Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quiet Righteousness

These are my notes for tomorrow's Sunday school class:

Can one person make a difference in our world? We live in a world with overwhelming problems.

~One hundred million children live on the streets of the world's cities, a world of drugs, crime, and abuse.
~Physical and sexual abuse damage over 625 million of the world's children.
~It is estimated that almost 6 million children fall prey to pedophiles every year.
~Three hundred thousand boys and girls have been forcibly made into child soldiers.
~Twelve million people fled their countries because of wars, disasters, and environmental collapse in 2003. Another 24 million people had to leave their homes for the same reasons, but stayed within their countries. The vast majority were women and children.
~Forty million people are infected with AIDS.
~Fifteen million children under the age of 15 have lost their parents to AIDS. By next year, the number is expected to double. (Get Your Hands Dirty, edited by Doug Priest and Nicole Cesare, pp. 62-68)

As we consider the Christmas narratives over the next few weeks, we will be looking at rather ordinary men and women who made a difference in their world by being faithful to God and his calling on their lives. They also faced overwhelming problems.

~In the Roman Empire, a child was not accepted into the family until the father accepted him or her. If not accepted, the child would be abandoned. Unless they were found by people who would raise them to be exploited as slaves or prostitutes, they would die of exposure to the weather or wild animals.
~The majority of the Roman Empire's population lived as slaves. If they escaped, they could be executed legally by their owners.
~The rulers were evil, paranoid, and cruel.
~The common people were at the mercy of people who had little understanding of mercy, and even less appreciation for it.

In such a world, we could easily become discouraged and give up. We do not have the knowledge, the wealth, or the influence to solve all the world's problems.

Neither did Joseph, the husband of Mary and the man who would help her bring up Jesus as a Son.

But he did make a difference. And he did it in a quiet and unassuming way.

In fact, as hard as you may look, you will never find one word spoken by Joseph in the Bible. He may have been a quiet man, but he filled a significant role in events that have affected all of us.

Let's read a couple of passages about Joseph as we consider his role in Christ's story and his character: Matthew 1:18-25; 2:13-23.

In Matthew 1:19, Joseph is called "a righteous man." In other words, he was a man who lived in a right relationship with God and with other people. If we are to make a genuine and lasting difference in this world like Joseph did, we will need to be righteous, too. We will need to live in a right relationship with God and others.

If you look back in your life at the people who have made a positive impact for God on you personally, you will probably remember someone who was righteous. I remember the man who baptized me. I was attending the Plainview Church of Christ in Catoosa as a teenager. It was a small congregation with a history of preachers who did not strike me as being very righteous, as I understand the meaning of righteousness today. They seemed to be rather hard to get along with. But then John Hurn, a high school science teacher, came to our church as our part-time preacher. During those years, he and his wife changed the atmosphere of the congregation. He would smile and laugh. He would listen when you had a problem or concern. He would visit members at home, at work, and in the hospital. He would preach the Bible faithfully and love the people he was preaching to. He once told me, "I want to be conservative in my doctrine and liberal in my love." And he was. I had never been exposed to a preacher like him, and it made a profound impact on my much so that he baptized me after a couple of years.

That was the kind of righteousness we see in Joseph, the kind of righteousness that takes God seriously and treats people properly.

Joseph was a man who paid attention to God's word. You will notice that every time he received a message from God by the angel, Joseph believed it and obeyed it. That's the kind of faith that makes a difference in the world.

If we are to make a difference, we will need to be listening to God's word, too. We will need to be involved in hearing the message of the Bible, whether by reading it every day or listening to it on CD or in some other way.

Then, like Joseph, we need to believe it. Our faith must be grounded in the promises of God. If we doubt God and his word, we will not be able to persevere when difficulties arise. Joseph faced difficult decisions, but he believed the word of God every time it was revealed to him. And because he believed, he made the right decisions.

He obeyed God based on his faith in God's word. We need to do the same if we are going to overcome the challenges of life. If we listen to God's word telling us to turn away from our sins, we need to obey. If we hear God telling us to stop cussing, gossiping, looking at pornography, or lying, we need to obey. If we hear God calling us to give up our old lives, be baptized, and live new lives for him, we need to obey. If we hear God telling us to care for a widow, forgive someone who has hurt us, mentor a child without a parent, or visit a co-worker in the hospital, we need to obey. It's an obedient faith in God that makes a difference in this world. That's why Joseph made a difference in his world.

