Advice, Bible, Leading, Modeling, Obedience, Relationships, Scripture

LEADING THE WRONG WAY

ZEPHANIAH 3:3

“Her leaders within her are roaring lions, her judges are wolves at evening; they have no bones to gnaw in the morning.”

I have had the privilege to have served under some great leaders. I have known others who led well. I have always tried to learn from these role models. However, others I have known have not led well. Their employees were uncontented. The turnover rate was high. What made the difference between these two types of leaders? Integrity!

Jerusalem’s leaders and judges were treating the people horribly. Zephaniah compares them to lions and wolves. Not exactly a great compliment. They were taking advantage of their positions and causing harm to the people. People were starving, and they were feasting. For this, they would be judged more harshly.

APPLICATION

If you are a leader in your church or place of work, you have the responsibility to lead well. James 3:1 gives us a warning. “Do not become teachers in large numbers, my brothers, since you know that we who are teachers will incur a stricter judgment.” Teachers are leaders. God holds us to a higher standard. Why? Because we are leading others. They are trusting us to lead well.

Another great verse about the importance of good and godly leaders is Proverbs 11:14. “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is victory.” Isn’t that good? We need good leaders, not leaders who use their power to put people down. Pray for your leaders. Ask the Lord to give them wisdom.

I have been in some type of leadership role for the past four decades. I have to admit that I have not always led well. I have allowed my ego to get in the way at times. But God has forgiven me of those failures and has put a servant leadership heart in me. I try to lead by serving now. Will you do that? Allow Jesus to show you how He led and imitate Him.

Lord, without Your guidance I will fail as a leader. Show me how to lead and love well.

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Accountability, Bible, Discipline, Obedience, Scripture, Trust

INCORRIGIBLE

ZEPHANIAH 3:2

“She obeyed no voice, she accepted no discipline. She did not trust in the LORD, she did not approach her God.”

Having worked with children and youth most of my ministry I can tell you about incorrigibility. I have dealt with some pretty bad behaviors. Some of those kids would not listen to anyone. It did not matter what technique or method we used. Nothing worked! They did not respond to praise or punishment. Time! They all took time.

Jerusalem was like that. Zephaniah says they “obeyed no voice,” “accepted no discipline, “did not trust” and “did not approach.” Take a look at those last two – trust and not approaching. My experience with children and youth I have dealt with in the past was that many of those who were disobedient and unresponsive to discipline were also untrusting and unapproachable. Jerusalem was the same. How could they not trust and approach their God who had done so much for them? Because of the first two.

APPLICATION

Just how incorrigible are you? Now, before you answer that, think about the things you do that you know the Lord would disapprove of. Do I need to name sins? I don’t think so. You and I both know what we do that falls into that category. By doing that, we are not obeying His voice. You may say What voice, Carl. If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit resides in you and speaks to you. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

We are also just like the Israelites to whom Zephaniah is speaking. We grumble at any discipline we receive from the Lord. We argue it is not fair or we don’t deserve it. No, we actually deserve hell. But because of the grace of God through His Son Jesus, we have been given salvation and the promise of heaven. So, stop grumbling when the Lord busts your britches.

I want to trust Him with all my heart. I want to approach Him with open arms and a clean heart. But to do that, I need to stop all the incorrigibility on my part. So do you. Let’s agree today to do that. For at least one day, let’s do that. Agreed?

Lord, I come to You as an incorrigible child. Forgive me and receive me today.

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Bible, Change, Following, God's Will, Judgment, Obedience, Restoration, Scripture

A CHANGING LANDSCAPE

ZEPHANIAH 2:6

“So the seacoast will become grazing places, with pastures for shepherds and folds for flocks.”

Going back to visit a location you haven’t been to in a while can be eye opening. The landscape changes. What used to be a cotton field is now a shopping mall. What used to be a shopping mall is now luxury condominiums. Things force change. Sometimes that is for the good of the community. Other times it is not.

