He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 18:2-4
Take the posture of being learners rather than experts in the ministry of the Spirit. There really aren’t that many of our generation who have gone before us in some of these things. We must continue to become like little children before our heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. We must be more confident in their ability to teach and lead than in our ability to learn and follow. Fortunately, their commitment to us is stronger than ours is to them. And this reality is truly the source of our strength. Be gracious, kind, and patient with differences in perspectives within the community of believers and various streams of the body of Christ. If God is the true source of a move of the Holy Spirit, then He is well able to act independently of our judgments and criticisms to defend His honor. He will raise up creditable witnesses and advocates.
Father, I have so much to learn about You. If I spend each waking day of my life in Your presence, I will still have so much more to learn about Your work, Your love, and Your purposes for my life. Make me a learner, dear Father.
We don’t have to prove to anyone that
something is of God if it really is!
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. —Ephesians 2:6-7
Kindness. We will often be praying for people whose lives have been wrecked by sin. Many haven’t been taught social skills, and they have unlovely characteristics about them. Many have embraced wrong teachings and even are oppressed by demons. We must be braced to gracefully absorb some of their immaturity and deal kindly with their deception. We must overcome evil with good and be kind to those who are unkind to us. This honors the Lord and gives them the best chance to get His help.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” -Hebrews 13:5
When I think of our Savior who came to earth to save us all, I think of a man of humble beginnings, born in a barn, set in a manger meant for animals, and as he grew into adulthood, he never worried. He knew his needs would always be met by his heavenly Father.
I remember when I was the college pastor years ago, I left this ministry to start a new church. That job had provided our family income and I thought that, if I plant my own church, I might lose everything. It had taken us, my wife and me, our whole lives together to save up $40,000. And when we planted our church, we lost everything. We lost every dollar. We had tons of student loans to pay off and other expenses, and the savings eventually was lost. Yet, it wasn’t that bad because we didn’t lose anything more than everything, if that makes sense.
This was the funniest thing – right when we ran out of money, when we hit zero in our savings, then we had a baby. Nevertheless, even when we had zero dollars in our account, we were able to pay every bill. As the bills and needs came, a bit of income was there, and we just took care of things. Everything was fine. All that worrying I had about losing everything was much worse than actually losing things. In fact, I look back at those times in my life and I cherish them, and I remember them as some of the warmest, best times of my life.
So, don’t worry. Keep hope alive. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Trust in Jesus, in his provision for your life, and keep him always before your mind.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your example as a man living on this earth, doing life simply, never wanting for anything. When I become concerned about my financial future, instead of listening to the worriers, I will listen only to you, and follow your lead. Amen.
Reflection: Do you worry about your finances? How can Jesus’ example help you to calm your fears?
We’re called to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12). But our adversary the devil roams around like a roaring lion intent on devouring your faith (1 Pet. 5:8).
One way the devil does this is by trying to choke you, or put you in a stranglehold. In the wrestling world—and remember, we’re wresting against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places, according to Ephesians 6:12—a stranglehold is an illegal hold that chokes the opponent. Merriam-Webster calls it a “force or influence that chokes or suppresses freedom of movement or expression.” If the wrestler doesn’t break free from the stranglehold, the lack of blood or air can cause him to black out.
Translating this to our spiritual realities, the enemy wants to choke the Word of God out of your mouth so you can’t wield your sword of the Spirit or pray. The enemy wants to choke your revelation of who you are in Christ and your authority over him. The enemy wants to counter the work of the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in your life so you’ll sideline yourself. We need to learn how to prevent the enemy from getting us into a stranglehold in the first place—but if we’ve fallen into the devil’s trap, we can break free with one simple prayer.
Worry: The Devil’s Stranglehold
What is this stranglehold I’m talking about? Worry. Did you know that one definition of worry is “to harass by tearing, biting or snapping especially at the throat” and “to shake or pull at with the teeth” or to “to assail with rough or aggressive attack or treatment”?
This is one of the enemy’s so-called roaring lion tactics. He magnifies our circumstances to get us to worry. Once we begin to worry, he moves in position to engage us in a stranglehold that makes us feel powerless to do anything about that which we’re worrying. It’s a clever strategy that plays on internal cares that we haven’t cast on the Lord—or that we continue taking back from His able hands.
