Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Advice to a Young Leader in a Time of Shaking

I am posting this wonderful piece from J. Lee Grady again because I believe it is going to be a blessing to the body of Christ especially around Nigeria. God used it and the other post below to change my life. I’m giving very serious thought to integrity issues now. The story is here.

Churches and ministries are crumbling because of pride, greed and hidden sin. Here are 10 principles that can help bring stability during this tumultuous season.

Kevin, a 31-year-old pastor from Minnesota, asked me an honest question this week. He’s been reading about all the scandals that have rocked the charismatic world, beginning with Ted Haggard’s embarrassing moral failure late last year and continuing with the recent divorces among prominent church leaders and the allegations of financial mismanagement made against leaders at Oral Roberts University.

Kevin wrote this: “I am guessing that none of these people started off with the goal of having this be their story. If you were someone in my stage of ministry, what would you do to prevent this from being my lot?” I shared these simple truths with him, and I’ll pass them along to a wider audience—hoping that they will strengthen our foundations while everything around us is shaking.

1. Live a humble, transparent life. Just because you are a leader doesn’t mean you don’t have issues. You are a flawed, broken individual who has experienced the miracle of God’s mercy. Resist the temptation to live in denial about your weaknesses. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Stay in close relationship with mature mentors and trusted peers who know your temptations, insecurities and any past addictions. Confess your sins to God and to your inner circle regularly.

2. Stay open to correction. Many of those whose ministries are imploding today either worked in isolation or they surrounded themselves with yes men. As your ministry grows, increase the number of people who speak into your life. If your colleagues are rubber-stamping everything you do, consider that a warning sign. If they tell you they can’t correct you because you are either authoritarian or subtly controlling, take a sabbatical and get counseling immediately.

3. Audit your actions regularly. God watches the way we handle the little things. Are you telling the truth? Are you mishandling ministry finances? Are you “fudging” in any area of sexual purity? Do you have checks and balances set in place so that you always comply with the law? God sees every Web site you visit, every personal expense you charge to your ministry account and every exaggeration (i.e., lie) you put in your newsletter.

4. Stay in touch with the real world. Ministry is about loving people. (Duh!) But you will never develop compassion unless you are close enough to the grass roots to smell the poverty, lay hands on the sickness and cry with those who are in pain. The days are over when preachers can arrive in limousines to announce salvation. The Lord is requiring all His servants to come down to earth.

5. Don’t allow people to make you a celebrity. Before Jesus began His ministry, the devil showed Him the kingdoms of the world and offered Him fame and fortune. The enemy of your soul will try to cut you a similar deal. Resist every urge to become a star. Don’t let people put you on a pedestal. If the spirit of entitlement is seducing you, humble yourself and wash some feet. That is what true ministry is about.

6. Make family a priority. We have crusaded against abortion and gay marriage, yet at the same time many in our movement have neglected their spouses and children. People need to know that what we preach works at home. The Bible makes it plain: “But if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5, NASB). If we enforced this one biblical principle today, most of the shenanigans happening in charismatic leadership would end overnight.

7. Live modestly and give extravagantly. In a few more years the selfish, money-focused doctrines that tainted charismatic churches in the 1980s and 1990s will be gone. God is bringing balance and correction to a message that has encouraged greed. I do not know Texas pastor Robert Morris personally, but he has become a long-distance mentor to me in the financial area. His book The Blessed Life has redefined how we charismatics should view money. Bottom line: We don’t give to get, even though we know God blesses generosity. We give to give.

8. Don’t build your own kingdom. In the previous season leaders got away with naming their ministries after themselves. That will not work today. The one-man show is over. Leadership today is about building a team. Those who think they can “do it all”—and take all the credit—will end up with meager results when their work is tested by God’s fire.

9. Develop keen discernment. The devil is on the prowl, and we can’t afford to be ignorant of his schemes. Leaders must develop an early warning system if we expect to survive. You must develop a team of watchful intercessors who are committed to praying for you. Those whose ministries are crashing and burning today most likely ignored prophetic counsel from people who saw disaster coming.

