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The Sluggard's Farm

The Sluggard's Farm

The Sluggard's Farm

"I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction."—Proverbs 24:30–32.

NO doubt Solomon was sometimes glad to lay aside the robes of state, escape from the forms of court, and go through the country unknown. On one occasion, when he was doing so, he looked over the broken wall of a little estate which belonged to a farmer of his country. This estate consisted of a piece of ploughed land and a vineyard. One glance showed him that it was owned by a sluggard, who neglected it, for the weeds had grown right plentifully and covered all the face of the ground. From this Solomon gathered instruction. Men generally learn wisdom if they have wisdom. The artist’s eye sees the beauty of the landscape because he has beauty in his mind. "To him that hath shall be given," and he shall have abundance, for he shall reap a harvest even from a field that is covered with thorns and nettles. There is a great difference between one man and another in the use of the mind’s eye. I have a book entitled, "The Harvest of a Quiet Eye," and a good book it is: the harvest of a quiet eye can be gathered from a sluggard’s land as well as from a well-managed farm. When we were boys we were taught a little poem, called, "Eyes and no Eyes," and there was much of truth in it, for some people have eyes and see not, which is much the same as having no eyes; while others have quick eyes for spying out instruction. Some look only at the surface, while others see not only the outside shell but the living kernel of truth which is hidden in all outward things.

We may find instruction everywhere. To a spiritual mind nettles have their use, and weeds have their doctrine. Are not all thorns and thistles meant to be teachers to sinful men? Are they not brought forth of the earth on purpose that they may show us what sin has done, and the kind of produce that will come when we sow the seed of rebellion against God? "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding," says Solomon; "I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction." Whatever you see, take care to consider it well, and you will not see it in vain. You shall find books and sermons everywhere, in the land and in the sea, in the earth and in the skies, and you shall learn from every living beast, and bird, and fish, and insect, and from every useful or useless plant that springs out of the ground.

We may also gather rare lessons from things that we do not like. I am sure that Solomon did not in the least degree admire the thorns and the nettles that covered the face of the vineyard, but he nevertheless found instruction in them. Many are stung by nettles, but few are taught by them. Some men are hurt by briars, but here is one who was improved by them. Wisdom hath a way of gathering grapes of thorns and figs of nettles, and she distils good from herbs which in themselves are noisome and evil. Do not fret, therefore, over thorns, but get good out of them. Do not begin stinging yourself with nettles, grip them firmly, and then use them for your soul’s health. Trials and troubles, worries and turmoils, little frets and little disappointments, may all help you if you will. Like Solomon, see and consider them well—look upon them, and receive instruction.

As for us, we will now, first, consider Solomon’s description of a sluggard: he is "a man void of understanding"; secondly, we shall notice his description of the sluggard’s land: "it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof." When we have attended to these two matters we will close by endeavouring to gather the instruction which this piece of waste ground may yield us.

First, think of Solomon’s description of a slothful man. Solomon was a man whom none of us would contradict, for he knew as much as all of us put together; and besides that, he was under divine inspiration when he wrote this Book of Proverbs. Solomon says, a sluggard is "a man void of understanding." The slothful does not think so; he puts his hands in his pockets, and you would think from his important air that he had all the Bank of England at his disposal. You can see that he is a very wise man in his own esteem, for he gives himself airs which are meant to impress you with a sense of his superior abilities. How he has come by his wisdom it would be hard to say. He has never taken the trouble to think, and yet I dare not say that he jumps at his conclusions, because he never does such a thing as jump, he lies down and rolls into a conclusion. Yet he knows everything, and has settled all points: meditation is too hard work for him, and learning he never could endure; but to be clever by nature is his delight. He does not want to know more than he knows, for he knows enough already, and yet he knows nothing. The proverb is not complimentary to him, but I am certain that Solomon was right when he called him "a man void of understanding." Solomon was rather rude according to the dainty manners of the present times, because this gentleman had a field and a vineyard, and as Poor Richard saith, "When I have a horse and a cow every man biddeth me good morrow." How can a man be void of understanding who has a field and a vineyard? Is it not generally understood that you must measure a man’s understanding by the amount of his ready cash? At all events you shall soon be flattered for your attainments if you have attained unto wealth. Such is the way of the world, but such is not the way of Scripture. Whether he has a field and a vineyard or not, says Solomon, if he is a sluggard he is a fool, or if you would like to see his name written out a little larger, he is a man empty of understanding. Not only does he not understand anything, but he has no understanding to understand with. He is empty-headed if he is a sluggard. He may be called a gentleman, he may be a landed proprietor, he may have a vineyard and a field; but he is none the better for what he has: nay, he is so much the worse, because he is a man void of understanding, and is therefore unable to make use of his property.

I am glad to be told by Solomon so plainly that a slothful man is void of understanding, for it is useful information. I have met with persons who thought they perfectly understood the doctrines of grace, who could accurately set forth the election of the saints, the predestination of God, the firmness of the divine decree, the necessity of the Spirit’s work, and all the glorious doctrines of grace which build up the fabric of our faith; but these gentlemen have inferred from these doctrines that they have to do nothing, and thus they have become sluggards. Do-nothingism is their creed. They will not even urge other people to labour for the Lord, because, say they, "God will do his own work. Salvation is all of grace!" The notion of these sluggards is that a man is to wait, and do nothing; he is to sit still, and let the grass grow up to his ankles in the hope of heavenly help. To arouse himself would be an interference with the eternal purpose, which he regards as altogether unwarrantable. I have known him look sour, shake his aged head, and say hard things against earnest people who were trying to win souls. I have known him run down young people, and like a great steam ram, sink them to the bottom, by calling them unsound and ignorant. How shall we survive the censures of this dogmatic person? How shall we escape from this very knowing and very captious sluggard? Solomon hastens to the rescue and extinguishes this gentleman by informing us that he is void of understanding. Why, he is the standard of orthodoxy, and he judges everybody! Yet Solomon applies another standard to him, and says he is void of understanding. He may know the doctrine, but he does not understand it; or else he would know that the doctrines of grace lead us to seek the grace of the doctrines; and that when we see God at work we learn that he worketh in us, not to make us go to sleep, but to will and to do of his own good pleasure. God’s predestination of a people is his ordaining them unto good works that they may show forth his praise. So, if you or I shall from any doctrines, however true, draw the inference that we are warranted in being idle and indifferent about the things of God, we are void of understanding; we are acting like fools; we are misusing the gospel; we are taking what was meant for meat and turning it into poison. The sluggard, whether he is sluggish about his business or about his soul, is a man void of understanding.

As a rule we may measure a man’s understanding by his useful activities; this is what the, wise man very plainly tells us. Certain persons call themselves "cultured," and yet they cultivate nothing. Modern thought, as far as I have seen anything of its actual working, is a bottle of smoke, out of which comes nothing solid; yet we know men who can distinguish and divide, debate and discuss, refine and refute, and all the while the hemlock is growing in the furrow, and the plough is rusting. Friend, if your knowledge, if your culture, if your education does not lead you practically to serve God in your day and generation, you have not learned what Solomon calls wisdom, and you are not like the Blessed One, who was incarnate wisdom, of whom we read that "he went about doing good." A lazy man is not like our Saviour, who said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." True wisdom is practical: boastful culture vapours and theorizes. Wisdom ploughs its field, wisdom hoes its vineyard, wisdom looks to its crops, wisdom tries to make the best of everything; and he who does not do so, whatever may be his knowledge of this, of that, or of the other, is a man void of understanding.