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Breaking Free From Satan’s Stranglehold
Jesus warns us repeatedly not to worry, but He also tells us what to do instead. He inspires our faith for provision by telling us to look at nature and assuring us of our value to Him. Then He instructs us to get our mind off what we need—and that could be anything, from provision to healing to protection to relationship-mending and beyond—and seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
In His infinite wisdom, Jesus knows that if you focus on what the enemy shows you—the lack, the symptoms, the trial, the trouble—you’ll worry and fall into Satan’s stranglehold. But if you focus on the kingdom and His righteousness, you’ll build your faith to overcome any circumstance. If you seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, Satan can’t get you into a stranglehold.
If you’ve already fallen into the enemy’s trap, you can do what Peter suggested before he warns us to be vigilant, “because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8): You can cast all your worry on Him, because He cares for you (v. 7). And when you feel that anxiety and worry rising up in your soul, you can take Paul’s advice:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
When you do these things, the enemy can’t keep his grip on you. Amen.
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.” -1 John 3:1a
I want to do my best to convince you of something very simple that seems impossible for us as human beings to grasp and take deep down inside of us. It is this:
God loves you and that you belonged to him the day you were born.
The instant you were conceived, you belonged to the Lord. There is nothing you can do to separate yourself from God’s love. In fact, the gift of God’s love is something that is completely free and unearned. There is no middleman that bridges its way to you and Jesus. There is no list of rules that you can follow to get God to love you or to think good things about you because you are God’s kid and he loves you.
Even when we mess up, God loves us and cares about us.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I’m so thankful to you for your love and care. I know that I can only come to you because of what Jesus did for me. I’m so thankful for him and his sacrifice. Now, it’s in His name that I pray. Amen.
Reflection: Do you accept God’s love as described above? Which part of his never-ending love is the hardest for you to accept and believe?
“Behold, what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” -1 John 3:1a
There are so many misunderstandings about what the word love means.
When we hear that God loves us, it can create some problems. The love of God is the most foundational, important thing in understanding all spirituality, all theology, all doctrine. The most important concept to know and to understand is the immeasurable, limitless, and boundless love of God for His sons and daughters.
And not just the love of God for the church as a collective group, but for you – for you the son, the daughter of God, for each one of us to know that God loves us individually just as a parent with many children individually loves his or her children. That the love of God, the boundless, unending, perfect love of God is the source of all great spirituality, of all perfect doctrine, of all growth.
We must understand that God’s love surpasses everything. There’s nothing you can do, even if you hate God, there’s no sin you can commit, no filth you can have in your life, nothing you can do to ever remove God’s adoration and love for you. God’s love is the greatest love of all.
Prayer: Father in heaven, I come to you hurting, broken, wounded, lonely, and sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that you actually love me. But your love abides. Amen.
Devotion: How have you felt God’s love at work in your life?
O Lord, I join my brothers and sisters in one accord and we confess that our hearts are filled with deep sense of undiluted reverence to Your Name and to Your throne for all that You Alone has done for us throughout the Month of Novemeber, we praise You as we worship in Jesus Name. Amen, Amen and Amen.
O Lord, we pour our hearts to You in praises, worship, exaltation and adoration to Your Holy Name for honouring us with the gift of life and the gift of good health throughout the month, we say indeed we have tasted and we have seen that You are a Loving, Kind and Caring God, we thank You in Jesus Name. Amen, Amen and Amen.
Great Provider, we praise You for disconnecting us from every forms of lacks throughout the month and we magnify You for connecting us with the heavenly outpouring unstoppable abundance throughout the month, we bless You for all the blessings, favours, empowerments, flourishing, fruitfulness and as many other that You have done, we glorify You as we pray in Jesus Name. Amen, Amen and Amen.
Great Healer, we adore You for breaking every forms of sickness out of our folds, we exalt You for every healing that You gave unto us throughout this month and we pray that our healings shall continue to be permanent even as we cover them in the Precious Blood of Jesus and we worship You for every freedom You gave us from the works of the enemies and even from self-imprisonment throughout this month, receive all glory, honour and adoration, as we pray in Jesus Name. Amen, Amen and Amen.
