Are You Creating a Legacy?

Are you creating a legacy? That’s actually an invalid question, because you ARE creating DSCN1350ba legacy. There are two kinds: physical and spiritual. So, what kind and what quality of a legacy are you creating?

Webster’s dictionary says legacy is defined as something received from an ancestor or predecessor, or from the past. It also refers to the memory of those who have passed from this life and to what contributions they made to society while they were alive; and that reflects on the person’s character. So, if you were to leave this life in one, five, ten, or fifteen years from now, what legacy would you like to leave? How would you like to be remembered?

A funeral setting might help you think about it. When the person (parent, relative, friend, neighbor, whomever) in the casket was lowered into the ground and you left the cemetery, what left with you? Money? Land? Clothing? No. So if none of that left the cemetery with you, what did?  MEMORIES! The person’s character – exemplary or disappointing – does not get buried, but remains in the minds of all those who know him or her – or even know OF him.

I’ve read about a funeral where the talk of the town was how much the man loved people and how much he will be missed. Hundreds of people attended the funeral. But although the deceased didn’t have a penny to his name, he left a rich legacy. Another time I observed the funeral of a wealthy man where the attendance was minimal – not even all the family was there. Oh, they got their inheritance – the physical portion of the legacy – but the spiritual side was bankrupt. In that case the talk of the town was how the world will be better off without him.

Sadly, in the second funeral, even the money (physical legacy) that was left to the heirs will not, in the long run, help them live better lives. Their bitterness (spiritual legacy) will lead them to use their money unwisely, and they will be left with nothing but disappointing memories.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against money: I could use a little more of it, myself.

That reminds me of what Tevye said in Fiddler On The Roof: “If money is a disease, may God smite me with it; and may I never recover!” Yes, that was intended to be humorous. In that film, Tevye’s legacy was (in spite of his faults): stability within the community.

Another way to view a legacy is a launching pad. It takes thousands of workers to build our rockets and space shuttles. I was on several of those teams. Each person designs, programs, or builds his own portion, then hands it (the legacy) to someone who takes the product to the next level. There is always someone who will pick up where we leave off. If we do our part well, we have created a good legacy. Then when all the parts are finally assembled into a rocket and space shuttle and placed on the launching pad, what happens? If the vehicle is assembled properly the passengers will safely reach the space station, the moon, or whatever destination has been programmed.

So, what legacy are you creating for those who come after you? Remember, the physical legacy is needed and helpful if used wisely. But it needs the support of a wholesome spiritual legacy to fully help family, friends, and society. Someone is going to take what you hand them and build on it. So, what do you have to give?

A.W. Tozer once said, “When a man of God dies, nothing of God dies. The legacy of the man lives on!”

Paul said in Galatians 6:7, “You will always reap what you sow.” And it has been proven throughout history that others will be either blessed or hurt by how we live. Proverbs 11:18 tells us that if we do what is right, we will be rewarded. Proverbs 22:9 informs us that those who share what they have with others will be blessed. Those three verses talk about our legacy.

So, what is the name of the legacy are you creating? Selfishness? Hedonism? Monetary? Loving? Giving? Godly? Altruism? Think about it: will people remember you for what you gave them, or for who you are? How will you be remembered?

The answer to that question will be your legacy.

Memorial Day – 2019

PICT0051Memorial Day! The very sound of the name resonates with deep feelings within the minds of some Americans. Parades with marching bands and the rippling Red and White stripes with the Blue field of white stars (one of the most famous flags in the history of the world) will be a major event in many towns dotting the landscape of the United States of America.

This Memorial Day, let’s take time to honor our fallen Americans and give thanks to Almighty God for the freedoms we have. Memorial Day is a celebration of freedom!

So I want to honor the one who taught me to honor God, my country, and my fellow man. This memorial is about my late father: Captain Stanford E. Linzey, Jr. Chaplain Corps, USN.

Stanford was born in Houston, Texas on October 13, 1920. Always involved in the community, at age 16 he attained the rank of Eagle Scout and became Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 13.

He lettered in varsity as he played right guard on the high school football team in Mercedes, Texas. He was also first-chair clarinetist in the band; and with his mother accompanying him, he won the Texas State Championship for instrumental solos in 1936.

Texas A&M and other schools wanted Stan to attend their schools on music scholarships. But at age nine, he heard John Philip Sousa and the United States Marine Band on Sousa’s last tour, and Stan developed a burning desire to be a Navy musician.

