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Posts tagged with: leadership

WHAT IS FAITH?

I am reading a book by a man I met the other day named Mike Breen. The book is titled, “Building a Discipling Cuture.” There is a section where Mike writes about Faith. I’m not quoting him exactly here, so you’ll have to purchase his book to get the perfect version of what he said. Breen writes about how people seem to mistakenly think that Faith is “spelled” RISK. But he writes about how that notion is wrong. He says that Faith is “spelled” SURE. In my opinion his writing is right! Hebrews 11:1 backs this idea up. That passage says this, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” The author of Hebrews doesn’t mention the word risk in this famous passage, but the author does mention surety and confidence. Thus the image below of me with a three year old alligator. I had total faith that this alligator would not bite me. It was not risky for one second to hold this alligator. How did I know? I had faith because I was sure and confident that the black tape around its mouth would hold it shut! I checked this gator out completely. I was able to feel and inspect this alligator’s feet, tail, belly, nostrils, teeth, and eyes. It was cool. Again…I had faith/confidence/surety that I would not be harmed. And I wasn’t.

In our relationship with God, faith isn’t about risk. Faith is about confidence. I think it’s fair for me to say that God only has great intentions for your life. To listen to God, to obey God…isn’t risky…unless you idolize this life and the stuff you have. If you are faithful to God and lose your life, lose your head, get tortured, lose your material goods, etc., in the big picture of eternity did you really lose anything? Or in that ‘loss’ did you really gain everything?

If you are afraid to do what God says because you are afraid you will be embarrassed, or afraid that you will lose your life, or afraid that you will lose your material goods…then what you should really be afraid of is the fact that your god is your reputation/life/material goods, etc. Having anything other than the Lord as your God is the greatest risk of ‘faith’ you could have.

If you have faith in God and do what He says you should do…you are living the ultimate secure life. For even if you lose everything you have, including your very life…you actually gained everything for eternity. That should give us all confidence and surety and hope. That should prod us on into the future with our heads held high and our focus on the finish line of the faith in Jesus Christ. This life is short and leaves us wanting.

Jesus fulfills. Only Jesus makes us full. There are no risks in Jesus as long as you don’t love this world and everything in it too much. When we have that kind of faith, then there is only confident assurance of our eternal status. There is no greater life than living for Jesus. Have faith. Be faith. Reek of faith!

What is God asking of you?
What are you doing about it?
Have faith!


Hydrate — Winning from the inside 35 (Matthew 7:6) Pearls, Pigs & Dogs

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6

Jesus used some crazy illustrations. I imagine He fascinated His listener of His day. I’m fascinated by what He says just by reading it. This Bible passage has been used to teach many personal agendas. The passage is vague enough that I believe its okay to use this passage to make all kinds of conclusions. I intend, before this post is over, to make a specific point using this passage to teach about dogs and pigs in the form of people. Before I write my intended point, I think it would be healthy to take a quick shot at what Jesus literally meant when He taught this passage referenced.

In passages throughout the Bible about judging, we can read that we aren’t to judge unbelievers…and “dogs” was a slang term for unbelievers, in Jesus’s time. I think that Jesus is saying that we shouldn’t try to use Biblical ideas/principles/wisdom to try to help or teach unbelievers through their problems because they do not even believe the Bible to be true at this point in their life. I have tried this. I have tried to talk to unbelievers about their problems and have quoted parts of the Bible to them. I found it thrown back in my face. Almost with hostility. (Have you ever purchased a Bible and gave it as a gift to a non-believer? It has a tendency to turn the stomach of the recipient. It seems to backfire.) It is giving something sacred to a “dog” or a “pig”. When its all said and done, the sacred gets defiled and the pig just stays muddy. I think that’s what Jesus literally means. The solution is to love unbelievers as they are and when they start believing, they will open themselves up to the “pearls.” Its better to wait than to try to force feed the Bible to someone who isn’t ready for such a huge meal.

The rest of this blog is biased by what I want to write about. I want to write about “CHANGE” as the sacred pearls and the dog and/or pig could be anyone of us at any given time in our life.

