After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! (1 Thessalonians 2:19 NLT)
Motivation is the fuel of life. In everything we do we must find purpose. Life without purpose is meaningless.
In his letter to believers in Thessalonica Paul referred to some of the things he endured.
As a Christian, Paul often suffered physical, emotional, and spiritual persecution for his faith.
As a missionary, Paul longed for deeper relationships, and greatly missed the consistent fellowship of other brothers and sisters in Christ.
As an apostle, Paul bore the weight of praying for, teaching, and setting an example for those who were often fickle in their own faith. Paul even chose the labor-some toil of working a full-time job (making tents) in order to have the greatest impact on others.
Why did Paul endure all of this? Because of his motivation.
Motivation is the “why” behind the “what.” And for Paul, the “why” was the people.
Sometimes the “what” of life is less than ideal – in fact, it can be draining. But when your focus stays on the “why,” you can handle the “what.”
Paul loved God’s people, particularly those who had come to faith in Christ Jesus through Paul’s ministry.
What’s your motivation?
When your job is frustrating…
When life gets mundane…
When you’re laboring, but not seeing immediate results…
…think of the WHO’s in your life. Your wife, your kids, your friends, those following you.
Ultimately, life is all about motivation.
One day I will stand before The Lord Jesus Christ – my life’s race will be complete. In that moment I will have complete fulfillment and understanding of the meaning of my own life. All of the questions will be answered. And He will say to me: “Well done, good and faithful son.”
For me, Jesus is my greatest motivation.
Jesus, today I choose to live for You. Give meaning to the mundane, and life to the less-than-ideal. With You, I have purpose, I have hope, I have life!
A spirit of gratitude has always been expressed by those who are aware of God’s grace and favor in their lives. But there was a moment in our nation’s history when the heart of thanks-giving became an officially recognized holiday.
On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the following “Thanksgiving Proclamation.”
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God….
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November…as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.
President Abraham Lincoln
President Lincoln recognized that the giving of thanks is not merely an inward feeling, but an outward expression of praise to the Father, from whom proceeds every good and perfect gift. One cannot be thankful FOR any gift without also being thankful TO the giver of the gift.
This Thanksgiving, let’s choose to make it what it was intended to be, a day of thanksgiving and praise!
The ads, rhetoric, and mud-slinging connected with the presidential election of 2012 have left a wake of confusion and division – not only in our nation, but also in the Church (at least the American portion of God’s Church).
I am not qualified to speak to our national and international realities; nor to the political ramifications of our nation’s choices on election day. I do, however, sense a specific “nudge” from the Holy Spirit to provide what I hope are words of wisdom to sincere Christians who find themselves struggling in the aftermath of the collision between politics and faith.
As an American, I care deeply about my country and the current state of her people. But I do not assume that my perspective or position is the only one that is truly “American.”
As a Christian, I pray fervently for every governing authority, no matter their political affiliation. But I bear in mind that my loyalties are first and foremost to a different King, whose kingdom will never end.
But, beyond my perspectives as an American and as a Christian, I share my heart today…as a pastor.
As a pastor:
- I have been given a deep love for the Church, and a desire to encourage, edify and equip her.
- I have been given a voice of influence – a privilege I must faithfully steward only for Kingdom purposes.
- I have been given the responsibility to shepherd people, particularly when they walk through life’s more difficult terrain.
May I humbly ask you to read these words with grace, and an understanding that this communication is not at all intended to be politically charged; but rather, as a pastoral response to practical questions and concerns that affect many believers, whose desire is simply to discern God’s will for their lives and their country?
Christians often differ in their opinions and political stances. It would, in my opinion, be insensitive and presumptuous to assume that God has chosen a “side” in our political process. Joshua’s encounter with The Angel of the Lord reveals this truth. When asked by Joshua, “whose side are you on?” the Lord responded “No. But as Commander of the armies of Heaven I have come.”
No human government is divinely deputized.
In the few days that have passed since the election many people have expressed to me their concerns, fears, and reactions; perhaps none so sincere and eloquent as the following email sent with the subject line: “Struggling”:
Good Morning Pastor Dale,
I’m not a member of New Hope but I hope it’s ok to reach out to you like this. I’m struggling with this election. I have been praying just as I was told in 2 Chronicles, for God to heal this land. For God’s will be done. And I am having a hard time reconciling what has happened with God’s will. I don’t understand. And if it is His will, then what good are my prayers? This has me in tears, I really don’t understand. I have friends… who are blasting me for praying against [what they perceive as being] the good of this country. It causes me to doubt if I am praying correctly.
Noting the obvious perspective of the writer’s political viewpoint, I would like to use this as a springboard to explain some of the deeper questions raised relative to (1) God’s will, (2) the place of Prayer, and (3) Differing political stances by sincere Christians.
The Will of God
This may come as a shock to some deeply held theology, but, currently, on the earth, the will of God is subject to the will of man. Another way to say that is, God has chosen not to override man’s free will.
God created man in His own image – with a free will. Further, God gave man dominion over the earth. Jesus later echoed this truth when He said (in essence): “Whatever you bind or loose on earth has already been pre-approved from heaven.”