Nine years later, passing the music test administered by Chief Musician John Liegl (who had been assistant director under Sousa), Stan was sworn into the Navy on January 11, 1939. Sixteen years later when I was nine years old, John Leigl became my own music instructor, for which I am deeply grateful.

At age nine, Stan had also accepted Jesus into his life and suspected that he might become a preacher. He stayed away from alcohol, but by the time he joined the navy he had begun smoking cigarettes. However, a change was coming: he met a beautiful girl named Verna May Hall who liked the clarinet but didn’t like cigarettes.

Verna lowered the boom: “I won’t marry you if you keep smoking.” So Stan decided to quit. But after a two-week cruise on “The Original Fighting Lady” (the USS Yorktown CV-5), Stan came back smelling like a chimney.

“You said you were going to quit.” Verna challenged.

“I tried, but I couldn’t.” Stan was smoking almost three packs a day.

“Did you pray about it?”

Stan retorted, “No.”

But at Verna’s encouragement, he prayed then and there. The Lord helped Stan; but Stan also exercised his God-given will power, and never touched a cigarette again.

When he gave up smoking, Stan also totally rededicated his life to the Lord, and his shipmates nicknamed him Deacon. In everything he attempted to do from then on, he endeavored to honor God.

During the Battle of Midway, the Yorktown was severely damaged by bombs and torpedoes. Believing the ship would capsize, Captain Buckmaster gave the order to abandon ship. The USS Balch, a small warship called a destroyer, rescued Stan and many others. (The Yorktown sunk two days later.)

Stan recognized a sailor who was a Christian and said, “Let’s get together for a prayer meeting.”

The sailor moaned, “Deacon, I’m the only Christian on board the ship.”

Stan didn’t believe it. He scouted around and found eight other men, each of whom thought he was the only Christian on board. Stan got them together for a praise service on the fantail (stern) of the ship. Eventually, thirty-two men met each night as more sailors accepted Jesus Christ into their lives.

Stan was transferred to the USS Portland – a heavy cruiser with 850 men on board. He ordered Gideon Bibles and started a Bible Study group.

After the war, Stan left the Navy, continued his schooling, and in 1954 reentered the Navy as a Chaplain. He spent another twenty years serving the Lord and his country to the best of his ability. He retired with the rank of Captain.

Dad was not loud or boisterous (if he didn’t need to be), but was boldly dedicated to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Dad taught me that living to please our Lord was more fun than living to please myself or the world. He said quite often, “I’m only going this way once; I might as well make the most of it.” Applied in a Christian sense, I’ve found that to be true.

Dad taught me the motto attributed to Davey Crockett: Be sure you’re right, then go ahead. Of course, I’ve made mistakes, but I do my best to honor God, Country, and Dad.

Dad passed away in 2010, but I’ll see him again when I get to heaven.

The Real Story

You think you know the story in Luke 15:11-32 because you’ve heard it a hundred times? Keep reading, because this time you might be surprised. Bear with me as I put the story in a modern setting.

*******

A man was successful as a rancher and in his investments, and his family had everything they wanted that money could buy. He had two sons, George and Jake: both of whom secretly disrespected dad, and openly hated each other.

Disillusioned with life, one day George, the younger boy, said, “Dad, I’ve thought it over and I want nothing to do with ranching. I want to live my own life without you telling me what to do. Give me my half of the inheritance and I’ll get out of your life!

The dad evaluated his business, sold enough stock that was equal to half his worth, and gave it to rebellious George. Jake was ecstatic! Now everything the old man owned was his, and he would do everything he could to build the business; for he was now heir to it all!

Over the next four years, George spent his money on prostitutes, cars, gambling, drugs and alcohol. He flew around the country and around the world  visiting the best casinos. The owners got to know him and welcomed him with open arms as they offered him free alcohol and free rooms for him and his current partner. Thinking that his friends loved him, he lavished his time and money on them, too.

But he forgot something: continual outflow, without a corresponding inflow, will dry up the money-flow. And it happened to George. Now penniless, he realized he needed a job – anything that might provide enough money for another drug fix, bottle of booze, or cheap sex.