Joseph also made a difference because he had a generous spirit. When he found out about Mary's pregnancy, he could have called for her death. It was perfectly legal. But his generous spirit would not allow him to do it, no matter how deeply he had been hurt and embarrassed by the news. When Jesus was born, Joseph could have rejected him. He knew that Jesus was not his biological son. But Joseph's generosity prompted him to care for the boy as any decent father would.

We need the generous spirit of Joseph in order to make a difference in our world, too. People around us are facing difficult circumstances and are vulnerable. They need our help rather than our judgment. If you are like me, you have seen a few co-workers rightfully fired for drug abuse, stealing, or some other violation of the rules or law. During those times, they have been vulnerable. They have known that they had done wrong and possibly ruined their careers (if not their lives). Those are the times when they need a phone call or a personal visit from a Christian who is willing to help. It may be the last thing they expect, but they will never forget someone who cares about them during a crisis. It could make a difference for eternity.

Finally, Joseph made a difference because he was a responsible and brave man. He risked his reputation by staying with Mary. People must have wondered whether he had gotten Mary pregnant. If so, he would not have been seen as righteous by his neighbors, no matter how good a man he actually was. But he was willing to embrace a bad reputation in order to care for his wife and her child. In fact, he was willing to risk his life to protect them from a bloodthirsty king who wanted Jesus dead.

As Jim Roberts has taught us, we need courage like Joseph's in order to make a difference. We need to be responsible even when it makes us look bad, even when we could face harm. Men, this is a special challenge for us. We are responsible for loving and protecting our wives and children in selfless ways, just like Joseph did. We need to be looking out for danger and doing our best to guide our families through it. This could mean signing up for a health insurance policy for our families, reading a devotional or biblical passage at the dinner table instead of watching the Simpsons (or the news or sports or whatever else may be on) in front of the TV while we eat, or a number of other things. Whatever our circumstances, we need to exert the courage to be responsible in our spheres of influence.

It's no wonder that the Bible calls Joseph "a righteous man." He was the perfect man to fill the role of a father for Jesus while he was on Earth. We can learn a lot from him, and in some ways, be like him today. If we do that, our world will be a better place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Challenging Story

I read this story in the latest edition of One Body magazine:

"Dad (Don DeWelt) was holding the audience in the palm of his hand as he told them a fascinating story of how he had met a wealthy man on a flight into Joplin. It seems that this businessman was a dedicated Christian who was anxious to use his resources for the sake of the kingdom.

"The auditorium became as still as a tomb as my father went on to say that this newly discovered friend and brother had made an incredible offer. Dad had been sharing with this brother his own passion for the lost and how he wished he could motivate people to care more about people who needed to know Jesus. Then came the bombshell. This wealthy and now convicted believer said that he would be willing to pay any Christian the sum of $1,000 for every person that they would lead to the Lord during the next twelve months. All they had to do was report in to my dad with the specifics and the money was theirs! As this information was relayed to the audience, the attention level began to reach record levels! In fact, though a very young man at the time, I was even paying attention.

"Try to imagine what happened next as my father followed up by stating that he had simply said to the businessman that he was sure that no one would be interested! His reasoning? He told him that he was certain no real Christian would do for money (I think he said 'filthy lucre') what they would not do on their own for the pure love of the Lord!

"The audience had stopped breathing! Then with a masterful smile, he simply added, 'Now, I just made that whole story up to see if you were listening!' After a split second, the audience broke into laughter, although there were many nervous sidelong glances" (Chris DeWelt, One Body, Fall 2008, Volume 25, Number 4, page 21, "Don DeWelt and Motivation to Reach the Lost").

"For Christ's love compels us..." (2 Corinthians 5:14).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The National Missionary Convention Part 2

"Should I not be concerned about that great city?" (Jonah 4:11b)

Janet, Christopher, and I returned to the National Missionary Convention this morning for a session on urban ministry. Dave Smith, an urban minister in New York City, presented a workshop on the importance of reaching the major urban areas of the world.