Zephaniah continues his message of doom to the neighboring nations. Verse 6 is a continuation of the message to the Philistines. Their seacoast will change from dwellings of warriors to pastures for the shepherds to use to graze their sheep. A nation of war will become a place for peaceful men to dwell. Quite a change. Quite a promise for Judah as well.

APPLICATION

Are there areas of your life that need to be changed? Do you have a rebellious spirit that argues about everything? God wants to transform your life into a place of peace. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

A transformed landscape can involve many little changes over time. God may choose to use sandpaper to smooth off your rough surfaces. Or He may choose to take more drastic measures and bring out the jackhammer and sledgehammer. That’s usually how God works on me, lol. He gets one area of my life’s landscape shaped up and then starts demolition on another.

Now, the difference between our transformed landscape and the Philistines is they were being judged for their idolatry and rebellion against God. We are not being judged by God as He transforms us. We are safe under the blood of Christ. He just wants to make us look more like Him, to reflect the image of His Son. That is transformation that is welcomed. Right?

O Lord my God, shape me into whatever image You feel is right. I trust the work of Your hands on my life.

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Baptism, Bible, Disciplemaking, Guard, Obedience, Scripture, Witnessing

STANDING GUARD

HABAKKUK 2:1

“I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the watchtower; and I will keep watch to see what He will say to me, and how I may reply when I am reprimanded.”

Have you ever been waiting for a message to arrive? Maybe it was a phone call or a letter. Perhaps it was some other type of communication (we only have about a billion types now). The anticipation is excruciating, isn’t it? I remember waiting for my college admission letter. When that envelope arrived, I knew it would be either good news or bad news, but at least now I had the letter.

Habakkuk says here at the beginning of chapter 2 that he will wait on the message from God. He knows his calling as a prophet requires him to deliver the news to the people, whether it is good news or bad news. He is simply the messenger, but he must wait on God’s message. He can’t just make up his own message and pretend it is from God. He waits in obedience.

APPLICATION

God has a message for us to deliver. We don’t have to wait as Habakkuk did. We already have it. It is the story of His Son who came to give us life. We have the best news story of the centuries. For some it will be the news they have been waiting for. For others it will be the death nail in their coffin of disobedience.

Regardless of how others respond, we are commanded, just like Habakkuk, to deliver the message we have been given. The question is whether or not we will be obedient to our calling as believers. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 is pretty simply – go make disciples, baptize them and teach them. It’s not complicated. You don’t need a seminary degree to do it. Just do it.

We can all improve in this area of evangelism. I believe with all my heart that time is getting short. That’s not a prophetic statement. It’s just my personal belief. So, I need to be more diligent at sharing with others. You need to join me. Time is wasting. We are the watchmen on the wall.

I will deliver the message Lord. The rest is up to You.

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Bible, Direction, Evangelism, Fishing, Obedience, Scripture, Service, Witnessing

WHAT ARE YOU FISHING FOR?

HABAKKUK 1:15

The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook, drag them away with their net, and gather them together in their fishing net. Therefore, they rejoice and are joyful.”

I love to fish, especially for large-mouth bass. Anyone who has read my blogs in the past is aware of this. I don’t get to fish as much as I used to, but I love it. Fishing is fun and exciting (especially if you are catching fish). It relieves stress for me. I could be happy whether I am catching a lot of fish or not. But I am always looking for a bite with every cast.

The Chaldeans were not literally using fishhooks and nets to gather the people of Israel. Habakkuk is using that imagery because it is one the people could relate to. They had all seen fishermen at work. They saw how they rejoiced when they had a big catch. The Chaldeans, Habakkuk says, will react the same. They will rejoice at their victory over Israel.

APPLICATION

What are you fishing for? I don’t mean you are using a pole or rod and reel. I am asking if you are fishing for souls. Jesus told His would-be disciples what He would do for them. He tells these fishermen He will change their lives if they will follow Him. Look at this story from Matthew 4.

“18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

Jesus is calling us just like He called Peter, Andrew, James and John. We may not be mending nets, but we are busy with other things. He tells us to lay down those busy things and follow Him in doing the better things. Will you cast your net today into the waters Jesus is directing you? There are souls to be saved.