With a four-year history of extravagant but shameful living, no one would hire him; and all the friends he thought his money had bought had deserted him. Totally abandoned, he figured that suicide was his best option. But as he began to make the plan, a thought entered his beleaguered mind: “Maybe dad will hire me to repair fences, or something. There’s enough to do on the ranch where I can stay out of his way.”

He called home from the Salvation Army office. When he asked dad if he could come home, his father said, “Son, I’ve been waiting for you and my door is open; come on home.” The Salvation Army captain took George to his house to get cleaned up. He gave him clean clothing and bought him a bus ticket.

Eighteen hours and two states later, the bus pulled into town around noon. Wondering howDSCN4942 he would get from the station to the ranch, the boy looked out the window. His mouth dropped open as he saw his dad and a group from the church waving signs that yelled “WELCOME HOME GEORGE!”

As he disembarked the bus, he broke down. Sobbing, he said, “Dad, I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. I’ve wasted everything, and my life is a mess. Can you hire me as one of your ranch hands until I get back on my feet?”

But his father took the young man into his big arms and said, “Son, I have been waiting every day for four years for you. Everything I own will belong to Jake, but you are still my son. And as long as I am alive, my home is your home.” When they pulled up to the big house, his mother, aunts, uncles, and neighbors had a barbeque shin-dig ready; and a huge cake had been prepared that was decorated with “Welcome Home!”

George asked, “Where’s Jake?” Dad said he was up north conducting business, but would be home in a couple of days. But someone called Jake and told him George had returned. Jake blew up!

Jake immediately called his dad and demanded, “What’s that good-for-nothing wino doing back home! I’m the one who has stayed with you and built the business. I don’t want him here living off what I’ve built! Get rid of him!”

Dad responded, “Jake, everything I have will be yours. But George asked to be forgiven, and it is only right that we let him in. After all, he is family. As long as I’m alive, George can stay.”

*******

Dear reader, you’ve been told the story was about George who wasted half the family fortune. But George’s narrative is only the background for the real story. The parable is about Jake’s rebellion, rejection, and refusal to forgive.

CrossJesus told the parable to the those who considered themselves the elite of society and heirs to the kingdom of God. The proud religious leaders thought it would lower their prestige if they accepted traitors, tax collectors, winos, and prostitutes into their society and into their church meetings.

The moral: Pride is just as bad as wasting a life. But anyone who truly repents – whether pastor or prostitute, model citizen or murderer – is accepted by the Father and welcomed into His kingdom.

Humbly turn to our heavenly Father, tell him you’re sorry for how you’ve lived. Ask him for guidance and courage to turn around, and he’ll help you.

What Happened When Jesus Was Crucified?

You might wonder why I say Jesus was crucified on Thursday, but the answer is simple. Jesus said he would be in the grave for three days AND three nights. Scripture also says Jesus rose from the grave in the morning before sunrise on the first day of the week. Simple math says if he was in the grave for three nights and he rose on Sunday morning, he had to be buried on Thursday.

Also, note that Passover is called a high holy day and a High Sabbath. John 19:31 informs us Jesus was crucified the day before the high day, or high Sabbath.

Matt. 12:39-40, Matt. 27:57-61, John 19:31

DSCN0874It is Thursday. Jesus was crucified around 9:00 am. He died at 3:00 pm – about the time of the evening sacrifice. His limp body was lowered from the cross. His friends, led by a member of the Sanhedrin, bound His lifeless form in long strips of linen cloth. They placed Him on a cold slab of rock in a new burial room in a hillside. They would be back to finish the burial in 3 days: after both the Passover and weekly Sabbath celebrations.

Matt. 27:62-66

The guards have been positioned.  They were ordered to stand guard for at least three days to prevent Jesus’ friends from stealing His body, and claiming that He had come back to life.

Many folk were in their homes eating the Passover supper and were glad this day was over. It had been quite a turbulent day and they wanted to get some rest. After the Passover, life in Jerusalem would be back to normal … they hoped.

Matt. 27:50-53

DSCN0728BBut they also were quite worried. The graveyards had been badly damaged during the earthquake, and thousands of graves had opened up. People throughout Israel thought they would spend several weeks or months reburying the dead.

Others were deeply grieving. They couldn’t eat,  they couldn’t sleep. Their Friend, Master, and Messiah? Was dead! And the Kingdom He promised them now seemed to be a fading mist. He was gone and the hated Romans were still ruling Israel.  All their hopes and dreams for themselves and for their nation were crucified and buried in that tomb.