We had expected an emphasis on the kind of work being done by the Contact Church of Christ in Tulsa, an emphasis on reaching the urban poor. Dave Smith touched on that topic, but his emphasis focused on reaching the immigrants and the influential.

He noted that most immigrants come to the major cities in order to find work. As they move in, they are more receptive to Christians who are willing to help them and who are willing to share their faith with them. Many immigrants work in the major cities of America and then return to their homelands. If they were to become followers of Jesus Christ, many of them could carry the message of Christ back to countries closed to American missionaries. By reaching the cities, we can reach the world.

Mr. Smith also talked about the importance of reaching out to the educated, influential, and wealthy in the cities. If the people on Wall Street were guided more by the biblical ethics of concern for others, integrity, and the glory of God, would the world be facing the current economic turmoil? What if people in the arts were touched by the gospel? Would the theater, movies, music, and television more frequently be redemptive rather than degrading? Despite their apparent self-sufficiency, the wealthy and influential need Christ as much as anyone.

Dave Smith did a great job of encouraging Christians to open their eyes to the possibilities of reaching people in the major cities of our country and the world.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The National Missionary Convention

"He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15).

Janet and I spent the morning at the National Missionary Convention of the independent Christian Churches, which is in Tulsa for the first time since 2001. We spent the morning in the first worship session with Mark Moore of Ozark Christian College speaking. Dr. Moore presented an academic sermon about Jesus' first public appearance as a celebrity preacher in his hometown synagogue. He gave some basic background information about historical biblical criticism and the Qumran community in an effort to better understand the context of the account and the emphasis of Jesus' message on that occasion.

Afterwards, we attended a workshop led by Stephanie Reed and her co-workers from Rapha House, a ministry in Cambodia which rehabilitates young women and girls who have been rescued from slave labor and sex slavery. Rapha works closely with International Justice Mission and local authorities who rescue the girls from the brothels. The workshop focused on the need to incorporate the pursuit of justice into missionary efforts. Some people need more than food, clothing, housing, and biblical teaching; they need to be rescued from those who are oppressing them.

Then, we looked through the area with booths from several domestic and international ministries. Janet bought t-shirts from Rapha House for all of us. Each shirt says, "Freedom Fighter: Stop Human Trafficking." (More information about Rapha House can be found at and

We are not sure whether we will return for the convention later this weekend, but it was another good experience. The convention runs through Sunday morning at the Tulsa Convention Center. You can find out more at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dad, Why Do We Always Talk About God at Church?

This was our conversation tonight as I gave Christopher his bath:

"Dad, why do we always talk about God at church?"

"Well, because everything is about God."

"Even you?"

"Even me."

"Even me?"

"Even you."

"Even my toys?"

"Even your toys."

"(Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Colossians 1:15-20).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Prime Directive, the Great Commission, and the Great Commandments

"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'

"Jesus replied: '"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments'" (Matthew 22:34-40).

"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'" (Matthew 28:18-20).

In the Star Trek universe, Starfleet's prime directive restricted its members. The crew of each starship was prohibited from interfering with the cultural values held by alien worlds. Inevitably, the prime directive was violated when the crew of the Enterprise would encounter an alien race enslaving or killing others who were weaker. The crew agonized for a few minutes about violating the prime directive, but they nearly always took action when others were being abused and oppressed. Despite giving lip service to pluralism and moral relativism, deep down, the heroes of the Star Trek series usually knew right from wrong; they could not refrain from trying to relieve injustice.

I am tempted to follow the prime directive. In many ways, life is easier when I don't get involved in solving problems or confronting wrongdoing.

As a Christian, however, I can't afford the luxury of intentional non-involvement. I am called to help people. I can't accept the pluralistic values and moral relativism of Star Trek's prime directive, as appealing as it may be. I have been commissioned to love God with total devotion, love people as I love myself, and reach the world with Christ's message. I cannot live by the values of Star Trek's prime directive and accomplish anything God really values.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reasons to Love Jesus: #2 He Challenges Racism

"When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

"The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)" (John 4:7-9).