I grew up on a large farm in the NW corner of Kansas. (Oakley KS) My parents still live there and it is now quite fun to take my wife and 4 children there to experience farm life. At the Renner Farm we have always had a dog and have had significant periods of time where we owned hundreds of pigs. I think that most people believe that dogs, overall, are very intelligent. I’m guessing that most people, however, are not aware that pigs are just as, if not more intelligent than a dog. I know for a fact that most people do not think that pigs are animals of cleanliness. No doubt, every pig likes its mud, but most people do not know that mud is a pigs air conditioner. A pig does not like to get dirty as much as it likes to stay cool. A pig can only sweat through its pores on its nose, which means it can’t sweat much to cool off. It has to use external resources to cool off. A water puddle and mud is to a pig, as a swimming pool is to a kid on a hot summer day! It cools.

There is a point to this lesson about dogs and pigs. Keep reading.

A dog, as it ages and gets accustomed to its comforts and patterns of habit, doesn’t like to change. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” A sweaty pig ends up in cardiac arrest due to heat stroke. “You are sweating like a pig” If a pig can’t sweat enough to cool itself off, then it just sits in the mud with very little movement in the heat of the moment.

Using this beastly illustration is my attempt to teach on change or the ability to change. Are there moments in my life where I act like a dog? Are there moments in my life where I act like a pig? My answer to those questions is yes. Sadly we all can act like dogs and pigs when it comes to needing change. The remaining post below is an all out assault on the human pigs and dogs that exist today. On rare occasions I personally need the following assault.

**WARNING** If you are offended by the remainder of this post you are most definitely resisting learning a new trick or you are willfully stuck in the mud. Or, to say it succinctly, you are a dog or you are a pig. Hopefully not both…I’m not sure what that would even look like.

How do we know if we are morphing into a dog or a pig?

Its simple…I am becoming a pig or a dog if I am resistant to change something that needs to change.

The piggly or doggedly things in us start to surface when someone else suggests the need for change in our lives. I have realized, through a couple of surprise life altering encounters in my recent past, that there are some underlying issues that cause us to not want to change. Show me where legitimate change is needed but is not happening and we will also find the underlying reasons as to why those who need to change are not. The number of things I am going to list is not complete. You may be able to think of some other reasons. If you can think of others, please share them with me in the comment section as I want to continue to be a learner and change agent.

Below are the main reasons why people don’t like to change. Or…below are the things that Jesus says causes Christians to become “Dogs” or “Pigs.”

SELF PRESERVATION – You want what you want! Its pretty simple really. A pig and a dog have a narrow focus. They think about their immediate desires and they pursue it. Anything that gets in the way of their selfish desire…well…have you ever experienced an attack from a dog? Have you ever listened to a hunter talk about being attacked by a wild pig? Encountering an angry dog or pig is terrifying. These creatures only think about their immediate desires and when those desires are being threatened, the fight or flight method kicks in. In the Church world, if pigs and/or dogs don’t get what they want, their fight or flight method kicks in. The fight method causes for long meetings and then extra special meetings after THE original meeting. The fight method in the church reveals who is really in charge. The fight method brings the worst out of people and reveals what is settled in their heart. If the fight method doesn’t surface, then that leaves the flight method. Its hard to say this, but it’s spoken in love. When pigs and/or dogs don’t get what they want in the Church and they don’t want to fight, then they just leave until they find what they desire. Churches that are dying, are really just hospices for the pigs and the dogs. I don’t mean that in a mean spirited way, I say it in total love and truth telling. If I refuse to change in areas that change is required, so success and fruitfulness can happen again, then bottom line, I am selfish. I am acting like a dog or a pig and I don’t deserve the pearls that God would have me manage. Self-Preservation is a sin that morphs christians into pigs and dogs.

EGO – “I like what I like and I think my ways are the best ways.” That sentence, which is a thought and very rarely spoken, is riddled with ego. Let me be clear about something. Ego in itself, is not a bad thing. Ego, in its simplest form, is confidence. As long as someone’s ego doesn’t rise higher than their ability or integrity, then that ego is a okay…it is confidence. Was it not ego for Jesus to say, “I am the way, the truth and the life”? The Apostle Paul had ego. David had ego. Goliath had ego. Jezebel had ego. The instant their ego level went higher than their integrity, they were disciplined by God. (Pride comes before the fall.) How they responded to their discipline determined if God allowed them to reestablish their influence or not. Repentance is huge! A dog and a pig are both confident that their way is the right way. The dog likes the tricks he is able to perform. The pig loves the cool comforts of its stagnant mud hole. The dog has learned to selfishly entertain itself with its old tricks and only gathers with other dogs and pigs that like those same old tricks. The pig has been laying in its mud hole for so long it doesn’t smell the stench anymore. Understanding this helps us realize how easy it is to become a dog and a pig. The dog and the pig see no need to change. Change would make them uncomfortable. To learn new tricks would require sacrifice as they worked through a new learning curve and would require admitting that their old trick used to be good. The pig would have to risk getting out of the mud, which takes a lot of effort, and could cause over heating issues as they stepped into the light. The dog’s ego prevents it from experiencing the thrill of new tricks. The pig’s ego prevents it from experiencing fresh mud holes down the road.