Israel was formerly a theocracy – a nation led by God, literally. But a day came when they wanted to have an earthly king, like all the other nations. God gave them what they wanted. It wasn’t His will; it was theirs. Yet, despite God’s disapproval, His plans and purposes were still sovereignly realized when, later, David – a man after God’s own heart – shepherded God’s people “with the integrity of his heart and the skillfulness of his hands.” (It should be noted that even David’s reign, as historically and spiritually profound as it was, was tainted by his human frailty.)
Our nation’s political system is specifically designed to function at the will of the people – “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” And God submits Himself to the will of the people.
To assume that “everything that happens is the will of God,” is as absurd as to assume that “nothing that happens is ever the will of God.” The truth is, God does have a divine plan, but He allows man to govern his own choices. And to live with the ramifications of those choices.
Of course, there is coming a day when God’s plans and purposes for the earth and all mankind will be fully realized. But until that day, the earth is governed by man. We have the choice to live according to our “will” or to submit to His.
The Place of Prayer
Prayer is the catalyst that establishes God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” Without prayer, God’s will can not be realized. It is vitally important that God’s people engage in passionate, persistent prayer!
How then do we reconcile the fact that, at times, despite our prayers the will of God does not seem to occur.
When prayer involves the will of another person, God indeed hears and is moved by our prayers, but still allows the other person to have his own choice. Praying for God’s will in American politics involves the decisions of millions of people.
So, why pray?
Imagine a world where the will of God is NEVER released. The results would be gruesome and unrelenting. Yet that is exactly what would result from the Church’s abandonment of our place of prayer. Sure, our world isn’t perfected by our prayers, but it is sustained by them.
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro shared a great reminder: “Pray for our nation’s leaders, but put your trust in God alone. The others are prayer-worthy; but God alone is trustworthy.”
Differing Political Stances by Sincere Christians
There are Christians who are Republicans, and Christians who are Democrats. Not to mention the Christians who are Libertarian, Tea-Party, unaffiliated, etc. Bible-believing, sincere believers have different views politically.
Historically our two primary political camps have been distinguished by how they viewed the role of the federal government. One view is that a larger, more involved government is most effective for the nation. The other believes that the federal government should be minimal, allowing individual states to govern themselves as much as possible.
Another more contemporary difference is the views on how best to address the social concerns of our day relative to poverty, health care, etc. The goals of each party are similar, but the pathways are dissimilar.
One’s views regarding the role of the federal government or the method of addressing social issues should be valued, debated, and tested – but NOT deified NOR demonized.
Foursquare Founder, Aimee Semple McPherson often gave this wise counsel:
In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity.
Yet, we must define the line between non-negotiable “essentials” and preferential “non-essentials.” I am deeply concerned with a few areas that are, in fact, issues of Biblical proportion.
Abortion, the redefining of marriage, our nation’s moral decline, and our stance with the nation of Israel are all issues that no Christian can ignore. These cannot be considered optional, but fundamental.
A Christian ought not disregard the lives of the unborn in exchange for other lesser reforms.
A Christian ought not allow marriage to be anything less than God’s pure design.
A Christian ought not passively condone (nor aggressively condemn) our society’s moral degradation.
A Christian ought not have a cavalier or casual commitment to Israel.
As a pastor I earnestly desire to lovingly give hope to those who have experienced the pain of abortion, or are walking through the confusion of same-gender attraction, or who have succumbed to some level of immorality, or who simply aren’t aware of the Biblical implications of our international relationship with Israel. Hear me – God loves you and has grace for each and every situation you face.
But a clarion call is appropriate. Political diversity is healthy, but there are some issues that have eternal implications.
What is our response?
If My people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven will forgive their sins and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
We must humble ourselves. My freedom of speech must still be governed by God’s command to “Let your speech always be with grace… good for edification.”
We must pray. The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective.
We must seek God’s face. He alone is all wise and full of mercy. God is the answer.
We must turn from our wicked ways. That’s us…the Church. We cannot expect the world to turn from sin that we ourselves embrace.
And the promise holds true…
God WILL hear our prayers.
God WILL forgive our sins.
God WILL heal our land.
Our nation is only hopeless when the Church ceases to contend for her.
God is not finished with the United States of America.
And neither am I.
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? (Mark 8:34-37 NLT)
I live in a world of leadership. I read books, listen to podcasts, peruse blogs, and receive training on how to be a great leader.
I lead a church, a staff, and a family – all full of leaders. I even have the privilege to lead other pastors, ministers, and leaders, who allow me to have voice into their lives.
I’ve learned many things along the journey, but one principle stands above the rest:
To be a great leader I must be a faithful follower.
Jesus requires absolute loyalty – forsaking my self, shouldering the weight of my own cross, and following Him no matter the cost.
But we leaders have an even greater weight of responsibility placed on our shoulders. We are not merely leading ourselves, we are leading others – and we are accountable to God for how we lead…and Who we follow.
Many leaders follow their own pursuits, and lead others to help them fulfill their personal ambitions.
Godly leaders don’t use people to fulfill their vision; their vision is to build the people.
Godly leaders see the people as belonging to God. We are stewards of God’s most precious treasure – humanity.
Godly leaders die to their agendas.
Godly leaders are patient.
Godly leaders are bold, not arrogant.
Godly leaders lay down their lives and reputations.
Godly leaders are the example of the rule, not the exception to it.
Godly leaders serve.
Jesus seeks out those who will follow Him faithfully; and to those He grants the gift of leadership.
Today I shift my focus from leading to following.
In Jesus’ name,