But Wait A Minute … Something is happening. There is activity in Hades, the place of the dead. Jesus is there, talking to a lot of people – perhaps millions of them. They are listening intently. Now they are yelling and dancing and rejoicing with the Savior.

There are also hosts of angels there, standing guard. They are waiting for orders from Jesus, their Commander and King!

I Peter 3:19,  Eph. 4:7-10

Now Jesus is speaking with Lucifer and another group of people. Some are sad, many are angry. Finally, with all the demons of hell looking on, Lucifer reluctantly bows to Jesus. Lucifer is defeated, and he surrenders all his authority to his Master: Jesus.

Jesus then turns to the jubilant, joyful group, and gives the final command: “Follow Me!”  And the army prepares to move out!

Back in the graveyard ……

It is the third night of the third day: still dark in what we would call Sunday morning. Near the tomb where Jesus’ body lay, some of the soldiers were on guard while the others were sleeping.

Suddenly, there was another earthquake! It was about as strong as the one three daysIMG_1578B earlier. The sleeping soldiers jumped up, and they all saw the stone roll away from the front of the tomb. As the stone rolled away, the soldiers saw that the cave was filled with an unearthly, brilliant light which was brighter than the noon-day sun.

They saw a man inside whose face shone like lightning! He was walking toward the opening of the tomb. That unearthly light, which cannot be described, filled the entire surrounding area.

Matt. 28:1-4

Fear such as these soldiers had never known before enveloped them! Their legs buckled and they collapsed, falling unconscious to the ground as though they were dead: and Jesus walked out of the tomb and into Resurrection Life. All his grave clothes remained where Jesus had been laid.

Matt. 27:50-53

Remember the graves which had opened up three days earlier? Just as Jesus came out of his grave, thousands, perhaps millions, of others were coming out of their graves. The Bible lets us know that Jesus ministered to them and set them free. The place called Abraham’s Bosom, the place of the righteous dead, no longer exists and the Old Testament Saints have a new home in Heaven. Jesus lead them from death to Life in order to emphasize His OWN resurrection.

Acts 1:9Bible.docx

I’ve been asked if they died again. The answer is, No. They told of the Glory and the Power of God for forty days. When Jesus left the earth, these resurrected folk left earth with him.

Jesus is alive, and all those who believe in him will eventually go to be with him.

Pilate heard of Jesus’ resurrection. With bewilderment and a touch of wry humor, he thought, Of course, it isn’t true; but good for him if he could pull that one off! I was on his side, anyway. Maybe my wife will feel better now, and it’ll give those rebellious Jews something to chew on for a while. True or not, this Jesus wins in the end! He then wrote a letter to the emperor about the situation.

Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were terrified and angry. This can’t have happened! No one comes back from the dead – and Jesus can’t either, especially after the hell the Romans put him through. We’ve got to cover this up until we find that blasted body! First, we’ll bribe those guards to lie about it, then the real work begins! (Matthew 28:11-15)

The citizens of Jerusalem were at first scared out of their wits! This is weird! Crazy! A nightmare! Things like this are only dreamed about! But when reality set in, they realized Jesus must, also, have come back from the dead. What had happened?

Matthew 27:52-53

Friends and relatives they had buried days or long ago were now alive and walking through the streets talking about the glorious wonders of God – almost as though they had been in the very throne room of God. These resurrected people were real: they were not spirits or ghosts. Their resurrection cannot be denied, and that gave heavy proof that Jesus also came back from the dead.

dscn0464Because Jesus never sinned or did anything wrong, because he suffered the penalty for every sin mankind has committed, and because he rose from the dead, Lucifer has absolutely no power or control over us. 1 John 1:9 guarantees it. If we confess our sins and repent, God will forgive us and restore our relationship with him. All we need to do is to obey him. We might face the human consequences for what we’ve done, but God will forgive us and we can live with him forever in heaven.

THAT’s what Passover and Resurrection Day is all about.

Jesus’ Advent on Earth

“What does it mean when Scripture says that God sent Jesus in the “fullness of DSCN0123Btime”? Why did God send Jesus when He did? Why not earlier? Why not later?”

These questions might be related more to culture and history than to theology.

In all of Scripture, I find one passage that gives a strong, clearly-defined clue. That is Isaiah 40:3-5.  This is the New Century Version for a little clarification.