A typical pig or dog, at this point, would ask, “who gets to determine what tricks or mud holes are the right ones or not? They would ask, what makes you think your mud pit and your tricks are the right way? The answer to that question is, I don’t know if my idea is the right idea, but what I do know is that your old tricks and your mud pit are not effective anymore. I have found that pigs and dogs are confident of the way they think is right. Christians who are NOT pigs or dogs don’t know what method will work best, they only recognize when a way that used to be the right way no longer is. People who are not pigs or dogs want to leave the old tricks and want to get out of the stagnant mud hole. People who are not dogs or pigs are willing to try something new and they won’t have any of the reasons listed in this post that hold them back.
Pigs and Dogs, due to Self Preservation, are sub-conscienly driven by their own desires. This fact is an integrity problem due to selfishness. This integrity problem begins to rise. The person’s integrity now begins to drop under their ego and now they begin morphing into a pig or a dog. Unknowingly the dog and the pig enjoy being stuck in the mud of old tricks. Worst case scenario is that this reality is the beginning of a slow and safe death. If the worst case scenario doesn’t happen then the pig and the dog quietly slip into the village of average. Some might say that average isn’t so bad. I say that average is invisible. I would prefer death to invisibility. Eventually they end up in the same place. Ineffectiveness. Isn’t that the same as death?

CONTROL – When a person is committed to self preservation, which naturally leads to their integrity level to drop below their ego level, it will progress into the desire to control. Self Preservation + Low Integrity/High Ego = Control. Controlling people are dogs and pigs that will not receive the pearls that God would have them manage. People who refuse to change, keep everything under their control. A good illustration would be like a ship’s captain who refused to listen to the navigator as he warned him of a huge coral reef just ahead. The controlling captain, with all his/her ego and self preservation abounding…controls the ship right into death for all.
Pearls to swine…so tragic and devastating.

AFRAID – Change is suffocated by fearfulness on a daily basis. It is scary to get out of the comfortable smelly mud hole. The possibility of looking stupid as the dog tries a new trick is debilitating. People who refuse to change are really just people overwhelmed by fear. These reasons for not changing feed off of each other. Controlling people are in full tilt self preservation mode because they are afraid of something. Fear could be accused as being the king motivator as to why the pig and the dog even exist in church world. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of failure. Fear of losing a position of power. Share your thoughts with me about this in the comments section.

LAZINESS– Bottom line, its hard work to change. Lazy people hate change. We are busy, stressed, and don’t need more pressure. The pig and the dog lie to themselves, thinking that everything is fine and they don’t want to fix it, if it ain’t broke. The problem is that out of control ego and self preservation have blinded them to the fact that when something isn’t growing it is actually dying. When newcomers enter the old tricks mud pit, he/she notices the tricks are ineffective and the mud is stagnant. The new comer naturally, and even kindly, will mention the smell and age of the tricks, but the pig and the dog are overcome by fear which causes them to resort to control which causes them to fight or flight. Bottom line Pigs and Dogs struggle with being lazy. The pearl is hidden in the new trick and just outside the reach of a mud hole. Its hard work to get to get the new pearls. Jesus is warning us not to throw pearls to swine or give sacred things to dogs. Jesus knows the underlying reasons that are being listed in this post.
My hope in this post is revelation and awareness, not condemnation. I hope the pig and the dog, reading this, don’t see this as condemnation. I hope the pig and the dog realize they aren’t meant to be a pig or a dog, but a New Creation in Jesus Christ that is bent on completing the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do you kill the Pig or the Dog within you?

Kill SELF PRESERVATION by promoting the progress and purpose of other people, more so than your own… Matthew 20:28, For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Stop trying to make Church what you think it should be and make it such that people who are far from Jesus want to come and give their life to Him. Be willing to sacrifice your wants for others. Jesus did. As a Christian you can get what you want on your own outside the walls of church. You can fill your desire for your favorite worship music at home. You can fill your desire for your style of Bible study on your own study time. You can self feed. You are the Christian. Sacrifice your desires for those who are still searching for Christ. Paul said, I become all things to all people so that some may be saved! What a great attitude. Paul was not a pig or a dog.

