Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Good Leader Knows When To Follow

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" Moses answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws." Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good.You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied." Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. (Exodus 18:14-24 NIV)

I realize that today's scripture selection is a bit lengthy but if you are willing to relax and bear with me for a few minutes, you'll understand why I chose so much text today. Moses was one of the greatest leaders of all times. Yet here, we find that he has a dilemma. It's isn't as easy for him to lead as you or I may have thought it would be even though we know that the Lord was with Him. Often times we make the mistake of believing that our leaders lead us effortlessly and that it has no effect on their personal life or morale. We don't always get to see what goes on behind the scenes. But here God offers us a glimpse of what true leadership is all about.

Jethro, Moses' father in-law enters the scene and immediately he is able to identify the problem. You see, sometimes we can't see the problem because we are so immersed in it. But God will send someone else alone to bring it to our attention. Moses is overwhelmed. At this point in time Moses had not yet learned to delegate responsibilities. As a result, he is spreading himself too thin and is miserable.

Can you recall times in your life when you failed to delegate and suffered as a result of it? Did you or do you feel like you need to handle everything or it won't be right? It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's just a reminder to us that we have only gone as far as we have trained our successor to go. We will not be here forever. We don't want what God gave us to die when we die. So we have to raise up others and not be intimidated by new talent. Leaders should want our sucessors to be better than we were.

Moses didn't get offended when his father in law brought his problem to his attention. Also notice that Jethro didn't come to him in a subordinate manner either. He didn't question the leader God placed over him or exalt himself just because he was able to see something that Moses wasn't able to see. Instead he spoke his piece and then told Moses "God be with you". Ultimately, Jethro knew that God's will would be done and didn't want his advice to overshadow God's will.

Moses didn't respond arrogantly. He could have said "Do you know who I am? I am the chosen one". Instead he listened. A good leader has the qualities of God and is quick to listen and slow to speak.This does not mean that he had to accept everything and anything that anyone said to him but he took the time to analyze what was said. Obviously what Jethro said lined up to the vision that God had already given him. People will come to us and offer us all sorts of advice but if what they say or suggest is not on the way to where God is taking you it is just in the way and a distraction.

Jethro told Moses to gather the elders and let them judge over the small matters and bring the bigger ones to him to decide. We can't sweat the small stuff. Nor can we micromanage. An effective leader leads other leaders and knows when to be led. Jethro explained to Moses that once he learned to delegate down that he would have more time to hear from God and deal with some other areas of his life. Moses was a married man with children too. God would not have us to abandon or neglect our natural families.

As I said earlier, I know I can be hard on the leaders at times but it's only because they are leaders for a reason. God does not allow anything to happen just to happen. If you are a leader it is because God allowed it to be so. I believe that we are to all walk worthy of the vocation to which we were called. We are all leaders in one way or another in our lives. Whether you are the devotion leader, a parent, the oldest sibling, a minister or a supervisor we all have people looking up to us just waiting to follow our lead. Let us not become so high minded that we can't listen to anyone. What would have happened had Moses continued on the route he was going, not listened to his father in-law and burned himself out? How much good would he had been to the Children of Israel or his own family? So let's learn from Moses' example and know when to follow as a leader. And by all means, we should ultimately be led by God. We are to follow our leaders as they follow Christ.

Shanita Waters, CEO
Author of By His Stripes We Are Healed
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Worship God - Not the Man of God

I met Mary a while back. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent) We grew to be really good friends. I met her at a point in time in my life where I was lonely and in desperate need of companionship. I knew the Lord and had a personal relationship with Him but I still wanted a tangible friend down here. You all understand that, right? Anyway, Mary offered me a lot of encouragement and was always ready and willing to pray for me anytime night or day.

Somewhere along our relationship, I began to notice that she placed her pastor on a pedestal. At first, I just thought that she highly regarded and respected the man of God, as we all should. But the more she spoke, the more I visited the church and the closer we got - I realized that her admiration was bordering idolization. Mary is a sweet person and I would never want to do or say anything to hurt her but I don't know how much of her glorifying the man of God I can take.

I would like to say that I have met the man and he in no way condones this sort of behavior. What do I do? Do I tell her the truth and risk loosing her friendship or do I continue to avoid her so that I don't have to bite my tongue until it bleeds as she attributes all her blessings in life to being connected to this man?

Have you ever been in a situation like this? What did you do?

