Wednesday, June 20, 2007

All Hands On...

Just about all people follow some one's leadership. They have heroes, bosses, managers, parents, pastors and teachers. And yet most of us also lead. We can lead ourselves, a family, or a country; someone is in always in charge. I believe leadership is partly talent, partly learned and always entrusted to us by God. All of our choices have consequences, and therefore are leading somewhere.

Every entity has some sort of leadership; the church is not exempt from that. It seems I have come across more then few uniformed church people in the area of leadership. They don't seem to understand the fundamentals of leading, but have no problem taking control. They don't seem to get that leadership is not about them, but about those they lead. Simply stated in the Bible, "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." Leadership in the church is about getting at the end of the "blessing" line and encouraging others to join you. Church leadership is really a place of self sacrifice.

Within the church there are different visions for leadership. Some churches have a board, others have a voting deaconate, some seem more like a corporation and others are one man; one vision, take it or leave type operations. There are also different leadership styles, some are aggressive, some are not. John Maxwell has written some good solid leadership books. He details some of the key principles of leadership. Real leadership seems to have a persuasive nature to it. A leader interfaces with people in a fashion that motivates them to do things your way. Leaders take responsibility for their actions and choices. Good leaders are an example to their followers and know how to delegate to others. A good leader considers lots of ideas.

Regardless of our style, Christians need to adhere to Biblical principals. What amazes me is that many don't know what they are. Here is one that shows up a lot, but I don't see it in the Bible. Voting! No one in the Bible voted on anything... save Paul before his conversion to put Christians to death. They cast lots to give God and opportunity to show His preference. But they didn't vote! They relied on wisdom, council, prophecy and hearing the Holy Spirit. You may remember that Peter and Paul addressed some conflicts, but this was an informational meeting for the uninformed, not a vote. When we understand church leadership is being led, we come up with some very different models.

In the church we seem to have a CEO mentality... I am the boss you are the workers; or worse, the spectators! This view is an American corporate teaching, not a Biblical teaching. In business I guess it works, but in the church it separates the leadership from those that need more intimate attention. It turns people in to commodities, not parts of a body joined together by grace to perform the work of the church. Certainly we have to have authority in the church, but that comes from God and it is not controlling everyone, or trying to make everyone like us. The church is meant to be a body with all the parts working together to fulfill the mandates of Christ. There are many scriptures regarding the body and it's functioning. Read 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14 along with Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. These chapters talk about the body and the gifts that are used both in the and outside of the church walls. Ephesians 4 specifically talks about how we are to train and equip all believers.

If you look over your life I am sure you can think of people, teachers, pastors, parents, coaches and managers that taught you things, not by control and manipulation, but by modeling principals and behaviors. They answered your questions with interest and information in a way that that you could understand. They allowed you to do it and helped you to become your best.

Over the years I have heard of all kinds of discipleship movements. My favorite was the matrix model. I liked it because it took those in leadership and asked of them to raise-up someone to take their job within the church. From pastors and worship leaders to Sunday school teachers and toilet cleaners, everyone serving in the church was to raise someone else up! It was something like an Elijah and Elisha type relationship. Or a better example might be Jesus and the 12 apostles. He trained them for a time when He would be gone they took over. I am sure that they were glad that He was around when they had to feed the 5,000 men and their families. But on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was with them and thousands were added to their number. We may only be making coffee, but that is an important job in the church and when we grow into something new, we'll need someone to take our place. If you are a leader, don't be threatened by your protegé, he might just do a better job. Wouldn't it be great if those we inspired did a better job then us! We don't have to be experts or super spiritual, no, we need to get at the end of the line and put someone before us. And if God sees fit, we'll get a promotion to do something else.

Monday, June 18, 2007

What Is the Truth Anyway?

Not a day goes by when we hear some saying that pertains to so-called wisdom. "Seat Belts Save Lives", "Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right", "Low Fat", "Low Carb", "Easy Does It", "Jesus Saves"... the list goes on an on; while the more popular ones are bumper stickers. If you have ever been in a church, you've heard a lot more of them. Here is one, "It Take Two to Tango"; meaning that both partners are responsible for negative outcome in a relationship. Another version is "relationships are 50/50%" when they are really 100%/100%. And my favorite, "good intentions paved the road to Hell." Oh yes, and let's not forget the "money is the root of all evil."

I think in an effort to make things more understandable, some actual scriptures get changed while the original meaning stays intact. Other times well meaning folks try to make these sayings more palatable while they entire truth is circumvented. Here is a worldly example. In US courts we swear to tell the truth, right? Wrong. We swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The two are different. If we only had to tell the truth, we could tell part of the truth, or a combination of truth and lies. As long as we told some truth, then we would be within legal boundaries. However; in order to tell the whole truth and nothing but truth, that is what we have to do. I don't see any loopholes... well the 5th amendment. Therefore; the saying, "money is the root of all evil" is incorrect. The actual passage is, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." You see, it is the love of money that CAN be a root of evil. "All" is inclusive and "all kinds" is not; they are different things.