Kill EGO by considering others as better than yourself. The following passage is adequate for Ego and Self Preservation. Philippians 2:3, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Kill CONTROL by giving it back to God. When you try to control anything, its like you getting in the face of God and screaming at Him, “I can do it better than you, God!” That’s eternally devastating. Romans 8:9 says, But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.”
Kill FEARFULNESS by trusting God at His word. Don’t forget that God wants what is best for you! He doesn’t promise safety, but He promises eternal good to those who live for Him. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Kill LAZINESS by knowing that you work for God, not yourself and certainly not for your selfish desires. Romans 12:11 says, Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.”

Change!
For God’s sake, be willing to change.
Gor the sake of the World, Change.
For the Church’s sake, keep changing the methods, but keep the message the same.

There are pearls/blessings/thrills/adventures/challenges/fruitfulness to be harvested!
Jesus says never give pearls to a dog or a pig.
Don’t be a dog.
Don’t be a pig.


How do I know I’m forgiven and saved?

It is astonishing to me how something as eternally significant as salvation is so erroneously misunderstood and debated. The following rant is the simple truth of what the Bible demonstrates in receiving salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

When we all sinned and separated ourselves from God, starting back with Adam and Eve, we jumped on the bandwagon of independent belief, demonstrating we don’t need God, and therefore traveled this life, on our own, outside of a walk with Christ. This action is sin and God cannot be in relationship with anyone in sin. So, by our choice we separated ourselves from God.

God is the one who wants us back. God is the one who sent Jesus so that the opportunity to be in a relationship with Him again would be available.

Bottom line…God wants all his lost children back. God sent His Son to seek and save the lost. He wants us, His found Children, to work with Jesus in attempting to find all His lost children.

If God is the one who wants the restored relationship with His lost children, why would He make it extremely difficult for them to return? Imagine a Father who lost his child for a long period of time. Then, after searching for that child, finally finding her. However, when he found his lost child, he wouldn’t let her know that she had been found until he first set up a complicated obstacle course. This lost, but now found child, would have to carefully maneuver through his challenging obstacle course to get back to her father, who would now watch how difficult it was for her to run back to him, while he teases her with outstretched arms, waiting for a reuniting hug.

Silly? Isn’t that what Christians do when they fight and argue over how to be saved? I don’t think it’s silly, I think it’s sick. A sick game of setting up obstacle courses for abused and abandoned children trying to get back into the arms of their hero.

Recently, I accepted the Lead Pastor role in a Church. After accepting the position, and traveling 36 hours across the USA to move my family from everything we were comfortable with, I abruptly resigned after just seven weeks. There were multiple and serious dysfunctions that allowed my short effort to permissibly end. One of the lighter dysfunctions was the mentality of the eldership, and some key people in the church whom these elders submitted to, that kept telling me that if an unchurched person walked in the church building wearing inappropriate clothes that I must approach them and ask them to not wear such clothing again. An example of what was inappropriate was brought up and it was something as silly as wearing a “Lady Gaga” T-shirt. I found myself facing my worst nightmare. I was being forced to set up obstacle courses for lost people seeking God. These man made courses were something that lost children of God would have to maneuver through, as they took the risk to enter the doors of a church building, seeking the loving arms of a father who had been calling out to them in the dark for years. I found myself being forced to behave opposite of how Jesus behaved. I had to walk away from such un-Christlike behavior.

Here’s the deal. God is the one seeking. God is the one finding. God is the one saving. God is the one who wants you back. If this is the deal, then why would He make it so difficult to return to Him? The answer…

He doesn’t make it difficult. People do.

Christians need to be shouting from the pulpits and Bible studies, “Relationship! Relationship! Relationship!” But I fear too many circles of people, to make themselves look more fruitful in their lack of seeking and saving the lost, are busi-fying themselves with more knowledge courses and outward appearance courses, and christian obstacle course meetings, all the while eternally lost children of God are screaming, “Somebody Help Me”, and that scream is a lost cry, crying out for their father.

I find it ironic that the best passage in the Bible to teach somebody how to be get back with God is an Old Testament passage. Psalms 51:17…
“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken spirit and repentant heart, O God.”

I know of people who have Heard the Good News of Jesus, Believed Jesus to be Lord of Lords, Confessed Jesus as Lord of their life, and been baptized….BUT…they lacked a broken spirit and repentant heart. Were their actions accepted by God? I’m not the judge. If I were forced to share my opinion, I would say they are not.

