Leadership On Display

Below is a repost from one of my favorite authors and leadership tycoons, Stephen Mansfield.  (Did I also mention he is a fellow Oral Roberts University alum?)  What a powerful take on great leadership!  Enjoy.

I went to a concert this past Saturday in Washington DC and I saw a principle of leadership so beautifully exhibited that I have to describe it to you.
 
The concert was by Phil Collins. You have certainly heard his music. He was with  a band called Genesis decades ago and then went off on a stellar solo career. I’ll let you look up his music rather than describe it here, but suffice it to say that his songs and voice form the soundtrack of much of the last fifty years.
 
Now, what impressed me beyond his music was how he was positioned in this concert. You see Phil is ailing now. He was once the spunky, long-haired, British rocker with attitude. He is now in his late sixties and is suffering from a number of ailments. He walks with a cane, sits in a chair during the entire concert, and can no longer play the drums, once his trademark skill.
 
Yet he can still sing and, man, does he. He rocked the house in DC and had all 20,000 fans roaring their approval.
 
So what does any of this have to do with leadership? Well, this was a rock and roll concert. How does a near seventy year-old shine when he limps in and sits in a chair the whole time?
 
It all has to do with setting. He was surrounded by gifted musicians and backup singers. They moved around him from time to time, joked with him, sang duets with him, and even teased him—all while he sat in his chair. Gigantic screens brought it all into full view. Video clips of the Genesis days and the Phil Collins of old reminded us of who he had been and made us love him all the more. These same screens gave us tight shots of the musicians and put us inside the genius of every song.

British musician Phil Collins. (Photo by Terry O’Neill/Iconic Images/Getty Images)

It was a thrilling night and it was also the most unusual concert I have ever attended. Why did it work? Setting. Remember this: Everyone stars when they are in the right setting. In the wrong setting, even the most gifted fail. It is the role of leaders to make sure everyone on their team is in the right setting, surrounded by the right people, provided with the right tools, and positioned so their talents produce and shine.
 
Let me say it insultingly. Phil Collins is, by his own admission, old, bald, limp, ailing, unsteady, and physically unengaging. He was even dressed in a warm-up suit of the kind you’d expect to find on an elderly man in a nursing home. This is my only complaint about the evening. Yet Phil Collins owned the night. His voice, his music, his spirit, and his career shown. The audience didn’t want to leave. All of this was true because smart people knew how to put Phil in the right setting.
 
That’s your job, my dear leader. Everyone on your team can shine if you place them in the right setting. Make it happen or make a change. That’s your challenge.
 
And, that’s it. Have a great weekend. And, dear friends, Notre Dame is 6-0 and ranked number 5 in the nation. Talk about the right setting!

Stephen

Posted in Leadership, Pastors, PsMartyFreeman

Goliath’s Sword

Goliath’s Sword

As I’ve written in past blogposts that I’m a HUGE fan of King David. After Jesus, David is the first one I want to sit with in heaven and ask a bunch of questions.

David is probably most famous for his victory over Goliath in the Valley of Elah as a young teen. After felling Goliath with a stone from his sling, he rushes to the giant and cuts his head off with his very own sword (1 Sam. 17:51). It could be said that David became king in the hearts of all Israel at that moment.

We don’t hear about Goliath’s sword again until 1 Sam. 21:9 tells us that David is fleeing King Saul and comes to a town called Nob. He encounters a priest named Ahimelech. David tells the priest that he is on an important mission on behalf of the king and that he needs bread and a weapon. The priest tells him, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah, is here, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want to take it for yourself, then take it.”

We don’t know exactly how it got to the sanctuary at Nob.  However, it is believed that David dedicated the sword to God as a symbol of God’s power to overcome his enemies.  There was no temple in all of Israel at this time, so the large sanctuary at Nob, which was staffed with 85 priests would be the likely place for such an important relic.

However, the sword would not remain just a symbol of past victory, but would stay by David’s side in future battles.  It would serve David well.

Understand: Yesterday’s victories will come back to serve you in your time of need.

My family has experienced this truth first-hand on more than one occasion.  I’ve been privileged to pastor hundreds and hundreds of families over the years both as an associate pastor and as a senior pastor.  Many of the relationships built in each of those posts proved not to be temporary but life-long friendships and covenants.

Some families attending The Altar were families that we served more than twenty years ago in my first ministry position.  The Altar was planted and launched successfully two years ago due to the monetary support of several key friendships who have believed in us and walked with us for many years.  Just this Easter, we gave away thousands of pounds of food provided by a friend of 18 years who has never stopped praying for us.  He supplied every box of food from his own warehouse.

You see, in years past, it was my privilege to serve these friends; to marry their children, to bury their parents and grandparents; to meet them in an ER when medical emergencies arose; to support them when finances were tight; to weep with them when their children were suffering.  It’s always been an honor to be “in the fight” with them…and years later, they got into the trenches with us.