Why is he void of understanding? Is it not because he has opportunities which he does not use? His day has come, his day is going, and he lets the hours glide by to no purpose. Let me not press too hardly upon anyone, but let me ask you all to press as hardly as you can upon yourselves while you enquire each one of himself—Am I employing the minutes as they fly? This man had a vineyard, but he did not cultivate it; he had a field, but he did not till it. Do you, brethren, use all your opportunities? I know we each one have some power to serve God; do we use it? If we are his children he has not put one of us where we are of necessity useless. Somewhere we may shine by the light which he has given us, though that light be only a farthing candle. Are we thus shining? Do we sow beside all waters? Do we in the morning sow our seed, and in the evening still stretch out our hand; for if not, we are rebuked by the sweeping censure of Solomon, who saith that the slothful is a "man void of understanding."

Having opportunities he did not use them, and next, being bound to the performance of certain duties he did not fulfil them. When God appointed that every Israelite should have a piece of land, under that admirable system which made every Israelite a landowner, he meant that each man should possess his plot, not to let it lie waste, but to cultivate it. When God put Adam in the garden of Eden it was not that he should walk through the glades and watch the spontaneous luxuriance of the unfallen earth, but that he might dress it and keep it, and he had the same end in view when he allotted each Jew his piece of land; he meant that the holy soil should reach the utmost point of fertility through the labour of those who owned it. Thus the possession of a field and a vineyard involved responsibilities upon the sluggard which he never fulfilled, and therefore he was void of understanding. What is your position, dear friend? A father? A master? A servant? A minister? A teacher? Well, you have your farms and your vineyards in those particular spheres; but if you do not use those positions aright you will be void of understanding, because you neglect the end of your existence. You miss the high calling which your Maker has set before you.

The slothful farmer was unwise in these two respects, and in another also; for he had capacities which he did not employ. He could have tilled the field and cultivated the vineyard if he had chosen to do so. He was not a sickly man, who was forced to keep his bed, but he was a lazybones who was there of choice.

You are not asked to do in the service of God that which is utterly beyond you, for it is expected of us according to what we have and not according to what we have not. The man of two talents is not required to bring in the interest of five, but he is expected to bring in the interest of two. Solomon’s slothful was too idle to attempt tasks which were quite within his power. Many have a number of dormant faculties of which they are scarcely aware, and many more have abilities which they are using for themselves, and not for him who created them. Dear friends, if God has given us any power to do good, pray let us do it, for this is a wicked, weary world. We should not even cover a glow-worm’s light in such a darkness as this. We should not keep back a syllable of divine truth in a world that is so full of falsehood and error. However feeble our voices, let us lift them up for the cause of truth and righteousness. Do not let us be void of understanding, because we have opportunities that we do not use, obligations that we do not fulfil, and capacities which we do not exercise.

As for a sluggard in soul matters, he is indeed void of understanding, for he trifles with matters which demand his most earnest heed. Man, hast thou never cultivated thy heart? Has the ploughshare never broken up the clods of thy soul? Has the seed of the Word never been sown in thee? or has it taken no root? Hast thou never watered the young plants of desire? Hast thou never sought to pull up the weeds of sin that grow in thy heart? Art thou still a piece of the bare common or wild heath? Poor soul! Thou canst trim thy body, and spend many a minute at the glass; dost thou not care for thy soul? How long thou takest to decorate thy poor flesh, which is but worm’s meat, or would be in a minute if God took away thy breath! And yet all the while thy soul is uncombed, unwashed, unclad, a poor neglected thing! Oh it should not be so. You take care of the worse part and leave the better to perish through neglect. This is the height of folly! He that is a sluggard as to the vineyard of his heart is a man void of understanding. If I must be idle, let it be seen in my field and my garden, but not in my soul.

Or are you a Christian? Are you really saved, and are you negligent in the Lord’s work? Then, indeed, whatever you may be, I cannot help saying you have too little understanding; for surely, when a man is saved himself, and understands the danger of other men’s souls, he must be in earnest in trying to pluck the firebrands from the flame. A Christian sluggard! Is there such a being? A Christian man on half time? A Christian man working not at all for his Lord; how shall I speak of him? Time does not tarry, death does not tarry, HELL does not tarry; Satan is not lazy, all the powers of darkness are busy: how is it that you and I can be sluggish, if the Master has put us into his vineyard? Surely we must be void of understanding if, after being saved by the infinite love of God, we do not spend and be spent in his service. The eternal fitness of things demands that a saved man should be an earnest man.

The Christian who is slothful in his Master’s service has no idea what he is losing; for the very cream of religion lies in holy consecration to God. Some people have just enough religion to make it questionable whether they have any or no. They have enough godliness to make them uneasy in their ungodliness. They have washed enough of their face to show the dirt upon the rest of it. "I am glad," said a servant, "that my mistress takes the sacrament, for otherwise I should not know she had any religion at all." You smile, and well you may. It is ridiculous that some people should have no goods in their shop, and yet advertise their business in all the papers; should make a show of religion, and yet have none of the Spirit of God. I wish some professors would do Christ the justice to say, "No, I am not one of his disciples; do not think so badly of him as to imagine that I can be one of them." We ought to be reflections of Christ; but I fear many are reflections upon Christ. When we see a lot of lazy servants, we are apt to think that their master must be a very idle person himself, or he would never put up with them. He who employs sluggards, and is satisfied with their snail-like pace, cannot be a very active man himself. O, let not the world think that Christ is indifferent to human woe, that Christ has lost his zeal, that Christ has lost his energy: yet I fear they will say it or think it if they see those who profess to be labourers in the vineyard of Christ nothing better than mere sluggards. The slothful, then, is a man void of understanding; he loses the honour and pleasure which he would find in serving his Master; he is a dishonour to the cause which he professes to venerate, and he is storing up thorns for his dying pillow. Let that stand as settled—the slothful, whether he be a minister, deacon, or private Christian, is a man void of understanding.

Now, secondly, let us look at the sluggard’s land: "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof." Note, first, that land will produce something. Soil which is good enough to be made into a field and a vineyard must and will yield some fruit or other; and so you and I, in our hearts and in the sphere God gives us to occupy, will be sure to produce something. We cannot live in this world as entire blanks; we shall either do good or do evil, as sure as we are alive. If you are idle in Christ’s work, you are active in the devil’s work. The sluggard by sleeping was doing more for the cultivation of thorns and nettles than he could have done by any other means. As a garden will either yield flowers or weeds, fruits or thistles, so something either good or evil will come out of our household, our class, or our congregation. If we do not produce a harvest of good wheat, by labouring for Christ, we shall grow tares to be bound up in bundles for the last dread burning.

Note again that, if it be not farmed for God, the soul will yield its natural produce; and what is the natural produce of land if left to itself? What but thorns and nettles, or some other useless weeds? What is the natural produce of your heart and mine? What but sin and misery! What is the natural produce of your children if you leave them untrained for God? What but unholiness and vice? What is the natural produce of this great city if we leave its streets, and lanes, and alleys without the gospel? What but crime and infamy? Some harvest there will be, and the sheaves will be the natural produce of the soil, which is sin, death, and corruption.

If we are slothful, the natural produce of our heart and of our sphere will be most inconvenient and unpleasant to ourselves. Nobody can sleep on thorns, or make a pillow of nettles. No rest can come out of an idleness which lets ill alone, and does not by God’s Spirit strive to uproot evil. While you are sleeping, Satan will be sowing. If you withhold the seed of good, Satan will be lavish with the seed of evil, and from that evil will come anguish and regret for time, and it may be for eternity. O man, the garden put into thy charge, if thou waste thy time in slumber, will reward thee with all that is noisome and painful. "Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee."