Shanita Waters
By His Stripes We Are Healed, Author

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Devil Made Me Do It - Or Did He?

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:12-15)

How many times have you done or said something that you knew was not becomming of a child of God and afterward jokingly replied that the devil made you do it? How many times have you given into temptation and then blamed everyone around you but yourself? I know I'm guilty of both offenses on countless occassions. However after I stumbled across this scripture I know one thing is for certain, I will not give the enemy any unjust credit anymore. You see, the devil can not make us do anything just as God will not. By us saying that the devil made us do one thing or another, we are calling ourselves the devil because we have free will and are controlled by no one but ourselves.

We are going to be tried. Jesus was tried and tempted but He didn't give in (See Matthew 4).Instead, He fought the enemy with the Word of God. It is druing these time when we feel at our weakest that we are to stand on the Word of God. It is our sword to fight off the enemy. If the enemy can whisper lies to us, why can't we proclaim the Word of God right back to him?

How many times have you blamed God for your shortcommings or reasoned within yourself that if God didn't want it to be so that He wouldn't have allowed it? God can not and will not tempt us with evil. When we do wrong, it's because deep down insde we want to do wrong. The minute the thought runs through our brains and we do not rebuke and dismiss it, we allow that "thing" to grow within us until the point it becomes a desire. Once we desire to do wrong this is sin and ultimately sin seperates us from God and leads to death.

However, we have a choice. When we are tempted we can chose to be blessed or we can chose to give into the lusts of the flesh. We can walk in the Spirit so that we do not fufil the lusts of the flesh and perserver through the temptation or we can surrender to sin.

Shanita Waters
By His Stripes We Are Healed, Author

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In The Eye Of The Storm

I took the picture to the right of this post from my seat aboard my very first flight. I flew clear across the country from Pennsylvania to Nebraska. I was very excited about my first flight and attending my brother in-law's wedding. (I love weddings)Everyone I came in contact with during the days before the flight asked me if I was afraid. I wasn't. I replied that God has the whole word in His hand. I reasoned that if He can hold the sun and moon in the sky, surely He could safely carry my plane to and from Las Vegas.

All was well. We boarded the plane and I had an opportunity to sit in the cockpit before the flight and even took pictures with the pilot and co-pilot. It was smooth sailing. The ride there was fine. There was no turbulence, no storms and we even arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule.

The ride home was a different story. The plane had mechanical problems before we took off so our flight was delayed. We flew out in the evening so it grew dark as we flew. Early on in the flight, I knew that things weren't going to be as smooth during this trip as it was on my way out. Before I knew it, it began to storm. the plane rocked from side to side. There was lightening flashing and the plane shook from side to side.

There were times I feared that the plane would go down. Out of no where the pilot would maneuver the vessel on it's right side and then quickly back to the left. We picked up speed, ascended into the air and then abruptly dropped. I began to fear for the worst.

As I began to grow afraid, I did all that I felt I could do at that point in time - I prayed. As I prayed, a scripture came to mind.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

I knew that my fear did not come from God. The enemy wanted me to loose faith that God was in control. the enemy wanted me to fear that the storm would overcome me. It didn't take long before God allowed me to see that although this was my first flight, it wasn't the first time I allowed False Evidence to Appear Real.

When things are going smoothly, we are fine. There is no doubt in our minds that God has everything under control. But when the clouds hang low and the winds and waters rage do we still have the same confidence we had when we started out or do we begin to doubt that God will do what He said He would do?

I sat there on that plane in the middle of the turbulence and realized that if I was ever going to go to a new level in the Lord that I had to fully trust Him - not just when things looked good but unconditionally. I repented for my disbelief and thought back to old Peter walking on the water. I thought back on all the many times I had heard the story taught and taught on the story myself and one common theme for the story was that the minute Peter began took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at what was going on around him - he bagan to sink.

I too began to sink on that plane. When I became consumed with how the pilot was controlling the aircraft. I began to sink in fear forgetting that the Ultimate Pilot was still in control. The bible tells us that we are to talk by faith and not by sight (Romans 1:17. What is faith? Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). For a while, I began to come down on myself pretty hard. I felt shallow, vain and faithless. But I thank God for His word and it being hidden in my heart. I was able to think back on those scriptures and all that God said He is and that He would do. I picked myself up and began to encourage myself in the Lord.

I was able to remember that God created the heavens and the earth. Just as I believed that God had everything under control when it appeared to be under control, I was reassured that was still true.

