The Final 4 Vital Characteristics of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader

In my previous post, I shared the first 4 characteristics of a life-changing leader. Read that post first. While those are the most fundamental, the next 4 are no less vital:

5. Healthy small group leaders are friends with non-Christ-followers
Small group leaders may or may not have the spiritual gift of evangelism, but they do intentionally seek out friendships with those who are not yet friends with God. These friendships are genuine and unconditional . . . no strings attached. Yes, they pray diligently for their friends and watch for opportunities to share their story and the gospel, but they don’t leverage the relationship to force conversations about Christ. Rather, they allow God to use them to shine his light. They allow the overflow of God’s love to pour out of their lives naturally.

6. Healthy small group leaders are shepherds
Transformed, surrendered leaders invest relationally into and lovingly guide the group that God puts under their care. I believe being a shepherd is the main role of the small group leader. All the other attributes describe how to do this one well.

“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young” (Isaiah 40:11, NLT). Great small group leaders invest relationally into the individual members of the group, and not just during group meetings! Do you know the spiritual condition of your flock (Proverbs 27:23)? The biggest difference between a teacher, facilitator, or host and a shepherd leader is that the former do not necessarily need to know their sheep or lead them spiritually. But that is precisely the role of the shepherd-leader.

7. Healthy small group leaders are servants-first
Jesus made this one very clear. You can’t be a leader in his kingdom unless you first have the heart of a servant. Why do you want to lead? If it is because it is the best way for you to serve the group, then you are on the right track. If you desire leadership for any other reason, reconsider this role. Find another way to serve the group first.

8. Healthy small group leaders are growing in competence
While leading a healthy small group has more to do with heart than skills, a healthy leader is a learner. So remain teachable. Keep reading leadership articles, books, and blogs. Go to every leader training class your church offers. Listen to leadership podcasts and attend leader training events offered in your area.

Most importantly, spend time with Christ every day. Be in his Word, not just to study leadership principles (which are ample in the Bible), but to be filled up so that you may overflow into the lives of others.

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This post is adapted from my book, SmallGroup Vital Signs (TOUCH Publications). 
 

More About Healthy Leadership

5 Minute Daily Devotions for Leaders … C’mon Man!
Leader Burnout Is Universal
Silencing the Monkeys in the Banana Tree

The First 4 Vital Characteristics of a Life-Changing Small Group Leader

One of the fundamental differences between healthy and unhealthy small groups is the spiritual vitality of the leaders. While imperfect, healthy leaders have a soft heart that God can use to accomplish his will. They are highly committed first to God, and then to the group. Healthy leaders have at least eight attributes. Today I’ll share the first four:

1. Healthy small group leaders have been transformed
One of your main functions as a small group leader is to build an environment where spiritual transformation is experienced. This happens best when you have first experienced transformation yourself. What happened to Peter and the other disciples between the gospels and Acts to bring about the transformation they experienced? It was a process that Jesus began three years earlier but that came to fruition with the power of the resurrection (John 20), the power of reconciliation (John 21), and finally the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Then Jesus used these transformed leaders to build a great, world-transforming church. He can do the same through you when you spend time with him and allow him to transform your life!

2. Healthy small group leaders live surrendered to God
One thing the apostles learned from Jesus was how to live and lead in surrender to God’s will. Great small group leaders turn to Christ for everything: who to invite to the group, the group’s purpose, and the what to study. To do this, you must pray and then wait before making decisions. Great group leaders know if they surrender their leadership to Christ they will accomplish far more than they can do in their own power.

3. Healthy small group leaders are committed to their calling
God first calls people to lead, then he gifts them to lead, and last, he empowers them to lead. The leadership God has entrusted to you is a precious gift of his grace (Ephesians 3:7) you should never take for granted. Accept it willingly, develop it, and multiply it by the mighty working of his power. Be a good steward of his gift to you!

4. Healthy small group leaders are friends
Jesus called his group members “friends.” But perhaps that word meant more to Jesus than we think: “Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, “that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Real friendship is sacrificial.

