Leading is dangerous. It always has been, and it always will be. Yet, leading is required. Someone will lead. But will they lead well, and will they lead with the right convictions? Let’s look at 10 leadership principles and dangers…
1) Leading requires deep conviction
There have, however, been many successful leaders that led vast amounts of people astray. Leaders must have deep conviction; why else would you lead? Especially with how dangerous leadership is? Why lead at all unless you have the dire conviction that something must be done about something, even if you’re the someone that must do it… But it is vital that that something that we have conviction about is the correct conviction. If not, we not only risk and waste our life, if we’re an effective leader, we also risk and waste other’s lives too.
So, leading is dangerous because it requires the correct convictions. If we have the wrong convictions, we can do a lot of wrong (especially, ironically, if we’re “good” at leading). When you have conviction you lead, even if it means leading with a limp.
2) Leading requires talking well
People respect you when you can talk well, whether or not you have the character or maturity to back it up. So, talking well is important. Who’s going to follow someone that is uninspiring and doesn’t make sense? Yet, someone can talk well and amass a massive following and yet have nowhere to go, no ability to actually lead, or is only heading to a very shallow, empty place. Talking well is a blessing but can be the fancy shell that hides the hollow emptiness inside.
So, if you talk well, make sure you live well too.
3) Leading is lonely
Leading is often quite lonely. In the same way that it can be lonely once you summit a great and difficult height. It’s lonely by the sheer difficulty of the journey. But the reality is, it’s also more dangerous at the summit. So, as hard as it is and as much as you may not think you need help, if you lead, you especially need help. You need it in a way that you’re not even aware of and it’ll be harder to find than for others.
So, as lonely as leading is, you need to find people to travel with you and traverse the trails. Leading is dangerous no matter what, but it’s doubly so if you don’t have someone to help you when you fall.
4) Leading is hard, it requires leading
Part of what leading entails is setting the pace, being in front. This can be the case when it comes to work ethic, creativity, dedication, knowledge, or really all of the above. Leaders can’t and don’t know it all, and shouldn’t think they do or can, but leaders do lead. So, if they’re not always in front they’re knowledgeable and encouraging to those that are “in front” in their specific expertise. Yet, to even be competent and relevant in many fields is difficult.
So, leading is hard because it requires diligent work in various fields. It also requires wisdom to navigate what needs to be worked on and when.
5) Leading requires leading and learning
Leading requires audacity but never ignorance. It requires a type of confidence but never arrogance. It takes boldness but must never be blind. Learning must always be a part of leading and if it’s not, leading is very likely to go the wrong way. Humility should also accompany leadership. If not, followers should and hopefully won’t accompany you very far.
So, as you lead, make sure you are also learning; even from those you’re leading.
6) Leading becomes easier, letting character and integrity slip becomes easier too
As leading becomes more natural and second nature it’s easy to let character and integrity slip. When it’s more and more possible to cut corners, it becomes easier to cut corners. When the wake of your own name can carry you and you can drift on what you’ve done in the past, it can be hard to continue to deserve that name in the future.
So, as you become more competent in your leadership, don’t neglect your character. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” (Prov. 22:1).
7) Leading requires delegation, not dictatorship
As a leader you can’t do everything. You can’t even do a lot of things. If you’re going to actually lead you have to get people to do things. Yet, what the leader is called to is wise and loving delegation, not dictatorship.
So, carefully and humbly lead others to contribute. Without them, you would not be a leader. You have the honor, steward, and privilege to lead them. It’s not about you.
8) Leading from the front is where the bullets are
To lead is to be in the front of the fight. It is to be at the front of the fray. To lead is essentially to die daily. It is to make the hard decisions, even the wrong decisions, and it is to own it. Leading means being first out of the foxhole and on to the field. Leading is difficult and costly.
So, remember when you’re in the front you are liable to get “bullets” from the front as well as “friendly fire.” The “bullet”, however, does not mean that you are a terrible person or that it was even specifically meant for you. It’s partly just that a lot of times people direct their rage at leaders.
9) Leading is failing but having the conviction to do it again and again
I’ve heard it said that “Leading is disappointing people at a rate that they can endure.” That truth resonates. Leaders don’t always get it right, but they have the conviction to continue, to endure, and to do it again until they get it right. Where the leader is leading is that important. Conviction for the cause, propels the mission.
So, have no false illusions about what leadership is. But also realize that it’s hard for every leader. So, when you fail it’s no surprise. It’s what happens when you lead. The thing is to get up again and do it again.
10) Leading effects all of life
Leading is not contained within the “9 to 5.” Leading doesn’t just happen at work. Leading is who you are and so leading goes with you.
So, ensure that as you lead at work or your organization, you’re leading and loving well at home too. If you say “yes” to something, know that you’re saying “no” to something else. Make sure you say “yes” to the right things: your faith commitments, your family, your friends.