Jesus did not mind violating cultural standards. He did not mind breaking stereotypes. He was more concerned about people than meeting social expectations.

Last week, I heard about a family trying to adopt a boy from Belarus, a part of the former Soviet Union known as "white Russia." When the judge presiding over the case learned that the family already had children from Africa, he denied the adoption. He would not allow a boy from his country to join a family with children of different races. His attitude was the antithesis of Christ's attitude. The judge was more concerned about his cultural norms than the child's needs.

Jesus challenges racism. In doing so, he adds to the reasons to love him.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Parable of the Lost Contact Lenses

"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:8-10).

I gained a better appreciation of this parable from Jesus about 3 years ago. Janet, Christopher, and I were on vacation in Memphis, Tennessee. One afternoon, we decided to go swimming in our hotel's swimming pool.

Unfortunately, Janet forgot to take out her contact lenses. When she opened her eyes under the water, they were lost. For the next 45 minutes, Janet held Christopher (who was 2 years old at the time), while I went over every inch of the bottom of the swimming pool several times. We were 500 miles from home. Janet did not want to spend the next several days blind. She did not want to travel home without being able to see anything except blurry images. We were desperate to find those contacts! Finally, after the last contact was found (without damage), we rejoiced like the woman in Jesus' parable. We rejoiced like God and the angels when a sinner repents and turns to God.

The experience helped us to see how much value God places in people. As valuable as the contact lenses were to us, people are even more treasured by God. When we are saved, he parties. When anyone is saved, he parties. That's how much God loves people.

Courage and Confidence

Since I'm at home trying to recover from a stomach virus, I have a little more time to read and write today. So I would like to share a couple of articles this morning.

First, Tim Woodroof has written an excellent piece titled A Time for Courage for the Lookout Magazine. Here is an excerpt:

"If we are not very careful, we will find a way to practice a Christianity that requires no courage. A 'get along' brand of Christianity. A Christianity that involves no boldness, no daring. It is possible to so civilize faith, domesticate it, that its characteristic trait becomes politeness rather than courage, being nice rather than being brave. Armed with such a faith, we need never say 'No' to the world or cause offense or take a stand.

"And yet we are living in times that cry out for courageous faith, for the kind of bravery that causes us to live against the culture, to value things our culture does not cherish, to stand up for matters that matter to God. God has not called us to be pleasant. He has called us to be faithful. And there are times when faithfulness demands courage of us.

"So this week, choose courage. Risk a friendship by speaking about faith. Break a rule for compassion's sake. Have the broken and hurting and neglected stand up and then stand beside them. It's what Jesus would do. Brave Jesus."

The entire article can be found at

In our local newspaper, syndicated business columnist Harvey Mackay has written "Self-Doubt Can be a Motivator to Success." He demonstrates how humility and confidence work together. Here is an excerpt:

"Never confuse confidence with arrogance.

"Confidence allows you to proceed with some reason to believe you will succeed. Arrogance prevents you from examining your decisions, and is almost always a recipe for disaster."

The entire article can be found at

I hope you enjoy the articles.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Will God Unleash Judgment Against America?

In the past, I would have answered with a definite no. For some reason, I believed...

1. God only judged the Israelites.
2. God only judged societies in the Old Testament. In the New Testament era, God limited his judgment to individuals.

I was wrong both times.

While reading the first two chapters of Amos, I noticed that God judged both the Israelites and the pagan societies around them. Israel was held to a higher standard because of its special relationship with God, but other nations were also judged based on how they treated their fellow human beings.

Later, while reading through Revelation, I noticed that Babylon faced God's wrath for its selfishness and blatant violations of basic human dignity (Revelation 18). Realizing that the destruction of Babylon fell fully within the New Testament era, I understood the obvious truth: God still judges societies. He remains involved and in control.

In order to avoid societal destruction, our laws, customs, and actions must respect the needs of people. Otherwise, the collapse of the nation cannot be avoided.

The Cry of the Orphan

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27).