I know of people who wore Lady Gaga T-shirts, were guilty of drugs and abusive bodily behavior, people who were so desperate that they had nothing to live off of except what only pigs could eat, who ran back to the Father with a broken spirit and repentant heart, who had not been baptized, or confessed or fully believed…yet were not rejected by God and thus were welcomed into his arms as He wanted to hold his lost child again. The lost now found.

Are they saved? I’m not the judge. But if I were forced to guess, I would say they were.

Salvation is found in a
Broken Spirit
&
Repentant Heart.

The extremists argue with one another about this, as if it’s all supposed to be complicated.

The most extremes are the legalists that believe if you die before you enter the baptism waters you will burn in hell.

The other extreme are the ones I call the epic-gracers (Not to be mistaken with the Church my friend Randy Green started called Epic Grace Church…check them out at www.epicgracechurch.com. Randy Green is one of the best one on one evangelists I know!)

This other extremist type of believers, I’m referring to, believes that people are saved no matter how you live…just say a prayer and you’re good to go, all safe and secure from all alarm.

Neither… as it seems, have broken spirits or repentant hearts.

I am one of the first to show and teach that Hearing, Believing, Repenting, Confessing and Baptism always happened when someone who was lost became saved in the New Covenant of Jesus. But, be it noted, I have participated with people who have done all of those things, but lacked a broken spirit and repentant heart. Outward actions don’t save. Broken spirits and repentant hearts towards Jesus’ blood saves. When one truly recognizes Jesus was brutally murdered because of their sins, it should lead to a broken spirit and repentant heart. God will never reject a broken spirit and repentant heart…no matter what outward actions have or have not happened.

How grateful are you for Jesus dying for your sins?
How broken are you knowing your sin required Jesus’s brutal beating and crucifixion?
How repentant are you? Repentant means 180 degree turn from sin.

Repentance is tricky. Its impossible without a broken heart/spirit.

GOD WILL NEVER REJECT A BROKEN SPIRIT AND REPENTANT HEART TOWARDS JESUS.

Somehow its all been reversed. In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders despised Jesus and fled from Him and the lost flocked to Him.

Today, its just the opposite. The religious magnetically flock to Jesus and the lost don’t want to have anything to do with Him.

Something has changed.
Who changed?
The Holy Scriptures declare in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
One thing I am confident about…Jesus didn’t change.

It’s supposed to be really easy to become Christian…
And
It’s really hard to live as one.

Somehow, certain Christians have made us think that God’s trend is opposite of that. They’ll use the passages of “counting the cost” and “not being people of the world” to make us think that we have to behave before we believe. (I call this ‘theology’ “Behavioral Modification Religion.” )

Believe and belong first. That’s the easy part. The lost getting found!
Once you have been found, now you and I must work on our behavior. Behavior is another word for obey.

Jesus did not say, “if you are lost you must obey me.” One can’t love somebody if you have no relationship with them!
He said…
“If you love me obey me.” John 14:15.

Anyway with the theme above..Its never your job to make sure your brother has his speck removed from his eye before you remove the log sticking out of yours.

Good grief.

I so thank God, that the people in my life did not make me run through an obstacle course to get to Jesus. I wouldn’t have run it. I’d STILL be lost. That’s eternally disastrous.

Please Lord…I beg of you to never allow me to put up obstacle courses in front of the lost children you are wanting back.


THE THREE _______________ ? (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

I love that Bible passage. I have seen it spiritually lived out in so many different ways. I’ve seen it work for good and I’ve seen it work for evil.

I haven’t posted in awhile, so before I get a new routine going again with some blogging about the Teachings and Commands of Jesus, I want to blog about and epidemic crisis going on throughout out too many churches around the world. If what I’m about to write is offensive then I would suggest that “the shoe is fitting you” and God might be using this post as a way to ask you to change.

A triple braided cord is not easily broken. Obviously true or it wouldn’t be in the Holy Bible. If you want to physically experiment the truth of this statement then go grab some dental floss. Take one strand of it and wrap it around a finger on each of your hands and pull and break it. Did you notice how hard you had to pull to break the strand? Now, take 2 strands of similar length and twist them together and repeat. You had to pull much harder to break it…some might not have even been able to break the two strands. Now repeat it, but use three strands that you have actually braided together. Its incredibly hard to break them, nearly impossible!