If you are one that thinks that the saying "Good intentions paved the road to Hell" is Biblical, head over to and try and find it. There are some similar verses, but none quite like that saying.

I think you can see my point. There are many ideas about God, spirituality and Christianity. Some of them are "nice" sentiments, but they don't carry any truth. I once met a man; a monk, and he said that everyone was going to heaven no matter what because of the sacrifice of Christ. I really liked the idea. John 3:16 says that God wills it. "shall not perish but have eternal life. When you take a closer look at the entire canon of scripture, you will find many verses about faith, Jesus being the only way and more. When you compare all of those, you'll see that because God wills salvation to all mankind, they do not receive it without faith in in Jesus.

As a father, I have children and I want the very best for them. I have taught them for years about certain aspects of life, in particular, Christianity. A couple of them are legally adults. It would be my will for them to work hard, get a good education and serve God all of their days. However; if they choose not to do those things I have taught them to do, I can't make them. That is how it is with God the Father. He can impose consequences and penalties for disobedience and sin, but He can't make you love Him. The problem with this analogy is that when my kids finish their lives, I won't be there to review it with them. As adults, there are some rules that I just can't enforce any longer. The penalty for sin, which God will enforce, will be there for eternity-- unless we choose Him.

I am sure there are some readers that have had bad experiences with Christianity. I know I have. There are others that have simply heard bad things about Christianity and believed it, but never checked it out for themselves. I am the only one in my family that ever been to Norway. I recommend it to my friends and family members. If I had gotten mugged there, I might not be so quick to say how great a place it was. The same is true with church and other Christian venues. You really should go and experience it for yourself. If you have and it was bad, I am sorry... keep trying! I think it is possible that you might give up long before God.

Are the benefits of loving and being loved by God worth it? The truth is yes.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Father's Day

Today is the day after Father's Day. Yesterday I thought about my dad on the way home from visiting two of my daughters. I have thought many hours how prayer might have changed things in his life. Fortunately he received Jesus 7 or 8 months before he passed away... June 23 I think it was. He lay there sick in the hospital with brain cancer trying to answer the eternal question "is there really a life after death?" For him, by faith, there was. Amen.

I thought to about the events leading up to his acceptance of the Lord. When we first heard the word "cancer" I decided to take my family and go visit him. A few nights before I was praying on the phone with one of my close friends. I felt the Lord say that my youngest daughter (at the time) would be the one to minister to my dad. As we prepared to go see grandpa, she busied herself with finding a suitable gift. She chose a plaque that had been on the wall in her old room at our previous home. She picked it because of the sunset and the cross with purple cloth on it. We did not have any gift wrap, so she used newspaper to carefully wrap her treasure for "Grandpa nice guy". I am certain that she also used all of the tape left on the roll and lots of love to finish the job. She made a card and on it scrawled the only words she knew how to spell; "love Erin". It was just like the one she gave me yesterday.

The next day we left on the 4 hour journey to Vermont and upon arrival Erin jumped from the car clutching her gift for grandpa. She ran past the dog she was usually afraid of and onto the deck where dad was sitting in his wheel chair. "It's for you!" she exclaimed, "open it" She stood back and watched dad struggle with the miles of tape, her impatience rising. She said "you'll need some help" and she began to tear the paper off the plaque with him. When they were finally done, dad commented quietly, "That's very nice honey."

Erin said, "Read it to me Grandpa!" So he did, it said "I asked Jesus how much do you love me and He stretched out his arms and died." There was a strange silence on the back deck that day. Dad gave his life to the Lord about a week later. The rest is history, or should I say eternity.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Letter of the Law

Yesterday morning I awoke to news about a local teachers strike that has gone into it's fourth day. The teachers were ordered back to work but they have refused to go. Now the union has a $150,000 fine to pay. What is going on in America? First, let me say that it is sad that teachers make so little for the amount of education they have. Most people with a masters degree in greater Boston would make 100K or more... they are not even close. I know I taught school and when offered $16K a year I chose something else.

I am sure you're wondering what is so important to me regarding this situation. Here it is, we have people breaking the law and public support is subsiding quickly as parents scramble to find suitable care for their kids. The law and the court order is being enforced. I remember my mother getting a ride to local pokey after six or seven days after her teacher's union decided to strike. She had a court appearance and a fine. Justice was swift.

