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Every student at Dallas Seminary loved their required class with Dr. Howard Hendricks, affectionately called “Prof”. It was there that our lives in ministry would be marked with a lifetime of skills for independent Bible Study. So many of our lives begin the day with Observation, Interpretation and Application.
As a Senior at DTS, I set my sights on an elective class taught by Prof. It was a class on Discipleship. However, the class had a very limited enrollment but the challenging prerequisite was a personal word of approval from Prof himself.
Getting approval from the Prof was going to be tricky. He was always surrounded by students, colleagues and getting an appointment with his office staff would never be in time for the enrollment deadline. My plan was to intercept him at the end of chapel in the hallway where the faculty filed out of the service.
I occupied a seat in chapel near the front, next to the door leading into the faculty hallway. During the closing prayer I slipped out of chapel, exited through that door and waited. Faculty members streamed out of their loft and I tried to be inconspicuous.
Prof’s laugh and voice broke the din of noise. He was in conversation with his colleagues, I followed. There was never a break in Prof’s stride as I followed like a hungry puppy looking for crumbs to pick up.
In a break in his conversation, I called out, “Hi Prof!” He never slowed, cocked his head toward me, “Yeah, Fong, what’s up?” Startled that he knew my name I tripped over my own tongue, stammering out my request, “May I have permission to enroll in your Discipleship class?” ”You got it, Man! See you in class.” I floated out of the chapel.
Years of ministry followed seminary. Then, I was honored to step into the position of President of a seminary. I invited Prof to be my inaugural speaker. He accepted to be a part of that very special day in my life. It was amazing.
Once during the busyness of leading a ministry of God my phone rang. ”Hey, Bruce, this is Prof calling. Don’t need anything, just called to tell you that I love you.” Click I can still hear him speaking those words from that phone call today.
The next time I see Prof will be in heaven. He graduated into the presence of His Savior today. What a blessing to be a part of the amazing legacy that he has left behind. I loved that man.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
There is a company that I have hired to do a major make-over in our master bathroom. It is a project that I knew had to be done when we bought our house. I was not looking forward to it, knowing that it would be a hassel, like most construction projects are.
Nevertheless, we too often put off until we sell the house, any upgrades and never get to enjoy them ourselves. That thought alone pushed me over the edge to hire out this construction endeavor. I am looking forward to enjoying this new improvement.
But, delays followed in constant order. It happens whenever I have been involved in building anything. Stuff happens, unexpected stuff.
Patience is the watch word but this project has been more than that. This has been a lesson in watching management fumble several hand-offs. Once one deadline is missed there is a domino effect.
This company does very good work. The product is done to my satisfaction. I have no complaints about the work of the crew.
They take good measures regarding cleanliness, courtesy and respect for our property. The care that they take to do a quality job has met all of my expectations. As I watch the job take shape I am satisfied.
But, a good product is only one part of good management. There are three “p’s” for good managers to keep in mind. They are product, process and promptness.
The process is the achievement of the job is a high value item for the manager to oversee. This includes the workers who do the job. Best practices to get the work done all fall into this category.
Our project has scored well in this category. The workers who have come to our home are diligent. They have skills in their craft that are satisfying to me.
When they finish up their work, I like what I see. It looks professional and the visual picture is very good. The crew are friendly and adapt to those inevitable challenges in any retrofitting project.
The major problem with the company has been the matter of promptness. There has been little. It’s a good thing that I am a patient man.
I understand set backs. When subcontractors pull the wrong materials and they have to be returned and correctly reissued, I understand that. But, those matters should be managed so that they don’t happen or at least happen within the scope of a timeframe that makes those allowances.
Bad management of timeliness devalues the product because it inconveniences our customers. We who watch over the deliver of our excellent product should do so with promptness. Add to that excellent process and managers who succeed are valuable indeed.
Criticism is a reality for those who dare to step up into leadership. Accusations fly from the opposition camp. The objective seems to be to discredit people who once held positions soon-to-be-vacant and seed the atmosphere with doubt over the next human to fill that gap.
This is true in our political season. There is precious little that is commendable when it comes to the ugly strategy of character assassination among the political pundits. The self-righteous judgmental disposition of those eager to influence the favored and disfavored is piled high ad nauseum and quite frankly wearies the soul of good people.
As accusations fly, innuendo multiplies and mud slings wildly, I imagine the hurt that falls on the souls of the innocent. The spouses, children, friends and honorable bystanders become victims of the vicious and dirty-minded. It is ugly.
