Focus on the Heart (Part 2 of 2)

Choosing Spouses, Ministers, etc.

Mid-Level_Challenges_Poor_Selection_Process2Like choosing a mate, sometimes churches seem to focus on the “outward appearance” when it comes to selecting a minister.  Sometimes it seems that we are preoccupied with finding a minister who like King Saul of Israel will look the part.

Years ago, a church leader called me regarding a reference check of a prospective minister for their congregation. He explained that this person was not one of their “first tier” candidates.  (I had not heard that language before in reference to selecting a minister.)  He explained that they had hoped to get a minister who was widely known and already had a following.  He mentioned several names of people who, at the time, were speaking in a number of workshops, lectureships, and other highly visible events across the country.  What was interesting was their rationale for placing these people on their “first tier” list.

Yet, perhaps we would do well to consider what a focus on the heart (I Samuel 16:7) might look like as we consider a prospective minister for a congregation.

A few questions we might reflect on:

1.  Does this minister seem to hunger for God?  Is this minister’s moral and ethical life congruent with he claims to believe?

Focus on the Heart – (Part 1 of 2)

Choosing Spouses, Ministers, etc.

He sat in my office and looked troubled.  He said, “We are engaged, yet I’m not sure I want to go through with this wedding.  There is physical attraction, but I am troubled about some other matters.”

Far too many people, as they consider a potential spousethink-md, put their priority on physical attraction.  How attractive is she?  How attractive is he? While physical attraction may be a factor, Christ-followers have other concerns which stand first in the priority line.

Remember King Saul of Israel?  Tall.  A military leader. A warrior.  He looked the part.  Today, people today might say regarding a particular person, “He looks presidential.”  King Saul looked like a king.

Yet, even though he looked the part, he didn’t have the heart that God desired. Outwardly he may have appeared to be just right.  Yet, because of his heart, his life did not reflect what God wanted.  As Israel chose the next King of Israel, God desired to see a change.  God said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

When You are Afraid

fear4“Were you afraid?” she asked.  Of course I was.  We were moving across the country after living in Waco for twenty years.  We were leaving the known and entering the unknown.  Yes, I know fear. Typically I become afraid of what could happen.  After all, “What if?”

Meanwhile, early this morning I sat at a table in Starbucks.  I was near the door.  My cup of coffee was to my right.  My computer was open.  I was working on a document for a lunch meeting that I would have in a few hours.  The morning was calm. People were coming and going, each leaving with a cup of coffee.  I anticipated a full day with several meetings scheduled and some other work that I needed to take care of.  The sun was shining and all was well.  Fear was nowhere to be found.

However, there are times when I have awakened in the middle of the night only to be faced with my fears.

1.  What if the situation I am working through goes bad?  What will I do or say?

2.  What about my children?  What about their future?  Will they be all right?

3.  What if I die suddenly?  What will Charlotte do?  Will she be all right?

4.  What about my work and ministry?  What if I’m not as competent as I should be?

5.   What about my health?  What if I am suddenly stricken by disease?

Living as the Community of God

CampI read the first few chapters of the book, Living as the Community of God.  I was hooked.

The book is basically a commentary on Deuteronomy.  Yet, it is so much more.  I opened the book and read “Introduction: Why Bother with Deuteronomy.” The author Phillip Camp, Associate Professor of Bible in the Hazelip School of Theology at Lipscomb University, gives the reader ten reasons why the book matters for a Christian. For example:

(1)  It shows what it means to be in a faithful relationship with God and invites us into such a relationship.

(2)  It highlights the grace of God for his people and for all people.

(3)  It teaches a great deal about the nature of God: his love, mercy, justice, righteousness, faithfulness, etc.

The list continues.  I was impressed each one of these reasons.  The reasons alone made me want to read the book.

What I especially appreciated about the book is that each chapter was well organized and well written.  Each chapter had two sections that were particularly interesting.  One section was called “The God of the Community.”  This section discussed God, and the theology of Deuteronomy and the Bible.

These Seven Really Don’t Matter

overwhelm_life21.  It doesn’t matter whether you live in the nicest subdivsion or whether you live in an older home.  After all, a home is a lot more than a house.

2.  It doesn’t matter whether you take your children on a far away vacation or whether you go somewhere only a couple of hours away.  The memories your children will have about this years vacation is not dependent on how much the trip costs.

What Kind of Community is Waco, Texas?

Waco,_TX,_welcome_sign_IMG_0664Sunday morning, 150-200 bikers gathered at a local restaurant.  They are members of five different gangs.  They are wearing their colors.  A short time later, there is violence.

9 bikers dead.  18 in the hospital.  Motorcycle gangs.  Guns.  A shoot-out with police.  Blood.  Death.