Have you ever caught yourself loosing heart in the middle of a storm? If so, what and how long did it take you to bounce back?

Shanita Waters
By His Stripes We Are Healed, Author

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I haven't Arrived Yet But I'm On My Way

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 1I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 3:13-14 NIV)

Have you ever tried telling your family or friends that now that you are saved there are some things you just don't do anymore? Has anyone ever tried to bring your past up and remind you of what you used to do and wonder why you are so "above" some of the things you used to do?

If so, how did this make you feel? If you are anything like me, it would have made you feel as if they thought that you saw yourself as better than them. We as Christians know that we are better than no one and that we have not yet arrived. Nevertheless, we cannot revert back to our old ways just because our loved ones can't understand that we are seeking to reach higher heights in the Lord.

It's somewhat of a difficult position to find yourself in. On the one hand you want them to understand that you are still "down to earth". But on the other hand you want them to understand that you stand for Jesus so you won't fall for the same old tricks that the enemy used to trip you up with. So what do you do?

I'll tell you want you do, continue to press for the Mark Of The Prize which is Christ Jesus. This means that as the scripture says you have to "put those former things behind you". Former things can be people, places and things that hinder your progress.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).

Remember that these people are not intentionally trying to become a stumbling block to you (for the most part). They are human and humans are used what I like to call "the constants" in life. If you were constantly drinking, smoking, and sinning with them - they will expect you to always be their partner in crime but once you decide to take a Stand for Christ, you have to do just that - STAND.

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:3-5)

To some people you may be the only Jesus they know or see. We are ambassadors for Christ. Now as we are the Light of the World we have to be careful to both let our lights shine and remain humble. We can not forget where we came from. Never become so holy that you are of no earthly good. To do so would be to miss your mark. We are to go out into the hedges and highways and compell men and women to come in. You attract more flys with honey. Jesus said that it is with love and kindness that He drew us. We must afford others the same Fruits of the Spirit.

The Apostle Paul in this text says ( inlay terms): I don't know everything but I do know one thing and that is that i have to let some stuff go. Some behaviors just cannot coexist with my walk with the Lord so I have to move on and put them behind me. I can't just stop there in putting them behing me but I have to do something as well. I have to press. That means never give out, never give in and most of all - and never give up!

If along they way you should feel that your journey is complete remember: it isn't over until you hear Him say "Wll done they good and faithful servant....enter into my joy"

Have you ever felt like those around you just didn't understand your convictions? Have you ever felt like you (or someone you know) crossed the line between spiritual and religious? If so, let me know. I'd like to hear from you.

Shanita Waters
By His Stripes We Are Healed, Author

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fatality of Familiarity

This post was actually inspired by a post I read by pickwick12 entitled Spiritual Amnesia. As I read the awesome post and comments, I too began to realize how much I can be like the Children of Israel and how easy it is for me to read about them and see all of their faults not even realizing that we are all a lot like them today. We may not erect Gods in the form of golden calves but we do allow a lot of things to come before God. Therefore, we idolize these things. Idolatry is idolatry whether or not it is intentional. Anything or anyone we allow to come between or before our relationship with God is our idol and with this, God is not pleased. He is a jealous God and will have no one or no thing before Him.

I thought about idolatry for a while. Then I began to think about life as a mother, wife, employee, author, etc. and all the many hats I wear and how little time I have left for me. I thought about how little time I actually have to sit back and reflect on all that God has done and is doing for me. I thought about how life was before I had so many responsibilities when I was at home all day. I thought about how life was before I got so involved with the church and had more time for my family and myself. Then I began to remember a statement my pastor used to say: "only what you do for Christ will last". I quickly came to my senses and began to thank God for making me ruler over more than I had before and for trusting me with His work. (Being a mother a mother and wife is a ministry in itself but that's another topic for another day).

What I want to talk to you (briefly) about is how fatal familiarity can be. This Christian walk can get lonely at times. We know that Jesus said that He would be with us until the ends of the earth and that He will never leave us or forsake us but there are times when we don't see God moving or we don't understand why He is moving the way that He is. It is during these times when we as humans feel the need to go back to what we know. Even though our former lives were a shipwreck without Christ, we knew what to expect. And sometimes, even if just for a moment we miss that. I believe that this familiarity is what caused the Children of Israel to prefer to be slaves to Pharaoh then to allow God to lead them into the Promised Land. What are we allowing to hold up our blessings? What's keeping us from going to the next level in God?