I have enough of a personal ministry network across the USA that allows me to hear and see many circumstances play out in the every day life of the local church. I hear stories that make me want to fall to my knees and thank God for such incredible news. I hear stories that make my heart ache for the pastor who is having to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I have personally walked through both scenarios. I’ve been around long enough to personally experience both scenarios and seen enough scenarios play out in other places that I have been able to see and link patterns. Its quite fascinating, actually.

The pattern deals with people and leadership.

The stories of triumph are preceded by a church that has a pastor that is connected with his elder board through honoring each other’s strengths and having intense team and trust. I love that kind of triumph.

The stories of walking through the valley of the shadow of death are typically preceded by a gathering of a pastor with a board. Usually the lack of team and trust and the lack of acknowledging each members strengths, this board typically and eventually dwindles to three. I don’t know why three, but I think somehow, someway this Ecclesiastes 4:12 passage ungirds it all.

I don’t need to go into too much detail about the Leadership Board built around strengths and team and trust. You can call the circle of people anything you want because when you boil it all down it’s the same thing. Elders, Deacons, Administrative Team, Corporate officers, Trustees, committees. ITS ALL THE SAME. People with positions of power. When this team of people come together and honor each other’s strengths and rely on each other’s team and trust, this team can accomplish nearly anything. This group of people live the Holy Scriptures in their personal lives. This group knows how to laugh and most definitely do not take themselves too seriously. This group is a group of people that are inspiring to be around. When this group comes together, success happens naturally through organized thinking, holiness, planning, prayer, and vision that is united in what Jesus wants. Period! This group naturally and without resistance rotates its leadership because not one single individual in the circle needs to have the position. Each individual in this group has developed their identity in who Christ says they are, instead of needing the position so they can have an identity. There is a lot of depth in that last sentence. If you pause for even 30 seconds you will be able to think of people in your life that fit both those descriptions. Which person are you? Which person would you rather spend time with…especially in a meeting?

This group of people very rarely, if ever, has the problem of the group shrinking to just 3 people. This group is of such that its actually fun to attend meetings and as birds of a feather flock together, this type of group attracts more people just like them. There’s never a shortage of people to ask to be a part of this type of rich environment. So cool when this happens.

So, there is a flip side to this environment. Again, call the group whatever you want, its all the same. However, this type of group usually has such an environment that it typically ends up only having 3 people who are left in it. Its hard to find new people to fill the absence of those who just couldn’t survive the walk through the valley of death type meetings. Death by meetings. What’s the difference from the description above? Why is there typically just three people left? The difference is simply the opposite of my first description. The Valley of Death environment is lead by a group of people who create their identities based off their position. This position puts them in such a spot that it allows them to pursue their personal interests. When you have a group of people in a meeting where three or more in the group are always vying for their personal preferences, you have, eventually, just three that are left and you end up with an organization that is full of things that these three people wanted. Everybody else in the group just shriveled and then disappeared. There voice wasn’t heard, because the big three continually cut them off and ignore their suggestions. The three people that typically remain are of two different types of people. The first type of three that might remain are the three that are very out-spoken, tend to be a bit arrogant and have a bully type personality about them. They control the meetings. They fight, endlessly, for their personal preferences. This type of person will say that they know what they are doing and that their ideas are God directed. The problem with this, is that they use God as the excuse to pursue their personal interests. The real problem is that each of these bully types will argue for their personal preferences and say that God has given them this position of authority to pursue their idea. Many times they will say that God gave them the idea. Then the next guy will say that God told them something different and has given them the position of authority to make the idea come to fruition. What you have is a meeting where God seems to be schizophrenic and can’t make up His mind, telling one person one thing and the next person something else. These meetings are maddening. They are made up of a few people all fighting for their personal preferences. There is a serious lack of Christ-likeness in these meetings and in a matter of time, there usually are only three left. If its not the 3 bullies that are left, then it usually means that even the bullies got impatient and left, leaving the very kind and gentle people sitting around the table wondering what to do next. This group will be too nice to make any tough decisions so the meetings usually last for hours while the group simply talks about ideas and never activating any of them. This last group of three remaining is very rare… most of the time all you have left in these leadership meetings are the three bullies. They love their position. They get their identity from their position. They individually try to win more followers over so they can get popular vote and power. These kind of people have a lot of meetings before and after the “official” meeting. I call this group of three, “The 3 Kings.” Self-appointed of course. The very kind and soft spoken group of three that rarely remain, we can call them “The 3 Stooges.” Kind of mean, but you get the point.