 Notice that non-leaders get murdered and killed but leaders get assassinated. That is, people kill other people on accident and people murder people for money or as a result of someone’s rage. But leaders get assassinated because they led. Leaders literally put themselves into harm’s way in all sorts of ways.
*Photo by Mathias Jensen
The world that we live in is riddled with evil. It’s full of foul and wicked plots. There are many theories and conspiracy theories that tell stories about this world that we live in. Many of these tales are attention-grabbing and even deeply disturbing. How should we respond?
God tells us how we should respond. Here are a few things He tells us:
Laser Beam Focus on Jesus
From the beginning to the end, the story of Scripture is a story about the Savior; our need for a Savior, the coming of the Savior, and the coming quick return of our Savior. Scripture says testify about the Savior! He is who the world needs!
The world does not need just more knowledge or secret knowledge. It doesn’t need to uncover all the plots of man or Satan. The world needs the experiential life-transforming knowledge of Jesus the Messiah and Savior.
Satan portrays himself as an angel of light. He’ll even quote God Himself. He’ll give what appears to be secret knowledge as he did to Eve in the Garden. But, that work of Satan is a distraction and diversion from the truth—from Jesus the Savior, answer, and solution.
Do you know who really knows what’s going on behind the scenes?! Not the person on YouTube; no matter what they say or how many followers they have.
We don’t want to be guilty of “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Instead, we want to follow Paul’s teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastnesses, and persecutions and sufferings (v. 11).
We also need to remember that all Scripture, all the promises of God, find their fulfillment and answer in Jesus. We need to see Jesus, not more videos on various theories. Jesus is the hope and protection of the earth, not some person with some so-called “secret knowledge” of what’s really going on behind the scenes.
That being said, there are evil and deceitful plots going on in the government—in every government. We should not be naive and think there isn’t. But there always has been. There was when Jesus physically walked the earth and Moses too. But what does the Bible say the solution is? And what should be our focus?
People clearly do follow “the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). This world is often a wicked place where people creatively carry out wickedness. That is true. But what’s the solution?
It is certainly true that “ we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Yet, the solution is not some secret knowledge. It’s being “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (v. 10). The solution is taking “up the whole armor of God” (v. 13), not knowing the intimate and hidden details of what the spiritual forces of evil are up to. Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus is the one who defeats the wicked powers.
Amid a crooked and perverse generation and while the antichrist or antichrists walk the earth, how are we to respond? How do we steel up ourselves to endure and persevere? It’s not through secret theories that we discover on the internet. No. It’s through holding fast to the word of truth, tenaciously seeking Jesus, and lovingly telling of Him and His goodness.
Jesus has the “words of life.” Jesus is our “first love” and it is He that we need to return to (Revelation 2:4). Notice what 2 Peter 1:3 says: “HIS divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of HIM who called us to his own glory and excellence.” It is in Jesus that “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). And the riches of blessing found in Him are limitless.
Thus, we need a laser focus on Jesus. Satan as the great deceiver and destroyer would have us distracted from Jesus by any means possible.
Don’t Waste Time on Old Wives’ Tales
1 Timothy 4:7-8 says: “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths [some translations say, “Old Wives’ Tales.”]. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
In John 17:17 Jesus says we are made holy by the truth and then He says God’s word is that truth. It is all Scripture—not secret theories—that is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
We need the words of life to live the life we’re called to live. We need to consume that truth every day and be able to “rightly divide the word of truth” and be like the Bereans and weigh what is said against what the Word of God shows us (Acts 17:11). And we need to be in tight relationship with other Christians so we can be accountable and encouraged by them.
In 1 Timothy 1 Paul urges that people not “teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (v. 3-4). Paul goes on to say, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion” (v. 5-6).
In 1 Timothy 2 Paul tells us what we are to do instead of engaging in “vain discussion,” internet searches, and YouTube consumption: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (v. 1-2). So, instead of reading and watching conspiracies about the government, we are to pray for the government. That’s productive, biblical, and God-honoring. So, if you have concerns about what’s going on in our world and in the government—which you should!—the thing to do is pray, not feed on loads of news and theories about “what’s really happening.”
Paul says that when we pray in this way, it “is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (v. 3-6).
God loves people and wants them to receive salvation through Jesus. So, we pray for them and we share with them. We don’t waste time on speculation and silly myths. Instead, we should seek to be continually captured and enraptured by Christ Jesus, knowing there is solace, depth, mystery, and beauty there to sustain us a thousand lifetimes.
Spend Your Time on the Greatest TRUE Tale
Paul said, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” And Paul also said, “Him [Jesus!] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:28-29).
Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5. What Paul says there is the priority. That’s what “fighting the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7) looks like.
Paul strove and struggled to share the message of the Savior, not a secret message about something going on in the world. Satan would have us distracted from the good news of Jesus—the good news of hope and salvation to a broken and needy world.
When the chaos of wickedness ratchets up in the book of Revelation, what is it God’s people are to do? Protect the world and keep it from destruction through knowing what’s secretly going on behind the scenes and through sharing those hidden things? Is that how the book of Revelation exhorts us to persevere? No.
