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Entries by Dave Kraft (884)

Thursday
Apr282016

These two words are dramatically altering my walk with God

Different people are inspired and motivated by different things. Some through music; some through movies; others through sunsets, quiet lakes, lush forests or snow-capped mountains.

For me it’s words. The right words and the right combination of words greatly inspire me; that’s why I love quotes and post one on Twitter and Facebook most every day.

For the past several months I’ve been thinking of two words which have taken on new and important meaning for me:

Satisfaction and sovereignty.

I put it like this: I am satisfied in Him and He is sovereign in me. As you can guess, I have a verse for each of these words:

1.  Satisfaction:  “Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.” Psalm 90:14 (NLT)

2.  Sovereignty: “But he is singular and sovereign. Who can argue with him? He does what he wants, when he wants to. He’ll complete in detail what he’s decided about me, and whatever else he determines to do.” Job 23:13, 14 (The Message)

Here are a few thoughts I’ve had as I have been praying and thinking about the idea of me being satisfied in him and he being sovereign in me:

Satisfaction:

If I am truly satisfied in him, looking to him and him alone for my true, genuine and lasting satisfaction, I will be able to sing for joy to the end of my life. However, if I’m looking for this satisfaction in something else or someone else I will never be satisfied because I’ll always want more and, therefore, will not be singing a joyful song to the end of my days.

It was Pascal who said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created things, but only by God, the creator, made known through Jesus.”  This vacuum cannot be filled (satisfied) by anything or anyone but God himself. To add another quote, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” John Piper

My prayer most days is that I would be truly satisfied in him and not be looking elsewhere. “For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13 (ESV)

I am tempted to look for satisfaction in:

  • Popularity

  • Accolades

  • Position

  • Power

  • Respect

  • Financial security

But, as the old hymn says: “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

Sovereignty:

“God has the sovereign right to do what he wishes, and no other explanation is necessary.” John Frame

I rejoice and take great comfort in knowing that he is in control. “God who is the blessed controller of all things.” I Timothy 6:15  (Phillips). Not only in control but lovingly in control.

He is both sovereign and good at the same time. It brings me no end of joy to understand from Job 23:13,14 that he has a plan for me and that he will fulfill that plan. Perhaps not in the way I am thinking, nor in the timeframe I’m thinking, but he will complete in detail the purposes he has for me.

I rest in that glorious truth. I go to bed at night meditating on that glorious truth. When trials, and difficult situations arise, which they certainly have and will in the future, I stand on that glorious truth that he is sovereign.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Apr272016

The three most prominent idols in Western churches

 Much has been written about leadership and church idolatry .

Here is Tim Keller on the three biggest idols in Western churches today. It will really get you thinking.

Originally posted by David Qaoud

Tim Keller sat down with Jefferson Bethke way back when to discuss the idols that are most prominent in western churches. You can watch the full video here, or you can just read below to gather Tim’s thoughts.

In Keller’s eyes, here are the three biggest idols in western churches today, followed up with secondary points that Keller includes:

1) Experience. 

Instead of looking to the Word of God to be their norm and their guide, people tend to look to their own experience, feelings, intuitions, and impressions to be their guide.

This is part of American individualism.

Emotion and expression are very good, but when you make it more important than the Word of God, or put it higher than the Word of God, it becomes an idol.

2) Doctrine.

This might surprise some people that I say this.

But I do think some people make an idol out of doctrine.

There are some sectors of the church that say if you have your doctrine straight, and if you have your doctrine right, then you’re pleasing to God.

If you have your doctrine right, they say, then you are part of the solution, not the problem: you’re not heretical like everyone else.

There is a pride and a smugness about having good doctrine that, to me, almost puts it into the place of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

3) Consumerism. 

Instead of looking to the church to give themselves into community, people look to the church to get the services they want.

They have emotional, vocational, and relational needs and they go to a church because it is a good place to network.

People see the church as a mall, rather than a family that they give themselves to.

Consumerism becomes the idol — that is, my felt needs become an idol; they are more important than being apart of a community.

From Keller’s point of view, these idols are the ones that are most prominent. But this is not the consensus — not every church struggles with the same idol in the same way. Keller adds, “These idols don’t exist equally across the whole church. Certain sectors of the church struggle more than others, but these idols are all there, and they hurt us quite a bit.”

 

Monday
Apr252016

One key ingredient to successful spiritual transformation

I have probably had more discussions, and debates, about spiritual transformation than any other subject I can think of.  Why is it that some leaders seem to continue to experience victory and progress and others are perennially stuck and discouraged?

Is spiritual transformation some mysterious thing that magically happens when I am asleep? To hear some talk, they believe it is--it is all of grace with no action on my part required.  I have addressed this topic in the past, but feel strongly that I need to deal with it again.