The nature of an accuser is a filthy examination. Why do people find it necessary to throw dirt? What’s eating at their lives that drive them to hurt others?
When I was growing up, it was a bad thing to tattle on someone else. But, back then the shady character of the nosey and those flinging criticism about someone else was established. Today, the one who points the finger gets a pass or at least the benefit of the doubt that they are telling the truth.
I have looked into the shifting eyes of accusers. They are obsessed to justify their subtle violence. Most of the time they even attempt to fortify their dastardly deeds by playing the victim.
Then, I look into the eyes of the accused. There is hurt, helplessness and bewildered. Reason, logic and truth are elusive when the emotional drive of the accusers reveal their singular desire to inflict doubt, cause suspicion and raise questions.
Critics are not complicated. They are simply base beasts. The only truth represented in their lives is exaggeration.
Admittedly, they have a grip on some truth. But, it is not worth the damage that they often cause. It is called “piling on”.
Before long the truth is replaced by suspicion. The shocking allegations are a downer. Accusers don’t accomplish much with their lives that rival the pain that they impose on others.
Why people get off on being a negative influence as their greatest contribution to life is a mystery. The good thing is that true integrity is not the same as reputation. Politics, it is so frustrating!
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All of us in the ministry knows the unsettled feeling in our hearts when opportunity for ministry is in conflict with unexplained concerns with our co-laborers. Paul sensed that. His heart to bring the good news to others was his passion.
God had shown good favor to the apostle by opening up Troas to receive the gospel of Christ. It was clear that God had gone before him and made the preparations necessary to begin an evangelistic thrust. However, he was distracted.
Titus was to rendezvous with him in Troas. But he failed to show up. This disrupted Paul’s peace of mind. It was enough for Paul to let go of this ministry and seek out his colleague.
Priorities and wisdom help us to discover God’s mysterious ways. Obedience to His leading is vital even when the present situation seems to be very attractive. As good as any opportunity might seem, God may lead us to even better ministries if we just trust Him.
No matter how strange circumstances may be, giving thanks to God for changes and adjustments is always a good sign. Wherever we go, the impact of sharing the Gospel is a plus. Ministry never has to be geographically limited.
Ministry is never about what we are able to generate ourselves. God chooses people for service who are very capable. If we are not careful we can think that our effort accomplishes the results.
Rather, we must see ourselves as a conduit through which God does His work. God gives us the privilege to be a part of what He is doing. If He is receive all of the glory for any ministry successes then He is the One who is actually giving whatever increase that we see.
Our lives must be the incarnation of Christ. He is the reason for eternal changes in the lives of people. Our part is to reflect Him as the aroma of something very appealing.
As the procession of ancient generals coming into the city after a successful campaign, the incense used in the celebratory parade was a reminder of the victory for those who won in battle. But, the same aroma was a reminder to the vanquished and defeated that they had lost and my die by execution.
A symptom of doing ministry well where God is honored is the right attitude toward money. Personal profit cannot be a part of the agenda of those who serve. Has God sent you in His name? Then, go and smell good for Him.
2 corinthians 2.11-17
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Paul was real person in history. God uses real people to bring His blessings to those in need. His assurances to the Corinthians that he will come to fellowship with them was encouraging news. Clearly this relationship was a two-way street. Paul needed them as much as they needed him.
The desire for meaningful interact requires time. Passing on a short opportunity is worthwhile if a longer time is possible further down the road. But, even this longing is dependent on the Lord’s will.
As an apostle, Paul was always looking for opportunity for ministry expansion. His choices for ministry did consider effectiveness. He saw that potential as a key feature in the work that he selected to do.
Ministry, as noble as it is, has challenges. It is not purely joyful. Rather, opposition was a reality. This is not a matter of facing difficult circumstances only but it is a reality that people stand in the way and in fact make ministry difficult. These opponents were not rare for Paul but were common.
Paul paves the way for Timothy. This is necessary for believers will not always welcome outsiders to minister to them or give them hospitality in an inhospitable environment. Accepting an approved servant of the Lord is a good practice.
Hospitality or accepting an outsider is a temporary investment. The goal is that the recipient of our love will enjoy a resulting peace from their stay. Every minister is connected with others in the Lord’s service. They are not as a general rule, loners who selfishly take advantage of the goodness of others.
Apollos is another brother who will benefit from a connection with the Corinthian believers. The stress of ministry makes it difficult for Apollos to add an additional visit in his schedule but the value of it has convince him to consider it.