Revelation is about Jesus and the victory of Jesus. It’s the true story of His final triumph over every evil plot and wicked foe. It holds before us the truth that we are in a cosmic battle, that there is a god of this world who is presently working ruin, but also the truth that the Lion and the Lamb will conquer. That’s the “secret knowledge,” the revealing, the REVELATION we need. We need the true message of Jesus’ victory. We don’t need distracted by lesser stories. Instead, we need again and again to return to and be tethered to Jesus.
So many tales are a distraction from the true and greatest tale. Brothers and sisters, we don’t need new and secret knowledge. We need the old old story again and again. We need to be smothered with the truth of the Savior of the world, not suffocated by secret theories. The hope of the earth is Jesus, not some locked away thing we can learn about on a website somewhere.
We need laser beam focus on Jesus. And we need to share the true story about Him in love. We need to be evangelistic about the good news of Jesus Christ! Not any conspiracy theory.
 I think of Chuck Colson. If there was a theory about the watergate scandal it wasn’t just a conspiracy theory. It was true. But the answer wasn’t information, it was prayer. God brought Chuck Colson to salvation when he was in prison. Colson has gone on to lead a ministry to those in prison. So, prayer is powerful.
*Photo by Mika Baumeister
The Conviction to Care in the Church
What does Scripture say about shepherding care?
First, the word “pastor” comes from the Latin word pastor, meaning shepherd. A pastor is a “shepherd” or “one who cares for a flock or herd.” That’s why “pastor” sounds like the word “pasture.” The two words are connected. “The concept of the leader as a shepherd is a theme with deep roots in God’s written revelation with its foundation in the Old Testament and fulfillment in the New.” We are going to briefly consider some of the passages about God’s call to leaders to provide shepherding care.
Care in the Old Testament
God has always shepherded His people (Gen. 48:15; Ps. 23:1; Ps. 71:17-18; 77:20; 78:52, 72; 80:1; 95:6-7; Is. 40:11; Mic. 5:4). Further, He has provided under-shepherds to lead and care for His people. He has told people that serve as leaders to shepherd His people (2 Sam. 7:7). Ironically, before Moses and David shepherded God’s people, they shepherded a literal flock of sheep (cf. Ps. 78:70-71).
God, for example, knows that unexperienced challenges come with age (2 Sam. 19:35; Eccl. 12:2-5) and He cares that His people are helped with those challenges. Scripture even says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15). God deeply cares for His people and wants to see them cared for.
When God’s people are not rightly cared for, He is upset. God says, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture” (see Jer. 23:1-4)! And Ezekiel 34 shows that God takes the failure of His under-shepherds very seriously. He pronounces judgment on them (Ezek. 34:1-10). He promises He Himself will care for them (Ezek. 34:11-22). And He promises that the Perfect Shepherd will come and care for them (Ezek. 34:23-31). This brings us to the New Testament and pastors serving as Jesus’ under-shepherds.
Care in the New Testament
First, is Paul’s powerful exhortation to pastor/elders to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). What a high, precious, and important calling! Pastors are to care for what Jesus bought with His very blood. If it is that important to Jesus, how can it not be important to us?
Paul himself provides a powerful example of pastoral care. Paul visited people to “see how they are doing” (Acts 15:36). And his letters showed his shepherding care. His letters were part of his care. So, Paul sought to make disciples and care for disciples. These are complementary callings of church leaders.
Paul shared pastoral concern for God’s people. He wrote “I have you in my heart” (Phil. 1:7) as well as “being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). But Paul didn’t just write letters, he also visited people(Acts 15:36). So, Scripture would have us see the importance of ministry both “publicly” and “house to house” (Acts 20:20).
Second, Peter passed on what he heard from Jesus: “shepherd the flock” (John 21:15-17). Peter relayed the command that we are to shepherd the flock of God that is among us (1 Peter 5:1) yet Peter also reminds us of our motivation: that the chief Shepherd when He appears, will give us the unfading crown of glory (v. 4).
Third, Acts 6:1-7 shows us we must make plans, delegate, and ensure the practical needs of people in the church are taken care of. And Ephesians 4:7-16 shows us that it is not just pastors that are to do ministry, but a big part of pastoral ministry is equipping the saints to do ministry. The church is the body, and each member is to do their part if the body is to function as it is supposed to (1 Cor. 12:4-31). Each member is equipped with gifts from the Spirit (Rom. 12:3-8) and is supposed to employ them for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7). Sadly, a Gallup survey found that only 10% of church members in America are active in any kind of personal ministry.
Fourth, Jesus has compassion and cares for people when they helpless like a sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Jesus holds church leaders responsible to care for His precious sheep. The leaders of the church are to keep watch on Jesus’ sheep knowing that they “will have to give an account” (Heb. 13:17). In fact, Jesus sees the care of those who are “down in out” as though it was done for Him. So, as we visit people, Jesus sees it as though we were visiting Him (see Matthew 25:35–36).