God Of Victory, Lord we humble ourselves before You as we lift Your Name above every other names for every deliverance You gave unto us throughout this month both spiritually and physically, indeed their is no one to compare to You, Our God and we are marvelled by every victories that You gave unto us, throughout this month, in the north, south, east, west, beneath the earth, above the earth, in the sea, in the air, spiritually and physically, we cover each and very of our victories in Jesus Name. Amen and the devil and his agents will continue to be defeated under our feets to the glory of our heavenly Father, we ask this through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen and Amen.
If you will indulge me for a moment, I am about to be quite cliché by writing about giving thanks in the week prior to Thanksgiving. However, if you’ll hang with me, I hope to give us a take on giving thanks that doesn’t necessarily conjure images of Puritans.
As my children grow older, it is fun to think back with them to the funny, insightful, innocent things that they said as small children. When it comes to thanks, I am always reminded of a prayer that our little man offered when he was still parading around in underwear and a Mickey Mouse blanket-turned-cape as “Fooper Jack.”
It is our bedtime habit of saying prayers together and, as is often the case during those days before they learn “prayer-ese,” their conversations with God are brilliantly honest and innocent. One particular evening Jack was on a roll. He had already paraded through his gratitude for a thankfully still-small circle of every person with whom he currently had relations – mom, dad, sisters, extended family, friends, “that kid next door,” and several dearly loved stuffed animals.
Next on his list was thanks for several food groups. With culinary acumen beyond his years, he made his way through each of the day’s meals. When he came to dinner, he offered up this beautiful nugget: “And thank you for the vegetables… even though I don’t like tomatoes very much…” As I stifled a laugh that I tried to pass off as the spiritual grunt of agreement, the candor of his honesty led to a silent prayer on my behalf that God would preserve his infantile innocence. I asked our Father to please nurture Jack’s childlike faith to childlike maturity. I petitioned for a faith in my son that would grow from thanking God for under-appreciated parts of the food pyramid to a one that trusts Him enough to believe that the “all things” which work together for good are not always things we like.
Too often in my own life the things for which I give thanks are the things I perceive as blessings. Things that “went well” or moments of crisis averted. However, as I realize this, I am reminded of an admonition from the apostle Paul as he writes to the church in Ephesus, “…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:20). And I don’t believe that Paul is speaking idealistically or metaphorically. I believe he is calling the church to believe in the sovereign providence of their God who loves them more than they can comprehend. This trust is one that results in true gratitude in every circumstance that God is using all things to bring the fruit of His Spirit to harvest in your life.
We might call this “hard thanksgiving.” How do we express thanks in hard circumstances? Not simply accepting them, but rather being thankful for them? When my prayers seem to go unanswered, how do I give thanks? When I face a challenge from which I can see no way out, how am I to be grateful? I was challenged recently be a dear friend and prayer partner to seek to present my requests to God in the form of thanks. “Father, thank you that financial difficulty serves to remind me that YOU are my provider” … “Father, thank you that you are my identity rather than my effectiveness” … “Thank you, Lord, that Jesus is my complete righteousness and not my works or lack thereof” … “Father, thank you for difficult people who you are using to bring to bear the fruit of the Spirit in my life.” This is what it looks like to truly give thanks. This is gratitude for tomatoes…
My son had tomatoes on his plate. This was not an oversight by his parents nor was it a punishment. He may not have been a fan of the “fruit,” but his parents who loved him knew that they would be of more benefit to him than he realized. If you are in Christ, you are a child of the Almighty Creator of all things. He loves you with a love that eclipses the greatest love an earthly parent could ever muster. The things on our plate – both the enjoyable and the not-so-enjoyable – are there for a purpose. As you think during this season of the many blessings for which you are thankful, let me encourage you to take time to think on the challenges, disappointments and difficulties as well – and express your gratitude.
Heavenly Father, on Thanksgiving Day
We bow our hearts to You and pray.
We give You thanks for all You’ve done
Especially for the gift of Jesus, Your Son.
For beauty in nature, Your glory we see
For joy and health, friends and family,
For daily provision, Your mercy and care
These are the blessings You graciously share.
So today we offer this response of praise
With a promise to follow You all of our days.