What the Church needs is a group of men that is described in the first group I wrote about above who all bow down to the real and mighty three. The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. That is the ultimate group of three that can’t be broken. If every Church/Org/Corporation/Gov./etc. were lead by such a group, wow…the world would be better.

Be careful what you think the role of a leadership group is. (Call the group what you want, its all the same.) Be careful if it seems the group that is leading your church carries a heavy stick. Jesus didn’t carry a heavy stick…except to the bullies. Jesus kicked the bullies butts all the time. They eventually killed Him, but then He kicked the bullies butts again 3 days later. What is it with the number 3! Be careful relying on a group of people to give you directions of how you should live your life. You have a Bible for that. I suggest we all follow the great 3.

The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. When those three are leading, incredible things take place, no matter the personalities of the others sitting around the leadership table. Take a look at your organization, your Church, your Government, your personal family. If there is dysfunction of any kind it can be traced, more often than not, to a group of three who are not listening to The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, but are listening first to their personal preferences, which are being swayed by a group of people they are trying to please.

We as God’s creation are better than this. The solution to the problem of ending up with the 3 leftovers, is for everybody to follow the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When you have a group of three left over that aren’t doing this…look out! Danger and Death with hovering everywhere. In the Church world, God nor the Devil is present in this kind of setting. The great 3 show the Lord that they don’t need Him and they lead on. This also dismisses the devil’s need to be present, for when people are in control, the devil doesn’t need to be around to cause chaos, it will be prevalent without him around.

What do you do?
Figure out a way to get the 3 removed. If that is impossible, then remove yourself from the organization and the dysfunction. Life is too short and…there are enough exciting and dynamic organizations/churches/families out there, that you don’t have to be trapped in one that is lead by the 3 Kings or the 3 Stooges.

Choose THE FATHER, THE SON and THE HOLY SPIRIT! It won’t be easy, but its what’s best!

A triple braided cord is not easily broken. This is true if the braid is holy or evil.
Don’t forget that the devil disguises himself as an angel of light.

So, I recommend that you check the fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. While checking, if you find a group of 3 people who say that they know what they are doing and that you just need to trust their leadership…well…choose wisely, your choice will have consequences. Remember that life is challenging enough as it stands and I would recommend that find a group of people who fully submit to only the will of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

They are truly the Great Three.
Keep their desires at the very center of your life.
It won’t be easy, but it will be right!


HYDRATE – Winning From the Inside 31 (Matthew 6:24) Magnify

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

A man named Hippolytus was martyred in Rome in the third century. In the recorded incident it says he was a soldier who participated in the torture execution of St. Lawrence but converted as a result of that martyr’s example. He was then sentenced to be torn apart by horses. I mention this gruesome story for the purpose of trying to brand an image in our brains as to what happens to us (not physically…but every other way) when we try to serve multiple masters.

Have you ever said, “I’m torn between two ideas…I’m not sure what I should do?” Jesus warns us straight up that if you and I have multiple foundational authorities then we will end up hating one and loving the other. Which one do you think we naturally will have a tendency to obey? Its fair to say that if you obey one, that’s the one you love. If you disobey the other, that’s the one you hate. I think we naturally are drawn to love the easy master, the popular master, the master that requires less resistance, less sacrifice. That all sounds good until we think about the other master…the one that requires us to sacrifice, give, work hard, put in the extra effort, pay the price. What’s wrong with taking the easy road? I say, everything! I know you agree with me that the route that requires sacrifice, giving, hard work, extra effort, a price, is the route that is ultimately better for us. It most definitely makes for a better story when its over. But its so natural to want to travel the easy road. When we choose the easy road, who pays the price? The road doesn’t. We do! Why is it that we naturally want to choose the easy, lazy, and damaging path for a short term reward at the cost of a long term lasting reward? Its all crazy! The pull of the two forces is exhausting. We are actually told this in the Bible. The Apostle Paul wrote about it in Galatians 5:17. He said, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” That passage has a heavy feel to it. It paints a picture of a man/woman in a continual wrestling match. A continual wrestling match is exhausting from all perspectives. It leads me to take another look at the picture above of the man being pulled apart.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Paul warns us that the two forces are constantly fighting each other. It doesn’t say that they will constantly being striving to pull you apart, it says they fight each other. This idea gives me hope in that it seems I can train myself to obey the right way every time. Isn’t that a possibility? If I have no hope that I can actually develop the discipline to choose the right path every time, then I am a dejected and hopeless man. Jesus says not to have two masters. Paul says the two masters will continually fight each other. We know that we will be tempted by both masters until we die, but we also know that we get to choose which one wins. This fact comforts me, challenges me, and inspires me to want to win and thus choose the right master/choice every time!