Next week, my favorite radio program will devote a week to covering one of my favorite topics. FamilyLife Today will feature its third annual Cry of the Orphan Week. Each day will be devoted to how Christians can help the orphans of the world. More information concerning broadcast stations and times (as well as podcasts) may be found at Please check out these broadcasts. You will not be disappointed.

More information about caring for orphans can be found at Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reasons to Love Jesus: #1 He Cares About Losers

With this post, I hope to start an occasional--but never ending--series about why I love Jesus.

On one occasion, Jesus met a lost and lonely woman at a well in Samaria (John 4). She was a broken woman, having been married five times. We don't know how each marriage ended. Perhaps a few ended in her husbands' deaths. Maybe others ended in divorce.

Whatever the circumstances may have been, she was not married to the man with whom she was now living. Did she think that by not marrying him, she could protect herself from further heartache when the relationship eventually ceased? Did she not truly trust the man? Did he not trust her? Why were they not married?

Why did she go to the well alone? Did other women shun her because of her history with men? Had she broken their trust? Had they hurt her to the point that life was easier alone than with friends?

We cannot know the answers to such questions, but I can imagine a woman who felt like a failure...a loser in life. I've been there. I was a failure who had sinned and could not find forgiveness. I never felt more like a loser than when I received my Bachelor's Degree in education, but could not bring myself to apply for a teaching position. I felt like a loser when I was 24 years old, single, and without a prospective date--much less a potential wife. I felt like a failure when, after 9 years of marriage and trying to have children, I was still without a child.

Jesus, however, did not see a loser. Sure, he saw a sinner. He saw someone who was lost and lonely, but he did not see a loser. He saw someone who needed some attention. He saw someone who needed care. He saw someone who needed help. He saw someone who needed a Savior.

Jesus changed the woman's life. He revealed his identity to her. He gave her a purpose and a sense of dignity. She became the person who led her village to Christ.

Jesus changed my life, too. He forgave me of my sins. He provided me with a good job. He gave me an outstanding wife and a terrific son. He gave me purpose and a sense of dignity, too. He gave me a life I could not have imagined.

Why do I love Jesus? Because he cares about losers like me!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wrestling Lessons

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12, New King James Version).

Our son Christopher started wrestling last week. It's a new experience for all of us.

So far, we are learning two major lessons.

First, wrestling takes preparation. It takes conditioning. Christopher has never worked so hard physically. He is getting in shape and learning the rules. Every day, he walks away better prepared to face an opponent.

Second, passive wrestlers do not win. Christopher is beginning to learn that he needs to be assertive to win. When taken down, he needs to fight to get back up. He cannot relax and expect to defeat an opponent.

In many ways, successful Christian living mimics successful wrestling.

Christians need preparation. We need to study the Bible and pray. We need coaching from those who have experience. We need to know the rules of the game of life. If we are disciplined and motivated, we are better prepared to face the enemy.

We also need to be assertive. We cannot win battles by being passive. When taken down, we need to fight to get back up. We fight with the weapons and Spirit of God; but in order to win, we must fight. We cannot surrender and expect to defeat our opponent.

Let's approach life prepared to take on the challenges!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Progess Against Human Trafficking in the USA

Earlier this year, I posted a story about Craigslist and its involvement in human trafficking (see

Today, I want to share some good news about Craigslist from USA Today:

"Craigslist promises prostitution purge

"The website Craigslist pledged Thursday to crack down on ads for prostitution, part of an agreement forged with state attorneys general across the nation. Under the agreement, anyone who posts an 'erotic services' ad will be required to provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card. The website will provide that information to law enforcement if subpoenaed.

"Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said the deal will allow legitimate escort services to continue advertising, while discouraging companies conducting illegal business. Craigslist, which posts 30 million ads every month, also will begin using new search technology to help authorities find missing children and victims of human trafficking, Buckmaster said" (USA Today, November 7, 2008, page 3A).

Friday, November 07, 2008

What Do Pro-Life Christians Do Now?

As everyone knows, Senator Barack Obama has been elected to the presidency of the United States of America. He is committed to enacting the Freedom of Choice Act, a piece of legislation that would nullify 35 years of modest pro-life political victories. Parental involvement laws would be nullified. Restrictions on government funding of abortions would be nullified. Informed consent laws would be nullified. Partial-birth abortions would be legal again. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and hospitals would not be protected by laws designed to keep them from being forced to participate in abortions against their conscience. In addition, President-elect Obama is committed to appointing pro-abortion judges to all levels of the federal courts.