Polly and I witnessed this truth most clearly several years back. While in transition, we went for four months with no income, no health coverage, no benefits.  During that time of desperation and prayer, “ravens,” in the form of covenant friendships, came and fed us like the ravens fed Elijah (1 Kings 17:6).  When it was all said and done, that four month period of famine actually represented more than double what our income was prior to that point.  We literally had boxes of cash brought to our door. Checks sent in the mail from churches, pastors, and yes, long-time friends who we served in the past. A friend drove an SUV into my driveway and said, “We were going to trade this in on our new vehicle, but the Lord told us to bring it to you.” (It was five years newer and 150,000 fewer miles than the church vehicle I had been driving.) Other blessings just kept flowing in the form of goods and services and we were always blown away by God’s faithfulness. He used these blessings to remind us that He had not left us but still had a great plan. He was proving that the best was still coming…and is still proving that daily.

Past victories came back to serve us well.

Whatever you take from this post today…please receive this:  Don’t give up on God; don’t give up on His people; and don’t give up on yourself.  He WILL provide for you…and He will bring back past victories to bless you once again.  He will prove Himself in the midst of the darkest struggles and the most heated battles.

Posted in Christianity, My Story, Pastors, PsMartyFreeman

Leading from a Distance

I read an article several years ago by Bishop TD Jakes entitled, “Leading from a Distance.” He aptly explained the need for true leaders to not become “too common” with those that they lead. Certainly, we can be friends, fellowship, share life’s ups and downs, but that people being led want a leader that is “out front.”  Abraham led his family to a new land. Moses went up on the mountain alone in order lead.  Joshua led the Israelites around Jericho’s walls. David led his people in worship and in battle.  Jesus Himself led strong while the disciples did their best to follow.

The following is, in part, an article I recently read by an admired leader, Stephen Mansfield. Stephen is a best-selling author, commentator and leadership guru for many large companies and organization.  While some of his applications won’t translate cleanly into church leadership, the principles still apply.  I’ve added a few of my own thoughts in (…) for the next generation as well.  Enjoy.

I’m going to go Old School on you in this Leading Thoughts. Let me tell you why.
 
I’ve recently been involved in some decision-making about young leaders. I wasn’t making the decisions, but I was advising those who did. Older, experienced men and women were determining the career paths of rising young execs. I was fascinated by what I saw.
 
Let’s assume for the sake of our time together that all these young leaders were equally well-educated, equally experienced and had, as far as anyone could tell, equal potential. This was largely true, I believe. Yet the deciding factor over and over was the young person’s manner. Now, this wasn’t just a matter of older leaders wanting to be respected. This was older leaders realizing that some of these younger folks just didn’t have an engaging way with people. Time and again, this was the margin that made the difference.
 
I came away from the experience convinced that some Old School wisdom was needed, and not just on the part of junior executives. I’m seeing this need in leaders at every level.
 
So, may I presume to give some fatherly advice, even though many who read Leading Thoughts are older than I am? I mean “fatherly” in the sense that this is the kind of lore that fathers once taught their sons and daughters. I’m not making that assumption anymore. Here goes:
 

  • When you first meet someone, square your shoulders to them. Look them in the eye. Shake hands firmly but not violently. Say something short and meaningful: “It is good to meet you” or “Thank you for being here.” Don’t break off until they do.  (So important that your church and those you encounter believe you are “in the moment” with them, even though the moment may be brief.)
  • Remember names. Use every trick in the book. In fact, read a book on remembering names and faces. Use people’s names often but not so often that you sound like an over-eager salesman.
  • Refer to older men and women—and people further up the authority ladder than you—as “ma’am” or “sir” and use “Mr” and “Miss/Ms/Mrs” until that other person makes things more casual by saying something like, “Oh, just call me Laura.”
  • Dress one click above the norm of people at your level. This doesn’t mean you wear a tux to a picnic. It doesn’t mean you wear a tie on “Casual Friday.” It just means you take it up a notch most of the time. Under-dressing isn’t taken as cool in a business environment. It is taken as a sign of not caring. Trust me on this. (Let’s face it, the days of pastors wearing jeans with holes, crazy paisley shirts and trying to look 30 years younger than they are is becoming a cliche and a side joke in the church world.  I need to work on this myself, but people do look at you different when you dress well.  The younger generation doesn’t want you to relate to them…they think that’s goofy.  They want you to lead…be different…hold a higher standard, even in appearance.)
  • Sit in meetings like you are interested. Sit up, lean a bit forward, show up with something to take notes on other than your cell phone, and look at the person speaking. Bad vibes in meetings echo loudly in executive decision-making. Trust me on this too.
  • Don’t cuss in business meetings. Even if the boss does. (I hope this isn’t a problem in your leadership…but…just sayin’.)
  • Eat your munchies at home. Scratch yourself at home. Adjust your bra in private. Pick your ear and your nose in private. Yawn behind a hand—or a wall. Arrange things under your clothes, you know, somewhere else. Don’t stink. Don’t overdo perfume and cologne. Use deodorant. I know, I know, but this was a factor in a recent hiring decision I witnessed.
  • Finally, don’t mumble. Don’t talk like you’re insecure even if you are. Think about what you hope to say before you get to the meeting. Say it firmly. If you mess up, admit it. Laugh about it. It signals that you don’t take yourself too seriously and you’ll learn from your mistakes.

 
Okay, there’s more, but you get the point. Go forth. Help each other. Leadership roles are out there for the taking. And some folks are missing them because they apparently can’t take a dang shower before an interview. Bugs me.