3 This is the voice of one who calls out: “Prepare in the desert the way for the Lord. Make a straight road in the dry lands for our God. 4 Every valley should be raised up, and every mountain and hill should be made flat. The rough ground should be made level, and the rugged ground should be made smooth. 5 Then the glory of the Lord will be shown, and all people together will see it. The Lord himself said these things.”

All the major nations had stories of gods being born, dying, and affecting humanity. But those myths were basically regional, with no “evangelist” traveling around the world telling the stories. There were no major highways to travel on, and there was no international language by which all the nations could understand. UNTIL ………

By 300 BC, the Greeks conquered the known world. The Greek language slowly became the language of commerce; therefore, many people in all the major nations spoke Greek. Then, around 146 BC, Rome began conquering the known world. But in order for thePICT0327 Roman Legions to travel efficiently and quickly, their “Army Corp of Engineers” built roads throughout the Empire. Now, that was a major, multi-year project! There were many valleys, gullies, ravines, etc. that hindered the army’s movements, so the road-builders leveled hills and used the material (rocks and dirt) to fill in nearby valleys, ravines, etc. They also cleared the level land of boulders, big rocks, etc., and actually “paved” some roads with flat stone.

Thus, “Every valley should be raised up, and every mountain and hill should be made flat. The rough ground should be made level, and the rugged ground should be made smooth.” Not 100% of all of them, but definitely those that needed leveled and/or filled to build Roman roads.

As I said, all this was for the efficient movement of the Roman Armies, for the Emperors had no concept of the coming Messiah. However, Rome also provided the world with “The Pax Romana” – The Roman Peace. That means, for a short time, there WAS a type of peace in the world, and this was the world-wide “calm” into which Jesus was born.

All this provided: 1) An international language to write and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ; 2) A relatively peaceful environment for the Messiah and the fledgling Church to be born and grow. (Of course, Rome eventually became corrupt and life became dangerous for anyone who wanted to identify with and live for the Lord Jesus Christ.) 3) An international highway system that the Apostles, Evangelists, and persecuted Christians used to spread the Gospel.

John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him.” And verse 14 informs us that “the Word” became human in the form of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when the REAL God was born into humanity, (Jesus Christ; not some Roman, Grecian, Babylonian, or Egyptian fabrication) the story was not to be a regional legend that remained secluded within the Jewish community. God wanted the entire world to know as soon as humanly possible.

earthIf Jesus had been born earlier, the world would not have been ready (no efficient highway system or international language). And if Jesus had been born much later, the relative peace would not have been in effect and the Roman Empire would have been too corrupt to allow the Church to even started. Either way would not have been “in the fullness of time.”

As a side-note: there are over 300 Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah; and they cover all areas of His life: the place of birth, where he would live, the mode of His death, the fact of His resurrection, plus a lot more. Every one of the prophecies concerning his life, death, and resurrection were fulfilled.

But there are more prophesies – those relating to his return. Since all the others were 100% fulfilled, we know the ones pointing to his return will be fulfilled. I hope you’re ready. 

Wisdom or Foolishness?

DSCN4499Do you know anything about wisdom? Wisdom is defined as: the ability to discern or judge what is true or right; the ability to make practical applications of truth or knowledge in everyday life.

Here are three reports regarding wisdom.

1)                The Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon (1 Kings 10) because she had to see this man who was purported to be the wisest man on earth. She was astonished at the wisdom (applied knowledge, sometimes called common sense) Solomon manifested.

2)                In 1996 Pastor Denny Brake in Raleigh, NC, referred to a lack of wisdom in his question about internet usage: “What do you mean Parental Discretion? How about a little Internet Discretion?” And Pastor Jack Musick once humorously prayed, “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said enough.” The subject of wisdom has been around and discussed for quite a while. But how do we get wisdom?

Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to those who have lived many years.” However I saw a sign that said, “Wisdom comes with age; but sometimes age comes by itself.” Sadly, that is often true, and we all have seen many unwise elderly folk who did not gain wisdom in their youth. We do not automatically get wiser as we get older.

3)                Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10 (KJV) give us a different, but corroborating, perspective. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The NLT says, “Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.”

Daniel 2:21 & Luke 21:15 point to wisdom’s origination, but James 1:5 (NCV) says it explicitly: “But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous and enjoys giving to all people, so he will give you wisdom.”