What drives Paul’s instruction fits with the alertness that all believers must exercise. Convictions must drive practice. Courage and strength are necessities in ministry. Over all expressions, love is a requisite.
Stephanus and his family are great examples of those who should be honored. Their initiative and service make them lives worthy of submission. Partnership in their work is a good choice.
Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus invest well in the lives that they touch. With discernment they supply what others need. Paul was refreshed by them as well and they deserve recognition.
1 corinthians 16.5-18
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There was no open challenge. This was not a war that was declared. There was no honor in the actions of the evil cowards who chose a wicked road with their lives.
As a nation we immediately turned our hearts toward God. We set aside our differences and joined in prayer and sang “God bless America” with a national resolve that I have never experience in my lifetime. Our fellow citizens chose to rescue, comfort and resolutely respond.
Prayer meetings were springing up around the nation. We prayed for the families of the victims. Together we cast our care upon God and asked for success against our enemies.
Our President led our country to unleash her resources with an appropriate response. He also stood with first responder heroes who rescued all that they could and with families who had to bury loved ones. Faith was very much a part of our nation’s response to the 9/11 travesty.
While 3,000 perished, 6,000 escaped the twin towers that became piles of rubble. Their lives pointed to the unity of those who fled the twin towers. Today they treasure their lives as a gift from God.
But, in the city where the tragic event of the twin towers falling occurred, the powers that be have made a horrific decision. They have banned the clergy from the service on 9.11.11. Although the nation responded powerfully with a spiritual reaction toward God, those in control have decided to only let political figure speak.
Prayer will not be permitted. Those who can bring God’s Word to a nation in need of refreshing its spiritual resolve are being kept silent. Praying for the families of victims will be skipped.
It is too difficult for the politicians to decide which clergy to invite so they have concluded not to do anything. It makes us all wonder how they decided which political figures should be chosen to speak. Perhaps avoiding God matches the speakers who have no spiritual commitment.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. On the tenth anniversary of this national trial, I will change our normally scheduled sermon to speak what God has to say about facing tragedy. I have resolved to do so.
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Out of Willow Creek Community Church the passion for leadership spills over to so many of us who in positions of leadership. We share the glory but more than that we all know the pain, hurt and challenges of this role. Even in the realm of the church we leaders need a time for encouragement and refreshment.
Bill Hybels is the visionary behind this conference. There has not been a lot of fluff injected into this gathering. Instead, the glitz is all stunning but does not distract rather it enhances the meat of our sessions.
He is able to collect some of the most cutting edge leaders in our world today. Some are Christian leaders in the church. Some are Christian leaders in business. Some are non-Christian leaders.
There is a humble view in this menagerie of speakers. Christians believe that non-Christians can humbly learn from believers about leadership. So the reverse, that Christians can learn from non-Christians about leadership.
This healthy mature tensions makes for a fresh kind of conference that makes me marvel at the world of ideas, motivation and vision. I rub shoulders with active leaders who are gleaning language, stimulation and encouragement. It is a respite for a busy life and a movement to be the catalyst of the Lord.
No one leads to fail. Everyone leads with the hope to do something special. Our dream is to make an impact for eternity.
That hunger is often seared with the pain of criticism, self-doubt, comparisons and trials. Yet, the hunger remains. On one hand we love to hear the success stories. On the other hand we cower at the thought that we are an also-ran.
Here at the Global Leadership Summit we come to drink deeply. Our thirst draws us here. Hunger makes us push aside the drama around us and to seek the Lord as only leaders can.
I have registered. In the past few months I have prayed and asked God to bring our leaders to this gathering. With passion driving us together we are open to hearing from God and getting a charge that will reignite our passion.
The worship will massage our soul. Words will dramatically stirs our minds. Images will connect our leadership assignments with the possibilities.
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This was not a secret meeting. It was advertised on the world-wide web. Those who came freely told others about the event and invited others to attend.
Some of our city’s notable names were there. I don’t know any of them but I was told that they were there. My circles are a lot different from these.
This was not a political caucus. Nor was it an off-beat agenda expose. Rather it was a city prayer meeting.
Yes, you read that correctly. It was a public gathering for prayer in the city of San Francisco. Stunning, eh?
I only knew a handful of people at the start. My guests showed up and our fellowship was just great. But the real treat was the networking that happened during the gathering.
First, I introduced one of my guests to a key leader. They sat together for the breakfast and talked up a storm. There was an instant connection.