Posted in Church, Leadership, Miscellany, Pastors, PsMartyFreeman

Unto All…Upon All

Unto All and Upon All

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference.  Romans 3:21-22

God Now Sees Us Apart from the Law

Until this time, in the book of Romans, the address of God has been to the one nation He delivered the law to – Israel. The covenants, sacrifices, priesthood, gospel and teaching of the word was given to this nation.  The law could never remove sin, guilt, pay the debts or remove the fears of those who had sinned and were born into sin.

At the cross, the law was removed and righteousness was now available to all mankind, every color, race, gender, income and social level. God’s righteousness, apart from the law, is a reference to salvation through Jesus Christ only. All that is required by man is faith in Jesus Christ and His plan of redemption. The barrier which caused God’s anger toward our sins has been replaced with grace and compassion toward man despite his sins. God no longer sees mankind through the law. Once the law was removed, God can look directly on us in love. The thunder, wind and earthquake is over and the still small voice of grace is speaking.

Two Things are Said of God’s Righteousness to Us

First – It Is Unto All

God’s righteousness is first said to be unto all. The emphasis here is that we, as Gentiles, were strangers and foreigners to the covenants of God. We have now been brought to the cross by the blood of Jesus and all that is required is our faith to receive the righteousness of God. This righteousness is first of all something we become, not something simply added to our life or something accounted us. We are not sinners just saved by grace. We used to be sinners, and now we have been saved by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. And, as surely as Jesus became sin for us on the cross, we have become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The veil of the temple has been torn down and removed so all people can experience the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, when the Church began, the Holy Spirit moved into the bodies of all who believe in Jesus. We are the temple of God. God’s righteousness lives in me and that righteousness is something I have become.

The Church today now has the covenants, the gospel and word of God to take to the nations. A Church made up of all people can take the gospel and word to all people, fulfilling the Great Commission, “into all the world” (Mark 16:15).

The same message given to Jesus to preach in His day has been given to us. We stand in Jesus’ place as ambassadors of God, preaching “be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Second – It Is Upon All

God’s righteousness is, secondly, said to be upon all.  The same God who made us His righteousness has also clothed us with righteousness. The righteousness God made us is to be seen only by Him.  But, the righteousness He has placed upon us, clothed us with, is for others to see – the world of demons and the world of people who surround us.  “I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy” (Psalm 132:16). There is a salvation seen only by God, but there is also a salvation seen by the world which is a display of our inward nature of God’s righteousness.

Let Righteousness Work

The promise given to Abraham and his children, that one day they would inherit the world, did not come because he followed the rules of the law.  Romans 4:13

One day, Abraham discovered the difference between the law and faith. He hadn’t even been given the law, yet he was trying in his own strength to make it come to pass.

Even before the Ten Commandments were given, Abraham was trying to please God by his own works and one day he realized it could not be done. One day Abraham realized he could only please God through the righteousness of faith.

I believe Abraham had righteousness all that time but he just wouldn’t let it work. God kept trying to get through to Abraham, “Let me do it Abraham,” and Abraham kept trying to help God through his own works. Abraham tried to help God for twenty-five years before he finally said, “Okay God, You do it!” All those years it was Abraham’s self-effort until finally he received revelation of the righteousness of God through faith.

Let the World See

God’s righteousness in us is not a product of our works nor is it sustained by our works. It is totally a product of God’s grace and received by our faith. But, our outward righteousness is a display of our works to men. Not only does God need to see our salvation, people need to see it also. Outward righteousness that which is upon us, is a form of witnessing. We display the gospel by our words and by our deeds. We are not saved by works before God, but we are saved unto good works to be seen by men. James tells us we are saved before God and we are saved before men. Before God is by our faith and before men is by our works. God can see our faith, the world cannot. They can only see the display of our faith which is our works of love toward God and especially men. This is our clothing of righteousness, the outward display of our salvation.

Our walk of righteousness is living a sinless life before others. We need to show the world that God not only forgives all of our sins, but also gives us the power to live free from sin. Only a Christian has the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the word to resist sin. “Your word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against God” (Psalm 119:11).

I am sure you have heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words.”  This is very true for the Christian life.  A member of the world’s population would say it this way, “I would rather see a Christian witness than hear one.”  In other words, they are saying they want to see the righteousness of God that is upon us, more than hear of the righteousness that is in us. If we are wearing a robe of righteousness, let us ever be aware of it and act like the children of God. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). The crowds in Antioch saw Jesus in the life of the disciples and called them little Jesus’. What does the world see in your life?

Posted in Christianity, Church, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

No Argument Like a Holy Life

I, like most Pastors, am grieved at the ability of the enemy to do his terrible work.  Let’s face it, Satan is good at what he does.  Jesus said in the gospel of John, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; but I have come that you may have life and life more abundantly!”

My heart breaks when I see incomplete families coming to church without daddies; without a rebellious teen who just doesn’t want to come; without a wounded momma who simply can’t risk trusting church people again. I have prayed long and hard for such situations and continue to admonish that stalwart believer, “Don’t give up!” 