Early in my Christian experience, I was challenged to bathe myself in God’s word. With His help, I have done this in a number of ways:

  • Regularly reading scripture
  • Journaling on what I am reading and what Jesus is making clear to me
  • Meditating on specific verses which the Holy Spirit could use to teach, encourage, challenge and change me
  • Doing serious Bible study chapter by chapter through books of the Bible
  • Pursuing an intentional and focused plan of memorization and praying over verses and passages I have memorized.

Over a period of 50 plus years these habits of the heart, means of grace, spiritual disciplines have created a mind-set and soul-set that have paved the way to personal transformation in me by the Holy Spirit. 

I have been taught that either sin will keep me from God’s word or God’s word will keep me from sin.  I believe this with all my heart!

Hebrews 4:12 makes it crystal clear that there is enormous power in the word of God to penetrate the deepest part of my being and create change.

I readily admit that there is always the chance that a robust intentional plan of scriptural intake can degenerate into a performance-based way of operating-- thinking I am earning God’s favor or love by what I am doing.  I am beyond that and see it more as a way to allow the Triune God access to my life so He can transform me.

Labeling such intentional practices as I have described as legalism can be a ploy of the enemy to keep me from the very thing that will facilitate growth and spiritual transformation in my life. I have never heard a person label an accomplished musician or athlete legalistic. Rather, they are admired for their devotion, dedication and discipline. I propose that when we see a leader pursuing a disciplined path of personal growth we give them the benefit of the doubt and thank the Lord that they are dedicated, disciplined and devoted to Jesus enough to take their walk and growth seriously. Please don’t fall into the trap of putting a negative label on them.

Most of the men and women I have read about, who have had a life of fruitfulness for Jesus, have aggressively and passionately pursued such habits I have described above. Many biographies of these men and women populate my book shelves and have enriched my life immensely. They are a constant inspiration for me to passionately pursue Jesus.

“Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of the of rains in early spring” Hosea 6:3 (New Living Translation)

Romans 12:2 is very instructive on this issue. I am told to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (there’s our word) by the renewal of our mind. The best way I know how to renew my mind is to allow the Holy Spirit to do it through the word of God.

Colossians 3:16 admonishes me to let the word of Christ dwell in me richly. By His grace I intend to do as long as I have breath.

When Jesus was tempted by the Devil in Matthew chapter four, He countered every assault with the word of God.

Psalm 1:2,3 lists the values of meditating on God’s word.  I want to be like that fruitful tree for Jesus!

Fifty-four years ago, Jack Blanch challenged me to begin memorizing the word of God. By His grace, I have been doing so ever since and have no plans to stop.  The memorized word of God, coupled with intentional meditation, prayer, confession, repentance and worship over those memorized portions of scripture, have had the single greatest impact on my ongoing spiritual transformation than anything else He has empowered and led me to do.

Why not consider planting the wonderful, inspired and inerrant word of God in your mind and soul and watch what the Holy Spirit does with it? If you want some practical ideas on how to get started, email me:

Saturday
Apr232016

Why many leaders have few, or no, close friends!

We all need friends as we travel through life. Pastors and leaders at times find this difficult; not knowing who they can trust or want to have close to them.

Many have been burned, betrayed or abused and are reluctant to try again. Here are some reasons from Chuck Lawless why pastors/leaders have few close friends.

Originally posted by Chuck Lawless

Why pastors have few deep friendships

I’ve heard it so many times that I almost expect it: pastors are lonely. They often minister among people they say they love, but don’t know well. They have few deep friendships. Here are 10 reasons why we struggle with finding friends: 

1.  Someone taught us never to have close friendships in a church. Several of my seminary professors and most of my early mentors told me never to get close to church members. I’m grateful now that I didn’t listen well – but I have friends who continue to follow that advice.

2.  We’ve been hurt in the past.  I understand why my professors and mentors said what they said. They had risked being vulnerable with church members, and it cost them. Their openness led only to pain, and they don’t the next generation of leaders to experience the same.

3.  We assume this ministry is not our last one.  If we think that this church is only one stop on our ministry journey, it’s harder to develop deep friendships. Who wants to invest deeply when you know this role is a fleeting one?

4.  Many of us are introverted.  Even people who speak publicly every week can be introverted and private. I suspect church members would be surprised by how many of us are drained by events like fellowship dinners. We sometimes seclude ourselves just to get some rest.

5.  Others are uncomfortable around us.  I remember a church member whose family never invited me to dinner because they thought their dishes weren’t good enough for their pastor. That struck me as odd, not only because I’m just a normal guy, but also because most of my dinners at the time were delivered through a drive-thru window!

6.  Our spouse has been hurt. We can often handle it when our feelings are hurt, but it’s tougher when our spouse has been wounded. Protecting our spouse from hurt sometimes means avoiding deep relationships.

