I received a great question from one of my readers:
Ron, how do you learn to be a good listener?
(He actually said this in reference to marriage, but I understand he wanted to learn to listen and hear better from God.)
Here was my reply of how to better hear from God. It may not be the answer he needed, but perhaps it is the one you need.
- Recognize who God is and who you are. (Ecclesiastes 5:2) We should ultimately listen more than we talk.
- Give yourself time to listen. (Psalm 46:10) It is hard to really listen to someone when you are rushing through the conversation.
- Learn His voice over time. (John 10:14) I do not need Cheryl (my wife) to introduce herself when she calls. I know her voice well.
- Practice, practice, practice. (Exodus 16) I like the principle of the daily manna God gave to the Israelites. This should be our principle of meeting with God. We should do interact with Him on a daily basis.
Are you trying to hear from God these days? How do you know His voice?
(And addendum to this post has been added since the original. For more click HERE.)
I am so bummed tonight to have heard the news about Pastor Gary Lamb of Revolution Church in Georgia. I do not know Gary personally, only through Facebook, Twitter and his blog. I would never be one to put more burdens on a man already so broken, but I cannot get some thoughts off my mind tonight and my blog is one way I express myself. Since he addressed this in a very public way through his own blog (Read the account HERE), I thought I would share some of the things racing through my head. They may be good for all of us to consider.
- I started reading Brennan Manning’s “The Furious Longing of God” today before I heard this news. On the first page of Manning’s writing he quotes Song of Solomon 7:10, “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me”. The book is called “A love story for the brokenhearted”. I think Gary needs this book. I do too!
- Gary, his family and his church, along with the other woman and her family, need our prayers at this time. Satan is smiling on this one, but Satan is a liar and a loser. God can and will have the final word. Let us pray He has His way in this situation for all parties concerned.
- Whenever a pastor falls, those outside the church have another excuse to push away from truth. Some of this comes from the way the church treats its own. Now is not the time for judgment, now is the time for grace to abound.
- People are going to begin dismissing everything Gary has said or will say because of this failure. Please don’t be one of those. His failure does not diminish any truth he spoke prior to today. If anything it makes the truth he spoke even more real. The fact is that Gary is not a perfect man. We knew that before we knew the news of the day. If God used him to make a difference in your life or others, be thankful God uses broken people, like you and me.
- The failure of Gary did not begin with an affair with his assistant. Somewhere, sometime, Gary let his guard down. We must all work harder to make sure the proper boundaries are in our life. I have too many pastor friends who see nothing wrong with meeting with female staff members alone. You must NEVER, EVER, EVER do this. NEVER! Please pastors and other leaders, build accountability and boundaries into your life now, before it is too late. IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!
- Many pastors I know need marriage counseling, but they are too proud or too afraid of what their church would think to get it. I hope this news encourages some to take that bold step.
I make this offer to pastors, I am a pastor and a former degreed Christian counselor, if I can help you talk through issues like this, if you are on a limb and need a confidential, non-judgmental friend, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
President Obama has opted out of most activities in the National Day of Prayer. While he says he intends to pray privately, as a part of his normal daily practice, he will not be active, nor will any of the executive leadership of his administration, in the organized activities of the day. Personally I think the President should recognize the importance of this day to many and at the very least he should have sent token representation from the executive branch of government, but I am not surprised by his absence. The basic organizers of this event have not been among his greatest supporters.
Read the CNN story HERE.
What do you think? Are you surprised by the president’s actions? Do you agree with some who say that this year, more than most, this country needs prayer? Should Christians make an issue of this or is this just another day and everyday is a day of prayer? How should Christians respond?
More than anything though, have you prayed today?
Try this, pray for each of these in a sentence prayer or two:
- National Leaders
- State Leaders
- Local Leaders
- Emergency Personnel
- School Officials
- (If you want to really walk on the wild side, pray for your pastor and church staff!)
Cheryl and I were driving in Nashville today and she said, “Speed limit strictly enforced” as she read a sign on the roadside. I knew what she meant. She thought I was driving too fast. I Twittered this and got several comments on Twitter and Facebook from other women regarding their own tactics to subtly tell their husband they are driving too fast.
Here are some comments Cheryl has used before:
“Wow, I didn’t know the speed limit was 35 here.”
“They must really be strict about speeding on this road, because I’ve seen several people pulled over lately.”
“I wonder how much speeding tickets are now.”
“I’ve noticed Jeremy (our son) sure has been driving fast lately. I don’t know where he gets that from.”
“We don’t ever get to just talk. Let’s just slow down today, take it easy, and catch up.” (Okay, she hasn’t actually used that one, but it’s only because she hasn’t thought of it yet.)
So my question is: Why not just say, “YOU ARE DRIVING TOO FAST YOU IDIOT!”? I think I’d understand that one better. When talking to men, it’s best to be direct. They may get mad at first, but that’s the way we handle things. (For more on this subject, read my post “My Right to Get Angry/Your Right to Cry”)
Women, what tactics do you have to get your man to slow down? (or speed up as the case may be)
Our church is three and half years old. We have seen God do some amazing things in our short time and we continue to stand in awe of His grace upon us. Planting a church is hard work and not for the faint-hearted, but it’s been a joy ride at the same time. I love seeing people get excited about life, and especially gaining passion for Jesus, so these have been some of the best years of my life.