10. Maintain your spiritual passion. People who experience moral failure almost always lose their spiritual passion first. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not just a one-time encounter. Because we “leak,” we need to be refilled and recharged regularly. We will burn out quickly if we don’t stay plugged into the Source. The man who led me to Christ, Barry St. Clair, taught me to have a daily appointment with God. I try to guard my time in prayer and Bible study because I know I can’t give what I don’t have. The more I read His Word, the deeper and stronger it grows inside me, providing daily revelation of the Savior—and giving me more and more reasons to make Him my magnificent obsession.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Truth, Justice and the Oral Roberts University Scandal

This is a must read for every Christian leader. It is from here

By J. Lee Grady

The current uproar at ORU should motivate all ministries to clean up their acts before we have a Christian version of the Enron tragedy.

Twenty years ago we were holding our heads down in shame as we endured the ugly PTL scandal—which added new phrases to our national vocabulary such as “air conditioned dog house” and “gold-plated faucets.” Televangelist Jim Bakker went to prison, Jimmy Swaggart’s Bible college collapsed and many disillusioned people lost faith in evangelical ministries because donor funds were misused.

Hopefully we learned some important lessons from that debacle. Or did we? I don’t know about you, but I’m having flashbacks from 1987.

It was déjà vu all over again when one of the country’s top Pentecostal colleges was accused of serious ethical and financial wrongdoing last week. In a lawsuit filed by three professors from Oral Roberts University (ORU), school officials, including its president, Richard Roberts, were accused of misusing donor funds and violating IRS tax codes. The suit triggered an uproar in Tulsa, Okla., where ORU’s 5,300 students, along with alumni, faculty and community leaders, are now forced to take sides while the school’s reputation hangs in the balance.

The professors who filed the suit say they took legal action because ORU’s board of regents would not listen to their grievances. But in a chapel service held on Oct. 3, Roberts confidently told students that the lawsuit is about “intimidation, blackmail and extortion.” Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, then went on CNN’s Larry King Live on Oct. 9 to deny all wrongdoing—and claimed that most of allegations were based on a list of rumors that Lindsay’s sister was asked to compile. The next day, ORU officials announced that they have ordered an independent investigation.

The allegations in the suit are numerous, and some are sensational. John Swails, a tenured government professor, claims he was wrongfully fired after another professor in his department, Tim Brooker, was forced by Roberts to help a local Tulsa politician’s mayoral campaign. The lawsuit also contains seven pages of alleged abuses of power by Roberts and his wife—including claims that the school pays outrageous sums on money for home remodeling, vehicles, vacations, clothes and a 2,000-square-foot “closet” for Lindsay’s use when she is taping her television program.

It is way too early to make judgments about the case (although that hasn’t stopped zealous bloggers from calling for Roberts’ head). Our legal system guarantees that people are innocent until proven guilty. Hopefully things will cool off so that responsible adults can sort through the mess, throw out any false accusations, correct any wrongs and preserve an institution that has served the cause of Christ since it was founded in 1963.

The worst thing that could happen is that the ORU scandal could become our Christian version of Enron. While we pray for everyone at ORU (and that should be first on our agenda), I’d like to challenge all churches in this country to use this unfortunate situation as a learning experience. If a ministry is getting sloppy in any area of legal or ethical compliance, its leaders should take this simple test—which is based on the word Enron. The letters in that infamous name form a helpful acrostic:

E is for entitlement. Do leaders in your church or organization feel they deserve to be treated like kings? That style may work OK in a monarchy, but Jesus said that in His kingdom leaders must behave like servants. Those with a spirit of entitlement should be disqualified.

N is for nepotism. When leaders show favoritism to family members, they create arbitrary double standards. Christian organizations must stop building spiritual dynasties.