This takes place on a Sunday morning in one of the nicest shopping areas in Central Texas.  Wow. I would have thought something like this would have happened at a seedy bar late one Saturday night.

In December 2013, we moved from Waco, Texas to Memphis, Tennessee, after having lived in that city for twenty years. The news is filled with details of these gangs and the shootings last Sunday.  No doubt people will be talking about this tragedy in Waco for many years.

Having lived in Waco for twenty years, I can tell you that there is another important story about this city.  This city has much that is good and is actually a wonderful place to live, raise children, and serve God.

Review: Bringing Heaven to Earth

RossStormentI just read Bringing Heaven to Earth by Josh Ross and Jonathan Storment.  This sentence caught my attention, “What is a Christian’s responsibility to bring to bear God’s will in this corner of the world, so that people throughout Memphis might come to experience a hint of what life is like in heaven?”

Maybe this sentence caught my attention because I live in Memphis.  Or maybe it caught my attention because I have seen the power of a believer’s behavior, witness, and ministry in places that would otherwise be dark.  Unfortunately, I have also seen the power of a believer’s behavior when one has been inattentive and even apathetic toward the world.  Josh Ross and Jonathan Storment have written a book in which they explore the possibilities of the renewing and restoring work of God.  This is so important in a world that is broken and dark.  The book is a challenge for Christians to be serious about allowing themselves to be used by God.

Unfortunately, the answer to a dark world for some is to attempt to insulate oneself and one’s family.  I once had a conversation with a person who said she was trying to figure out a way to surround her family with Christians and only Christians.  The family moved to a street where several young couples from church already lived.  They had a Christian doctor, lawyer, and dentist, all from their congregation.  Their children went to a Christian school.  Her husband worked in a firm which consisted, primarily, of Christian people.

There is no problem, of course, with any one of these.  It is fine to go to a Christian school.  No problem with having a doctor, lawyer, or dentist who is a believer. The problem is that they were trying to insulate themselves from the world instead of penetrating the darkness.

Perhaps much of this is due to fear.  I found Chapter 13 to be particularly helpful as the authors address the problem of fear as we live as believers in the world.

The book reminds us that the world is broken and dark and that the work of God’s Kingdom involves restoring and renewing.

Five Characteristics of a Quality Man

man_question_markHave you wondered if there are any quality, young, godly men left?  After all, it seems that the news is constantly reporting the horrible behavior of some man in the world. Then of course, you can talk to almost anyone and they can tell you a story about some man’s sorry behavior at work, his abuse of his own children, or his betrayal of a friend.

Let me assure you, I know some very fine young men.  Almost every day, I have the fortune to have a conversation in person, by phone, or text with a young man in Memphis or in another city in this country. Again and again I am impressed.  As I think about these guys (some of them have been in my mentoring groups and others I know as friends) here is what I see.

1.  They take Jesus seriously.  They aren’t simply trying to create an image of one who loves the Lord.  It is so obvious that they are serious about their own obedient relationship to Jesus as Lord.  Those who know them best describe them as the real deal.

2.  They invest in others for the sake of the Lord.  Yes, they value their friendships but it is much more than this.  They influence their friends for good.  Their friends often say, “I am a better man and closer to the Lord because of my friendship with him.”

Ten Ways to Have More Energy for Your Work

tired-ladyWhen I was in graduate school, I thought that I was working as hard as I possibly could in my studies.  After all, I stayed at my desk for hours and read an incredible number of pages each day.  I thought that if I could do without sleep, then surely my grades would reflect the extra time of study.

I was wrong.

Quite often I simply became exhausted.  My lack of sleep hurt my creativity in my thinking.  My fatigue often resulted in a lack of engagement.

One thing has not changed.  Just as I needed energy for school years ago, today I need energy to do my work.  The following are some of the practices that have been helpful to me.

What Validates a Minister’s Value?

value-propositionHow do you know when a minister has great value?  Or, if you serve as a minister of a congregation you may wonder how much value you really have.  Perhaps there are times when you when you feel as if you have great value.  What factors have led you to come to that conclusion?  Perhaps there are other times when you feel alone, inadequate, and have little value as a minister.

Some believe that ministers have great value if one or more of the following factors are true:

1.  People are asking this person to speak at their congregations or at particular lectureships, seminars, etc.

2.  Congregations that are visible within our fellowship are asking this person to consider joining their ministry staff.

3.  A particular minister has a much larger salary compared to other ministers who serve in the same role.

4.  Many in social media quote this person and seem to rally around whatever this minister might say or do.

5.  A minister may be well known throughout a region or even the nation and perhaps have a “following.”  This may be evident either through conversations at particular gatherings or conversation through social media.

6.  A minister who has served a smaller congregation begins preaching for a congregation that is highly visible.  Suddenly that minister may be perceived to be “important.”