The details of this strike seem clear. The teachers received a 4% pay increase and then were asked to pay 10% more in insurance; virtually wiping out the pay raise. Who wouldn't be upset? I know I would. The issue of how we get to a place like this is another story. That fact is they are here, breaking the law. $150K fine is pretty hefty and could have been better spent on health care that they are not getting.

What I find most shocking is that when it comes to immigration, we have a whole different attitude about the law, imposing fines and taking swift action. It is a double-standard, one where "if we like the law" we enforce it and if we don't, we ignore it. The law is not subject to such subjective interpretation at a level where we like or dislike a law. The legal process goes something like this. We elect officials to make and amend laws as well as stipulate punishment for breaking those laws. We expect the police and designated federal agencies to implement the law by arresting lawbreakers and the courts to carry out justice for lawbreakers. And finally we expect the sheriff or warden to make sure that prison sentences, public service , parole and probation is carried out. There are checks and balances to the system to make it fair and occasionally bureaucratic.

The problem is in a few areas. One, we have judges that legislate from the bench with bizarre stretches of the law. Two, we have politicians that want to overlook certain issues and won't enforce them. Immigration is one such instance. We have 12 million illegal aliens here and we are doing virtually nothing to get the mess straightened out. If the laws are wrong, then let's change them. If they are right then let's enforce them. How can we stand by and let them come and break the law. How can we not have a better and more well defined immigration policy? It is not enough to work and pay taxes. Two rights have never changed a wrong. If I work and pay taxes and shoplift, I am still wrong. Conversely we have underpaid teachers being fined and concerned about rising health care costs? Honestly, what are we thinking?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Immigration - The Debacle!

I remember it like it was yesterday-- my first mission trip to Brazil. My friend Carlos was there with a couple of his friends waiting to meet me in Curitiba airport. His amazing smile and that box of Brazilian chocolate he brought as a welcome gift; it is a picture that is stuck in my mind and event that will always be in my heart. We all stood there in the modern concourse greeting each other. It was really quite a moment for me.

It is a bit of an amazing story how I actually met Carlos in the first place. He had come here legally to bring a message of salvation and love to the US; as a missionary to this country. There we were in the midst of something that God was doing, in back hallway of the in Salvation Army, in downtown Hyannis. That was nearly 10 years ago. The rest is history, good history. He has been a friend, a best man and the iron that sharpens iron in my life. We are as close as Johnathan and David were. We often talk about that. We love to travel, eat sushi, enjoy cars, music, worship and the spiritual gifts... it is a truly unique friendship.

The relationship I have with Carlos has given me insight into life in other countries. Brazil, although nearly as big as that US... actually bigger if compare it to the Continental US, is basically poor. Something I have learned about the American perspective is that our world-view is so much different from the rest of the world. Londrina, my favorite city in Brazil, has beautiful parks, a motor speedway, a football (soccer) field and slums that make even the worst of New York or Boston look civilized. There, people that live in lean-tos and cardboard boxes. Only 40% of people that live there even have one car and 59% have none at all. The US in comparison is the "land of opportunity", real opportunity. If they can get here to enjoy it.

I once worked or a man that came here from Columbia in the late 60's. He was a very successful entrepreneur. He had worked hard to get to New York. In Columbia he was told that here "in the USA you could simply pick money up off the street." When he arrived at JFK and went through Immigration and Customs he saw a $20 bill on the sidewalk. He looked at his watch; 5 o'clock in the morning. He bypassed the the $20-- it was to early to start working! Or so his tale goes.

The problem with immigration is that is unfair, a bit racist and a bit politically motivated. It is much easier to get the coveted "green card" if you are from a first world country then is it is to get one from the third world. If you are from a previously Communist country, there was a time when you could almost get on a plane and be assured that you would have citizenship here in the US. I know Europeans that have come here and had little issue in getting the brass ring of citizenship.

I think we have done quite a bit of injustice to those that would want to come here. Why? We have made it easy to be here illegally. First work is not all that hard to find. Second, we don't prosecute false paperwork, overstaying your visa, and other infractions very aggressively. I have seen it first hand. We have had a couple of ridiculously high-profile round-ups and that is it. Third, our boarders are pretty much a joke. Period. However; this is what I find to be the worst of all. My friend came here eight times legally and was denied a green card every time. He has spent over $10,000 in airline tickets doing the right thing flying back-and-forth to Brazil. I have another friend that was illegal for seven years, he received a green card just by waiting around for the system. How sad is that? We have trained them to do the wrong thing. That is injustice, not compassion. I have been to Brazil three times, I know that people are trying escape.

In the same way that a bad parent would only feed their kids junk food, we have supplied immigrants with a very wrong perspective of what most people in this country value. In America, most people believe that hard work and doing the right thing will get you somewhere. Citizenship in the most powerful country on earth is a privilege. I know I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I guess there are others that rely solely on the government to provide everything. I don't think that is very healthy.