The fact is, Satan is stealing from the one who thinks that church is an unnecessary activity.  He deceives so cunningly that one begins to think they are not missing anything.  (God forbid, if they are right.)  God’s glory and presence are unique in a corporate setting of worship and teaching of God’s word.  There is a cumulative effect of anointing and grace that grows and builds as God’s people come together.  Just think of it:  hundreds of “temples” are coming to the house of worship, bringing the very Spirit of God with them as they arrive!  As they join in the crescendo of worship, the angels of heaven join in and it becomes a sweet aroma ascending to God’s throne.

In this new year with Easter just before us, allow me to encourage you to make your greatest commitment to gathering with God’s people.  And, if you have family and friends that do not attend church, don’t give up.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Robert Murray McCheyne was so much like Jesus that his colleagues nicknamed him “Holy McCheyne”.  McCheyne was Scottish pastor and author in the early 1800’s and was more than qualified to write about holiness.  He wrote:

 “Live holier lives:  When a holy believer goes through the world filled with the Spirit, the fragrance fills the room,  If the world were full of believers, it would be like a bed of spices.

            If you lived a holy, consistent life, how many souls might be saved as a result.  Wives might thus win their husbands without a word when they see your chaste conversation.  Parents might in this way save their children when they see you holy and happy, as children have often thus saved their parents.  Let your light shine before men.  The poorest can do this as well as the richest, the youngest as well as the oldest.  Oh, there is no argument like a holy life!”

Posted in Christianity, PsMartyFreeman, Religion, Spiritual Pursuits

Church Government

Today I share a re-post from Pastor Loren Sandford.  His verbiage may be a bit stronger than I would use, but the importance of proper church government is such a passion of mine, I decided to post it anyway.

A number of years ago, I was “called on the carpet” about spending $2000 for a drum set for our church. (I had sold our previous set for $1700 so we’re were literally talking about a $300 decision on my part.)  The challenge to my decision-making caused me to ask our “apostle” to join us for one of our board meetings so he could offer his insights from many years of experience overseeing hundreds of churches and pastors…a great hero of mine.  He was asked, “Is there a recommended dollar limit with which the pastor could not unilaterally decide to make such an expenditure?”  Fair question.  After more than 10 years of managing in the very same manner (with great results all glory to God), I was very interested in the answer as well… open to suggestions if needed.  His reply was just as interesting.  He said, “Yes, many churches have those constraints on their pastors.  And those churches are either plateaued or in decline.”

I share that antidote because it really does speak to how healthy, biblical church government keeps everyone safe, secure and accountable. My mentor always said, “I believe in pastor-led, board-supported churches.”  And I’ve learned over years of ministry that leading and managing are very different.  We manage things…we lead people.  May we as church leaders bring excellence to both.  There is proper hierarchy.  There should be.  Healthy structures allow leadership to lead people well…while accountability and transparency keep the people safe from harm.

 

A doctrine of demons has been circulating in the church in recent years that has been gaining increasing traction. Cloaked in robes of false righteousness and even claims of prophetic inspiration, but born in rebellion, it appeals to something in our culture that undermines and despises the leadership God has anointed and appointed. Wherever it goes, it weakens, divides and destroys.
 
It’s the idea that because we are all equal, there should be no “hierarchy” of leaders in the body of Christ. Somehow, people have gotten the idea that the churches and ministries should be governed by a team of “co-equal” elders. Let me begin by saying that everywhere I’ve seen this unbalanced and unbiblical philosophy applied, it has ultimately resulted in ministry failures, wounds and broken relationships. I realize that this doctrine of governance grew out of reactions to leaders who have led with domination and control or for self-exaltation, but the existence of abuses by leaders who missed the heart of God can never justify rejection of the kind of order Scripture actually mandates. Today, tragically, this unbiblical idea of church governance has gone beyond a reaction to abuses and has become an infection spreading into places where leadership has not been abusive or controlling. Good leaders are being diminished and dishonored. The body of Christ is being weakened.
 
In point of fact, every successful ministry of which I have been aware over 42 years of professional pastoral ministry in multiple nations—and so many churches I’ve lost count—has been overseen by an anointed leader whom everyone recognizes and submits to. In some cases, a team of elders claimed to be co-equal, but the obvious dynamic was always that one person rose to be the recognized driver of the vision. By dint of character, service and anointing, that person led with an authority everyone willingly followed.
 
God called Moses to lead. Moses had a team in Aaron and Miriam who demanded equality in Numbers 12 and were sternly rebuked by God for it. “Has the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Has He not spoken also by us?” Numbers 12:2b). God’s response came immediately: “And the anger of the Lord burned against them, and He set out. When the cloud went away from over the tabernacle, Miriam became leprous as snow, and Aaron turned toward Miriam and saw that she was leprous” (Num. 12:9-10).

The issue was never whether or not Aaron and Miriam heard from God. The issue was that they sought to pull Moses down from his appointed place of authority. Legitimate challenges to those in leadership are legal and necessary. Any good leader humbly holds his heart open to such things, but the spirit that seeks to pull a leader down to the level of false equality brings the judgment of God. When people in a ministry begin to behave like Aaron and Miriam toward the authority God has established, then, unless repentance comes quickly, ministries fail and die of spiritual leprosy.
 
