conflict in a respectful manner. They guard against an independent and critical spirit, and work to resolve hurts and offenses, not allowing them to fester. Loyal followers show they can be trusted with increased responsibility.

Faithfulness
Loyalty and faithfulness go hand in hand. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). Followers prove their ability to lead as they show themselves trustworthy in the little things. As they serve (even in menial tasks) with enthusiasm and joy, desiring to honor the Lord rather than gain the attention of others, they develop faithfulness. “Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NLT).

Do you aspire to be a leader? Don’t take short cuts. Work hard to develop the traits of humility, loyalty, and faithfulness. Trust the Lord to grant you favor. Determine that in every position you will find ways to serve and be a blessing.