As bad as that may be, it gets even worse. Americans elected a very strong pro-abortion Congress.

In addition, voters in South Dakota rejected an initiative petition which would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and serious threats to the mother's health. In Colorado, voters rejected a proposal to define conception as the point at which life begins. In California, voters rejected a law requiring parental notification before a minor could undergo an abortion procedure.

The pro-life position was soundly defeated across the nation. Americans spoke clearly. They do not want the government to protect their pre-born children.

So what do pro-life Christians do now?

First, we refuse to give up. If we abandon this fight, more lives will be lost and more hearts will grow calloused. If we continue the effort to save lives, a few will be saved, even if we lose major battles.

Next, we pray for a change of heart. What would happen if President Obama recognized his negligence and took responsibility to protect pre-born children? The course of history could change.

Then, we must attempt to preserve every victory possible. Our political priority must be to stop the Freedom of Choice Act from becoming law.

Finally, we need to do the harder work. We cannot be content to complain and condemn. We cannot be content to be involved in the politics of the issue. We must be involved personally in the lives of the people who need help. This may take different forms, such as...

*Being willing to open our homes to homeless pregnant girls
*Adopting a child
*Volunteering at a pro-life pregnancy resource center or adoption agency
*Listening to and counseling our children and their friends as they make decisions about their lives
*Helping a pro-life urban ministry

However we choose to make a difference, we must become servants, not merely critics.

Will we regain lost ground? Will we preserve our gains? I cannot say. But even if we are destined to lose, let's lose with honor, courage, and integrity. The pro-life cause is noble and just. Win or lose, we cannot quit. Compassion forces us to keep trying. Lives are at stake.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Leadership Lessons from the Elections

"The world belongs to the enthusiast who keeps his cool" (Sign outside a United Methodist Church in Jenks, Oklahoma).

As a husband, father, and Bible teacher, I have some leadership responsibilities. As such, I look for ways to improve as a leader. As I have paid attention to the elections this year, I have noticed an interesting contrast in a couple of the candidates that could help me as I seek to lead my family and others in a better manner.

President-elect Barack Obama never lost his cool during the campaign. He never became flustered. He never appeared irritable. He may have been surprised, but he never panicked. As a result, when crises came, he instilled confidence in his supporters. He infected them with his sense of confidence. They felt prepared to handle anything, because he seemed to be so strong.

On the other hand, Governor Sarah Palin appeared defensive and insecure, especially when questioned by the media. When Katie Couric asked her a simple question about the magazines she reads, Governor Palin seemed strangely evasive and defensive. Even her staunchest supporters were at a loss to explain her behavior. As a result, they became defensive and insecure. As they sensed her weakness, they became weak and unstable.

This observation has tremendous implications for anyone in any position of leadership, but I want to apply it to the family. In order to have a strong family, I need to be stable and self-controlled. If I give in to irritability, anxiety, and a defensive mindset, I become an unhealthy influence on those who depend on me. We, as a family, will be positioned for failure. If I approach challenges with a sense of confidence and self-control, I become a healthy influence,
and my family is positioned to succeed.

The same could be said for an employer, manager, elder, deacon, minister, coach, teacher, or a leader in another field.

Good leaders remain calm and self-controlled as they confront problems and issues. When they do, they inspire the confidence others need to tackle those problems and issues together with them.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Challenge to Men

"Yale sociologist Stephen B. Clark says flatly, 'Men have a natural tendency to avoid social responsibility.' Without a vibrant, spiritual solution, this pattern of passivity grows effortlessly. It is now more and more prevalent in American men, and it is breeding death to our culture.

"Families cry out for men who will do more than 'tune out' when they come home from work. Kids want dads who are involved, dads who provide moral and spiritual direction, dads who are affirming and life-giving. Women want men who will protect them, not use them. Society needs men who will stand for moral absolutes. But we must stop and ask, 'Where are these men?' And, 'What will become of our families in their absence?'" (Robert Lewis, Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father's Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood, p. 53).