The apostle Paul, a man anointed of God for leadership in the church, traveled with a team over which he clearly exercised godly authority. The churches he planted knew him as their apostle, and he expected obedience from them, not simply because he carried a mandate from God, but because he had led them with the heart of a father. In Philippians 2:12 he wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but so much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” On the basis of having fathered the church in Corinth in Christ, he carried the authority to discipline the people there. First he wrote, “For if you were to have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers. In Christ Jesus I have become a father to you through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15) and then verse 21, “What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and in the spirit of meekness?”

Without a doubt, Paul’s spiritual son, Timothy, functioned as the pastor in authority over the church in Ephesus, even while working with elders who served as his team. Paul wrote both I and II Timothy to exhort him to pick up his authority and exercise it, not allowing anyone to despise his youth in doing so. Timothy carried the authority to discipline elders who served under him (I Timothy 5:19-20). To Titus Paul delegated authority to “appoint elders” (Titus 1:5) and set the church in order. God never intended the church to be a democracy.
 
See Ephesians 4:11-13: “He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Or Hebrews 13:17, “bey your leaders and submit to them, for they watch over your souls as those who must give an account. Let them do this with joy and not complaining, for that would not be profitable to you.” Focus on the word “unprofitable.” It implies loss when God’s appointed authority is not respected.
 
Isn’t it clear that God has established a structure of leadership and authority in the church and that He has commanded us to work within it? It has nothing to do with equality of persons. We are all sinners made saints by the blood of Jesus, but in order to destroy the people of God, the enemy of our soul has twisted the idea of equality into something God never intended. Leaders are never superior to those they lead. They merely occupy a place of authority for which God will hold them accountable. In fact, the task of a good leader is to equip, enable and elevate those he leads. The heart of a real father longs for his children to rise higher in what they do than he ever could. This is why Jesus promised in John 14:12: that we would do the works He did and greater works than He did. He showed us the Father’s heart and revealed what a real leader does. Good leaders don’t keep people under. They rather lift them higher.
 
We live in a day of doctrines of demons and destructive heresies as prophesied in the Word of God. Some of them undermine core doctrines of our faith. Others chip away at the structures God ordained for the leadership of His people. Let us be on guard. And, leaders! Lead with the heart of the Father and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not about you. 

R. Loren Sandford is an author, musician and the founder and senior pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver, Colorado. He has a bachelor’s degree in music and a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. In addition to pastoring, Sandford has an international teaching and worship ministry. Married since 1972, he and his wife, Beth, have two daughters and one son. They live in Denver, Colorado.

Posted in Church, Pastors

Learning Contentment

I’m teaching this week on the 10th commandment, “You shall not covet…”  The secret to not falling into covetousness is learning contentment…being pleased and satisfied with what God has already provided.  Some of my resourcing came from the following article by my former pastor, Bob Yandian.  Hope you enjoy.  It’s a powerful teaching.

So many Christians believe the new birth is the goal for all people in the world. Yet, being born again is only the beginning, not the end of God’s plan for our life on earth. Even the Great Commission is divided into two parts. Mark 16 gives the side of the preaching of the gospel which redeems a person who believes in Jesus. Matthew 28 gives the second part of the mission given to the Church – discipling and teaching the word of God to those who have just believed. Jesus, in John 8:31-32, told the Jews who believed on Him while He was preaching, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. It is not even the truth that makes us free, but knowing the truth. The goal of the Christian life is to first receive Jesus, then begin maturing in the word. The new birth is instant, but growing up lasts a lifetime. We never fully reach the goal of maturity.

Renewing the Mind

Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times and strength of salvation (Isaiah 33:6).

The new birth recreates our spirit and makes us a child of God. But the word of God, taught to us as a believer, renews our mind, making us a mature child of God. What the world needs more of is not necessarily more Christians, but more disciples. Those who continue in the word of God. Christians do not bring stability to the world, but those who know and act on God’s promises bring stability. Stability is not spiritually genetic, but learned. In other words, who you are does not make you stable, but the knowledge you possess and the wisdom you walk in does.How you think makes you stable.

I Have Learned, I Know, I Know, I Am Instructed

Not that I speak in regard to need: for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to have plenty and to be in need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

How often have we quoted verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” but fail to read the two verses before?  There is four times more learning and knowing than doing.

Paul first declares that in whatever condition he finds himself in, he has learned to be content.  Contentment is not a feeling. Contentment is learned. When you apply what you have learned to the situation, you may have a feeling of contentment come over you, but feelings are a result, not the goal.

Then, Paul declares twice that he knows how to be at the bottom of circumstances and he knows how to be on top. He has been broke and rich. He has been hungry and full. Yet, he is not moved by his situation, financial condition or lack of food, only by what he knows from God’s word.  In other words, what does it matter what the situation is? “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). God’s promises do not change despite the circumstances. Yet, the circumstances will change when the Word of God is applied.

Next, Paul tells us that in the hunger or financial need, he is instructed on how to handle the situation. Again, the circumstances should not change what you know. But, what you know will change the circumstances.

It is often difficult to shut your eyes and stop your ears to what is going on around you. Bills in the mail and phone calls demanding payments can be overwhelming to the senses. Running away to some island will not solve the situation either. You just take your problems with you. Wherever you go, there you are. But, what you know from God’s word can make wherever you are an island of tranquility. Having your bills paid, a clean doctor’s report or your wife asking you to take her back is not the present answer. Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times right now.  A change in circumstances will come in due season. You can be at peace when all hell is breaking loose around you.