Some might argue and say, “Trent, we are sinners and none of us are perfect, its not possible to choose right every time.”

I would disagree. If I get technical with this argument then I would argue back that a choice is always a choice that can be made in the right way…every time. A mistake, an accident…even when it’s sin, isn’t necessarily a choice…sometimes mistakes/accidents happen so fast, it really wasn’t a choice. It happened. I think these accidental sins are what John references in 1 John 5:16-17. John mentions a sin that doesn’t lead to death and sins that do lead to death. Choosing sin and Falling into sin are very different motives and very different sins. Jesus has compassion for one and despises the other, although both can be forgiven, if the person who sinned confesses and repents as 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I believe that we can choose the right way every time. Examples?
You can choose not to murder…every time you are tempted.
You can choose not to gossip…every time you are tempted.
You can choose to forgive…every time you are hurt.
You can choose to not to steal…every time theft is an option.
You can choose to only drink a little and not get drunk…every time you have alcohol present.
You can choose to do the right thing every time…even when the wrong thing is easier.

If I really love you, then I will stick to my guns on this thought. You and I can choose right every time! When we don’t choose right, the only person we should blame is ourselves. When we choose wrong, then the reality is that we actually chose wrong twice. When I choose wrong, I chose to commit a sin and also chose to ignore my best master Jesus Christ. Choosing to do this is inexcusable. I think when I make the wrong choice, I can explain it, but it doesn’t excuse it. I must, then, face the truth and admit that I simply chose to ignore what Jesus commanded me to do. When I do this, I can’t think of more dangerous way to live.

The hard truth is this. These choices to sin don’t just happen in one instant. A tough example is the example of when someone has a sexual affair. The people committing the sin didn’t just wake up the next morning wondering what happened. No! The affair more than likely started months earlier. In the case of a man who chose to go to a bar and have a one night stand, he actually started having marriage problems way earlier than just that night. In the case of a couple who had a sexual affair, it actually started at the office when they chose to begin to playfully and “harmlessly” tease one another. Then over the next couple of weeks and months this teasing couple actually look forward to getting to the office a bit early, they put on an extra spray of cologne/perfume before they leave for the office.

When we choose to obey the wrong choice at the cost of obeying Jesus, it actually started with a secret. In option one above, the man who had the one night stand refused to talk to his accountability partner at church and instead chose to keep it a secret that he was struggling in his marriage. In the example of the couple at the office, they both, secretly, put that extra spray on, and left for the office early.

Honoring the wrong master…always…starts with a secret. Whether the master is money…which I haven’t talked about in this post, or any other master that is trying to pull you away from Jesus who paid the price to be your master. Jesus earned the right to be your master. Every other master is simply a selfish bastard that wants to justify its evil by having you as company!

Here’s the way to wrap this post up. A Master is simply a Magnifying Glass. Many times the two masters that are pulling at you, are both good. In fact all sin is usually doing a good thing…out of bounds. Examples? Sex is good thing…only with your spouse. Money is good…love of money is the root of all evil. Alcohol is good…too much alcohol is evil. Ambition is good, selfish ambition is evil. Lust is good, lust for created things is evil.

Which master will you choose? Each choice you make, actually is two choices being made. Love one…Hate the other…two choices. When we choose the master who is not Jesus…we actually are saying with our actions…(actions speak louder than words)…”Jesus…I hate you!”

Masters are simply magnifying glasses that show, in a big way, who we really are. Money is just a magnifying glass that exposes who you really are and thus magnifies how you use the gift of money. Sex is a magnifying glass that exposes (no pun intended) who you are as you choose who you have sex with…do you honor God with your sex or the devil with your sex? (Love one/Hate the other) Jesus Christ is a magnifying glass, that when you choose to live for Him, it magnifies to everybody around you, who you are. The devil is a magnifying glass, that when you choose to live for him, he magnifies to everybody around you, who you are.

It helps me to think of everything as a magnifying glass that when I choose it, the whole world sees who I am, MAGNIFIED. Do I live big for Jesus or for other masters?

You cannot serve two masters…you will hate one at the cost of loving the other.

I choose to love Jesus Christ. I want to Magnify Him and when I do, He magnifies me back…and the world notices!
You will be presented with the opportunity to follow many different masters today.
Which one will you allow to magnify you?