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Why Did Sinners Eat with Jesus?

"When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the 'sinners' and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" (Mark 2:16).

As interesting as the Pharisees' question was, I would rather know: Why did sinners eat with Jesus? We know that he ate with them because he loved them, wanted to connect with them, and wanted to save them from their sins. But what drew them to him? Why would they want to be with him?

After all, Jesus Christ was not exactly a morally compromising man. His standards were higher than anything they had ever heard. He not only condemned wrong actions, he condemned wrong motives and attitudes. No one on earth held to as strict a standard as did Jesus.

In addition, Jesus was known to challenge those who wanted to get close to him. He told one man that the man should not be concerned about burying his father. He challenged a rich young man who was interested in following him by telling him that if he really wanted eternal life, he needed to give away everything he owned. He warned people that they would be persecuted--and very possibly killed--for following him. He referred to a non-Jewish woman as a her face. He considered his closest friends to be mentally slow. He even called one of them "Satan" in a moment of disagreement. Jesus did not exactly make it easy to be a disciple.

Finally, why would sinners want to hang out with someone who preached about hell so often? In the entire Bible, nobody spoke about hell and the final judgment more than Jesus Christ did.

Jesus seemed to be the last person on earth with whom sinners would enjoy spending time, but contrary to all expectations, they came to him by the thousands. They wanted to be in his presence. They loved him. When he finally started a church, it was a megachurch on the first day of its existence. What can explain his appeal to sinners?

First, I believe, Jesus loved people. He was willing to help those in need. He was willing to defend those who were being abused. He was willing to confront the abusers. He was willing to die for people. It's hard to resist people who love you.

Jesus was also authentic. He was honest. He never tried to deceive anyone about who he was or what he expected. He never tried to be someone else. He was secure in his identity. It's difficult to resist authentic and secure people who love you. They are like magnets, attracting people who need honesty, security, and love in their lives.

In addition, Jesus presented a message with substance to it. He did not insult people with messages designed to simply make people feel good about themselves. He told people about the deep-seated sins within them. He warned them of the consequences. He informed them about God's standards. He let them know about God's love for them. He told them how much God wanted to be with them forever. He called for them to trust in him and to turn from their sins. He did not present a message of legalistic requirements or material prosperity. He presented a message of love, faith, repentance, responsibility, and grace. When an authentic, secure, and loving man's words are characterized as words of substance, people are drawn to him. Who would not want to listen to such a man?

Of course, the list could go on and on. But if I had the opportunity to eat dinner with Jesus Christ, I would want to be there, too. Wouldn't you?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Power of Seeking a Consistent Christian Lifestyle

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9).

Last year, while visiting family members in Arkansas, we heard their minister Jackie Chesnutt make a powerful point in a sermon that Sunday morning. He asked the congregation, "How would you like to be able to donate $5,000 to an orphanage?" Jackie explained that he knew that few members of the church could make such a large one-time contribution. However, he told the story of a member of the congregation who had donated $25 a month for over 20 years to a Christian charity. He never could have made a large one-time donation, but his small donations over a number of years added up to a large sum of money. Jackie was illustrating the impact of our small but consistent good deeds for the sake of Christ in the world.

Jackie's story gives hope to those of us who may never be able to accomplish anything close to what we would like to do. I may never be able to give a $5,000 donation to an adoption agency, but I can give some money every month. I cannot match Bill Gates' donations to alleviate global poverty, but I can sponsor a child in the Dominican Republic for a few dollars every month. I may not be able to fill stadiums around the world with people eager to hear me talk about Jesus, but I can put in a good word for him on my job (or even on my blog). I may not be able to reverse the divorce rate in America, but I can love my wife. I may not be able to prevent every case of child abuse or neglect in the world, but I can love my son.

I can't do everything I would like to do, but by the grace of God, I can do something. I simply need to persevere. Eventually, I hope to see a positive cumulative effect from consistently seeking to honor Christ and love people.

(Please check out Jackie Chesnutt's blog in my blog roll. You will find consistent encouragement in your walk with God.)