Friday, December 20, 2013

Jesus Came to Be Ruler

"'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'" Matthew 2:6 

Image Courtesy of Flickr User Waiting for the Word
The wise men of ancient Israel were commanded to assemble at King Herod's palace. Magi from the east had come to him previously asking, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?" Herod demanded to know where the Messiah was to be born. They answered him by citing Micah 5:2 and 2 Samuel 5:2 which declared "And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel." Needless to say, Herod was threatened by the potential competition. Yet we have recorded 800 years earlier that God had foreordained this very event.

So what does this passage teach us about why Jesus came? He came to be a ruler, but not a self-serving ruler of Herod's ilk. He would be a shepherd to God's people. From Heaven's perspective, He came to be in charge and be in control. In His incarnational ministry, many responded to His leadership and Lordship. In foretelling this unique coming, David had penned generations earlier the testimony of the Lord who had declared, "But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of The Lord: He said to Me,'You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’" (Psalm 2:6-7). Here is the Son who is king.

The word "ruler" used by Matthew is translated variously as governor, leader, or one who has the rule over. The extent of Jesus' rule extends ultimately to all places and all people. Revelation 11:5b tells us that, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." At the culmination of time, He will be the absolute ruler over the entire universe. Is it not wise, therefore, that we bow before Him now and acknowledge His authority to rule over us now? No wonder the first creed of the early church was, "Jesus is Lord!"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Working Ahead Toward 2014

When I worked as a Senior Pastor, I used from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day to think about, pray about, and plan for the coming year. Whether you are in vocational ministry or not, this is the right time of year to be doing the same thing. So, what do you plan to accomplish next year? It is easier for The Lord to redirect a person in motion than to motivate a person who is standing still. So, what are your plans? Here are mine.

First, I break my life up into categories. It is not that I intend to compartmentalize, just make sure that all my bases are covered. My two big categories are Personal and Professional. I will address the Personal first.

1. What will I do to grow spiritually? I have a systematic study I am doing through the Scriptures. Also, I have a list of people I pray for on a regular basis. These are foundational to everything else we do. I want to make sure I am in the place to hear the Lord when He leads and speaks. I do not want to settle for left-overs or second best.

2. What will I do to grow intellectually? Like this past year, my goal is to read 25 books and on top of that appropriate articles. I want to be faithful to love God with all my mind. I find that I do not "find" time to read. I have to "make" time to read.

3. What will I do to grow physically? That comes under the category of health and fitness. I really want to reduce and not grow! This past year I have dropped from 227 to 200 lbs. I am aiming to drop another 20. It will be interesting. It will take being faithful to a weight training and running routine. I will need to drink more water and start eating breakfast as a routine which I have not done in recent years. I will also need to be aware of the foods I eat. One goal that I do have is to reduce my best 5K running time from this year by two minutes. That will be interesting.

4. How will I grow relationally? I intend to spend quality time with Fern (my precious wife), my family (have I talked too much about my grandson?), and my friends. I also want to be more of an encourager to those in my circle of influence. I will need to determine specifically how to do these things. The key, still, is planning.

Next, I will work on my Professional category. Here are some things I want to do.

1. Excel at work. I know that I have a strong combination of abilities and experiences. I want to take those and build. Building is in my DNA. Everywhere I have worked I have been a builder. There's more building to be done.

2. Continue writing. My intention is to complete two new books in 2014. I will also continue to write a weekly blog and a minimum of five intelligent tweets a day (I intend to provide these so that others can use them). My intention is to write another two scholarly articles in the coming year.

That's a snapshot of what I intend to do in the coming year. Of course, The Lord could alter these at any time. But, I teach my students, if you fail to plan you plan to fail. So, my intention is to succeed at what God has called me to do. My intention is to be a tool in the hands of God. He will determine my ultimate success or failure. My responsibility is to remain faithful and diligent.

Now, what are you planning to accomplish next year? Have you thought about it, prayed about it, and have you written it down? Have you allocated the necessary time to do what you have planned? I hope you get to the conclusion of 2014 and are amazed at what God enabled you to do!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Recommended Winter Reading

Last week, Fern and I spent four days in Baltimore where I attended the yearly gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society. On Wednesday afternoon, I presented a paper comparing Spurgeon's Down Grade Controversy and the precipitating events of the Southern Baptists' Conservative Resurgence. Besides sitting in on a variety of lectures and walking through the bookstore (best prices on books all year long), we were able to catch up with peers in other schools as well as former students. Four  questions are common to these catching up encounters:  "What are you writing these days? What are you reading? Where are you now and what are you doing?" I would like to take a few paragraphs and highlight the second question. 

In the last month or so, I have read three books of note and am half way through the fourth. The first two are by Daniel Pink, a business guru who takes sociological research, digests it, and applies it to business, educational, and institutional communities. The first book I read was Drive. This is a study of motivation and especially how people are motivated in their work environments. He argues that culture has gone through three phases which he identifies as Motivation 1, 2, and 3. Motivation one lasted up until approximately the year 1800. People as a whole were motivated simply to survive. The next phase, which was in effect up until 1980 or so is what I summarize as essentially the "carrot and the stick" mindset. It assumes that people want to do as little as possible. Therefore, their superiors motivate them with rewards (carrots) or threats (sticks). Since 1980, the model which has been growing in implementation is "purpose-driven." It assumes that workers want to do well, want to have meaning in what they do, and want to make a difference through their work. According to Pink, this applies to almost all institutions. Those stuck in a Motivation 2 Model will find themselves increasingly out of touch and unable to retain the services of their best employees.

Pink's newer book is entitled To Sell is Human. It is an interesting study of how almost all workers today find themselves in the position of needing to sell, even in jobs which require "non-selling sales." His point? No matter what you do, you will need to sell yourself and persuade people. So, why not do it well? This volume is packed with suggestions on how to be an effective communicator.

A third book I recently read is Bryan Litfin's Getting to Know the Church Fathers. This volume provides chapter snapshots of a select number of Patristic Fathers and Mothers.
Anyone who wants a nice concise review (or introduction) to Patristic leaders will find this volume informative and relevant. Litfin works hard to make these early Christian leaders come alive.

A final book, one that I am still reading, is John Fea's Why Study History? A more accurate title might be What is an Historian, What is History, and Why Is It  Worth the Trouble to Study? It is in fact a very sound introduction to the discipline of historiography. It is filled with discussable insights that will help any student grasp an understanding of the benefits of studying history. I thought one particularly important point was that any new history is "revisionist." It is the essence of incorporating new facts, insights, and interpretations to old events and their perception. For the record, some revisions are sound and other revisions are poor. Not all revisions are worth the paper they’re printed on.

I can readily recommend any of these volumes as tools to help you gain new insights from old subjects, or fresh understanding to new subjects.

What have you been reading lately?