In many instances there will be a great deal of this evil produce; for a field and a vineyard will yield more thistles and nettles than a piece of ground that has never been reclaimed. If the land is good enough for a garden, it will present its owner with a fine crop of weeds if he only stays his hand. A choice bit of land fit for a vineyard of red wine will render such a profusion of nettles to the slothful that he shall rub his eyes with surprise. The man who might do most for God, if he were renewed, will bring forth most for Satan if he be let alone. The very region which would have glorified God most if the grace of God were there to convert its inhabitants, will be that out of which the vilest enemies of the gospel will arise. Rest assured of that; the best will become the worst if we neglect it. Neglect is all that is needed to produce evil. If you want to know the way of salvation I must take some pains to tell you; but if you want to know the way to be lost, my reply is easy; for it is only a matter of negligence;—"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" If you desire to bring forth a harvest unto God, I may need long to instruct you in ploughing, sowing, and watering; but if you wish your mind to be covered with Satan’s hemlock, you have only to leave the furrows of your nature to themselves. The slothful asks for "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep," and the thorns and thistles multiply beyond all numbering, and prepare for him many a sting.

While we look upon the lazy man’s vineyard let us also peep into the ungodly sluggard’s heart. He does not care about repentance and faith. To think about his soul, to be in earnest about eternity, is too much for him, He wants to take things easy, and have a little more folding of the arms to sleep. What is growing in his mind and character? In some of these spiritual sluggards you can see drunkenness, uncleanness, covetousness, anger, and pride, and all sorts of thistles and nettles; or where these ranker weeds do not appear, by reason of the restraint of pious connections, you find other sorts of sin. The heart cannot be altogether empty, either Christ or the devil will possess it. My dear friend, if you are not decided for God, you cannot be a neutral. In this war every man is for God or for his enemy. You cannot remain like a sheet of blank paper. The legible handwriting of Satan is upon you—can you not see the blots? Unless Christ has written across the page his own sweet name, the autograph of Satan is visible. You may say, "I do not go into open sin; I am moral," and so forth. Ah, if you would but look, and consider, and search into your heart, you would see that enmity to God and to his ways, and hatred of purity, are there. You do not love God’s law, nor love his Son, nor love his gospel, you are alienated in your heart, and there is in you all manner of evil desires and vain thoughts, and these will flourish and increase so long as you are a spiritual sluggard, and leave your heart uncultivated. O, may the Spirit of God arouse you; may you be stirred to anxious, earnest thought, and then you will see that these rank growths must be uprooted, and that your heart must be turned up by the plough of conviction, and sown with the good seed of the gospel, till a harvest rewards the great Husbandman.

Friend, if you believe in Christ, I want to peep over the hedge into your heart also, if you are a sluggish Christian; for I fear that nettles and thistles are threatening you also? Did I not hear you sing the other day—

"’Tis a point I long to know"?

That point will often be raised, for doubt is a seed which is sure to grow in lazy men’s minds. I do not remember reading in Mr. Wesley’s diary a question about his own salvation. He was so busy in the harvest of the Master that it did not occur to him to distrust his God. Some Christians have little faith in consequence of their having never sown the grain of mustard seed which they have received. If you do not sow your faith by using it, how can it grow? When a man lives by faith in Christ Jesus, and his faith exercises itself actively in the service of his Lord, it takes root, grows upward, and becomes strong, till it chokes his doubts. Some have sadly morbid forebodings; they are discontented, fretful, selfish, murmuring, and all because they are idle. These are the weeds that grow in sluggards’ gardens. I have known the slothful become so peevish that nothing could please them; the most earnest Christian could not do right for them; the most loving Christians could not be affectionate enough; the most active church could not be energetic enough; they detected all sorts of wrong where God himself saw much of the fruit of his Spirit. This censoriousness, this contention, this perpetual complaining is one of the nettles that are quite sure to grow in men’s gardens when they fold their arms in sinful ease. If your heart does not yield fruit to God it will certainly bring forth that which is mischievous in itself, painful to you, and injurious to your fellow-men. Often the thorns choke the good seed; but it is a very blessed thing when the good seed comes up so thick and fast that it chokes the thorns. God enables certain Christians to become so fruitful in Christ that their graces and works stand thick together, and when Satan throws in the tares they cannot grow because there is no room for them. The Holy Spirit by his power makes evil to become weak in the heart, so that it no longer keeps the upper hand. If you are slothful, friend, look over the field of your heart, and weep at the sight.

May I next ask you to look into your own house and home? It is a dreadful thing when a man does not cultivate the field of his own family. I recollect in my early days a man who used to walk out with me into the villages when I was preaching I was glad of his company till I found out certain facts, and then I shook him off, and I believe he hooked on to somebody else, for he must needs be gadding abroad every evening of the week. He had many children, and these grew up to be wicked young men and women, and the reason was that the father, while he would be at this meeting and that, never tried to bring his own children to the Saviour. What is the use of zeal abroad if there is neglect at home? How sad to say, "My own vineyard have I not kept." Have you never heard of one who said he did not teach his children the ways of God because he thought they were so young that it was very wrong to prejudice them, and he had rather leave them to choose their own religion when they grew older? One of his boys broke his arm, and while the surgeon was setting it the boy was swearing all the time. "Ah," said the good doctor, "I told you what would happen. You were afraid to prejudice your boy in the right way, but the devil had no such qualms; he has prejudiced him the other way, and pretty strongly too." It is our duty to prejudice our field in favour of corn, or it will soon be covered with thistles. Cultivate a child’s heart for good, or it will go wrong of itself, for it is already depraved by nature. O that we were wise enough to think of this, and leave no little one to become a prey to the destroyer.

As it is with homes, so is it with schools. A gentleman who joined this church some time ago had been an atheist for years, and in conversing with him I found that he had been educated at one of our great public schools, and to that fact he traced his infidelity. He said that the boys were stowed away on Sunday in a lofty gallery at the far end of a church, where they could scarcely hear a word that the clergyman said, but simply sat imprisoned in a place where it was dreadfully hot in summer and cold in winter. On Sundays there were prayers, and prayers, and prayers, but nothing that ever touched his heart; until he was so sick of prayers that he vowed if he once got out of the school he would have done with religion. This is a sad result, but a frequent one. You Sunday-school teachers can make your classes so tiresome to the children that they will hate Sunday. You can fritter away the time in school without bringing the lads and lasses to Christ, and so you may do more hurt than good. I have known Christian fathers who by their severity and want of tenderness have sown their family field with the thorns and thistles of hatred to religion instead of scattering the good seed of love to it. O that we may so live among our children that they may not only love us, but love our Father who is in heaven. May fathers and mothers set such an example of cheerful piety that sons and daughters shall say, "Let us tread in our father’s footsteps, for he was a happy and a holy man. Let us follow our mother’s ways, for she was sweetness itself." If piety does not rule in your house, when we pass by your home we shall see disorder, disobedience, pride of dress, folly, and the beginnings of vice. Let not your home be a sluggard’s field, or you will have to rue it in years to come.

Let every deacon, every class-leader, and also every minister enquire diligently into the state of the field he has to cultivate. You see, brothers and sisters, if you and I are set over any department of our Lord’s work, and we are not diligent in it, we shall be like barren trees planted in an orchard, which are a loss altogether, because they occupy the places of other trees which might have brought forth fruit unto their owners. We shall cumber the ground, and do damage to our Lord, unless we render him actual service. Will you think of this? If you could be put down as a mere cipher in the accounts of Christ, that would be very sad; but brother, it cannot be so, you will cause a deficit unless you create a gain. Oh that through the grace of God we may be profitable to our Lord and Master. Who among us can look upon his life-work without some sorrow? If anything has been done aright we ascribe it all to the grace of God; but how much there is to weep over! How much that we would wish to amend! Let us not spend time in idle regrets, but pray for the Spirit of God, that in the future we may not be void of understanding, but may know what we ought to do, and where the strength must come from with which to do it, and then give ourselves up to the doing of it.