So, wisdom comes from God; but because we don’t cooperate with God, it normally takesdscn6647b[1] a while for us to grow out of our youthful foolishness. That’s why Scripture says young people should learn from the older folk: they have been around for a while, and have a wealth of information and wisdom to pass on.

With all that said, is there an application I can easily make? Yes: why is there so much immorality and violence in our society? The answer: ungodly people love foolishness which prevents them from gaining wisdom.

Look at the proliferation of extreme sexual perversion and violence in the theaters, on television, on DVDs, and on video games. We are teaching our people – youth and adults – the joy of maiming, killing, and achieving inordinate and improper sexual gratification. And then we wonder why so many people are going berserk, killing and raping people in real life.

In the scientific world we have a well-known principle: “For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.” In this case, it is very simple: Action – teach a dog to be vicious. Reaction – the dog will hurt people.

Therefore: Action – We continue to foolishly and stupidly teach people to be cruel, self-centered, and evil: especially in the name of entertainment. Reaction – people transfer their “virtual” murderous and sexual escapades into real life situations in theaters, schools, churches, and else where. We should wake up and stop the insane proliferation of evil. But that requires people to love God and hate evil.

What is the rationale of teaching people how to be evil then take them to a psychologist so see why they are sick? There isn’t an answer. We just continue creating more ways to destroy humanity and our society, and then try to create ways to repair the damage. It’s insane.

In our public and entertainment media, we foolishly commit barbarianism and murder PICT0029bagainst imaginary people, and the result is barbarianism and cruelty against real people. We also extol the virtues of drinking alcohol, then try to figure out why we have so much death, mangled cars, destroyed lives, lost jobs, and wrecked marriages. I could go on, but that will suffice.

Should we consult psychologists? The medical profession? Pastors? Unless their counsel is focused on an appropriate application of the Word of God, they won’t have permanent solutions.

So, what is the answer? If we lack wisdom, we should ask God for it. But that requires us to study the Bible, learn from our elders, think things through, and purposely make practical applications of Biblical truth and knowledge to everyday life.

The fear or reverence of the Lord is the foundation on which God builds wisdom in our lives. And without an active, reverential belief in God, our society – including many blinded Christians – will continue the headlong plunge into the abyss of destruction. 0107121404

The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried is the character of a man. What a man IS survives him. His reputation can never be buried.

How are you living? How will you be remembered? 

Will people remember you as foolish or as wise? Think about it for a while.0

What’s in Your Hand?

PICT0296One winter day in 1956 (I was 10 years old), Dad said, “Get me a pan of water so I can defrost the ice on the windshield.” It was a very cold day, so I decided to heat the water. After a few minutes, Dad called out, “Where are you?” I hollered, “I’m warming the water.” Whereupon Dad said, “Just give me what’s in your hand!”

In the late 1970s, Mark, a friend of ours who had been a missionary in Africa, drove up to Sheridan Christian Center in Tulsa where Billy Joe Daugherty was pastor and had a school in conjunction with the church. When Mark asked Billy Joe if he needed a class on the history of missions, Billy Joe said he had been praying about that for the past couple of months and asked Mark if he could prepare a course to teach it. Whereupon Mark help up his briefcase and said, “I spent all last year preparing it, and I have it right here in my hand.”

Did you know that God has given us certain natural abilities, has enabled us to learn skills, and has endowed us with gifts of the Spirit? God’s intention is for us to use these abilities, skills, and gifts to earn a living and take care of our families. But more importantly, God wants us to use those abilities, skills, and gifts to expand His Kingdom.

PICT1325Living a Christian life is adventuresome, and it demands taking risks. So let me ask you: “What’s in your hand?” That can mean three things – all related: What are you physically holding in your hand? What do you know how to do? What are you willing to do?

James 2:14-23 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well.’ but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that isn’t manifested by good deeds is no faith at all; it is only words and is useless. This is foolishness. When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is fruitless?”

In August of 2001, a family in New Mexico asked me if they could start a Bible Study. I was excited and I told them, “Sure; go ahead.” They said, “Pastor, we don’t know how. We were hoping you would start it for us.” I agreed to start it and teach it for 6 to 12 months. They agreed. I taught it for 8 or 9 months, and they took over. In their case, the desire to do something for God was what they had in their hands. Then at the right time, their willingness to carry on after I let it go was also in their hands.