What is the answer? First we need to make the line to come here to the US an actual line. It is more like and offensive football play with 10 years to go, then it is a line! What we are doing now is ludicrous, unsafe and unfair to everyone on both side of the border! Second we need to shut the border down for our own safety and as a way to create a line to get into. I have walked portions of the Canadian and Mexican border... getting in is a snap and I don't think it should be. Once we do that we need to figure out a humane way to deal with everyone that is here illegally. Some of these people have been my friends and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Their are friendships, relationships and families at stake. I don't see how we are easily going to ask anyone that has basically done the right thing here, to leave. And lastly, once we have a line to get in, then we need to insure those that work are in the line. We have the opportunity to deport those who don't work, don't pay taxes and commit crimes. I don't believe that we can make it any easier then that. It's been broken for too long and we're going to walk with a limp for some time to come.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Loss of Friend... A Salute to a Warrior

Today while I was waiting to hear news about my father-in-law's kidney surgery(which at the time of this writing seems to have gone well), I received news of another co-laborer in the Kingdom who died in an auto accident. He was known to me as Theodore, but those who were really close to him, called him Grandpa Theodore. He was well into his 80's, a missionary in Mexico... well for the last few years anyway. His legacy was missions in Asia including Vietnam, China and the Philippines. He was the mentor of a friend of mine who I know, and finally met, from a prayer chain on the Internet. We had many e-mails over the last decade... Time flies no matter what you are doing. I am sad today.

As I sit here and think about Theodore's impact on my life, I remember when we first met. He was part of a team in doing a mission in Vietnam. He was located in California arranging things for Bobby and the gang over there. In 2000 the team finally got kicked out of Hanoi for their work. (Which is better than torture and martyrdom I think.) Theodore and I had talked on the phone quite a few times, and he had prophesied over my life; powerful stuff.

After the team got back to the USA they were given an RV and began to tour the US gathering support for whatever was next. They stopped in to see me on Cape Cod in the summer of 2000. I set-up a few church presentations for them that week. Bobby did an incredible teaching on "What Do You Need" at Living Waters and Theodore sat there with me filling in the blanks. After the service we all went in the RV and were just hanging out and talking about missions, Jesus and things like that. I remember Theodore just full of the Spirit, peaceful and energetic in his own way. After all he was 80 at the time. As we were talking I said to Bobby, "there will be a time when they say he [Theodore] is dead, but it won't be true." Bobby proceeded to talk about some of his close calls thus far, but in my spirit I knew that I heard God.

They left on their tour of the US and finally ended up in Mexico ministering to an obscure indian tribe. They have been there since that time. One day Theodore was taken to the hospital and was suffering to from pneumonia or something like it. He was nearly comatose for a few days as I recall. Here is the e-mail Bobby sent me the February of 2002.

David - Just a note, I am off to the hospital. Grandpa is on a ventilator now and they have been spending the last 24 hours trying to find out why he seems to be unable to process oxygen in his system.

Last night, they had him on 100% oxygen with the ventilator and we need to know if he can make it with his own lungs. He is sedated so the tubes will stay quiet but he is active and moving and seems to want to live badly.

We love Grandpa and want God's will for him. I am going to talk to the doctors now as I am the only one who is able to make decisions for him. Theodore is in God's hands and we could sure use your prayers.

Grandpa is fighting hard to stay with us.

Bless you and keep praying,


If you read between the lines, I think that you'll see that Bobby was not convinced that Grandpa was going to make it back in February of 2002. When I read the e-mail that day I could only say to myself, he will live even though they think he is going to die. God was right. He preserved Theodore here in the mission field for nearly 5 more years. In that time, I know that he was frustrated with the lack of funds to do what he had given his life to do, serve the poorest of the poor, risk his own life and comfort for the sake of another salvation. Bobby told me that from the day he retired from the service about 25 years ago that he gave 100% of his social security check to the work of the Lord.

Last words are important, and here are Theodore's to me.

Dearly Loved and Blessed David,

It was a real blessing for me to have Bobby share your recent E-Mail with me. The years that have passed since we first met you have filled our hearts and encouraged and uplifted us with your steadfast faith and love in Christ.

In prayers last night, my heart was filled with desire that God would fill my sleeping moments with dreams, to be a blessing for you. In dream He showed me that you had the prophetic gift and like all his deeply faithful ones would not always have a soft road. Jesus told us as written in Holy Scripture, many things He went through we would also experience. Our eternal joy is the Triumph we will always have over the evil one. Again our ever abounding joy in your toils, and for me who has been close to death these past few months, have been a heavenly reward.

With our grateful loving prayers, from Bobby and all of us,

Grandpa Theodore

Theodore I'll miss your e-mails, but I am sure I will see you there when I finish the race.
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