Deliverance

For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19)

Is your life in danger? Have the doctor’s given you a short time to life? Have you been wrongly blamed, and your reputation, job or security is threatened? What does the word say? What you know is more important than what you are going through. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

Deliverance comes from what you know.

Are You Doubting You Are Even Saved?

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

Assurance you are saved is not a feeling. Assurance comes from what you have learned and what you know. Or as John says, from what is written. Because you do not feel saved, does not mean God has moved out of your heart and left you a sinner. You are still the temple of the Lord and you still possess eternal life. How do you know that? Because the word of God says so. What you feel will not change the word of God. But the word of God will change how you feel. Feelings come, and feelings go, but the word of God never changes. You are saved, whether you feel like it or not.

 How Is This Situation Going To Change?

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

All things do not work together for good for all believers. Only for those who know they do. Many Christians are bitter because they think God is a respecter of persons. He has met the needs of others and their situations have turned around. But their needs are not met, and their circumstances have not changed.  God is not a respecter of persons, but a respecter of His word. Ignorance of scripture or lack of application of the word is an open door for Satan. Obedience to God’s word shuts the door in Satan’s face and opens another door for God to move and alter the situation. You do not know how God will change the situation, but you just know He will. It is up to me to trust Him and up to Him to handle the situation.

 Fear of Death?

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.”  (Romans 8:38,39)

One of the things Jesus came to save us from was fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). Being free from the fear of death is not a feeling. It comes from being persuaded. It is learned. The same scriptures you have depended on for years to assure you of your salvation and deliver you from fear and circumstances, is the same word you can depend on when you die. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) “I know my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25)

Posted in Christianity, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Mephibosheth

In chapters 18-20 of I Samuel, we find that Saul had become jealous of David and wanted to kill him. David was forced to leave Saul’s palace and go into hiding. Thus, he and Jonathan were separated.

Before David left, he and Jonathan plotted to meet each other (I Samuel 20) Verse 41 gives an account of the first secret meeting between the two. “And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. 

The word “exceeded” actually means “overwhelmed.” David cried so violently that he could not control himself. He was overwhelmed because he loved Jonathan, his covenant brother, as he loved himself.

Their friendship is a type of the day when Jesus, on the cross, entered into a covenant with us. Just as David and Jonathan were separated, so are we physically separated from Jesus. We are on earth and He is in heaven, but our hearts yearn to see Him. When we do rise to meet Jesus in the air, I’ll probably be so overwhelmed and overcome with emotion when I stand before Him in heaven, that I will cry. This is scriptural, because the Bible says He’s going to have to dry away all tears.

This covenant between Jonathan and David was an everlasting covenant that applied to future generations. In I Chronicles 8:34, we learn that Jonathan had one son, Meribbaal. Actually, that is a Caldean word; his Hebrew name is Mephibosheth. The covenant between David and Jonathan was rightfully to pass from Jonathan to Mephibosheth after Jonathan’s death.

After Saul, Jonathan, and all his brothers were killed in battle, David took the throne. But, he has not forgotten the covenant nor his love for Jonathan. Therefore, David takes the initiative and seeks out anyone of the house of Saul. “And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (II Samuel 9:1)

Ziba, a former servant in the house of Saul, tells him of Jonathan’s son, “…which is lame on his feet”(II Samuel 9:36).

In II Samuel 4:4, we learn how Mephibosheth became lame. At this time Saul and his sons were dying in battles and the house of Saul was crumbling. When Mephibosheth’s nurse heard all this bad news, she realized that David would take the throne. Furthermore, because she believed Saul’s lies that David was the cause of Israel’s problems, she feared that the child would be killed. “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, had son that was lame of his feet. He was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jesreel, and his nurse took him up, and fled: and it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.” (II Samuel 4:4)

The name Mephibosheth means “a shameful thing.” He became “a shameful thing” after his nurse tripped and dropped him during a fear-filled flight. Since that time the child had been living in Lodebar (dry places) in the house of Machir (salesman). In other words, he’s crippled, living in the desert, and being sold a bill of goods! All these years his nurse and whomever he had been staying with had been telling him over and over again, “The reason you live in this dump is because of David. The reason your feet are lame is because of David. David did this to you.” And the boy grew up hating and fearing the household of David. Furthermore, he was living in ignorance, not knowing of the covenant that was drawn up between his father Jonathan and David.

Mephibosheth is a type of a person in the world. The devil dropped him one day and in the fall, his feet became lame and all this time the devil has been telling him, “God did this to you and it’s all God’s fault that you’re this way. It’s God’s fault you can’t get off the ground. It’s God’s fault you’ve never done anything right. It’s God’s fault that your family is falling apart. It’s God’s fault for this economy. It’s God’s fault for all the wars and rumors of wars around the world.” Sadly, the man in the world believes the devil because he doesn’t even know about the covenant that was drawn up before he was ever born. Does this sound like you? For years, ignorant of what God had done? Blaming God for your situation? Thinking God was the culprit? Being sold a bill of goods? Living in dry places?