A healthy leader considers the members of the group as his or her friends, not as students, participants, or “people who show up to our meetings.” As the leader, you invest into those friendships. A group member from our church wrote:

Joe and I have been in small group with Gary for about five years now. I wasn’t sure about joining a “Bible study,” but this group is so much more. The friendships we have formed are everlasting. Our small group, with Gary as our leader, not only studies the Bible, but we hold each other up; we encourage each other in good and bad times; we have moments where we laugh and sometimes cry; we love each other no matter what; and we know in our hearts that Jesus Christ is always with us. Gary keeps us focused, and he is one of the best friends Joe and I could ever have!

Wouldn’t you want someone in your group to say the same about you? Become their friend!

Read the next four vital characteristics of a life-changing leader.

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This post is adapted from my book, SmallGroup Vital Signs (TOUCH Publications). 
 

More About Healthy Leadership

5 Minute Daily Devotions for Leaders … C’mon Man!
Leader Burnout Is Universal
Silencing the Monkeys in the Banana Tree

The Brazil Cell-Church Conference: What I Learned … #5 – Go with the Flow

One of my favorite topics to speak on is the principle of overflow. In my training, I use a pitcher to represent God and everything that he wants to pour into us and a glass to represent our lives. I use this illustration to show that God does not simply fill our lives to the full (John 10:10), he fills us to overflowing. Spiritual leadership is basically about two things: putting yourself daily in a position to receive from God and then naturally overflowing into the lives of the people he has put around you.

I want to live my life in this natural rhythm: receive and overflow, receive and overflow …

But, probably like you, I sometimes find myself with my glass upside down, trying hard to pour something out of my life–ministering out of my own strength and knowledge–which leads to both ineffectiveness and burnout.

I was in Brazil last month to teach about these vital topics, but God also used the trip to teach me this vital principle over and over again. In my last post, I talked about two examples of staying in the flow: driving in Brazil and a surprise preaching opportunity. But God used numerous other object lessons as well:

Relationship-First
One of the things I teach about is the importance of keeping our priorities in the right order. Many times, those of us in ministry get these mixed up and out of the order God commands. Here’s the right order:

GOD
COMMUNITY
MINISTRY
Unfortunately, we often turn this upside-down, which leads to … guess what? Yes, ineffectiveness and burnout, not to mention idolatry, broken marriages, and broken families.
I took my 19-year-old son Dru with me on this trip and I’m so glad I did. It was an opportunity for Dru and me to develop a deeper bond in our relationship, for him to grow in his own faith and ministry, and for him to get the opportunity to travel, something he hopes to do a lot more of in his life. Though I was in Brazil for ministry, it was clear to me what my priorities needed to be: my relationship with God, then my relationship with Dru, then the ministry itself.
The best times in Brazil were the times that God overflowed out of my life into my son’s life and then from his life into some of the people God put around him.
Plans
I’m a planner, but I needed to remember that as many and good and godly as my goals and plans might be, God’s purpose will prevail. I often found the need to let go of my plans and just go with the flow.
As in many other South American countries, Brazilians are not slaves to their watches and schedules. Often I thought I would be speaking at a specific time, and when that time passed, I became impatient inside my head (I tried not to let it show), wondering how long the person or program in front of me would continue. Often, as I thought one person was coming to a close, I’d anxiously get my notes together and move toward the front of my chair, when another person would jump up on stage to make an announcement or share a story. One Sunday evening, about the time I was scheduled to preach, some kids put on a very cute little show of singing and dancing. I enjoyed the first two minutes, but twenty minutes later I was anxious to get going. Then the children’s director stood up to talk about the children’s show. Then the pastor came up to thank and pray for the children. Then another pastor came up to read Scripture. I thought my turn was finally coming. No. The pastor began expounding on the passage–a sermon before my sermon. He was speaking in Portuguese and my interpreter wasn’t sitting next to me, so I wondered what he was saying, and if, perhaps, it might be on the same topic I was planning to talk about. When he finished someone else came up to give some more announcements. Finally, my translator, who was also the director of the ministry that brought me to Brazil, went up on stage. Finally, I thought. here we go! Then the translator began to speak in Portuguese. I glanced over at Dru and he just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Finally, at long last, the interpreter invited me to speak. I jumped up on stage … and totally forgot what I was going to say. Actually, that’s not true. I’m glad God helped me to go with the flow and I just allowed his Spirit to flow through me.