I need to be honest about something though. It all seemed to be fun when we were starting the church and had a few hundred people hanging out with us. Last Fall when we broke the 1,000 mark in average attendance (now over 1,800) some things changed. It has actually become work some days!
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not complaining. It is still fun and I’m glad we are growing and meeting needs as a church. I love the team I work with and we have some of the most fun people in the world at our church, but I am realizing my need to be more focused, more intentional, and more consistent in my leadership if we are going to continue at this pace of growth as a church. I certainly don’t want to quench what God is doing!
I’m spending more time learning from church leaders, trying to balance my time, encouraging our team, delegating when possible, exercising more, and spending more time in prayer and in God’s Word.
What other suggestions do you have for me? How do you handle the stress of leadership?
My heart goes out to the family of Rev. Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church, Maryville, IL. According to news reports a gunman killed him in the middle of services at his church this morning. Read a news report HERE.
Cheryl shared the story with me this afternoon while driving back into town. It’s all I’ve been able to think about since. There’s not a sense of fear on my part as a pastor, I just can’t stop thinking about his family and his church. I don’t want to bring more undue attention to the family at such a time as this, although I’m sure the media will cover it thoroughly, but you can read about his family and even see a picture of them on the church’s website. (It wouldn’t surprise me if they take the site down for a couple days shortly.)
In looking through the site I was impressed with the church’s vision. Rev. Winters seemed to have great plans for the future. If you spend some time on the church’s website, check out the future building plans of the church. Wow! One thing that impressed me, and made me realize how God prepares us at times, is the current sermon series Dr. Winters was preaching through. You can listen HERE. Pastor Winters was teaching his church how to be happy in the midst of a scary world. Listen to his sermon from February 22, 2009. He says, “The number one factor in finding happiness in life is faith”, based on Philippians 4:4-9. He goes onto say that all of us desire something deeper than happiness. We want joy and it is not based on our circumstances, but our faith. The news report says Dr. Winters was a “happy” person. I think I know why. (He ends his faith message with a story about his daughters. Prior to the message on faith he had preached on the importance of family. I plan to listen to that sermon next.) I would say he left a great legacy to all who will follow. Let Reverend Winter’s message encourage all of us during the times of uncertainty in the world.
Please pray for this pastor’s family, the church, and the Kingdom of God in the coming days.
Regardless of your politics, we will soon have a new first family. Honestly, I’m excited about watching children growing up in the White House again. The Obama’s seem like a loving, close family, and it will be interesting getting to know them as they become the daily news focus in the coming months.
True story. This morning I was thinking about and praying for our new president-elect and the changes about to occur in his young family’s life. The thought occurred to me that the new president and first lady should help their girls acclimate to their new home by gifting them with a new puppy.
I did a quick online search to make sure the Obama family does not already have a family pet. According to published reports, President-elect Obama has promised his daughter Malia a puppy. The dilemma is whether to get her a pedigree to help with her allergies or support the animal shelter and get a mutt.
If you had to pick a first dog, which breed would you select? Could you see the Obama family with a Pembroke Welsh corgi or a West Highland white terrier? Or, are they a “pick the dog who needs the most love from the animal shelter” type of family? What do you think?
I’m a dreamer. I always want to do more with life. I believe dreams are a healthy way to stretch the mind, keep a person growing, and even stay emotionally healthy. (“Where there is not vision, the people perish.”) On a recent plane ride I jotted down ten goals that I still have for my life. God willing, I’m going to spend my life dreaming they come true!
1. Train young leaders to be “giant killers” for the Kingdom of God.
2. Help hurting pastors be restored to vibrant ministry.
3. See dying churches revitalized.
4. Help Cheryl fulfill her dreams; and help her dream bigger dreams for herself!
5. Watch more boys marry godly women.
6. Become a granddad! (I’ll take number 5 first, but I’ll be ready!)
7. Travel to Africa and Asia.
8. See patriotism restored as a personal value for all Americans.
9. Accept fully Christ’s love and forgiveness (with no regrets from the past).
10. Hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
What dreams do you have for your life? What are your current goals? Feel free to share them here.
I’ve been asking lately to see some good news. Well I saw some today. It was the headline in our local paper. The headline in the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle reads: 101st begins mass return from Iraq 80 soldiers home from a 14-month deployment. We love our soldiers and their families. Welcome home heroes! Over the next few months our church and community will be surrounded with smiling faces, tears, and reunions as our troops come home from Afghanistan and Iraq! I can’t wait! God bless their speedy return.
Our community group is going through Purpose Driven Life. For some of us this is a refresher and for others it is the first time. (Interestingly, everyone in the group owned a copy of the book, but not everyone had read it.) Last night we considered week two. As a supplement to the book, I asked these questions. We had lots of good discussions and I’m still pondering my answers.
1. What does it mean “to please God”?
Do you believe your life brings God pleasure?
2. How do you feel about the statement: Worship is not for your benefit?
3. What is something your children do that makes you smile?
Would you rather have your children’s time or a plaque for the wall?
Do you want your children to trust you?
How do you think these the answers to these questions translate to your relationship with God?
4. If it’s true God smiles when we trust Him completely, is He smiling now about your trust in Him?
Where are you struggling/need to trust Him more?
Where are you struggling/need to obey Him more?
5. What is one fear/worry/burden you need to surrender to God?
6. What is the greatest barrier you have to prayer?
7. Have you weathered a time when God seemed distant?
What did you do?
8. How has your relationship with God changed over the years?
Spend some time considering these questions and your own answers to them.