King David, before he was king, risked his life for mere sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-36). King Jesus gave His life for His sinful people. He’s the Good Shepherd that lays down His life of the sheep (John 10:11). And His under-shepherds are to lovingly and practically care for those for whom He gave His life (Acts 20:28).
Thus, in summary, we have seen King Jesus, the Great and Sovereign Shepherd, laid down His life for the sheep and calls the church to care for His sheep. So, we must do so.
Biblical Delegation of Care
As Acts 6:1-7 and Ephesians 4:7-16 show us, the delegation of care within the church is not only wise, practical, and necessary, it is also biblical. Exodus 18 also shows us the important of shifting care to the congregation. If the church is going to care well as God would have it, care cannot just be left to one pastor or even a team of pastors.
The New Testament teaches that God equips believers. It teaches the “priesthood of all believers” (1 Pet. 2:4-5). That is, those who are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) not only have access to God through Christ but they are also equipped to do ministry by the Spirit of God. Therefore, the care of the church is to be done not just by a pastor or pastors, but by the church itself. The pastor is to be the “lead carer” and to equip other “carers” but he is not to do it on his own. Nor can he. So, one of the many things Christian leaders must do, is equip the church to do the ministry of the church.
The church is described in various ways, but the main image of the church is body. And each part of the body is vital. It won’t work as it is supposed to without each part functioning. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12). We are people in need of care, helping people in need of care.
The biblical and effective church will be the church that mobilizes, equips, empowers, and supports Christians in ministry. Many people can do most of what pastors do, pastors must do what most people can’t do. One of the main tasks of pastors is to equip people to do what they can do.
One Christian leader has said, “Caring for 30 people personally is possible. Caring for 230 is not.” So, we must structure bigger to go bigger. That’s essentially what Jethro’s advice was in Exodus 18. “The pastoral care model of church leadership simply doesn’t scale.” So, to care for the church well, as God has told pastors to do, we must do something biblical. We must “equip the saints for the wok of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12).
So, once again, the conviction to care in the church, must come before care in the church. I hope this has helped you towards the conviction part. In a future post, I hope to lay out the specifics of implementing that care.
 “Upon leaving seminary, many a young man discovers that his love for the Chief Shepherd does not extend to a love for God’s sheep. Without dispute, difficulties in dealing with people is the number one cause for ministry dropouts (85 percent according to one denomination)” (David C. Deuel, “The Pastor’s Comoassion for People, ”176 in Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Bibically.
 Albert Mohler, The Conviction To Lead: 25 Principles For Leadership That Matters (Bethany House, 2012), 53
 Mohler, The Conviction To Lead, 26.
 The LORD says “I will…” twenty four times in Ezekiel 34. He will shepherd His sheep. The chapter also says “LORD” sixteen times and “Sovereign LORD” eight times.
 And remember, John longed to see his people “face to face.” He was not satisfied with letters. He wanted to visit.
 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 365-66.
 The church is a family (Eph. 2:19; 3:15), temple (Eph. 2:20-22), army (Eph. 6:11-18; 2 Tim. 2:3-4), and bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-32; Rev. 19:2-8).
 Taken from the subtitle of Paul David Tripp’s book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People In Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change.
 Robert E. Slocum, Maximize Your Ministry (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1990), 9.
 Carey Neiuwhof, “How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches.”
 Neiuwhof, “How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches.”
*Photo by Antonello Falcone
How can we refuse to bow like Daniel’s friends? How can we as the Church in exile stand strong and share the love of Christ?
I was reading about and thinking about dandelions the other day. I want to warn y’all, what I’m about to say is a little controversial and some of you may disagree. But, I think dandelions are cool. And actually pretty.
Dandelions, and this may not surprise you, have one of the longest flowering seasons of any plant. And, did you know, every part of the dandelion is useful? The root, leaves, and the flower. They can be used for food, medicine, and dye for coloring.
Dandelions have had quite an impact and have actually helped a lot of people. Birds, insects, and butterflies consume the nectar or seed of dandelion. Dandelions can be used to make wine and used as a substitute for coffee.
There have been times when dandelions have been appreciated for what they are, but that is not the season we’re in right now in America. We’re in the season of trying to kill dandelions and we spend a lot of money collectively on pesticides to do so.
But, as we know, dandelions are very resilient.[i]
In some ways, church history parallels the history of the dandelion. The church has had its season when it’s been celebrated. When people have seen the benefits of the church. The church, however, has also had its seasons when people have wanted to kill the church, even willing to use pesticides.[ii]
The Church in America is in exile. And more and more that is being made empirically clear. Of course, theologically it’s always been clear.
The book of Daniel has a lot to teach the Church in exile. How can we stand tall and bright like a dandelion when the whole world bows?