A Thanksgiving Day Prayer
Lord, so often times, as any other day
When we sit down to our meal and pray
We hurry along and make fast the blessing
Thanks, amen. Now please pass the dressing
We’re slaves to the olfactory overload
We must rush our prayer before the food gets cold
But Lord, I’d like to take a few minute more
To really give thanks to what I’m thankful for
For my family, my health, a nice soft bed
My friends, my freedom, a roof over my head
I’m thankful right now to be surrounded by those
Whose lives touch me more than they’ll ever possibly know
Thankful Lord, that You’ve blessed me beyond measure
Thankful that in my heart lives life’s greatest treasure
That You, dear Jesus, reside in that place
And I’m ever so grateful for Your unending grace
So please, heavenly Father, bless this food You’ve provided
And bless each and every person invited
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing,
Sing praises to his name: He forgets not his own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, wast at our side, All glory be thine!
We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
And pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
–Traditional Thanksgiving Hymn
(A translation by Theodore Baker: 1851-1934)
We Give Thanks
Our Father in Heaven,
We give thanks for the pleasure
Of gathering together for this occasion.
We give thanks for this food
Prepared by loving hands.
We give thanks for life,
The freedom to enjoy it all
And all other blessings.
As we partake of this food,
We pray for health and strength
To carry on and try to live as You would have us.
This we ask in the name of Christ,
Our Heavenly Father.
In my leadership as an executive pastor, I’ve been hiring the best staff possible for a long time. I know how tough it is to find those eagles! I’m so grateful every time we bring a great leader onto the team. The same thing is true when inviting volunteers to step up to significant leadership.
Let’s do a quick review from Part 1. Here are three characteristics for both boss and staff member. I added Scripture for just one area—humility—primarily because it sets the stage for nearly all other areas.
1. Love Jesus
Humble spirit (2 Chr. 7:14; Dan. 10:10-12; Ps. 147:6; Prov. 3:34; Matt. 23:12; Luke 14:11; Eph. 4:2-3; James 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5-7)
Hears God’s voice
2. Growing Leader
3. Strong Character
Lives by the same standards they expect of others
Discipline to do the right thing
What do people want in a great staff member?
(What kind of leader do you want on your team?)
This article is written with a 60 percent or more weighting toward staff than volunteer leaders, but it’s easy to translate to both.
I began by interviewing several bosses with ages ranging from late 20s to early 50s. I asked traits they desire least in any staff member. They all answered with striking similarly. I’m calling the composite “The Foul Four.”
The “Foul Four” traits in staff members:
These need no explanation. As soon as you see the words, you know exactly what they mean and can think of a person that fits each category. Are the “Foul Four” skills or attitudes? They are all attitudes! That is an important insight. The key question is: Will you allow any of this on your team?
The good news, though we are all susceptible to at least one of these, is that we don’t have to live in any of them. I know which one is my weakness, so I watch for it. By being aware, I’m in the game to intentionally not live there. Yes, I might slip, hopefully very briefly, and then quickly rise above.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:15-17).
1. They bring leadership energy to the table. At 12Stone Church we say about a great new staff person, “Someone just showed up.” You don’t have to be in our culture to immediately get a feel for what that means. We all know how wonderful it is when someone else jumps in and brings leadership energy into the room. They help make things happen!
A great staff member is driven with passion for the mission.In the healthy sense of the word, they are driven—or, perhaps better said, they are self-motivated. They take responsibility for their own inner motivation rather than being carried by the efforts of others.
Great staff members understand how to bring leadership intensity without being an intense person. You know when to hit the throttle and you know when to ease up. No one wants to be around an intense person, but leaders must at the right times lead with intensity.
Great staff are proactive. Leadership energy means you take initiative about the right things. Simply being proactive alone isn’t the answer. Anyone can be fast.
It’s being out in front about the right things that makes you good.
2. Their consistent self-leadership results in noticeable maturity.
Great staff are self-aware. One of the best examples of people who are not self aware is every really bad singer that auditions on American Idol. You’ve probably seen some of those horrible moments! Scary, huh? They really can’t see themselves! They so desperately want to be something they are not.
It’s true for all of us; we can’t see what we can’t see. So we all need people who can speak into our lives to help us see ourselves accurately. This helps us embrace the right position with the right attitude.