I beg you once more to look at the great field of the world. Do you see how it is overgrown with thorns and nettles? If an angel could take a survey of the whole race, what tears he would shed, if angels could weep! What a tangled mass of weeds the whole earth is! Yonder the field is scarlet with the poppy of popery, and over the hedge it is yellow with the wild mustard of Mahometanism. Vast regions are smothered with the thistles of infidelity and idolatry. The world is full of cruelty, oppression, drunkenness, rebellion, uncleanness, misery. What the moon sees! What God’s sun sees! What scenes of horror! How far is all this to be attributed to a neglectful church? Nearly nineteen hundred years are gone, and the sluggard’s vineyard is but little improved! England has been touched with the spade, but I cannot say that it has been thoroughly weeded or ploughed yet. Across the ocean another field equally favoured knows well the ploughman, and yet the weeds are rank. Here and there a little good work has been done, but the vast mass of the world still lies a moorland never broken up, a waste, a howling wilderness. What has the church been doing all these years? She ceased after a few centuries to be a missionary church, and from that hour she almost ceased to be a living church. Whenever a church does not labour for the reclaiming of the desert it becomes itself a waste. You shall not find on the roll of history that for a length of time any Christian community has flourished after it has become negligent of the outside world. I believe that if we are put into the Master’s vineyard, and will not take away the weeds, neither shall the vine flourish, nor shall the corn yield its increase. However, instead of asking what the church has been doing for this nineteen hundred years, let us ask ourselves, What are we going to do now? Are the missions of the churches of Great Britain always to be such poor, feeble things as they are? Are the best of our Christian young men always going to stay at home? We go on ploughing the home field a hundred times over, while millions of acres abroad are left to the thorn and nettle. Shall it always be so? God send us more spiritual life, and wake us up from our sluggishness, or else when the holy watcher gives in his report, he will say, "I went by the field of the sluggish church, and it was all grown over with thorns and nettles, and the stone wall was broken down, so that one could scarcely tell which was the church and which was the world, yet still she slept, and slept, and slept, and nothing could waken her."

I conclude by remarking that there must be some lesson in all this. I cannot teach it as I would, but I want to learn it myself. I will speak it as though I were talking to myself.

The first lesson is, that unaided nature always will produce thorns and nettles, and nothing else. My soul, if it were not for grace, this is all thou wouldst have produced. Beloved, are you producing anything else? Then it is not nature, but the grace of God that makes you produce it. Those lips that now most charmingly sing the praises of God would have been delighted with an idle ballad if the grace of God had not sanctified them. Your heart, that now cleaves to Christ, would have continued to cling to your idols—you know what they were—if it had not been for grace divine. And why should grace have visited you or me—why? Echo answers, Why? What answer can we give? "’Tis even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Let the recollection of what grace has done move us to manifest the result of that grace in our lives. Come, brothers and sisters, inasmuch as we were aforetime rich enough in the soil of our nature to produce so much of nettle and thistle—and God only knows how much we did produce—let us now pray that our lives may yield as much of good corn for the great Husbandman. Will you serve Christ less than you served your lusts? Will you make less sacrifice for Christ than you did for your sins? Some of you were whole-hearted enough when in the service of the evil one, will you be half-hearted in the service of God? Shall the Holy Spirit produce less fruit in you than that which you yielded under the spirit of evil?

God grant that we may not be left to prove what nature will produce if left to itself.

We see here, next, the little value of natural good intentions; for this man, who left his field and vineyard to be overgrown, always meant to work hard one of these fine days. To do him justice, we must admit that he did not mean to sleep much longer, for he said—"Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep." Only a little doze, and then he would tuck up his sleeves and show his muscle. Probably the worst people in the world are those who have the best intentions, but never carry them out. In that way Satan lulls many to sleep. They hear an earnest sermon; but they do not arise and go to their Father; they only get as far as saying, "Yes, yes, the far country is not a fit place for me; I will not stay here long. I mean to go home by-and-by." They said that forty years ago, but nothing came of it. When they were quite youths they had serious impressions, they were almost persuaded to be Christians, and yet they are not Christians even now. They have been slumbering forty years! Surely that is a liberal share of sleep! They never intended to dream so long, and now they do not mean to lie in bed much longer. They will not turn to Christ at once, but they are resolved to do so one day. When are you going to do it, friend? "Before I die." Going to put it off to the last hour or two, are you? And so, when unconscious, and drugged to relieve your pain, you will begin to think of your soul? Is this wise? Surely you are void of understanding. Perhaps you will die in an hour. Did you not hear the other day of the alderman who died in his carriage? Little must he have dreamed of that. How would it have fared with you had you also been smitten while riding at your ease? Have you not heard of persons who fall dead at their work? What is to hinder your dying with a spade in your hand? I am often startled when I am told in the week that one whom I saw on Sunday is dead—gone from the shop to the judgment-seat. It is not a very long time ago since one went out at the doorway of the Tabernacle, and fell dead on the threshold. We have had deaths in the house of God, unexpected deaths; and sometimes people are hurried away unprepared who never meant to have died unconverted, who always had from their youth up some kind of desire to be ready, only still they wanted a little more sleep. Oh, my hearers, take heed of little delays, and short puttings off. You have wasted time enough already, come to the point at once before the clock strikes again. May God the Holy Spirit bring you to decision.

"Surely you do not object to my having a little more sleep?" says the sluggard. "You have waked me so soon. I only ask another little nap." "My dear man, it is far into the morning." He answers, "It is rather late, I know; but it will not be much later if I take just another doze." You wake him again, and tell him it is noon. He says, "It is the hottest part of the day: I daresay if I had been up I should have gone to the sofa and taken a little rest from the hot sun." You knock at his door when it is almost evening, and then he cries, "It is of no use to get up now, for the day is almost over." You remind him of his overgrown field and weedy vineyard, and he answers, "Yes, I must get up, I know." He shakes himself and says, "I do not think it will matter much if I wait till the clock strikes. I will rest another minute or two." He is glued to his bed, dead while he liveth, buried in his laziness. If he could sleep for ever he would, but he cannot, for the judgment-day will rouse him. It is written, "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment." God grant that you spiritual sluggards may wake before that; but you will not unless you bestir yourselves betimes, for "now is the accepted time"; and it may be now or never. To-morrow is only to be found in the calendar of fools; to-day is the time of the wise man, the chosen season of our gracious God. Oh that the Holy Spirit may lead you to seize the present hour, that you may at once give yourselves to the Lord by faith in Christ Jesus, and then from his vineyard—

"Quick uproot
The noisome weeds, that without profit suck
The soil’s fertility from wholesome plants."

Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain)

Romans 8:9 - Not in the Flesh But in the Spirit

Romans 8:9 - Not in the Flesh But in the Spirit

ROMANS 8:9 — Not in the Flesh But in the Spirit

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (NASB)

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (KJV)

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. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to Him at all.) (NLT)

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him. (NET)

Translation. But as for you, you are not in the sphere of the flesh but in the sphere of the Spirit, provided that the Spirit of God is in residence in you. But, assuming that a person does not have the Spirit of Christ, this one does not belong to Him.

Here again we have the contrasts presented between life in the flesh (en sarki) and life in the Spirit (en pneumati) with the added dimension of "provided that" (eiper) the Spirit of God dwells (oikeo from oikos - home, therefore to dwell as your home) in you.  The indwelling Holy Spirit becomes our seal of the faith and our comforter.  The other contrast is the unbeliever versus the believer.  Those who do not have Christ's Spirit are not believers at all and do not belong to Christ.  The "motions" of our life are the testimony.  If our lives reflect the vulgarities of sin then we belong to the ruler of this world and our testimony is of death.  If, however, the heart has been made clean and the restoration of the temple has begun then the fruit of the Spirit will be seen as a testimony of life.