How can we be like dandelions? How can we be like Daniel and his friends? How can we stand when many want to cut us down? How can we adapt and even populate and grow in this often hostile climate? (Timothy Keller has some very helpful thoughts on that question here)
How are we, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to be faithful in a faithless world? Answering these questions is one of the main purposes of the book of Daniel.[iii]
How can we refuse to bow like Daniel’s friends?
Romans 15:4 tells us that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction.” Daniel has a lot to instruct us about living in exile. We’ll particularly be considering Daniel chapter 3 here.
In Daniel 3 we see the King, Nebuchadnezzar, sets up a huge idol. It’s ironic because God, the true King, is the one who sets up kings. We see 8 times in Daniel chapter 3 that the king “set up” the idol (Dan. 3:1-3, 5, 7, 12, 15, 18). But in Daniel 2:21 we see that it is God, the real King, that sets up kings:
“He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding.”
So, the first lesson for us if we are to stand is to see that it is God, the true Lord, who is Sovereign.
Second, we must see the prevalence of idolatry.
We may not see actual idols all over in America, but they are there. The truth is: an idol is most massive and mighty when never mentioned. Satan, the father of lies, would like to cover our eyes to our culture of idolatry. We’ll continue to bow if we don’t know we’re bowing.
So, we must see that idolatry is the cultural air we are breathing. We are not immune. We are not untouched. Idolatry is not just out there. It is very often in our own hearts. Therefore, we must search and destroy every idol in operation in our hearts.
What even is idolatry? The New City Catechism says, “Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.”
Four questions to help you find your idols:
- What brings negative emotional responses?
- Where do you put your hope when things go well and when things go wrong?
- Who do you compare yourself to?
- How have you turned good things into ultimate things?
Third, be present to bless.
Notice Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to comply with idolatrous practice but they aren’t wholesale against Babylon. They worked hard in the government and were a blessing to Babylon. That’s us too. We need to “come out of Babylon” as it says in Revelation 18:4. But, that means we need to not partake of Babylon’s value system. We’re not to partake of the sins of the world as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:10, we are not to leave the world.
We’re in Babylon, to bless Babylon. We have different values than Babylon but were not to always just bash Babylon or the Babylonians.
Fourth, die rather than partake in idolatry.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are explicitly commanded to bow an idol, which is a clear violation of the 2nd of the 10 Commandments (Ex. 20:4-6). Listen to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s response: “Be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (v. 18).
They were willing to die rather than take part in idolatry. Very often I’m afraid we might be closer to the opposite of that. We’re more than willing to die for our idolatry.
We, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, should die rather than partake in idolatry. As it says 1 Corinthians 10:14, “Dear friends, flee from idolatry”!
Fifth, we may face various fires.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced literal fire and each remained strong in the Lord. You have or will face fire as well—mockery, judgment, or various other obstacles—but as Christians, we can stand because we know Jesus stands with us.
We can stand when we stand in Him. We can refuse to bow, when we bow to Him.
Further, our fellowship with Christ is often nearest and dearest in the furnace of affliction; I suppose that is because all distractions are burned away. In those moments we can know, deeply know, the One who matters most.
But, sixth, no matter what we face, we know God is with us.
Over and over we may be cut down but because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can stand tall like a dandelion; strong, resilient, and bright. And point to the One who is the One True Lord of the universe.
Dear Christian brothers and sisters, remember: God doesn’t promise that He will necessarily keep His people from the fire. But, He does promise that He will be with His people in the flame (Ex. 3:12; Is. 43:2; Matt. 28:18-20; Heb. 13:5; 1 Pet. 4:12-14). Ultimately we see Christ faced the ultimate fire so no matter the fire we face, we can face it with hope. We can face it standing on His promises. God’s promise to be with us finds its fullest fulfillment in Jesus, who is Immanuel—God with us.
How should we respond to the God who is with us through the fire and through the flame? How should we respond to Jesus who waded into the fire of affliction? How should we respond to the One who went through the furnace of the wrath of God completely alone? How should we respond who did all that for us?
We should bow to Him in reverent submission and we should lovingly share the news with “all the peoples, nations, and languages” that He alone is worthy of our worship.
Remember dear brothers and sisters, today the world says bow to every idol, but on the last day everyone—every tribe, language, nation, and tongue—will bow to Christ the King (Phil. 2:10-11).
Let’s bow now. Let’s bow in reverent submission. Jesus is worthy of our worship—of all worship!
So, as you drive around or mow and see dandelions, think about God’s sustaining and persevering power that He gives. He is with us no matter what we face! So, we can stand like resilient dandelions, unbending, pointing to the Creator who alone is worthy of worship.
[i] Most of this was taken from Jen Kerr.
[ii] And actually, in the world today, each of those things is a reality simultaneously depending on where you are. We just happen to live in a place and time in America where “dandelions” seem to be less and less popular.
[iii] The narrations in the book of Daniel of God’s power in the midst of severe opposition serve an important purpose: the encouragement of exiles.
*Photo by Amy Earl
The last thing Christians should be is puffed up with pride. Below are four points to pop pride.
