Monday, January 28, 2013

Where are our priorities?

This morning I finished Acts in my Bible reading plan. As I reflect back on Acts, there are obviously many themes that emerge. But if I were to boil it down to one main theme that dominates Acts, it would be summed up into one word: conversion.

Conversion, i.e. the new birth, is central to Acts. The apostles preached with the goal of conversion. Paul's conversion is a major hinge in the book and it is mentioned three times. Whether Paul is preaching to straight-laced Jews or godless pagans, his preaching is aimed at their conversion (compare the accounts in Acts 17).

The beauty of the conversion stories are diverse: the great numbers early in Acts (ch 2), a man who persecuted Christians (Paul in ch 9), a Gentile (Cornelius in ch 10) and a business woman and suicidal prison guard (both in ch 16) just to name a few.

So finishing Acts today has pricked me by asking: where are your priorities Ryan? Do you labor in prayer for true conversions? Do you share the gospel regularly, clearly and compellingly? Are you praying and trusting the Holy Spirit to bring about genuine, even radical conversions in the lives of people you have an influence on?

These are some good questions to ask ourselves. Quite possibly, if I were to have coffee today with the Apostle Paul, he would ask me some of the same ones.

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
--Paul the Apostle in Acts 20:24

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Treasuring the gift of life in 2013

I want to begin a habit of blogging more regularly in 2013. Most will be shorter posts and the content may be centered around what I am preaching in church or some other aspect of life or ministry. Here is the first of my more "regular postings."

Today marks 40 years of legalized on demand abortion in our land. This is very horrific when we consider that well over 50 million innocent lives have been lost and dreams shattered in less than half of a century. As a pastor I was compelled to preach on the sanctity of human life this past Sunday. My text was from Proverbs 24:11,

"Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter."

I believe that the principle behind this verse is a call to stand up for those who are victims of injustice. In our context in the United States, that includes the 1.5 million each year who are innocently led to the slaughter through abortion.

It hit me last week how inconsistent our laws are in America. We adopted a dog last week through the humane society. In the process I signed a paper that warned me that if I do no treat my new pet humanely, I will face criminal charges. In the meantime, I can legally take my wife to an abortion clinic and end the life of our 22week old child, who is uniquely made in the image of God.

That is a horrific injustice: today my dog has more legal protection than the human being living inside of my wife. This must change and I trust that it will someday. I hope that more will join with me in treasuring human life in 2013.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What makes a great leader?

This year I am using the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan for my devotions. For today’s meditation, the texts are Acts 15 and Nehemiah 5. Both have great pictures of leadership and yet both are vastly different. These accounts are centuries apart and during times of different biblical covenants. The Nehemiah account is more focused on one individual leader (Nehemiah), while the Acts account is led by a council and a church. The Nehemiah account addresses concern for the oppressed poor.  The Acts account addresses a theological & gospel problem.  Both are vastly different.

But there is something that unites them together and shows us what is at the heart of great leadership:

Both model a leadership that exists for the good and welfare of the people who are being led. In Acts 15 the apostles and elders are deeply concerned for the Gentiles that they be included in the community of God’s redeemed people. In Nehemiah 5 he is deeply concerned for the poor who are being oppressed. Both accounts also model sacrifice that is involved.

The challenge to leaders is this: how much are you truly concerned for the good and welfare of the people under your leadership?  This obviously looks different within the different contexts of leadership. But I do believe that having a genuine concern for the good and welfare of the people under your leadership is the distinguishing mark of a truly great leader.  The greatest example of this is Jesus (Phil 2:4-5).