The truth is brought out here that the Holy Spirit is given to the believing sinner the moment he puts his faith in the Lord Jesus, and not some time afterwards, as is erroneously taught in some quarters, since that believing sinner becomes the possession of the Lord Jesus the moment he believes and thus must possess the Holy Spirit as an indweller.  Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Ro 8:9)

This does not mean that the unsaved person never does anything good, or that the believer never does anything bad. It means that the bent of their lives is different. One lives for the flesh, the other lives for the Spirit.  Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament"

The flesh, the sinful principle, dwelt in them before; and its motions were the proofs of its indwelling; but now the Spirit dwells in them; and its testimony in their conscience, and its powerful operations in their hearts, are the proofs of its indwelling. God made man in union with himself, and his heart was his temple. Sin being committed, the temple was defiled, and God abandoned it. Jesus Christ is come by his sacrifice and Spirit to cleanse the temple, and make man again a habitation of God through the Spirit. And when this almighty Spirit again makes the heart his residence, then the soul is delivered from the moral effects of the fall. And that this is absolutely necessary to our present peace and final salvation is proved from this: that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ - the mind that was in him, produced there by the power of the Holy Ghost - he is none of his; he does not belong to the kingdom, flock, or family of God. This is an awful conclusion! Reader, lay it to heart. (Dr. Adam Clarke)

Romans 8:8 - The Flesh Cannot Please God

Romans 8:8 - The Flesh Cannot Please God

ROMANS 8:8 — THE FLESH CANNOT PLEASE GOD

The conclusion. Therefore they that walk after the flesh cannot please God: by which it follows that they are not grafted into Christ. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)

and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (NASB)

So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (KJV)

That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. (NLT)

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (NET)

Literally: in flesh no power to please God

Those who live "en sarki" are "ou dunamai!"  If we are submitted to the fallen flesh then we are governed by fallen flesh and remain powerless to please the almighty.  Then we must consider whether we ought to wait for a holy lightning bolt to free us (the sin of passivity) or whether we ought to proceed with intestinal fortitude and cowboy up (the sin of arrogance).  Perhaps there is another "way" who is Jesus Christ the Lord (I am the way, the truth, and the life) that if we confess our estate will lead us out of this present darkness into the warmth of His everlasting light!

Let us look back in time and hear the words of a grand old saint:

A child may be obstinate, proud, and disobedient; and while in this state, it may be affirmed of him that he cannot please his parent. But whether he might not cease to be obstinate, and become obedient, is a very different inquiry; and the two subjects should never be confounded.

With his present character he can never please him; neither in health nor sickness; neither in life nor death; neither on earth nor in hell. He is engaged in hostility against God; and if he does not himself forsake it, it will be endless, and involve his soul in all the evils of a personal, and direct, and eternal warfare with the Lord Almighty. (Dr. Albert Barnes)

We should contrast this with the real assertion that the latent power of the soul is mightily capable of pleasing self and simultaneously deceiving self into thinking that self is pleasing God!  Clearly 85% of the American population believes they belong to Jesus and thus declare themselves Christians!  Now compare that with the morning news and see if it is true.  NOT!  Jesus did NOT say that the way was wide (like an eight lane freeway) but rather "narrow," "difficult" and "few" would find it!  If you find that your life is "ou dunamai" don't kid yourself!  Either turn up the music of this world, or fall on your knees and find the Way of Hope!

"You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate.  The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.  But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it." (Matthew 7:13-14, NLT)

 

 

Operation: Clear the Scatter

Operation: Clear the Scatter

Operation: Clear the Scatter, 4 Tips for Effective Organizational Leadership

Do you ever have those days where it seems that all you’ve done since you walked in the door is put out fires?  Whether at work or in your home life, there are those days where it seems that you don’t get the chance to catch up and breathe!  Have you ever had entire weeks like that?  Has it ever (or is it now) become the work environment that you live in as your Modis Operandi?  When faced with a few moments of quiet time (uh…what’s that?), are you able to climb out of the proverbial hole and get ahead of the tasks at hand?

Military leaders are groomed from an early age to “improvise, adapt, and overcome” as the dynamic and fluid environment that they perform and excel in regularly dictates.  But what about business leaders that are thrown into a fast paced and rigorous work environment without ever having been exposed to that kind of workflow?  How do they cope?  What do they do when burnout sets in (because it will)? 

Here are 4 tools that can help to ease the burden.  They might take some time to implement completely before you can see a change in your workload and your stress levels, and it takes daily intentional activities, but there is light is at the end of the tunnel!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

1.  Prepare for Battle

How you begin your day is probably one of the most important social and psychological exercises that you may or may not give intentional credence towards.  So let’s back up a little bit.  Are you getting enough sleep?  I probably don’t have to remind you but studies show that we need at least eight hours of sleep per night in order to obtain and maintain a healthy balance.  In the next sections below, we’ll discuss some schedule management tools that will help you if you’re a “night owl” or just can’t seem to get to sleep before midnight.

When your alarm goes off in the morning, what do you do?  Do you hit snooze so many times that you oversleep?  If you do, you know that leaping out of bed, brushing your teeth (let’s hope) and throwing a half toasted bagel in your mouth as you scramble out the door is not the best way to start your day.  Beginning your day in “late mode” does not put you in the most beneficial frame of mind, and if you’re beginning your day that way, chaos can only ensue and the other drivers on the road will get to feel your wrath as you wrestle through traffic with a chaotic mindset.  Safe?  Probably not.

As challenging as it may be, give yourself plenty of time to get up, out of bed and into the shower so that you’re not having to rush out the door in the morning.  If you like to hit the snooze button, set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than you have to get up.  That way you can still hit snooze and get up on time.  A better activity is to be able to sit down and eat your breakfast before you leave the house but let’s be real here…self-improvement and habit changing activities take baby steps!

If possible, spend some quiet time with God.  Daily devotionals only take about 5 – 10 minutes as you can read while you eat, ponder and sit in the message, and pray for a fruitful day.  Sitting with the Lord at the beginning of your day will help to set the stage of calmness as you then begin to assess your daily schedule.  If sitting quietly with the Lord and reading a daily devotional over breakfast is too challenging for you to implement at first, consider driving to work with the radio off, or with some Christian music and then pray while you drive (with your eyes open, please).  The Lord loves to engage with you at any time of the day, in any situation and you don’t need to be in a certain posture in order for the Lord to hear your prayer.  Just talk, He’s listening!

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  (Colossians 4:2 ESV)

2.  Get Organized

If you’re one of those people that has a hard time cleaning your room, I know that the concept of organization can be scary and maybe causes you some anxiety.  You’ve managed to “make it work” your entire life so what’s the big deal if your desk/car/kitchen are a little messy, what does that have to do with your quality of work?  I call it “swimming through the muck”.  The “messy-ness” of your life, believe it or not, does have bleed-over into your organizational thinking and prioritization, and can have an impact on the overall workmanship of your products.  Not to worry, we’ll eat this elephant one bite at a time and believe it or not the tasks of organization are not very daunting.  You may even find that the process is relatively simple, easy to follow, and liberating.

