Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How does faith come?

Since “faith” is a broadly used term, it is important to understand that we must start with a general faith in God, as opposed to a specific type of faith, such as “saving faith”, or :”healing faith.” Faith (or belief) is not in something or someone unknown, or unknowable. So the first step in faith formation has to be “hearing.” Hebrews 11:6 (God’s Word Translation) reads, “Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists…” Such belief cannot exist unless one is told about who they should believe in; namely, the Creator God of Genesis. Such direction can come from a natural source (a preacher, evangelist or fellow believer), or supernatural source (the Holy Spirit Himself), but unless one “hears” of the One in whom they should have faith (belief), their faith is shallow, at best, and hollow, at worst. Stephen notes, in his pre-martyr sermon, that God appeared to Abram giving him direction for his faith (Acts 7:2), which is confirmed by Moses, as he writes that “The Lord had said to Abram… (Genesis 12:1, NIV, italics mine).” This was a supernatural word spoken and heard by the father of the Israelites, which initiated his faith. God’s commitment to make Abram into a great nation and to bless “all peoples on earth through” him (Genesis 12:3, NIV) confirmed the word heard.
After the word is heard, there will be opportunity to act on it. God allowed Abram to act on his faith by following the command to go (Hebrews 11:8), and, later, by offering his son Isaac as sacrifice (Hebrews 11:17), and having God credit his faith (belief) as righteousness (Romans 4:3). That activity continues throughout a lifetime, with God delivering on his promise without fail in every instance, thus ensuring that the next step is insured: relationship. Faith grows as God shows Himself faithful. He is, after all, unable to do or be anything less (Hebrews 10;23).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Life of the Leader

What is important is not the “life” of the leader (no one’s life is more or less valuable than another’s), but rather, what is important is the life the leader lives, i.e. how it affects and influences others. Jesus reminded His followers that how a leader lives will serve as an example to those who follow him, and who might aspire to be like him (Luke 6:40). His own life was an example that was highly regarded (Luke 2:52). Paul urged the Corinthians to follow his example, just as he was following the Lord’s (1st Corinthians 11:1). Thus, we should carefully study the scripture to learn how the leader’s life is to be a model for others.
There are recorded in scripture several outstanding characteristics a leader would do well to imitate. The first, from Daniel’s life, is the model of conviction. Daniel would not eat of the food or wine brought from the King’s table, because it had been offered in sacrifice to an idol first. His convictions concerning the prominence of Jehovah over all other false gods (the first of the Commandments) were still strong, despite the situation he found himself in, and the pressure to acquiesce (threat of death). Later, when ordered not to pray to any other deity except the King (Daniel 6), he followed the convictions of his life, praying three times a day to God, “just as he had done before (6:10, NIV).”
The second is the model of integrity. Scripture commends David this way (Psalm 78:72). Scripture notes that David, who was being pursued by a jealous Saul, had an opportunity to end his persecution, and take the life of the King. Although he was encouraged to do so by his men, he decided against it, and spared Saul’s life because he “should not do such a thing to…the Lord’s anointed (1st Samuel 24:6, NIV).” However, he did cut off part of Saul’s robe and later offered that as proof of his integrity. Such an action moved Saul to announce that David was “more righteous” than he (24:17). David spared Saul’s life a second time, causing Saul to proclaim that David would “do great things and surely triumph (26:25, NIV).”
One further characteristic is humility. Proverbs says that it is “Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud (16:19).” The Prophet Micah says that all the lord requires is that we “act justly and…love mercy and…walk humbly with your God (6:8, NIV).” Jesus reminded his followers that “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all (Mark 9:35b, NIV).” Jesus’ brother James wrote that if we humble ourselves before God, He “will lift you up (4:10, NIV).” Every great Biblical leader showed humility. Moses, when called by God to lead Israel from exile (Exodus 3:11); Gideon, when called by God to serve as judge and lead the army into battle against Midian (Judges 6). Saul (1st Samuel 9:12), David (1st Samuel 18:18) and eventually Solomon (1st Kings 3:7) all professed their unworthiness to be the instruments of God when called, as did the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6). Even John the Baptist, whom Jesus proclaimed as having no equal among those “born of women (Matthew 11:11, NIV),” professed his unworthiness to serve his Lord (Matthew 3:14).
I believe no one can effectively lead a ministry without these essential qualities.