The pastor should not try to do everything; he shouldn’t be a one-man-show. This is against God’s plan for the church. If the pastor tries to do too much by himself, he actually limits the growth of the church because he prevents his people from doing what God wants them to do. A pastor in Phoenix said his people are the tools he has in his hands, and his church has grown tremendously because he allows his people to use what God has put in their hands.

So Friends, what do you have in your hands? Is it a kind word to a broken-hearted person? Is it an offer to take someone to church? Can you teach someone a trade? Can you take a meal to a hurting person? Do you have the desire to study and teach? Can you give more financially to the Lord? Are you willing toDSCN6647 host a home fellowship group? Do you have ideas to help the church grow? Do you have the ability to develop those ideas? God needs every one of you to use your skills, expertise, and gifts to grow the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. God wants you to be available to help others.

When we do our part, God is free to do His part. He refuses to do our work for us, and we cannot do God’s work for Him; it will always be a team effort as we apply or use our faith.       What’s in your hand?

What Does it Take ….?

I’m sure you’ve heard the question many times: What does it take to be a good leader? Of course, the answer depends on who is responding to the question.

Two major concepts are: a leader is born; and training produces a leader. Government and many large organizations lean toward the latter: proper training makes a good leader. And if someone fails, just retrain him or refresh his training. If he fails big-time, replace him and start over.

The late Dr. Lem Boyles, Col. ChC. USAF (Ret.) said in his book, Leadership: The Minister’sIMG_1819 Responsibility, “The need for well-trained, highly qualified leaders in the Christian realm is one of the most critical problems we face in the church today.” I agree, and that also applies to the secular world. Without well-trained leaders, our churches and organizations are faltering. But Dr. Boyles taught that training alone is not sufficient. True leadership entails more than just filling a vocational slot: true leadership involves a higher calling.

So, what does it take to be a good leader? I have an interesting book by Hans Finzel titled The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make. In other books we find many formulas and lists of qualities such as: “10 Keys to Successful Leadership” (different sets of ten by Sonya Shelton, Jill Geisler, Jonas Clark, and others). There are other sets of three, five, seven, twelve, and more. Various writers call out attributes such as emotional intelligence, influence, or authority as the key. But although those qualities are involved in leadership, they fall far short of being the keys.

John Marks Templeton stated a good point in his book Discovering the Laws of Life, “Someone who possesses good leadership abilities can accomplish much more [by leading] than one who pushes.” A leader is not one who stays in the background pushing for his agenda, but is out in front leading by example. Pushing people is similar to herding cats–it doesn’t work.

PrinciplesIn his book, Principle-Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey said, “…we often attempt to short-cut natural processes–substituting expediency for priority, imitation for innovation, cosmetics for character, style for substance, and pretense for competence.” Although they might not realize it, this is designed failure by incompetent leaders.

Covey stressed that true leadership is practiced or manifested “from the inside out.” Ruth Simmons, 18th president of Brown University, emphasized “There is no formula for inner work. Leadership is a habit of mind.”

Covey and Simmons point us to the true person: the core of our being: character, integrity. Character is involved in every aspect of our lives. Poor character is based on a façade of some sort, but good character is based on a foundation of truth. And good character is built into our lives by habitually choosing proper responses in every situation. As living and working safely is a result of good habits, so is good character.

So, what does it take? It takes a person of Godly character; one who listens to counsel but is not swayed by pressure. It takes a person who has committed to live by a high moral standard no matter what the circumstances are. Whether one is to be a leader in church, scouting, military, local or national politics, school, or business, the multiple and diversified qualities that are required can be boiled down to one word: Character. Make that two words: Good Character. Good leadership is character-based leadership.

So, what is good character based on? Humanism? No, that includes relativism. Reliable or trustworthy character can never be based on a “whatever is right for you” philosophy. That denies leadership. Is good character based on “all religions lead to the same destiny”? No. Various religions contradict each other; and some religions mandate killing people. That generates confusion and results in tyranny.

The bottom line is: Good character, integrity, is based on God’s law. And JesusCross summarized the law in His statements in Matthew 22:37-39; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This is the foundation for good character and sound leadership.

Do you desire a leadership position? Establish your relationship with God and ask Him to guide you. Establish a wholesome relationship with people. Take proper training. Excel in your vocation. Don’t push people. And when the opportunity arises, humbly accept the responsibility and remain accountable to others.