A.  Start with your computer.  Does your desktop look like the sea of lost files?  Is your desktop filled with different types of files that are used for different reasons?  Have you completely blocked out the desktop theme so you don’t even see the peaceful picture anymore?  If so, is the “search” functionality your favorite friend?  Believe it or not, there are ways to improve upon your file management system.

i.  Create folders!  Organize your files by subject, or function such as: Supplies, Finance, HR, Training, Draft Documents, etc.  In doing so, you’ll begin to learn how best to compartmentalize your mind so that when you need to find the latest files to work from, you won’t need to stress out or search, you’ll know right where to go!

ii.  Use your calendar!  This may seem to be common sense but segregate your day by what’s on your calendar, and work the items that are on your calendar for that timeslot only.  Now you might be saying…”that won’t work in my workplace”, but I’ll show you how it can when we discuss prioritization and Critical Chain Project Management.

iii.  Prioritize your tasks!  Put out the quick “fires” but then build time into your calendar to catch up on the items that you’ve been avoiding.  Use that time on your calendar for configuration management of your files, or to finalize documents, or to respond to emails.  Be intentional and be consistent and most importantly, do it!

a).  Critical Chain Project Management allows you to identify the highest priority items, and then segregate them, and where possible, work those items ONLY.  This means you might have to turn off your phone and set up your out-of-office reply.  Segregate yourself as you are on the “Critical Path” burning down tasks that are critical to the success of the delivery.  Others need to be aware of the Critical Chain and where they can help you to be segregated.  You might need to delegate many things and empower others in your organization to do some tasks that you normally would do, during the time that you’re segregated working on prioritized critical tasks.  I know this can be hard to do for us control freaks, but that’s an issue for another article.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

B.  Make lists!  You’d be surprised how a simple checklist can help you to manage the tasks at hand, especially when they seemingly become overwhelming.  Using your day planner, in conjunction with your calendar, or even just a piece of regular old paper, write out your tasks that you need to accomplish, as framed by the subject area of your calendar.  Don’t overdo it and keep your lists compartmentalized to the task that you’re working based on what you’ve placed on your calendar for that timeframe.  Once you complete the task, check it off of your list!

Making lists eases your mind because it takes the scatter out of your mind and puts it on the paper, which then becomes manageable and less daunting.  Why stay awake at night wondering what to do the next day with the multitude of overwhelming tasks running around your brain?  Take a couple of minutes to get the tasks out of your head, and onto the manageable paper.

3.  Turn Off Social Media

This should be a “no-brainer”.  If you’re that OCD person that can’t avoid the pressure to not address the blinking light on your phone, then put your phone in a drawer, or keep it out of sight as you focus on the critical path.  Turn off all alerts, visible and audible so that you’re not tempted by the never-ending persistence of the blinking light.  If there’s an emergency, your family can call your place of business on a separate line.  This must be an intentional and disciplined approach if you aspire to clear the scatter effectively.

 

 

4.  Be Still and Know

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  (Psalm 37:7 ESV)

At the beginning of the day, and all throughout the day we have to breathe.  We can’t be effective leaders if we’re constantly running at a highly chaotic pace.  If you’re functioning in that mode continuously, it’s not healthy for you, or for your peers and subordinates as you create and place undue pressures on them.  Manage your workload accordingly, and you’ll make for a more harmonious leader that can help others to manage their workloads efficiently and effectively.

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!  (Psalm 46:10 ESV)

 In doing so, God wants you to slow down and be still, and know that He is God.  Your identity is not in the ability to meet the deadline.  Your identity is not in the salary that you make nor in the car that you drive.  Your identity is not found within the stripes on your sleeve or the device on your collar.  Your identity, first and foremost is as a loving child of the one true living God.  The almighty creator that first breathed life into you and continues to be the very breath that fills your lungs on a daily basis.  Be still in that, feel the overwhelming love and rest in the peace that is promised eternity, that which is found in Christ Jesus.

Shalom.

Romans 8:7 - The Carnal Mind

Romans 8:7 - The Carnal Mind

Romans 8:7 — The Carnal Mind

To be carnally minded: To be under the dominion of the fleshly impulses of the body. (The People's New Testament)

Is not subject (ouch hupotassetai). Present passive indicative of hupotassō, late verb, military term for subjection to orders. Present tense here means continued insubordination. (Robertson's Word Pictures)

Originally to arrange under. Possibly with a shade of military meaning suggested by enmity. It is marshaled under a hostile banner. (Vincent's Word Studies)

Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  A reason and proof why the wisdom of the flesh is death: because, he says, it is the enemy of God. A reason why the wisdom of the flesh is enmity to God, because it neither wants to nor can be subject to him, and by flesh he means a man that is not regenerated. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)

because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, (NASB)

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (KJV)

For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God's laws, and it never will. (NLT)

because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. (NET)

It is the question of the dispositions and to whom they are subject.  Interestingly enough the word, hupotasso, is the same word used in Ephesians 5:21 where we are to "submit" (hupotasso) ourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ.  For those who have never served in the military, when one gives the distinction (as Robertson and Vincent have above), there is probably a shaded perception created.  Tasso means to arrange in an orderly manner and thus give purpose and utility to the word and further to the concept of subjection.  In the Ephesian passage, we do this out of reverence for Christ.  In the Roman passage, "does not subject (submit, obey)" (ouch hupotassetai) means that we remain "out of order" or "unarranged."  It is the Master's hand that must put us in tune with His will and plan.  And though we have two dispositions that can "lean toward," the fallen disposition may (Romans 7) be dominate until the spiritual disposition is in control.  If we confess that we are (of ourselves) unable to lean toward righteousness then that is the place of honesty where Christ will meet us to lead us and empower us.  The hostility is vanquished by the Peace of Christ.

Rom 1:28  Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. (NLT)

Rom 1:30  They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. (NLT)

Rom 5:10  For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. (NLT)

Joh 7:7  The world can't hate you, but it does hate Me because I accuse it of doing evil. (NLT)

Eph 4:18-19  Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. (NLT)

Col 1:21  This includes you who were once far away from God. You were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions. (NLT)

2Ti 3:4  They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. (NLT)

Jas 4:4  You adulterers! Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. (NLT)

1Jn 2:15-16  Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. (NLT)

The Gap:  Where Do Leaders Fail?

The Gap: Where Do Leaders Fail?

The Gap:  Where Do Leaders Fail?  8 Tools to Leadership Success

Knowing the landscape of what becomes well rounded leadership is only half the battle.  In most cases, we fight ourselves and our cultural upbringing along the way.  As a result, there can be gaps, or chinks in our armor.  Our backgrounds and experiences can help or hinder in our abilities to lead others.  Have you ever completed a SWOT analysis 1 on yourself?  If you have, you know that the “W” is for Weaknesses.  While we’d like to assume that we make very little mistakes and take calculated and well thought out mitigated risks, the truth of the matter is that upwards of 40 percent of leaders fail 2 within the first 18 months and have a gap in their toolbox in at least one of the following areas.  What are your weaknesses?  How do you know?

[1]  SWOT Analysis:  acronym (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a simple but useful framework for analyzing your organization's strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that you face. It helps you focus on your strengths, minimize threats, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available to you. 
[2]  Staffing Talk: http://staffingtalk.com/40-percent-new-leaders-fail-within-first-18-months

1.  Organization — Understand Where You Fit!

Knowing the landscape of the organization is also a large part of your leadership effectiveness.   I call it “swimming through the muck.”   In a large corporation, knowing your organizational structure, especially if you’re a “small fish in a big pond,” is paramount to being effective in your role.  In some businesses, there are business areas, mission areas, business units, and then the “enterprise” corporate level Leadership Team.

 “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”  (Proverbs 18:15  ESV)

Knowing where you fit, and understanding your customer base, and who you support in your role are of vital importance in your ability to be an effective leader.   In leadership, having the wisdom of placement, and knowing “who’s who in the zoo” assists in your abilities to lead others.  Proverbs 3:13-18 (ESV) says:

“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.  She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.  Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace....”

2.  Be Concise

The ability to provide specific direction to your subordinates will prevent them from floundering and wasting time.   It also helps to keep up morale!   Studies have shown that subordinates are more productive, and effective in a mission driven environment however if that mission is unclear, then they’re left potentially aimless and working in other directions rather than those which are intended.  The “Commanders Intent” needs to be clear and concise.  In addition to a clear vision or mission statement, subordinates need to have an “action plan” that shows them how to support the mission or vision within their role.  The action plan, and what can be a workable list can also aid in evaluating individual performance against requirements.  Set your team up for success!