If we were asked if we would prefer to be slaves or follow Jesus I'm sure that we would all chose the latter but would we really? When we chose to sin or to go back to what felt good, sounded good, and was "familiar" it can be fatal to our relationship with God. When we chose to go back, we chose to go back to being slaves to sin. The bible tells us in Galations 5:1 that we are to "standfast" in the liberty in which Christ has made us free and not to be entangled again with the yokes of bondage. Sin is bondage. Our lives before Christ was slavery. Satan himself was the Pharaoh.

So now, as I examine myself I invite you all to do the same. Who or what are you allowing to delay your destiny? what is the one thing about your pre-saved life that calls you back (answer this one internally)? Do you agree that there is fatality in familiarity? I want to hear from you...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Salvation - Can it Be Lost?

I am blessed to be friends with many men and women of God scattered across the broad spectrum of denominations (and nondenominational) within Christianity. I enjoy talking with them and discussing the scriptures and how they apply to daily life. I do not debate the Word of God. For the most part, we always agree. However there are some topics where we don't exactly see eye to eye. One of those topics is whether or not one can loose their salvation.

We were having a hypothetical discussion about whether or not an individual was in danger of loosing their salvation and perishing. Here's the scenario. (Please note that we were not judging this hypothetical individual but simply discussing how the Word of God applies to daily Christian living)

Johnny accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the age of 12. He was baptized and grew up in the church. As he got older, he decided he no longer wanted to attend church regularly. He left the church in his early 20's. He began to drink, do drugs, steal and kill. He never repented or ceased his behavior. Then one day Johnny tries to rob the wrong liquor store and is shot to death in the process.

The question is: Is Johnny's salvation secured because he accepted the Lord as a child or did he "loose his salvation" somewhere along the way? We were literally divided on this topic. For one, as people we have no heaven or hell to place anyone in and we often feel uncomfortable when asked these sorts of questions knowing all that God has done for us, we don't want to appear judgemental because we don't want to be judged.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matthew 7:1)

Many misinterpret this scripture to mean that you can't judge but you can. Note, the scripture immediately following says:

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:2)

We are supposed to use the Word of God to judge every aspect of our lives and to correct that which shouldn't be. The measure that we use should be the Word of God.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16)

Back to our discussion about Johnny. Many Christians believe that because Johnny accepted the Lord that he is once saved - always saved. They believe that according to John 3:16 he shall not perish.

Then there are those that believe that we are called to be holy because God is holy. They believe that once we are saved, God will not allow us to continue to sin and still be secure in our salvation. In other words, they believe that our grace will run out. These Christians believe that if you are truly saved that you are new and will walk in the newness of life.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)

I do not believe that one can "loose their salvation". I believe that you are either saved or you aren't. Salvation that is lost was not salvation in the first place. I believe that when God says whosoever believes shall not perish but have everlasting life in John 3:16 that He meant it. Therefore, if you believe that Jesus died for your sins so that you could live forever you will walk in the newness of life.

Now none of us are perfect. Romans 3:23 tells us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I'm not saying that you will be perfect. What I am saying is that you will strive to please God. When we fall short, we will repent, get up and start all over again. We are not perfect because we are saved. If we could be perfect on our own, Jesus would never have had to go to the cross. On the same note, because Jesus went to the cross and rose on the 3rd day ee now have access to the same power which raised Him from the dead. We have access to His Holy Spirit.

I believe that it is impossible to stay saved without the Holy Spirit abiding in us. When I say Holy Spirit I don't mean the outward appearance that many demonstrate with the dancing and speaking in other tongues. Anyone can behave this way even without truly having the Spirit of God. I mean God dwelling in us leading us and guiding us to all truth and righteousness.

Now back to Johnny. I believe that Johnny was never saved in the first place. It is not impossible to go to church week in and week out (in some cases for years) and not be saved. Salvation is a spiritual thing. It's an eternal thing. So is damnation. If you are not secure in your salvation you have time today to get it right with God. He loves us and wants us to be secure in our eternal future. Let's not be unsure. Let's not let Him return and find us with our works undone. We don't want to be like Johnny and die in a state where we are out of fellowship with God or living a sinful life that is displeasing to Him.

Now, here's the interesting part. What are your views? Do you think that salvation can be lost? Where do you think (according to the Word of God) is Johnny's eternal destination? I want to hear from you.

Shanita Waters
Author of By His Stripes We Are Healed