There is a flow to leading, whether you are facilitating a small group discussion, leading a ministry or church, or leading anything else. That flow, when healthy, starts with God, not us, our ideas, or our own power. That flow means that I am not in control … which means I can relax and just let God speak and lead through me.

Our trip to Brazil taught Dru and me to trust God more, allowing him to be in control, enjoying the flow of the journey as he pours into us and then overflows into the lives of others.

Read the rest of the posts in this series on Brazil HERE

The Brazil Cell-Church Conference: What I Learned … #4 – Keep Trusting God

When life is safe and comfortable, there is no real need to trust God.

That’s as true for your small group, your church, and your family as it is for you personally. It’s when you step out of your comfort zone, count the costs, surrender your own preferences, and obey God no matter what that you will most need to trust God … and, by the way, that’s when God will make the biggest impact through you.

This was another discovery in my recent trip to Brazil to train cell pastors and leaders.

This was the first time I spoke outside of the United States, the first time I spoke with an interpreter, and the first time I’ve traveled abroad outside of one mission trip to Guatemala several years ago. It also involved a lot of firsts for my nineteen-year-old son Dru, who went along with me on this trip. Both of us learned to trust God on the journey, and sometimes that trust was learned in unexpected ways.

Jesus Take the Wheel
In Brazil, the lines on the road don’t mean much. Neither do posted speed limits, stop signs (where there are stop signs–they are mysteriously absent in the cities) or other traffic laws. They are more like suggestions than rules. But their system works. Often four vehicles across will occupy two lanes, especially in the cities, as drivers use every available open spot on the street. If a spot opens up, someone will fill it, even if it means moving ahead of someone else who was there first. Meanwhile, hundreds of motorcycles and scooters zoom between the cars and buses, just barely missing the mirrors of the other vehicles. Brazilians use their horns quite a bit, not in an angry way as we Americans do, but as a warning: “Here I come!” Motorists constantly cut one another off, which would drive me crazy as an American driver, but in Brazil it’s just part of doing life together.

On our way from Águas de Lindóia to São Paulo, a curvy two-and-a-half-hour trip down from the mountains into the city, the driver, whistling the whole way, constantly crossed double-yellow lines around curves to pass slower (slower, meaning they were going about 65 miles per hour I’d guess) vehicles–sometimes passing several trucks at a time.

As we rode along, I was often praying, begging Jesus, to take the wheel. I had to learn to trust these drivers, that they knew what they were doing, but even more, I just had to relax and trust that God really was (and is) in control.

Jesus Take the Stage
At the end of the first conference in Manaus, the senior pastor of the church where the conference was held was wrapping things up. My interpreter, Robert Lay, was sitting right next to me, telling me some of what the pastor was sharing in Portuguese:

Robert (translating): “… and Michael will be preaching tomorrow morning here and tomorrow night at our other campus.”

Me: “Huh?”

Robert: “You didn’t know you were preaching tomorrow?”

Me: “Uh, no.”

Robert: “Well, I guess you’ll be up late tonight writing a sermon!”

Yikes. I knew God would use me to speak what he wanted me to say, but I had no idea what that message was, so I went back to my hotel room and prayed, and the words came. I don’t want to sound like Abe Lincoln, but I wrote out an outline and some notes longhand, and trusted God to speak through me. Days earlier, the senior pastor had told me how his people struggled to be truly authentic with one another (see my post on this), confessing their sins to one another, and I sensed that was something I could talk about from Scripture, but I also sensed God wanted me to go deeper. I began by sharing my testimony of how God reached out to me and then how he led me into my first small group where I experienced true community, and then I shared from Scripture and my experience the vitality of living in truly authentic community with one another.