In your walk as a Christian, how do you know the direction that God has for you?  Have you studied His word and discerned your followership?  What role in your personal leadership development does God play?  Have you considered His word as you exemplify your own leadership role?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  (Romans 12:2 ESV)

3.  Equip Your Team

As you’ve clearly communicated your intent, or the intent of the organization with regards to the vision and mission, have you set your subordinates up for success by equipping them with the tools, equipment, and accesses that they’ll require in order to perform effectively in their role?  What do they need in order to carry out the mission?  Will they require training, special certifications, gear or supplies to begin the mission?  Once equipped, have you thought about how they’re to be sustained in their work environment?  While Napoleon said, “An Army marches on its stomach,”  Jesus says:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 ESV)

4.  Be Ethical

This should go without saying but you’d be surprised (or maybe not) at the business decisions of corporate leaders, military leaders, and the like.  One of the biggest career killers in senior military leadership is in fraternization, or sexual harassment.  In the corporate world, the darkness is often brought to the light when the unethical train begins to run freely down the tracks.

Make a decision already!  But do it ethically.  There’s a time where you have to take your emotion out of the equation and consider ethical decision making reasoning approaches to weigh the potential outputs of your decision.  Are you running through the ethical decision making approaches, for the tough ethical dilemmas of teleological (costs vs. benefits), ontological (rules, rights, justice) and deontological (virtues) reasoning?  The Lord will guide in your ethical decision making.  Are you listening before you act?

 “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”  (Isaiah 30:21 ESV)

5.  Embrace the Culture Through Diversity, Equality, and Tolerance

One of the greatest benefits that we have as leaders, whether in a corporate business environment or out on the battlefield, is diversity of the labor pool!  Age, ethnicity, education, technical background, and the like can help to add value to a robust team of performers!  Be careful to check your cultural biases at the door for God does the greatest things with the most unlikely people.

“And David said to Saul, ‘Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’” (1 Samuel 17:32 ESV)

So put off your first impressions and give everybody a fair shake.  Assess, assign, monitor, trust, and reinforce and your teams will perform like pistons in a vehicle: powerful and moving in a manner that advances the mission.

6.  Empowerment

This brings us to empowerment.  Empowerment is one of the most beneficial tools that you can ever carry in your leadership toolbox.  Not only is it liberating for the subordinate, but it also encourages them to undertake acts of leadership implied or specified in their newly empowered role!  Empowerment gives your subordinates confidence to make decisions on their own, and to potentially lead others as they develop into young leaders themselves.  Giving a subordinate an element of autonomy greatly assists in their inherent development and maturity in the work force.  If you find that a subordinate is constantly questioning your decisions or leadership motives, perhaps making them a “trusted agent” by empowering them and including them in the solution decision making process is the answer.  Jesus says:

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  (Luke 10:19-20 ESV)

7.  Empathy

Self-check: is the hammer the biggest and most utilized tool in your leadership toolbox?   If so, you may be missing out on some critical developmental opportunities not only for yourself, but for those that you mentor.  Leading with empathy doesn’t make you soft, it makes you approachable and human.  Have you ever had a boss or mentor that led by fear?  How effective were they and how effective were you in your capacity to complete assigned tasks?  Empathy will encourage your subordinates to be open and honest in a trusted environment without fear of repercussion and will improve and enhance workplace morale.  Having an empathetic boss, or being an empathetic leader reflects Christ in areas where perhaps those attributes are lacking.  Not only are you charged with the knowledge of the walk, but the enactment of the walk.  In one Biblical example, the Apostle Paul compels us to:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  (Romans 12:15 ESV)

8.  Identity

First and foremost we must never forget, that our identity does not lie within our vocational position.  While our working role is that of a corporate or military leader, our identity is not found there.  Our identity is not in the clothes that we wear, the watch on our wrist, the car that we drive, our golf swing, our experiences, our mistakes, our successes, or other places where we place our value.  Our identity is only to be found as a true and loving child of the one true living God.  From that, and only that standpoint, can we begin to shape our thoughts, our actions, and our decisions to go forth and embody the attributes of Christ and display for those with whom we come into contact.  As leaders, we are held to a higher regard, which encompasses greater responsibilities, to exude leadership and to lead by example.  As Christ believers and followers, we must consider and give credence to the Lord of Lords, the one who puts breath in our lungs each and every second of every moment of every day. 

Shalom.

Change is the One Constant

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Change is the One Constant

As I acknowledge that change is the one constant in life, it helps me to accept the inevitable! Accepting the difficult circumstances in my life with a more positive attitude has helped me to move on.  As I look to the Lord, who mirrored for me how to get on with life in the midst of struggles, I have a better understanding of my circumstances.  "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ  Jesus…" (Philippians 2:5) "…and let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." (Romans 12:2)

The stresses of unexpected changes in my life have required me to change.  With the sudden loss of my first husband over eleven years ago, my initial reaction was anger!  But then I was able to look to God for strength, and the ability to move beyond myself.  His strength became my sufficiency.  I had to come to accept my loss, and once I was able to do so, I had the flexibility and freedom to move on.

All change follows a definable sequence of stages, much like the stages of grief.  Once I came to the place where I could accept my loss, God gave me the freedom to look beyond myself and to see new opportunities.  Some of the following principles that I have applied in my life, I hope will be helpful to you with your life's changes:

1) Learn to be flexible and adaptable.

2) Listen to the right voices!

3) Allow time for quiet reflection with the Lord.

4) Become involved with helping other people with their needs.

5) Stay motivated by working in community with positive thinking people.

We have a secure anchor in the midst of changes!

"For I the Lord do not change," (Malachi 3:6)

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 18:8)

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Discipleship is Dynamic, Relational, and All of Grace

Discipleship is Dynamic, Relational, and All of Grace

Discipleship is Dynamic, Relational, and All of Grace

Discipleship in most Christian circles is treated as a separate part of the Christian Experience.  However, biblical discipleship is part of the salvation message and refers to the believer’s daily walk.

Biblical discipleship begins at the point of faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross and continues until he takes us home with Him in glory.  This may be expressed as, “We are being saved from the penalty of sin, and are now being saved from the power of sin and we will eventually be saved from the presence of sin.”

Jesus says that His disciples will live according to His Word,

“If you abide in my word, then you are truly My disciples” (John 8:31).

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in my and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Disciples are like sheep who are secure and daily follow Jesus as their Shepherd,

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:14-16).

The following acrostic is a simple outline illustrating God’s GRACE in discipleship.

G — GOSPEL

The good news is that our salvation is all of grace by faith in Christ — not of any self-effort as expressed by the Apostle Paul,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

He continues regarding our daily walk of grace (our sanctification),

“For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk I them”  (Ephesians 2:10).

The Apostle reminds us that this life is not a do-it-yourself-kit or a self-reformation program, but,

“it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”  (Philippians 2:13).

The Christian life is all of God!  It is His grace from start to finish!

R — RELATIONSHIP

It is often taught that we believers are “saved to serve.”  In other words, God saved us because He somehow needs our help.  Obviously, in Genesis 2 and 3 we find that God served Adam and Eve rather than they serve Him.  He placed them in the Garden of Eden where all their needs were supplied.  In fact, God, desiring their fellowship, also walked with them in the cool of the day — relationship!

Jesus demonstrated for us His desire for relationship as He taught and interacted with His disciples and followers.    He told of and revealed His intimate relationship with His Father.

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?  The words that I say to you, I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works”  (John 14:10).

We Christians are precious to God in that He has chosen to have a close, intimate relationship with us by dwelling within us, even as God dwelt within Jesus.  He promised His disciples,

“But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He bears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  He will glorify Me, for he will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.  All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you”  (John 16:13-14).

Christ graciously saved us for relationship with Himself!