7.  We don’t want anyone to know us well. For pastors who admit this reason, it’s often because we don’t like who we are. We know we need to do better in our devotions. We fear others will see that we don’t always love, evangelize, or minister like we should.

8.  We get tired of people. It’s not that we don’t love people; it’s just that it feels like we’re around people all the time. Taking a break from people, though, usually means closing the door to friendships.

9.  Some of us were raised in churches with superficial relationships. At some level, we’re all products of our upbringing. When you’re raised around surface-level Christian friendships, that kind of relationship might be all you know. 

10.  Even believers get jealous and competitive. As pastors, we fear getting too close to particular people, lest others get angry. And, even among pastors, we struggle getting to know one another because we compete against each other for members. In the end, everybody loses.

Regardless of your prior experiences, what will you do (with His help)  to build a few solid friendships?

 

Thursday
Apr212016

Leadership derailers you'll want to avoid at all costs!

A number of years ago, I spent several weeks in Costa Rica on a mission trip with some people from my church. From what I can gather, there are insufficient funds in Costa Rica to keep the roads in good repair--at least in the area where we were.

Additionally, Costa Rica gets lots of rain, which results in huge potholes in the roads.

If you drove into one, you might seriously damage your vehicle and perhaps hurt yourself. The solution they came up with was to put oil drums in some, but not all, of the holes (I am not kidding). That made for interesting driving. You basically drove in such a way so as to avoid the oil drums and on whatever side of the road was necessary to keep from hitting one. It was especially interesting at night. Being in a few taxis in Costa Rica deepened my prayer life.

Leadership can be like driving on the Costa Rican roads; there are derailers (potholes) along the road that need to be avoided or you will be in big trouble.

In my experience from being in vocational Christian ministry for 48 years, here are four derailleurs that I have seen.

1. UNREFLECTIVE

The demands on leaders are horrific. So many expectations, so many people with significant needs and issues, and so many urgent and demanding decisions that scream for one’s attention and energy. Put all this together with the fact that many leaders are doers and accomplishers by nature and the result is precious little time taken for reflection…reflecting on my own life, reflecting on where I’m headed, and reflecting on what the most important things are on which I need to be focused in any given hour, day or week.

We become reactive (putting out fires) instead of being proactive (lighting fires). Solitude, time to think, to pray, to catch our breath is so critical to longevity in leadership. It was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”I’m not sure I would go that far, but certainly the unreflective (unexamined) life has the potential of derailing you big time!

2. UNAWARE

Unawareness can take different forms, but I’m thinking here of being unaware of the needs of people closest to me…those in my family, my direct reports, and those on my leadership team. When I am super busy and moving at an insane pace, I stop asking questions, stop listening, stop knowing about the needs of those around me. I can become tuned out. Meetings are all goal-focused and I’m not aware of what’s going on with the people I’m leading. Am I truly aware of how they are doing? Am I aware of how their family is doing?  I can ask transactional questions which are superficial and routine and keep me in the dark about what is really going on.

Leadership can become all about getting to the goal, getting things done, checking things off my list. My experience has taught me that the faster I travel, the worse I become at paying attention to and listening well to the important people in my life.

3. UNSYMPATHETIC

I can be aware from a factual point of view, but still be unsympathetic. Awareness is the first step, but it needs to move to God-enabled compassion and sympathy. Due to being a goal-oriented bottom line thinker, this is my biggest challenge.

There is an old saying that sounds like an empty cliché but is nonetheless very true: People don’t care about how much you know, but they want to know about how much you care.

Hurting, beat-up, abused, misunderstood, frustrated and exhausted people want to know that you really care…that you are really interested in them…that they matter to you personally and to the calling and vision you have received from Jesus.

Can I trust you? Am I safe with you? Do you really care about me? These are all questions followers have a right to ask of their leaders. The leader who is all wrapped up in himself not only makes a small package, but will also drive people away, have them move on because of your perceived hypocrisy and narcissism as it relates to loving them. People leave a leader, not a job. And the leader they will most likely leave is an unsympathetic one; a leader who doesn’t genuinely love and care about people.

4. UNCONNECTED

Leadership can be lonely and, oftentimes, is. If you have been burned a few times, you begin to not trust people or share your emotions, fears and issues with others. You start to withdraw, disconnect or play your cards close to the vest (to use a gambling metaphor).

You start to spend more and more time by yourself…tend to not have close friends…stop getting adequate feedback prior to important decisions. You can slowly become disconnected from reality and think you are always right. You can even become paranoid, thinking someone is out to get you or to betray you. This is a derailer for many leaders.

Leader! How are you doing? Are you close to hitting an oil drum or falling into a pothole with no oil drum? What would Jesus have you do in trusting Him and cooperating with Him in making some changes?