R is for robbery. If a Christian leader is using donor funds to purchase lavish perks for himself, he is stealing from God. Let’s call it what it is. Though the Bible makes it clear that a Christian worker is worthy of his hire, it also condemns ministers who have their hands in the coffer. When the prophet Malachi asked the probing question, “Will a man rob God?” (Mal. 3:8 NASB) he was not just addressing people who didn’t tithe. He was pointing to greedy priests who stole part of the offerings meant for the poor.

O is for overinflated egos. Too many leaders today are drunk with power. Like Nebuchadnezzar, their pride has caused them to go insane. When an egomaniac drives an organization, you can be sure he will eventually crash—and hurt a lot of people in the process.

N is for negligence. God looks for integrity in the little things. He judges leaders not by the size of the crowd or the volume of their preaching but by the way they conduct themselves when no one is looking. In this hour when our enemies are ready to pounce on our every mistake, we must be faithful in the smallest things. That means we must get our houses in order financially.

As the board of regents looks into the allegations at ORU, let’s pray that God will guide the process so that the school’s credibility will be restored and its mission accomplished.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The Refiner

"...I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, "They are My people," and they will say, "The Lord is our God."" (Zechariah 13:9)

We all begin our Christian journey as rough wood that God desires to transform into gold. Turning us into this end product requires certain experiences that will stretch our faith, our frame, and our very life. Remember that Sainthood springs out of suffering. If we can stand the strain of this intense process, we will come forth as gold-as a sweet-smelling offering to our Maker.

Let the master Craftsman have His way in your life today. You will be pleased with the masterpiece He fashions you into!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Two Christians murdered in Kaduna

Brethren we need to pray. This is not a good story at all. Will the authorities make sure these perpetrators are brought to justice. We are yet to see. The church will continue to march on and the gates of hell will never prevail against it.

KADUNA, Nigeria, October 22 (Compass Direct News) – One man has been killed with a sword and another bludgeoned to death in this city in central northern Nigeria following Muslim leaders’ appeal to wage violent jihad against youthful Christians.
Muslim extremists on October 12 murdered Henry Emmanuel Ogbaje, a 24-year-old Christian, at an area known as Gamji Gate. The following day, church leaders said, a young Christian identified only as Basil was beaten to death with wooden clubs in the same area. Ogbaje was a Sunday school teacher with the Military Protestant Church at Kotoko Barracks in Kaduna, while Basil, church leaders said, was a member of the Our Lady of Apostles Catholic Church. He was from Kagarko Local Government Area.

Elder Saidu Dogo, secretary of the northern Nigeria chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Compass that Islamic leader Sheik Gumi had urged Muslims to wage jihad against Christians during Tafsir, the reading and interpretation of the Quran, in televised broadcasts during the Islamic month-long observance of Ramadan.

“I saw Sheik Gumi on the television, NTA [Nigeria Television Authority], during that period preaching this inciting sermon – in fact, the same sermon was again broadcast by NTA Kaduna, on September 21 and 22,” Dogo told Compass. “He specifically called for a jihad, and that when they go killing they should not kill the elderly people, because the elderly have spent their years already, but that Muslims should kill young Christians.”

Dogo said that Sheik Gumi justified his call for jihad by saying in the same way Muhammad captured the Arabian peninsula, and Usman dan Fodio influenced northern Nigeria. Sheik Gumi concluded that because the British took northern Nigeria from the Islamic reformer (1754-1817) by force, Muslims “should fight to take over Nigeria by going to war against Christians.”

“With these kinds of statements coming from Muslim leaders, why would the followers of Islam not attack Christians?” Dogo asked. “We believe that the killing of Henry Ogbaje and Basil are the result of such sermons of these Muslim leaders.”

Dogo expressed dismay that the NTA, an agency of the Nigerian government, could be used to air such inflammatory messages. Nor is the Nigerian government making any efforts, he said, to curb such manipulation of the media.