A — ALIGNMENT

Freedom and independence are the hallmarks of Americans.  Jesus uses the metaphor of goats and sheep to illustrate independent and dependent people (Matthew 24:31-35).  Goats are very independent and can take care of themselves, but sheep are very dependent and need someone to care for them.

As Christians we are no longer to live as independent goats, but as sheep dependent upon our good Shepherd,

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand, My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30).

God graciously saved us in order to bring us into alignment with Himself and His purposes!

C — CHRIST IS LIFE

The emphasis of our American upbringing, education, sports and recreation is focused on our being the very best we can be.  Often Christians are challenged that God deserves excellence in everything.  So, we try harder and harder to please God by attempting to improve the old Adamic nature.  This always proves to be fruitless, as the Apostle Paul cries out,

“Wretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

And then with a sigh of relief,

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord”  (Romans 7:24-25)!

Jesus Christ came to redeem us from sin and from the futility of trying to live up to the Law [the standard of life that He designed for mankind].  The Apostle Paul answers,

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6, 10).

The focus of the Christian life must always be upon the Lord Jesus Christ — and Him alone.  “Christ is our life” (Colossians 3:4).  The writer of Hebrews refers to the Christian life as a life of resting daily from our creative work as God did on the seventh day from His creative work.  But as God continues to actively keep the universe going, we are to rest upon Jesus Christ to keep our lives by His life.

“There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.  Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest”  (Hebrews 4:9-11).

God graciously dwells within us to live out His perfect life in, through and with our faithful participation with Him.

E — EXHALT CHRIST

Much of the emphasis of the church today is upon preaching and teaching the Scriptures, worship music, evangelism, programs for self development, service, addiction recovery and community outreach.  These are all good and commendable, but mostly mankind centered.

Jesus Christ is the Head of the Body, the church, both universally, and locally.  He should be revered and allowed to lead every aspect of one’s life and ministry, whether it be corporate worship, programs, boards, committees, and the like.

Jesus said; “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).

Lifting up Jesus wherever we are and whatever we are doing is a privilege — not a burden.

The Apostle Paul encourages us to preach and teach Christ always,

“We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).

IN CONCLUSION

Biblical discipleship begins at the point of faith in Christ and continues through life until Christ takes us home with Him to heaven.  The grace of discipleship is that Jesus Christ is the source and fulfillment of the disciple’s daily life— from beginning to end.  Truly it is ALL OF GRACE!

About the Author:

 

Pastor Bingham is the founder of CupBearers, and was for 17 years a missionary with Cadence International and has been the Pastor of Rocky Mountain Evangelical Free Church for 32 years.  He also served on the CMF Board of Directors for several years. 

Shepherding Grace Ministries
PO Box 1930
Englewood, CO 80150-1930
http://www.ShepherdingGrace.org

Caring Heart

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Caromg Heart

The article "Listening Ears," encouraged us to listen to God's voice.  I do not hear the audible voice of God as did the patriots in the Old Testament, but God speaks to me today through His Word, the Bible.

Reading and hearing about the needs of others, stirs my heart.  As I see the poor and needy on street corners asking for provisions, my heart is stirred.  Am I moved to give to the needs of people in other countries who are under persecution, and live in poverty conditions?

God's admonition in I Peter 1:22 is a reminder of how I can reach out to others with a caring heart:

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers/sisters, love one another deeply from the heart."

The Greek word for heart is "Kardia" from which we get the English word, "Cardiac".  It is the chief organ of physical life, standing for man's entire mental and moral activity.  The Word tells us to guard our heart in Proverbs 4:23:

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

Webster's dictionary defines wellspring as "a source of continual supply.

A caring heart is a loving heart, willing to give. God is the only true source of love, and enables me to love.

A thought to ponder:

We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Do I love others with God's love?

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

God's Creative Design

God's Creative Design

God's Creative Design

In the beginning Adam and Eve are  God’s prototype of the marriage relationship.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him…. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen 2:18, 24 NASB95)

God commanded Adam that he should “shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen 2:24 NASB77)

God puts the onus on the husband to honor the one flesh relationship.

The husband declares his marriage vows, before god, to his bride and to those present an that he will never leave nor forsake her.   Marriage is the joining together of a man and woman as one flesh, inseparable partners working together within God’s creative design for their marriage, which may also include children, work and ministry.

The apostle Paul would be aghast if he knew that his words were being used to justify and encourage a Christian husband to neglect his marital responsibilities and abandon his wife and children in order to serve God in ministry, work and pleasure or for any other reason.

Swingset IllustrationIn our travels we noticed an interesting swing set combination in a park in Florida.  The illustration of the swing set helps demonstrate the difference between being single and entering into the marriage relationship.

The single individuals on either end of the swing set have the freedom to swing independently by themselves and at their own pace without any concern for another.

The couple on the middle swing has chosen to be yoked together and must cooperate with one another in order to enjoy the swinging experience.  The option of swinging independently causes much conflict and discomfort for both.

The Apostle Peter puts it this way, “Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” (1Pe 3:7 AKJV)

Disconnect

The predominant cultural ministry model, however, is that the husband abandons the relationship (swing) with his wife and lives as though he is single, even though still married, uses Paul’s “model” of singleness to support his actions.  This causes an emotional and supportive disconnect, leaving his wife to carry the full responsibility for the marriage and family, not realizing that her husband’s default placed her in that position.

Men in ministry and men in general, find it easy and acceptable to bemoan and blame their wives for their marital problems because he is the one most often held with high respect.  He will point his finger and say that she is not supportive and that she will not submit to his headship.  This model is reinforced by his peers.

The adverse fallout of a husband’s neglect and abandonment of his wife and family is observable in the high percentage of marriage separations and divorce today.

Design

The Apostle Paul very clearly spells out the husband’s responsibility and places on him the onus for the marriage in Ephesians 5:21-33.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church” (Eph 5:25, 28-29 NASB95)

The Apostle Paul reiterates the Genesis passage in verse 31, “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.”

God designed and prioritized the  intimate and exclusive marriage relationship as an earthly visible picture of Christ’s unfailing and exclusive love relationship for His own bride, the church.

Husbands have the awesome privilege of having Christian marriages, designed by God, that manifest Jesus before an unbelieving world.  Thus following God’s Creative Design will be a powerful witness to our generation.

About the Author:

Pastor Bingham is the founder of CupBearers, and was for 17 years a missionary with Cadence International and has been the Pastor of Rocky Mountain Evangelical Free Church for 32 years.  He also served on the CMF Board of Directors for several years. 

CUPbearers is a discipleship ministry centered on the Lord Jesus Christ and located in Englewood, Colorado.  CUPbearers holds that the transformation of the natural and /or fleshly person into a mature spiritual Christian is a supernatural process.  This transformation cannot be accomplished through education and self-effort alone, or by trying to improve the old nature through some system or discipline.  It is achieved through the ministry and work of God's indwelling Holy Spirit in agreement with the Word of God and the active and willing cooperation of the individual, conforming each one to the very image of Jesus Christ (John. 15:5).  Therefore, according to God’s design, Jesus Christ is enabled to function in, through and with the participating Christian as one's full and abundant life (John. 10:10).

The commitment of CUPbearers is to the full sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His ability to meet the needs of all individuals.  CUPbearers is also convinced that the Bible is the inerrant revelation of God to mankind and the resultant relationship He planned for and desires to have with those who individually and corporately trust Him.  We believe that the Bible speaks directly or in principle to the practical, daily issues of how fallen and emotionally damaged men and women can be restored to healthy maturity in Christ.

CUPbearers, Shepherding Grace Ministries
PO Box 1930, Englewood, CO 80150-1930
(303) 761-5005
http://ShepherdingGrace.ORG


Christian Military Fellowship

An Indigenous Ministry • Discipleship • Prayer • Community • Support
Encouraging Men and Women in the United States Armed Forces, and their families, to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

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  • Email: Office@cmfhq.org

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