Happily, like you, Mephibosheth didn’t live in ignorance forever. “Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar.” (II Samuel 9:5)

An important point to notice is that David (who now had everything to lose and nothing to gain) took the initiative and “fetched” Mephibosheth! Like Mephibosheth, the ignorant sinner doesn’t take the initiative. Aren’t you glad there was a day when Jesus came out and found you, and literally picked you up and escorted you into the kingdom.

“Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence.” (II Samuel 9:6a) Mephibosheth probably thought that he was going to be killed.

But “…David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant!” (II Samue/9:6b)Aren’t you glad David called him by name? Likewise, Jesus knows our names.

Verse 7 of II Samuel 9 tells us what David did for Mephibosheth and why he did it. “And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.”

You see, David is honoring the covenant. He knows he will get nothing in return from Mephibosheth. The boy is poor and has been living in a shack in the desert. He has nothing to offer a king. Why, he wouldn’t even make a good servant because he is lame in both his feet.

Mephibosheth is just like we were when we came to Jesus! What did we have to offer Him? Nothing! All our righteousness before Him is as filthy rags.

David’s bringing in Mephibosheth and saying to him, “I’m going to restore everything to you that your father lost” is similar to our being given everything Adam lost. Like Mephibosheth, we fell and our feet became lame. From that time on, satan, the great salesman, has sold us a bill of goods, and we have blamed God for our “lame feet.” Weren’t you surprised one day when you came to God and found out He was a God of goodness?

Don’t you know that when Mephibosheth was lying prostrate before David, his mouth hung open? Don’t you know he kept thinking, “This couldn’t be right. Everything I have ever heard was how bad you were, how you killed everybody, how you were out looking for me.” He was overwhelmed by the generosity of David as he was offered everything that David had.

Mephibosheth’s reaction to David is found in verse 8. “And he bowed himself, and said, “What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such dead dog as I am?”

Verse 9 says, “Then the king called to Ziba, Saul’s servant…” In other words, David totally ignored what Mephibosheth said. There is nothing wrong with realizing that in the sight of God you’re nothing. But, if you go around confessing before God that you’re a worm of the dust and un- deserving of all God’s blessings, He cannot agree with you. He’ll turn His ears from that. You may have nothing before you came to the Lord, but the moment you walked through the front door of His kingdom, you became the righteousness of God in Him.

What did David say to Ziba? “…I have given unto thy master’s son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house. Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him.” (II Samuel 9:9b-10a)

Not only did David give back all the lands that Saul lost, but he also told Mephibosheth that he would not even have to work it. The servants that Mephibosheth got were Saul’s servants who had come to work under David. David received all the servants and then gave them back to Mephibosheth. He gave him all the land, and servants to work it so that Mephibosheth could stay in the house and eat the good of the land. All Mephibosheth had to do was be a good steward of what they brought him from the field.

When you came to the Lord Jesus Christ, He gave you back the earth and all the fullness thereof. What was lost under Adam has now been restored to the Church. Jesus gave it to you, but the beautiful thing is, He gave you all His servants to go out and till the land and bring you back the good of the land. That’s not a bad deal is it? When I came to the Lord Jesus, He gave me angels and said that they were to do my bidding. He says angels respond to the voice of His Word. Furthermore, we are to send angels and messengers out into the field to do the bidding of God for us. And then, as it says here, they will bring back the fruits of it. “Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master’s son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master’s son shall eat bread always at my table. Now Ziba had fifteensons and twenty servants.” (II Samuel 9:10) Mephibosheth now had thirty-six people to go to work and till the land for him while he sat there and ate continually at David’s table.

“Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons. ” (II Samuel 9:11)

It was necessary for David to make it clear to Ziba and for Ziba to make it clear to the other servants that Mephibosheth was to be treated as the king’s son because there may have been a tendency for other servants in David’s household to look down on Mephibosheth as the poor lame upstart who was taken out of the dry places.

Because of our position in Christ Jesus, angels don’t hold anything over us. We are children in the house of God; angels are servants. They might be bigger than we are. They might have been around a lot longer, but we have been given special privileges in the house of God. There’s coming a day we will rise to meet Jesus in the air and sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Guess who’s going to serve this supper? The angels will be serving us. Furthermore, we’ll sit right next to the Son! In II Samuel 9:12, 13 we further read, “And Mephibosheth had young son, whose name was Micha. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth. So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.”

At the first mention of Mephibosheth and at the last mention, the fact that he was lame in both is feet is brought out. His feet being lame is not a type of divine healing. It is simply bringing up that his “walk” did not get him into the castle. His “walk” did not keep him in the castle. He was brought into the castle because of the covenant that was drawn up between David and Jonathan.

Just as Mephibosheth probably stumbled, we have all stumbled and fallen. Yet, despite our falling, a place is still prepared for us at the table of God. Have you ever noticed that when you’re sitting around the table, you can’t see your feet. The table of God hides all your blemishes, your faults, your failures. The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, continually cleanses you from all sin. Some of you have been out of fellowship with God for a year, two years, a month, two weeks, a number of days. And because you’ve fallen, you’re running around listening to the liar, the devil, who is selling you a bill of goods saying, “You’ll never be as good as you used to be. The covenant is no good for you anymore.” He has you right back out in the dry places again. I just want to tell you the table is still prepared. All you have to do is walk through the door of I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins,” and the blood covenant will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Then we can slide up to the table right next to Jesus because it wasn’t our good works that got us in and it’s not our good works that keep us in. We got in only because of the covenant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 6:17 tells us that God so wanted to show His immutability or His unchangingness to His children, the heirs of the promise, that He confirmed it by an oath. An oath is a covenant. God so wanted to enter into covenant with you, He so much wanted to show youhow unchanging He was, that He swore to it by an oath.