As Robert interpreted, I noticed that people were leaning in toward us–a good sign, they were engaged. I sensed God was at work, speaking through me and Robert. At the end of the evening service, the pastor asked people to respond to the good news. He told me later that a number of people gave their lives to Christ that evening. That wasn’t in my plans. But,

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:20-22).

Trusting God is an everyday, lifelong pursuit for me. He keeps teaching me in many different ways. Sometimes I think I should have this down by now, but God is so patient, and he never gives up.

So, how are you and how is your group stepping out of the comfortable and trusting God to do what only he can do?

Read the rest of the posts in this series on Brazil HERE

The Brazil Cell-Church Conference: What I Learned … #3 – Burnout Is Universal

Robert Lay, holding up my book, The Pocket Guide
to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership,

translated into Portuguese

Brazilian leaders deal with burnout.

When I was first asked to speak on the topic of leader burnout in Brazil, I was surprised. Because of all the wonderful things I’ve heard about the Brazilian church, cells, and the people, not to mention the more relaxed pace of life there, I assumed they did not deal with burnout like we do in North America. I was wrong.
In my first session I walked through some of the reasons that leaders tend to burn out and later I talked about the dangers signs of burnout, especially for cell leaders. In more than 25 years of small group ministry, I’ve witnessed leaders unfortunately burning out and then stepping out of leadership.
I told the story of Don, a group leader in our church several years ago. Don’s group started smoothly and seemed to go well the first several months. But within the first year, Don called me to tell me he was stepping down from leadership. When I met with Don to ask what happened, he described the time he spent …
  • preparing for the meeting
  • calling members
  • caring for some of the needy people in the group
  • reaching out to lost people
  • inviting people to the group
  • discipling two of the newer Christians
  • dealing with issues and conflicts
  • helping his wife clean the house before the meeting
  • and praying daily for cell members

Don also had a growing family with three young children, a demanding job, and many other responsibilities.

Does that sound familiar to you, leader? Unfortunately, Don is just an example of the legions of leaders who are burned out, burning out, about to quit, or have already quit.

If you are reading this and you have lost your passion and joy for your ministry, I hope God can fill you back up. It’s one of his specialties. I just want to encourage you: Don’t give up! The kingdom of God needs you! But first, God wants you to be healthy. “Do not become weary in doing good. Because at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
I wrote my book, The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership (a small book with a big name!) because I believe the stakes are too high for leaders to burn out and quit. And I believe there are much better solutions. That book describes several ways to lead so that you won’t burn out. The subtitle of the book provides a clue: “How to gather a core team and lead from the second chair.”  But I’ve learned two things over the years about beating burnout:
  1. It’s not just about burnout. The same principles that will keep you from burning out will also make you much more effective as a leader. They will help your group to grow, bear fruit, and multiply.
  2. That first discovery led to the second: Leading your group (or anything else, for that matter) in a healthy way will have two huge effects: (a) you will be much less likely to burnout; and (b) your group will grow, bear fruit, and multiply. You see, writing the book about burnout led me to write my next book, Small Group Vital Signs.
I spoke at the Brazil conference about several of the vital signs of a healthy group and how these vital signs would help these leaders to not only avoid burnout but to be effective and productive in their ministry. So I spoke about the absolute vitality that your group be a Christ-centered community. If your primary focus is on anything else, you will tend toward burnout as a leader and your group will not grow, bear fruit, or multiply.
I spoke on the fact that a healthy group demands a healthy, overflowing leader. This is my favorite topic to talk about, and I found that the people in Brazil responded the most to this topic, both times I spoke about it. Leadership, I believe, is simple: you as a leader must be putting yourself in the position to RECEIVE from Jesus, the true Vine, and then you will naturally OVERFLOW into those you lead.
In my fourth session I talked about the vitality of a leader sharing leadership with 2-3 others in a core team. Over the years, I’ve learned that one of the major causes of burnout is when leaders try to do everything themselves, especially the responsibilities of shepherding and discipling group members.
In my last session, I spoke very personally about my own struggles with allowing my life to become upside-down and the huge toll that took on my relationship with God, marriage, family, and ministry. When we allow our ministry to become our priority, it can drown out our relationships with God, our spouses, our kids, and our friends. Burnout is often ultimately a result of living upside-down, allowing things other than God to be transcendent in our lives.
Leader burnout and ineffectiveness is a universal problem because we as humans tend toward living life and leading our own way rather than God’s way. It’s true in the USA and in Brazil and anywhere else in the world where people are less than perfect. But there are solutions.
Read the rest of the posts in this series on Brazil HERE