Left for Dead

Henry Ogbaje’s father, Sgt. Emmanuel Ogbaje, told Compass that his daughter phoned him in Abuja on October 12 with news that Muslims had beaten his son to death with wooden clubs.

“She said they attacked him around the hours of five and six in the evening in the Gamji gate area, where they left him unconscious believing they had killed him,” Ogbaje said. “Henry was left in that state for about three hours with no one helping him.”

The rest of the story is here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

God's work and human failures

"The book of the ancestry (genealogy) of Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the son (descendant) of David, the son (descendant) of Abraham............So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen, from David to the Babylonian exile (deportation) fourteen generations, from the Babylonian exile to the Christ fourteen generations." (Mathew 1:1-17)

A chronicle of the human lineage of Jesus Christ. His 'human ancestors" had different experiences and personalities. Some are well known for their faith (Abraham, Ruth David); while some are just ordinary everyday day folks (Hezron, Ram); yet others had real bad reputation (Manasseh, Tamar, Rehab, Ahija).

Lesson: God's work have never and never will be limited by human failures and frailties. He works with ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. He offers you a second chance to surrender and be used of Him. Now what has God accomplished through and with you?

Monday, 15 October 2007

Come and Die

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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (Romans 6:1-5)

Dead to Sin: This is not a reference to the believer’s ongoing daily struggle with sin, but to a one-time event completed in the past. Because we are in Christ (Rom. 6:11; 8:1) and He died in our place (5:6-8), we are counted dead with Him. This is the fundamental premise of Romans chapter 6, and Paul spends the remainder of the chapter of the chapter explaining and supporting it.

Not Under the Law but Under Grace (6:14). This does not mean God has abrogated His moral law. The law is good, holy, and righteous; but it cannot be kept, so it curses. Since it cannot assist anyone to keep God’s moral standard (see Romans 7:7-11), it can only show the standard and thus rebuke and condemn those who fail to keep it. But the believer is no longer under the law as a condition of acceptance with God – an impossible condition to meet and one designed only to show man of his sinfulness – but under grace, which enables him to truly fulfill the law’s righteous requirements.

Romans 6:1 – Shall we continue in sin….. Paul rightly anticipated that skeptics might reason, “If salvation is based entirely upon grace, won’t this encourage them to sin even more?” Certainly not! (v. 2) - this literally means, “may it never be….., by no means). This is a strong repudiation in the original Greek.

Romans 6:3-4 - baptized into Christ Jesus. This is not necessarily a literal water baptism, but a metaphorical immersion of person into the work of Christ – that is, completely united and identified with Him, “so as to alter a person’s condition or relationship to his or her previous environment condition” (according to Weust). In the same way that we were united with Christ in His death and burial, so too is His resurrection; this speaks of regeneration – a new creation!

Friday, 5 October 2007

True joy, peace of mind

"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!" (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

True joy, peace of mind, happiness and fulfillment in life is a function of your relationship with God and not in the abundance of things which you possess or your "accomplishments and successes in life"! This is the ONLY reason why you will still find strength to rejoice in the Lord God your salvation.

Wishing you and yours a fulfilled and peace-full weekend!

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Rick Warren

A brother sent this to me. It is a blessing to me and I wish it will also bless you as we continue to pray for Rick's wife. You can a link to his PurposeDriven Website in the links section down right.

This is an absolutely incredible interview with Rick Warren, author of "Purpose Driven Life" His wife now has cancer, and he now has "wealth" from the book sales. In the interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, Rick said:

"People ask me, "What is the purpose of life?" And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven. One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body - but not the end of me. I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity. We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense.

Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer. I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore. Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for. You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems. If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, "which is my problem, my issues, my pain." But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others. We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her. It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.

You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life. Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy. It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don't think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease. So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.
First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit. We made no major purchases. Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church. Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call. The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation. Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free. We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity? Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God's purposes (for my life)?

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better. God didn't put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do. That's why we're called human beings, not human doings.