Lord, I know You are calling me to fish for men, not fish. Show me where to cast my net today.

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Bible, God's Will, Hearing, Listening, Looking, Obedience, Scripture

GOD’S MESSENGERS

HABAKKUK 1:6

“For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that grim and impetuous people who march throughout the earth, to take possession of dwelling places that are not theirs.”

Sometimes we get our lessons from the strangest people or situations. I have been taught great truths from someone I met in an airport or maybe on the street. Hearing of their journey with Christ has given me new insight into mine. Hearing of their struggles with faith has taught me to trust more.

God is now telling Habakkuk what is going to happen (yesterday’s blog set this up, in case you missed it). God is going to use the Chaldeans to judge Israel. What!!! Why would God use such a “grim and impetuous people”? God’s instruments of judgment are not what we would choose, most His choice is always the perfect one.

APPLICATION

Who are what is God using right now in your life to teach you something? It doesn’t have to be a “Chaldean” like Habakkuk had to face. No, it could be the kind, elderly neighbor who just wants to talk. Your patience runs thin sometimes when you see them coming across the street. You know you are in for at least a thirty-minute conversation.

May I suggest that you take the time to listen. They may have something to say to you that you need to hear. God can use others around us to speak a message to us. Recently, a colleague of mine had that exact experience. Someone gave them a message they needed to hear which resulted in this person taking action, an action they had been pondering for some time.

I am thankful that we don’t get all our “sermons” on Sunday mornings. Many of them are spoken to us every day if we will just take the time to listen. So, are you listening? In your conversations, texts or emails today, look for that message you need to hear.

Father, I praise You for using others around me to speak to me. I want to hear Your voice no matter who it comes through.

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Bible, Hope, Obedience, Salvation, Scripture, Testimony, Witnessing

WHAT I SAW

HABAKKUK 1:1

“The pronouncement which Habakkuk the prophet saw:”

Have you ever seen anything that you just had to tell someone about? I witnessed both my children being born. I had to tell someone about that. I saw an incredible catch in a football game recently that I immediately had to rewind and then call my wife to see. Some things you just have to tell others about.

Enter Habakkuk. He has seen some things which the Lord has shown him and now he is telling the people about them. He is prophesying the overthrow of Israel by the Chaldeans, a hated group of people. Habakkuk hates the vision, but he has to tell it. The vision is too incredible not to tell. Perhaps the people will repent, and the end result would be different. One could hope, right?

APPLICATION

What has God shown you that you need to tell? If you are a believer, He has shown you salvation. That is definitely something worth sharing. In fact, it is your responsibility to share that with others. You are, in a way, prophesying. You are “telling forth” the good news.

Now, I am not calling you a prophet. But we should do what Habakkuk is doing. We should warn people about the pending judgment by God. All will be judged one day. For the unbeliever, they will face a judgment that will doom them to hell. We should not desire that for anyone. So tell them!

My testimony has been told hundreds of times since I came to Christ back in 1977. It’s been over 45 years, but the story never gets old. God spoke and showed me the way to salvation. I have not lost sight of that path. Did I ever stray? Of course, I have, but He has tenderly and gently led me back to the path. And He tells me everyday to tell others. Let’s do that today.

I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.

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Abiding, Allegiance, Bible, Bondslaves, Demons, Direction, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Enemies, Following, Obedience, Scripture

GIVE IT YOUR ALL 

MICAH 7:16 

“Nations will see and be ashamed of all their might. They will put their hand on their mouth, their ears will be deaf.” 

I shall never forget football drills and the coach screaming at us, “I want 110% out of you men. Don’t slack off.” I gave it my all. I played hard. I knew when I was giving it my all and when I was not. The coach could tell, too. I would miss blocking assignments or a tackle.  

Micah is now addressing the people again after God has spoken. Here he is showing us that we will always face opposition. The enemies of Israel gave their all against them but failed. The word “all” means whole or complete. In other words, they were all in. But they found out their might was no match for the might of God.  