5 Minute Daily Devotions for Leaders … C’mon Man!

I am reposting some of most-read posts from the past as I speak at the Cell-Church Conference in Brazil. Tomorrow, I begin teaching in Águas de Lindoia, which is in the south of Brazil, about a two and a half hour car drive from Sao Pãulo.. Please continue to pray for me and those I’ll be speaking to! 

The following post is one of the most popular posts on my blog in the last month. It’s also a topic very close to my heart. 

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Leadership is about two primary activities: receiving and overflowing. As a small group leader — as any kind of leader — my relationship with God comes first. I first must receive from him, and when I make myself available, God gladly pours into me all the things I do not have on my own, but that those I lead need: grace, love, patience, power, compassion, and so much more. When I am receiving, I can overflow, but I cannot overflow without receiving.

Today as I read Psalm 61, I came to a significant verse:

Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings! (Psalm 61:4, New Living Translation).

King David was on the run, but he yearned to be back in Jerusalem, not because that’s where his palatial home was, but because that’s where God’s sanctuary was. To David, God’s presence resided especially in the sanctuary, and David yearned to be there.

Leader, don’t miss the word forever here. David longed to dwell in God’s presence forever. The relationship, the fellowship, he had with God was so sweet he didn’t want it to end!

Here’s a tough question for us today. Do you feel the same way as you spend time with God?

Do you rush through your daily quiet time to get to the “more important” things you have to do or would you rather hang out with God a little longer, enjoying some intimate time with him? Do you schedule a 5 or 15 minute meeting with God and just do the bare minimum because you feel you should, or do you open your heart to God and desire to spend as much time as needed to enter into real fellowship with him?

I’m concerned for us, Christian leaders, that perhaps we’ve set our own agendas for our times with God rather than coming humbly to him seeking out his agenda and purposes for our time together. There are a number of “entry-level” devotionals out there that help beginners spend time with God. Five Minute Bible Devotionals, Five Minutes with Christ, Five Minutes a Day: 365 Daily Devotionals … I found a bunch of these listed on Amazon. And those are fine, I suppose, for new Christians. But if you’re leading others and you’re still doing 5 minutes a day with God, I just want to say, “C’mon man!”

I believe that our time spent in solitude with God is THE secret to fruit-bearing ministry. You must receive before you can overflow!

How is your time with God? Are you rushing through it or, like David, do you not want it to end?

Silencing the Monkeys in the Banana Tree

I came across a quote in an article by Henri Nouwen recently that made me laugh and then made me think:

Your inner life is like a banana tree filled with monkeys jumping up and down.*

This is hilarious … and true … and sad. I’m so distracted with so much. Even as I write this, I have Monday Night Football on and am eating a couple pieces of toast. I’m thinking about my day tomorrow and a meeting I need to plan, and a million other things.


Maybe you’re like me. I sit down to have a time with God every day. Just an hour or so to be close to my Father. To hear from him, talk with him, surrender my day to him. And then the monkeys start jumping up and down.

I really desire to be a man after God’s own heart, and I know that starts in solitude with God. Nouwen defines solitude as “being with God and God alone,” and we need to create space in our lives for that. But it’s so hard to spend time with God alone when the monkeys are in the trees.

God wants to tell me, You are my beloved. You matter to me. Be still and know I am your God. But I still hear the monkeys constantly chattering, What about what you thought about last night? Try harder. Work more. Prove you are beloved. You can’t. You’re not good enough.

For me, this is all part of what it means to become more like Christ, who heard the same monkeys chattering and yet was not distracted by them. He was able to stay focused on hearing God’s voice above all the noise. As Nouwen put it,

Jesus listened to that voice all the time, and he was able to walk right through life. People were applauding him, laughing at him; praising him and rejecting him; calling “Hosanna!” and calling “Crucify!” But in the midst of that, Jesus knew one thing—I am the beloved; I am God’s favorite one. He clung to that voice.