Pride is damaging and is at the heart of what damned the devil himself. We would be wise to destroy pride before it destroys us (Prov. 16:18).
1. Group Connection
Pride protects us from the penetrating eye of others, at least, until it is too late. To kill pride we must let at least a select group pry; pry into our lives and our inner motivations. We must let them lovingly dive-in and help dig out roots of sin that we can’t see because the seed hasn’t yet sprouted and blossomed its poisonous plume (see 1 Tim. 5:24; Heb. 12:15).
When I drive with my wife you can often hear me say, “Clear right?!” As soon as she says, “Clear!” I’m making that lefthand turn. I’m squealing the tires (in our minivan…).
I ask her because I can’t see what’s coming. And I know that blind spots can cause big problems. So, I need her help.
Blind spots are no less dangerous on the road of life. We need each other to see what we don’t see ourselves. What’s going on in our own hearts is hard to truly understand. We need wise brothers and sisters to help us discern what’s going on (cf. Prov. 20:5).
Connection in an honest and loving community is vital for health. We need spiritual wellness exams. We want to kill cancerous sin before it grows and brings forth death (cf. James 1:15). We need to be sharpened (Prov. 27:17) and we need the occasional friction of rebuke (1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:2).
Like a horse, we need a goad to guide us to good works (Heb. 10:24-25). Like a rope, we need to be interlaced with others to be strong (Eccl. 4:12). Like a general, we need counsel to wage war wisely (Prov. 24:6).
Ironically, if we’re going to pop pride, we need people in our bubble.
2. Gifts are a Gift
Gifts are given. They are not deserved. If we have a gift, it’s because we received it. We didn’t own it on our own. Therefore, we shouldn’t boast as if we did not receive it (1 Cor. 4:7). And no matter what we have—strength or smarts, artistry or arithmetic, wealth or wisdom—it’s all a gift given by God (Jn. 3:27; James 1:17).
And gifts are given, not for our own good, but for the good of others (1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Cor. 12:7). Gifts are given with an understanding from God that there will be a return on His investment. It is required of servants that they be faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). But, that is nothing out of the ordinary. A servant is supposed to be faithful (Lk. 17:10).
If they are a servant with more gifts entrusted to their care, they are just being faithful with what God has given them, which is really not much different than the other servants. Except that they may go through more pain and have more of a demand on their life.
Also, it should be remembered that no body part, whatever that body part is and how gifted it is, functions on its own. In the same way, the quarterback may lead the team but he’s not the only one on the team. If he were, he would be crushed.
We all have different parts to play in the body (1 Cor. 12:12-31). The different parts have different roles, different gifts, as God assigned. But, notice, it is God that arranged and appointed it that way (v. 18, 28). It is not as if anyone earned their particular gift or role in the body.
So, since gifts are given they should never be a cause of pride.
3. Given Identity
The Bible teaches us that we don’t earn an identity, we are given an identity. Anyone in Christ, for example, is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). That is who they are. They are new. They are an adopted son or daughter of God (Eph. 1:5).
“Ministry leadership identity produces fear and anxiety and will never produce the humility and courage that come with identity in Christ. Looking horizontally, as a leader, for your identity, meaning, purpose, and internal sense of well-being asks people, places, and position to do for you what only your Messiah can do.”
We don’t boast in who we are, we boast in the Lord (Jer. 9:23-24; 1 Cor. 1:31)! Therefore, we don’t falter when we fail and we don’t overly seethe with success. And we don’t compare ourselves with others because we’re not looking for commendation from others (2 Cor. 2:12, 17-18). We’re looking for a smile on our Father’s face, even if it brings a frown from others (Matt. 25:21; Rom. 2:29; 1 Cor. 4:5).
So, we rest in our God-given identity—who we are in Christ—and not in any merely earthly identity.
4. God’s Glory
Everything we have, we have been given. And everything we have been given is to be given back to God in the form of praise. All we do is to be to His praise and glory, even when we eat (1 Cor. 10:31).
Everything is about Him, it is the height of folly and stupidity when we make it about us. That’s worse than an ant that thinks it deserves praise for moving a speck of sand. The ant is nothing and its work is nothing compared to the might and majesty of God. To think that God would owe us is worse still (see Job 35:7; 41:11; Rom. 11:35)!
All things are about Him (Col. 1:16) and the fact that He chooses to use mere humans only highlights His glory (2 Cor. 4:7 cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-10).
So, we pop pride when we see that it’s all about God and His glory.
 The success of the body rests on the individual parts of the body and not on any one part on its own, no matter how gifted that part is. Tom Brady knows this. He gave up millions so that the other important parts of the team could get filled up.
*Photo by Hamed darzi
Are we brokenhearted over our societies’ idolatry? The Apostle Paul was.
Paul was in Athens and he saw that it was full of idols (Acts 17:16). When he saw that there were idols everywhere, he was cut to the heart. Paul was visibly grieved. He was greatly troubled.