Great staff manage emotion well. Life and leadership doesn’t always go your way.
You lead in proportion to your faith.
You control in proportion to your fear.
When you are angry, you give up influence. When you’ve lost control of your emotions, you have quit leading. If someone can push your buttons, they can steal your leadership. People like to watch an explosion, but they don’t like to be near one. Emotions are stepping-stones to either spirit or flesh. Be careful!
Great staff are OK when a teammate gets more than they do. They are able to authentically celebrate the blessings of others.
3. They absorb pressure with grace and composure. It’s natural to want to get rid of pressure—or at least make it lighter by taking the matter to your boss. It’s natural to want a feel for what your boss would do. Sometimes you have to. That’s OK. But the best leaders absorb as much pressure on their own as possible. You become absolutely invaluable if you consistently step in, step up and handle the pressure-filled situations, whatever they may be.
Great staff lead well at home. There is something I call “the personal pressure ratio.” If there is too much pressure at home, you can’t lead well at your job. If there is too much pressure at work, it can erode things at home. The goal is to offset your total pressure level enough by keeping pressure low at home. Focus on what you can control, and you can’t always control things at work. It’s just too big. If you pour energy into the priority of a good family life, that will help you lead better at church!
Leaders who don’t lead up have too little fire or too much fear.
Playing it safe or political isn’t smart. It’s not about getting what you want or even just winning your agenda; it’s about the good of the church. That allows you to relax if it doesn’t go your way.
Leading up means lightening your leader’s load.
Do your job. Do it well.
Tell your leader what they need to hear, not what you think they want to hear.
Go the second mile.
Stand up for your boss whenever you can.
Leading up requires that you be prepared every time you take your boss’ time.
Don’t make your boss think for you.
Bring something to the table.
When asked to speak, don’t wing it.
Learn your boss’ communication style.
Give a return on your leader’s investment.
Great staff members solve problems. Leaders solve problems! Do you remember the 1994 movie Speed with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock? They had a problem! There was a bomb on the bus. Once the bus went 50 miles an hour, the bomb got armed. If it dropped below 50, it blew up. There are rules. No one leaves the bus! What do you do?
The incredibly tough problems we face seem like they have no solution. That’s where great leaders step up and rise up. You carry the pressure; you figure it out!
4. They are socially adept. It’s difficult to overemphasize the importance of strong and natural relational abilities. This is especially true in the church, where every situation is relationally driven. The following attributes are simple to understand but tough to live consistently. Leaders who are good with people live them well.
Great staff are encouragers. You are likeable and people want to be around you. You naturally speak with uplifting words that are fully genuine.
Great staff are positive by nature. You avoid gossip at all costs and assume the best about others. You quickly give the benefit of the doubt, and when problems arise you lean into solutions.
Great staff possess a sense of humor. You take God seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously. You smile and laugh easily, and you’re not a “thin-skinned” person.
Great staff members have a personal peace that enables them to pay attention. Great people skills do not require you or me to be a genius. It’s more about common sense and paying attention, but paying attention requires a sense of personal peace. To possess this peace, your walk with God needs to be solid and consistent. If you are off with God, you will likely be “off” with people.
5. They are really good at what they do. We all want to be on a winning team, and winning teams have staff that are gifted at what they do.
Great staff possess talent and skills that are recognized and requested. One sure way to gain confidence in your capability is that an increasing number of people ask you to help lead using the special skill set that you have.
Great staff members see the big picture. Effective leaders not only have great clarity about what they do, but they know why they do it. They see how all the parts work together. This helps prevent tunnel vision that creates silos and poor teamwork.
Great staff members have a competence that leads to greater capacity. To get hired at 12Stone, you need to be good at something—really good. But that’s not what actually makes our staff highly valuable. They become highly valuable to the team when they demonstrate capacity to lead at the next level! That’s true for all of us. We are expected to lead at our current level, but the success of the mission depends on our ability to lead larger.
Like Part 1, this is a lot to master. The good news is you don’t achieve all this overnight. What are the two to three areas you need to begin with? Start there, and keep growing!
Written by Dan Reiland
Dan Reiland is executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.