In the same article, Nouwen says that solitude with God comes first, and then community and then ministry. This is important for people who desire to be leaders after God’s own heart, leaders who bear fruit because we are connected with Jesus. But more on this in upcoming posts.

So … how do you silence the monkeys? What do you do to be with God and God alone?


* from the article, “Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry,” Leadership magazine, Spring 1995.

 

 

The Counter-Intuitive Cure for Leader Stress and Burnout

I am finishing up preparation for my trip to Brazil next week, speaking a total of 10 times at a Cell-Church Conference there. Because I’ll be away from home for about 12 days, I am also working on four writing assignments that are due by the end of the month but must be done this week.

Yes, I feel the stress!

Oh, by the way, the topic I’ve been asked to speak about is “Leader Burnout.”

Many things can cause leaders to burn out, and one of the big ones, of course, is too much work in too short of time. So what have I done the last several days in the midst of all this pressure and tight deadlines? I’ve spent the first couple hours of each day in worship.

Somehow, when I make my relationship with my Father my #1 priority, all my stress washes away. My other priorities become clearer, and–and I can’t explain how–I get more accomplished. I get more truly meaningful things–things of lasting value–accomplished.

I’ve written here previously about the fact that you need to discover what works best for you in your personal spiritual disciplines. What works for me may not work for you. God created each of us differently, and how we relate with him will look different for each of us.

For me, worship seems to open the door for everything else in my time with God. When I spend time worshiping him, my prayer time and study of his Word is much richer and more meaningful That’s what works best for me.

I’ve created a Worship playlist in YouTube. These are the worship songs that are very meaningful to me. I began with the music playlist from my church and then added other worship songs I like.

Feel free to use my playlist or create your own, if this works for you. But remember, it’s not about the artists, the specific songs, or any external stuff like that. When you worship God, do it in spirit and in truth. That’s the kind of worship the Father loves!

More on Worship:

The Most Important Thing You Do Today: It’s Not Reading the Bible!
What Do You Do When Life Sucks?
Why Don’t We Worship More in Small Groups?
How I Prepare to Spend Time with Go?

Five Straightforward Steps for Making God’s Word a Daily Part of Your Life

I have been writing about the vitality of God’s Word for leaders, whether you lead a small group, a ministry, a church, a business, a family, or yourself. Yesterday I wrote about my love for God’s Word. Like the writer of Psalm 119, I desire to seek God with all my heart (v. 10). Like most humans, I struggle with this. It’s like I’m in a battle … because I am!

Psalm 119 provides a lot of incentive for us to get into God’s Word and learn from it. The psalmist talks about hiding God’s Word in his heart, meditating on it, taking delight in God’s statutes, rejoicing in following God’s commands … but just how do we get there? How do we get to the place where we, like the psalmist, love God’s Word and delight in living according to it?

As I’ve read Psalm 119, I’ve come across a number of hints. Here are five verses that I think helped the psalmist, and can help you and me as well, to make reading, meditating, and obeying God’s Word our way of life:

  1. “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes” (v. 59). It all starts with looking within. Do I have the wisdom to live life well? No. Do I have the power within me to do great things for God? Absolutely not. When I look within me, looking at my own resources, I must confess my deficiency … actually I’m being too kind … I must admit my utter wretchedness. And so, I consider my ways, and that leads me to turn my steps to God’s way. There’s a biblical word for this: repentance.
  2. “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws” (v. 30). The second thing I must do it to choose. God has given you and me the freedom and the will to make our own choices. Like Joshua, I have chosen to serve the Lord (24:15). The personal choice you make is more than an intellectual decision or an emotional response, although both of those are involved. It is a decision of the will. Note how many times in Psalm 119 the phrase “I will” occurs. The psalmist had chosen as a matter of his will to follow God and to study God’s Word.
  3. “This has been my practice: I obey your precepts” (v. 56). Making this decision means putting it on your schedule. You make it a normal part of your everyday practice. When preachers talk about spiritual disciplines, they often start here. But you can’t skip the first two vital steps! The psalmist had made the reading of, meditating on, and obedience to God’s Word his practice. It had become a regular discipline for him, but I’m sure it was anything but routine! A word of warning here. This is the step where sometimes people make this whole thing Pharisaical; that is, legalistic. Jesus called the religious leaders hypocrites because they honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from God (Matthew 15:7-9; cf. Isaiah 29:13). Make God’s Word a part of your everyday life because you desire to know God and his ways. Dive into the Scriptures because you love God and desire to develop a stronger relationship with him.
  4. “I will not neglect your word” (v. 10). Sometimes we get off to a good start but then something happens to disrupt the good practices we have developed. Life gets busy. The holidays come. The boss demands more. The kids get sick. We get sidetracked. We just don’t feel like it. Satan gets busy. Actually, all those excuses can be summarized in the last one: Satan gets busy in our lives. He and his foul friends hate when we turn to God and take joy in his Word. Our commitment to the kingdom of God is a threat to his earthly kingdom. And this is why you and I need good, strong, caring, God-seeking friends. It’s why you and I need a small group where people are asking us regularly about how we’re doing. It’s why the guys in my men’s group regularly ask one another what we’re reading in God’s Word. We all need encouragement and accountability for the commitments we’ve made in life.
  5. “I will always obey your law, for ever and ever” (v. 44). There is some firm finality in the psalmist’s words. He has made a resolute long-term plan to live his life a certain way: God’s way, according to God’s Word.
I’m in. I’ve considered my ways; I’ve chosen; I’m making this my practice. I won’t neglect it. From here on out, I will always live by God’s Word.
How about you?

 

PREVIOUS POSTS ON CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP FROM PSALM 119

A Christian Leader’s Confession: I Love God!
Want to Be a Good Leader? Start Here!

A Christian Leader’s Confession: I Love God’s Word!

I love God’s Word. 

To some people that might sound weird. A little fanatical. Some may even say my love is misplaced: it’s OK to enjoy reading the Bible,but you should reserve your love for God, right?

The Bible is more than just a book to read. It’s different than Tom Sawyer or Atlas Shrugged or Twilight. The Bible is more than just words on pages; it’s active and alive. It is an integral part of the relationship between us and God. And it’s more than just the way God communicates with us. The apostle John called Jesus the Word (John 1:1) the Word that became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).

In the psalms, especially Psalm 119, God’s love, salvation, and promise are intimately connected with his Word (119:41). As we come to Scripture, we must start with relationship; otherwise the reading of God’s Word can become legalistic and we will not fully understand it.
Yes, I love God’s Word. It’s not drudgery to read it. I delight in it and look forward to meditating on it, so that I can hear from my Creator Father, the One who loves me so much he came to sacrifice himself for me.

for I delight in your commands
because I love them.
I reach out for your commands, which I love,
that I may meditate on your decrees (Psalm 119:47-48).

Note the actions in these verses: the psalmist says he “reaches out” for God’s commands. This is not a passive faith, but a very active, aggressive pursuit of God. 

This psalm often talks about the value of meditating on God’s decrees. Note that this is far more than just reading the Bible. Meditating means we really think about and even feel what God is saying to us. It involves listening intently and patiently. When I read a passage and meditate on it, I ask God questions, such as: What does this mean? What are you saying to me? How does this relate to me? How can I live this out? What are you promising me here? What are you telling me to change? How are you encouraging me? How are you challenging me? How does this affect my relationships with you, Father, and with others?

The Holy Spirit is active and moving when we take time to meditate on God’s Word.

By the way, I can’t meditate on God’s Word in 5 or 15 minutes a day. This can’t be rushed any more than a relationship with your spouse or child or friend can be rushed.

What is your attitude when it comes to the Bible? How does your attitude compare to the psalmist’s?
Do you love God’s Word? If this is a struggle for you, stay tuned. I’ll speak to this more soon.

PREVIOUS POSTS ON CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP FROM PSALM 119

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