In Paul’s day, Athens was home to a stadium and a large concert hall. Athens’s most prominent feature, however, was its numerous pagan temples.
One author around the time of Paul said that it was easier to find a god than a man in Athens. There was a great temple to Athena (the Parthenon), a temple dedicated to multiple deities, and the temple to the goddess Roma. There were other pagan sacred sites that have been found as well.
Then, as now, there is a lot of idolatry. There is a lot of suppressing the truth about God for a lie. There is a lot of worshiping what is created rather than the Creator who alone is worthy of worship (Rom. 1:25).
So, how did Paul respond and how do we respond when we see rampant idolatry?
Paul was not consumed with anger or with amazement as to how stupid people are for their idolatry. No. His heart was broken for them. He had compassion for them.
And his compassion pushed him to winsome conversation…
“So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17).
Paul apparently shared in a winsome way. People were interested in hearing from him. We see this because they took him to the Areopagus and said, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?” (Acts 17:19).
Paul had a heart for the lost and won a hearing with the lost.
It says that Paul walked around and looked carefully at their objects of worship. And something he saw gave him an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus. He saw “an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’” So, Paul was able to say: “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23).
In sharing Paul even quotes from two of the “rappers” of the day. They actually were long since dead but his audience would have been familiar with them. Paul took the time to meet people where they were.
Paul had a heart for the lost. He wept over their idolatry. And he also studied how to effectively speak into their lives. He “looked carefully at their objects of worship” and could even quote their authors.
Yet, he did so not just to be on the in with them, but to point something out. He wanted to see what they see so he could show them how to see.
We too deal with idolatry today. It’s perhaps all the more insidious because it’s less apparent. We have no temple to Aphrodite; but we carry the equivalent in our pocket on our phone. Idolatry is alive and well. We just don’t see it well.
Do we have broken hearts over societies’ idolatry? And are we willing to wisely, winsomely, and lovingly wade into the fray? Are we willing to reason in the religious meeting places as well as the marketplace? Are we willing to be “in the know,” so we can help people to know?
 Epimenides of Crete (c. 600 B.C.) and the Stoic poet Aratus (c. 315–240 B.C.).
 Aphrodite was known as the Ancient Greek goddess of beauty, desire, and all aspects of sexuality. Aphrodite was known to be able to entice both gods and men into illicit affairs because she was so attractive. Aphrodite was honored as a protector of prostitutes.
*Photo by Douglas O
I really enjoyed Paul David Tripp’s book, Lead: 12 Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church. There were a lot of good takeaways. Here are some of my highlights but you should read the book for yourself, especially if you are in church leadership.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to be your life hermeneutic, that is, the means by which you understand and make sense of life” (Paul David Tripp, Lead, p. 12).
“Every human being is a meaning maker, a theologian, a philosopher, or an anthropologist, always taking things apart to understand what they mean. As a ministry leader, you are doing theological work not just when you preach, teach, or lead but also in the ways that you think about yourself, understand your ministry, and relate to fellow leaders” (Tripp, Lead, p. 12).
“If sin blinds, and it does, and if sin still remains in us, and it does, then, even as ministry leaders, there are pockets of spiritual blindness in us. So it is vital that we all forsake the thought that no one knows us better than we know ourselves. If there are places where we still suffer from spiritual blindness, then there are inaccuracies in the way we see ourselves and interpret our words and behavior. If, as a leader, you deny the possibility of personal spiritual blindness and trust the accuracy of your self-view, you are not humbly open and approachable to fellow leaders whom God has placed near you to help you see what you won’t see on your own” (Tripp, Lead, pp. 67-68).
“Leaders must push the gifts of others forward, willing to listen and willing to submit to the wisdom of others who are gifted in ways that they are not. Humble leaders surround themselves not with ministry clones but with leaders who have gifts that they do not and are therefore smart in ways they are not and strong in areas they are weak. This kind of community will always produce a quality and longevity of fruit that won’t ever be produced by a domineering leader” (p. 75).
“Every leader needs to be the object of ongoing discipleship, every leader needs at moments to be confronted, every leader needs the comforts of the gospel, every leader needs help to see what he would not see on his own, and every leader needs to be granted the love and encouragement to deal with the artifacts of the old self that are still within him. If this is so, then we cannot be so busy envisioning, designing, maintaining, evaluating, and reengineering ministry that we have little time to care for the souls of the ones who are leading this gospel work. A spiritually healthy leadership community participates in the ongoing personal spiritual growth of each one of its members” (p. 86).
“A leader whose heart has been captured by other things doesn’t forsake ministry to pursue those other things; he uses ministry position, power, authority, and trust to get those things. Every leadership community needs to understand that ministry can be the vehicle for pursuing a whole host of idolatries. In this way, ministry leadership is war, and we cannot approach it with the passivity of peacetime assumptions” (pp. 109-110).