Next, I introduced another one of my guests to a successful business executive. I like both of these men. After a few short minutes they were liking each other too.
On our table a stranger smiled and seated himself. We introduced ourselves and struck up a great conversation. I just heard from him by email so I connected him with the CEO of another operation that will make a great link.
A new friend came up to greet me. We heartily shook hands and then a company president came into view. An introduction between those two was a natural.
There was a smile that caught my eye. We had never met until that moment but were headed in different directions in the room. Naturally, without any coercion we both paused and easily introduced ourselves to each other.
That meeting was important. He was looking for work. Once his profession was clear in my mind, I saw a friend in his field out of the corner of my eye.
“Do you know him?” I inquired gently? “No, I’ve never met him,” came the reply. “Wait here. You’ve got to meet him,” I assured my new acquaintance.
My buddy came over. These two connected. There are no coincidences. God divinely orders our meetings and it is so pleasing to be used by Him.
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Leadership always has its enemies. Paul had opposers in his life. Critics took issue with Paul benefiting from those in the church. None of these negative voices considered the practical option for Paul and Barnabas.
Like most careless talkers, the criticisms leveled against Paul were nonsensical. Laid against reason the allegations made no sense. The principle of pay for service is a Divinely approved. As an apostle, compensation for service was right.
There was an understanding among the people of God in an agrarian society. They even let the animals eat while they were laboring. Common sense should tell all that those who labor in the church should also have that privilege.
If a greater service in the spiritual is provided, then a lesser benefit is well within reason. Financial compensation is the lessor of the two. Christians who benefit spiritually from its leaders should take care of the material needs of their spiritual overseers.
Public service providers are a good example. In our modern-day we all appreciate our brave firefighters and law enforcement personnel. Since we benefit from their services we all willing pay our taxes to give them a comfortable living in return. This same reason should be the baseline for our spiritual servants in the church.
Paul willingly and deliberately chose not to use this right. He did not want to hinder the gospel of Christ. The very distraction that he is discussing is the one that he wanted to avoid. It was more important to him to set aside compensation and personal rights in order to lessen any distraction from the Gospel of Christ.
God laid out a practice for the priests. Their compensation came from the sacrifices brought to the Temple. The priests were allowed to eat their food from the offerings brought for sacrifice.
Just as the priests of the Temple were beneficiaries of the service that they provided for worshippers, Paul and those who served in the church have the right for a similar benefit. This is beyond common sense. It is a command from the Lord
Christians should take care of their spiritual leaders. Make sure that as they do the spiritual work you care for their living needs. Be generous as they are generous with you. God will bless you.
1 corinthians 9.1-14
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When a minister has enormous expectations placed upon him, what keeps him doing what he does? Why would anyone expend so much, tolerate highly emotional criticism or struggle against the tide of imperfect people?
These questions represent the human longings for comfort. They are not a telltale sign of the heart of why ministry is the chosen pursuit of the few. Yes, these are penetrating questions; but, they are the wrong questions.
Those in ministry are concerned about a singular opinion not the opinion of the masses. It is the estimation of Almighty God that rules in their heart. The apostle was frank when he wrote, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.”
All of us in ministry know that we are not perfect. We know that better than those who judge us. But, we live above the fanciful speculation of others.
This is not arrogance as our critics would likely quickly shoot back. Rather, it is the certainty that comes from a clear conscience. Therefore, Paul urges Christians to leave it to God to judge the motives of hearts and not speculate from our human limitations.
One of our frailties as humans is our penchant for party loyalties. We prefer one person over another. That tendency pushes us into judging others when we have no right to do so.
Those who have been critics of the apostle have by default assumed that they are justified in their evaluation. But, Paul’s spiritual critique is that their assumption has in fact disrespected the lives of every apostle that they have spoken against.
From a world’s ledger, Paul has very little to show for his life of service. His critics consider him scum and refuse. But, he is confident because his conscience is clear. Furthermore, he has responded to his self-righteous, judgmental, slanderous enemies with kindness.
When an enemy accuses you because she is more impressed with her own imagination and hearing her own words instead of the truth, choose to respond with grace. Seek no revenge. Cause no harm.
Every believer needs a godly model to imitate. These are not examples of perfection, rather they are people who travelled the road a little further than those they are trying to influence. This life of Christ starts first with excellent teaching.
Then, arrogance must be eliminated. Spiritual authority must ensue. Then, all of this is followed by a loving and gentle spirit.
1 corinthians 4.1-21