The eighteenth verse goes on to say, “That by two immutable things…” God is immutable. He cannot change. God wanted to enter into covenant with you, but He couldn’t. Covenants are only as strong as the weakest personality. Since we have crippled feet, God couldn’t enter into covenant with us. He had to find somebody who did not have a crippled foot. Therefore, God the Father entered into covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ. They are both immutable. Like Mephibosheth, we merely walked into a covenant which cannot be broken and which cannot be changed.

Jesus now offers the completed covenant to us and says, “Get in on it. If you blow it, you can’t break it. If you miss it, you can’t break it. You didn’t get in because you had good feet. You don’t stay in because you have good feet. You get in because I have good feet. You can’t walk it, but I did. I already walked it. Get in here and flow with me and I’ll take you.” “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. ” (Hebrews 13:20-21)  -Repost Bob Yandian (used with permission)

Posted in Christianity, My Story, PsMartyFreeman

Fasting & Prayer Pt. 4 Finishing Strong

You’ve been there. So have I. When the heavens feel like brass. Prayers feel like they’re bouncing off the ceiling and falling silently to the floor. Where are the goose bumps? Where are the angelic visitations? Why does my head still hurt? Am I doing it wrong?

The answer? It is important to step back and understand that fasting itself is a prayer. It is a sacrifice that is a sweet aroma rising to the Father. You may not be “feeling” it but God sees what you’re doing for Him and He will reward.

My best friend is a missionary in India. When Stan and I went different directions after high school graduation (he moved to Wichita and I went to ORU in Tulsa), we also embarked on fresh, new spiritual journeys. He was winning that race. Every time I would talk to him, he would share new things he had learned about the Lord. His faith was growing rapidly and I wanted to know why. One day, while visiting Stan in Wichita, I was awakened by him praying loudly in the next room. When I arose, I discovered he had stacks of prayers and scripture confessions all over the table. He was fervently running hard after God. He shared some of his tools for successful prayer and I began to run hard with my friend after the Savior we both so zealously love.

However, as any faithful believer will testify, every prayer time is not a heavenly rapture of angel choirs and nearly audible voices from the throne. Some of them are hard. Sometimes it feels like we are plodding along with little result. The next time Stan and I were together I told him about my dilemma. He said something I have never forgotten: “Marty, 95% of prayer is just showing up…making yourself available.”

Sometimes the prayer, the fasting seems a dry, difficult dirge. But every time, it is an acceptable offering to the Lord.

Stay with it. Finish strong. Don’t let discouragement get you down. Keep showing up. Your breakthrough very likely is just around the corner. The seed you sow during the fast will often produce a harvest the week after or a month later. But the harvest will come. The breakthrough will be realized.

Keep showing up. God is showing up every time!

Posted in Christianity, Prayer/Fasting, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits

Fasting That Lasts

My oldest son, Michael, is a guitar player. He caught the bug playing Guitar Hero and soon decided he wanted to play the real thing. However, if you know anything about Guitar Hero, some of the music that he was “cutting his teeth” on was not what I wanted him listening to. I was patient. Rather than dropping the hammer, I backed off and trusted God. I kept encouraging him to leaPrayer & Fasting Artrn some worship music. He did. But his favorites were still the iconic riffs of the 70’s and 80’s.

Several years ago, as our annual fast was concluding, he informed his mother and I that he had fasted secular music for the three-week journey. He did it on his own without telling us.  Admittedly, I did not notice.  Instead he had feasted his guitar prowess on Christian artists like Reliant K, Toby Mac and Family Force 5. We were shocked. We were very proud. He then informed us of how much more he liked Christian music and how much better it made him feel.

We are not a legalistic family by any means. But that short, three weeks changed my teenage son. That season of setting aside the carnal brought a deeper, long-term change.  There is a tenderness in him toward God that I continue to see as a result of that decision.

In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches the disciples the three main responsibilities of any disciple. He clearly says that we should give, pray and fast. Of the three, fasting is certainly seen as more of an event rather than an ongoing habit. We should give regularly. Tithing and giving offerings is an important spiritual discipline. We should pray continually. Communion with the Father is vital to one’s spiritual pursuits. However, fasting is not something we do every day…or every week…or every month. Although, fasting for a season can bring lasting change.

Fasting can become a lifestyle if you allow it. One thing sacrificed during a fast may never be as important to you again. The sweet savor of fellowship with Christ has a tendency to make everything else fade in comparison.

This is the 16th year that I’ve led the church through a season of fasting to begin the New Year. It has changed my life and certainly changed the life of my family.  These particular fasts at the “first” of the year have always reaped new vision, determination and focus for our church family.

As we continue this season of spiritual pursuit, be sensitive as to what is fading away and what is becoming more important. Become “fasted” to Him and ”fastened” to Him. He’ll never let you go.

Posted in Christianity, Church, Family, Prayer/Fasting, PsMartyFreeman, Spiritual Pursuits