“If ministry leadership is your identity, then Christ isn’t… Ministry leadership identity produces fear and anxiety and will never produce the humility and courage that come with identity in Christ. Looking horizontally, as a leader, for your identity, meaning, purpose, and internal sense of well-being asks people, places, and position to do for you what only your Messiah can do. This will produce either pride in success or fear of failure but never the kind of humility and courage of heart that results in humble, willing, confessing approachability. Ministry as a source of identity will never result in healthy gospel-shaped relationships in your leadership community, the kind of relationships in which candor is encouraged, confession is greeted with grace, and bonds of love, appreciation, affection, understanding, and respect grow strong” (p. 156).
“If identity in ministry is a battleground for every ministry leader, and if the exchange from identity in Christ to identity in ministry is often subtle and usually takes place over an extended period of time, then it is important to identify some of the symptoms you will see when a leader is looking to get from his ministry leadership what he was meant to get from Christ” (p. 168).
“Because of the dynamic of spiritual blindness, we don’t always see ourselves with accuracy, so we all need instruments of seeing to help us. We must not let ourselves think that we’re grace graduates or that no one knows us better than we know ourselves. Because we as leaders have been welcomed by God’s grace, we can be humble and approachable, thereby protected and able to grow” (p. 204).
“If we are not living with the presence and glory of God always in focus and always as the primary motivator of all we say and do, what we say and do will be driven by the glory of self. Every human being is glory oriented, because that orientation is meant to drive us to God. So we are all always living for some type of glory” (p. 214).
If the teacher of God’s word does not trust God’s word and trust that it will accomplish what God wants it to accomplish (Is. 55:10-11) they will struggle in their task. And may not be fit for their task. If the teacher does not trust God’s word to be God’s word they are unlikely to teach very well for very long.
So, serious trust in God’s word is foundational.
In Acts 6 we see there were a lot of important distractions for those who were tasked to preach the good news of Jesus. There were lots of important needs that were dear to their hearts and dear to God’s heart. And yet they resolved to devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (v. 4). They knew it was not right for them to be distracted from “preaching the word of God” (v. 2).
In fact, they were so committed to preaching about the glory and goodness of God as seen in Christ, that even when threatened with beatings and imprisonment they continued. They rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer for the Savior and they continued teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:41-42).
Ezra is an important model for every pastor and minister of the word. And really every Christian. Every Christian, in one way or another, should study the word of God, do it, and teach it (Ezra 7:10). It’s probably good to do it in that order too.
The teacher “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). And that requires studious study.
“There is no long-range effective teaching of the Bible that is not accompanied by long hours of ongoing study of the Bible.”
A teacher could “understand all mysterious and all knowledge” yet if they have not love it is worth nothing (1 Cor. 13:2-3). Self-application is essential. James even tells us “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (3:1).
As we saw with Ezra, he did not just study God’s word, or just teach God’s word, he himself did God’s word. He applied it and lived it himself. That is vital.
It’s actually a qualification for Christian leaders. They are to be above reproach. They are to apply Scripture first to themselves. They are to not be hypocrites.
There is a place of course to adapt the message to the audience. Jesus and Paul themselves did that. That is good. Yet, we also want to give meat, even if we have to cut it up nicely and make it bite-size. Our desire should be solid teaching, not trivial trifles (see Heb. 5:12; 1 Cor. 3:2).
There is a time to give milk and not solid food. Babies need milk because they cannot yet take solid food. They, however, would be stunned if they had to stay with mere milk. So, solid sermons are essential.
It is important to read from the Bible clearly and explain it so that people understood what’s being read (see Neh. 8:8 cf. 1 Tim. 4:13; Mal. 2:7). That’s what expository preaching is. It exposes and reveals the meaning of the passage. That is why pastors must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:1).
Scripture has the power to “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). So, Scripture should be wielded with careful and intentional precision. It is “sharper than any two-edged sword” and pieces to the depths of our hearts (Heb. 4:12).
Scripture should be applied specifically and carefully. Scripture should call to action but not legalistic action. Saints should be equipped for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12) but it should be through the truth spoken in love (Eph. 4:15).
So, the teacher of God’s word must “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). That is a high and challenging calling.
When we preach or teach we are not to use “eloquent wisdom” to make much of ourselves but we “preach Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:2). It is not us we proclaim. It is Him we proclaim (Col. 1:28).
We show Christ from every passage, Old and New Testament, knowing Scripture is about Him (Jn. 5:39) and every promise finds its “yes” in Him (2 Cor. 1:20).
8.Share the Gospel
Sharing the gospel is needed all of the time, for believers and unbelievers. We all need to be reminded of the best news there is. The Apostle Paul wrote Romans and Ephesians to Christians and yet he didn’t assume the gospel. He expounded on it and applied it.
Believers and unbelievers need the gospel. So we must share the gospel (Matt. 10:6-7; Lk. 25:45-49; Rom. 10:14-17).
 D.A. Carson, For the Love of God vol. 2, January 7.
*Photo by Carolyn V