APPPLICATION 

Are you giving your all to Him today? I am not asking if you are working non-stop for Jesus without taking any breaths. No, I mean are you all in? Does Jesus have all of you? So many of us think we can just say a prayer and go about our business as if nothing has happened. That is not the case. 

I promise you that the enemies of the cross are all in after us. They are giving it their all to try to bring us down. But their “all” is no match for us if we are all in for Christ. It is His power that will defeat them, not our power. I can make you another promise. Christ is all in for you. 

Look at what He did for you. He died a horrible death on the cross for your salvation. You cannot get much more “all in” than that. His love for you cost Him everything. He gave His life to ransom your soul. He deserves your all. Give it to Him today. 

All to Jesus, I surrender. All to Him I freely give. 

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Abiding, Accountability, Bible, Correction, Following, God's Will, Judgment, Love, Obedience, Scripture

THE ROD OF GOD 

MICAH 7:14 

“Shepherd Your people with Your scepter, the flock of Your possession which lives by itself in the woodland, in the midst of a fruitful field. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old.” 

I grew up in the days of good old fashioned “whoopings.” My parents believed Proverbs 13:24. “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children will be careful to discipline them.” My spankings were never abusive. There is never any excuse for that. I knew my parents were trying to steer me in the right direction. 

This “scepter” mentioned in today’s verse could also be translated as “rod” or “correction.” It was a tool of chastisement. God used his corrective judgment to steer His children to repentance and renewed relationship. And He would direct them back to the first pastures in their land, Bashan and Gilead, the place of their beginnings as a nation. 

APPLICATION 

Has God gotten out His rod for you? Perhaps He is trying to steer you in the right direction. You know, it is much easier to live godly if we respond to that rod quickly. When we rebel and stiffen our necks, we can expect that correction to get a little tougher. God will bring you back home. 

I was a thick-headed child, at times. I knew certain things would get me in trouble and a sure whipping. Fighting with my brother was one of them. But we fought all the time. It was nothing serious, but mom didn’t allow it in the house. Sure enough, dad would come home and tear us up for not listening to our mom. 

I do not like the rod of God on me. I had much rather feel His warm embrace. Hadn’t you? So, as I live my life centered on His Word, I feel that embrace. Awww! That is much better than the rod.  

Lord, I am thankful that You love me enough to use Your rod of correction when I have strayed. 

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Abiding, Accountability, Bible, Choices, Disciplemaking, Forgiveness, Fruit, Obedience, Redemption, Scripture

THE FRUIT WE BEAR 

MICAH 7:13 

“And the earth will become a wasteland because of her inhabitants, on account of the fruit of their deeds.” 

I am almost sixty-two years old, and I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. Fortunately, most of them were small and did no harm. Others, however, have left lasting impressions on me and others. I am forgiven and loved by my Savior, but I know that not all the fruit that I have put forth has been good. 

Micah switches from a positive thought in verse 12 to a rather negative one here in verse 13. The fruit of their deeds, their sins against God will cause their land to be a wasteland, to be desolate. In fact, to this day, because of their rejection of Christ, the land of Israel is spiritually desolate, without hope as a nation. 

APPLICATION 

What fruit are you bearing? Well Carl, I think I am doing pretty well. I think my fruit tastes good. Would you make jam with it? Are the deeds you perform for the sake of Christ done out of love for Him or simply out of “duty”? What is your motivation for service? These are questions we should all ask ourselves daily. We should strive to produce only the fruit that gives the glory to God. 

I am reminded of John 15, the chapter that talks about the vine and the branch and the fruit. Verse 8 says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” All glory must go to Him, not us. Any applause we receive for a deed well done must be redirected to Him. 

When I travel and speak, preach or teach others, I often am thanked and told how much they appreciate it. I feel almost embarrassed because that is not my motivation. My motive is to give Him glory. I want to point others to Jesus, to whom all praise is due. Amen? As you do for Him, point to Him. 

I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You. O my soul rejoice. 

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