All of us care a great deal about our country. The intensity of opinions and feelings during the long political campaign showed the depth of that concern.
Now with the votes counted, it is important to remember that whether we are personally pleased with the outcome or not, God wants us to pray for those chosen to be our leaders—at the national, state, and local levels. The Bible urges us to do so with both respect and thanksgiving (see 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Timothy 2:1–3).
We must also remember that no election will ever solve America’s most basic problems. That is because the trouble, at its root, is in the human heart, and the only path to true restoration—for a person or for a nation—is through repentance. The Bible says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20, ESV).
Editor’s Note: Daily during January and February, MinistryTodaymag.com will feature an article from pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren in conjunction with his new book, What on Earth Am I Here For? Warren is the guest editor for Charisma’s Ministry Today magazine for its January/February issue.
“So we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God's presence as a mature person in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28 NCV)
The most practical and powerful way to get believers headed in the direction of spiritual maturity is to help them establish habits that promote spiritual growth.
You cannot talk about character without talking about habits. Character is the way you habitually act. For example, if you are honest only part of the time, or if you are honest only when you consciously choose to be honest, you cannot claim to have the character quality of integrity.
So the LORD was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute. — 2 Kings 18:7
What does it mean to be successful?
Success usually brings to mind financial achievement or being number one. Others would define success by the bumper sticker: "He who dies with the most toys wins." Some like to think that success is being busy--on the go, racing from one appointment to another, and having too much to do with too little time to do it.
The problem with these definitions of success is they exact a high cost. The Executive Digest has noted, "The trouble with success is that the formula is the same as the one for a nervous breakdown." That's sobering, uncomfortable, and too often true.
Maybe the definition of success that you are familiar with is not the correct one. I would encourage you to reassess your definition of success before it is too late. May I propose a new look at the word S.U.C.C.E.S.S.?
Service. There is no such thing as success without service. The secret of success lies in meeting the needs of others. And when we are meeting people's needs, we will discover fulfillment.
Understanding contentment. Let's not measure success by how much we own or how much money we have but by a sense of inner contentment. Real success is always internal, never external.
Character. Character is of greater value than how much money or status we have. A man's best test of character is revealed in how he treats people around him. So measure your success not by your possessions and achievements. Measure success by the quality of your character and conduct.
Compassion. What really matters is not money, power, and ego but issues of the heart--such as compassion, kindness, bravery, generosity, and love. Do you love people more than things?
Excellence. Excellence is not being the best but being your best.
Significance. The popular notion of success has not cut it. A growing number of people yearn for significance more than success. Significance comes by giving ourselves to something that is greater than us and that will outlast us.
Sacrifice. A problem in our society is that we are spending our entire lives looking for something worth living for. It would be better if we found something worth dying for. Success under these guidelines will bring you into harmony with God's guidance.
Identifying the kingdom characteristics of a healthy church
There is much discussion about identifying and articulating the culture of our individual local churches. Amid countless innovative trends and strategies, we have to keep a strong grip on the fact that we are carrying out one central mission. Jesus, the head of the church, preached the kingdom of heaven.
As we carry out our mission of building the church He began, there is a “kingdom culture” that must be protected. I love what strategist and author Sam Chand says: “Toxic culture will eat great vision for lunch!” Any senior leader whose great vision has been hijacked by bad attitudes, practices or motives can attest to the fact that a crucial responsibility of leaders is to be guardians of the culture of the ministries we lead.
Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. — Revelation 2:10
Faithfulness is not a word we hear often these days. Sometimes we hear it at retirement parties: "After twenty-five years of faithful service, we give you this gold watch." Or we use it to describe our dog: "My dog may be old and ugly, but he's faithful." The word is employed to describe the most famous geyser in America, Old Faithful, at Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful is not the biggest geyser in America. And it's not the most powerful geyser in America. What makes it famous is its faithfulness! It's like clockwork. Dependable. People appreciate constancy, even in a geyser.
It's not easy to find someone who can be counted on. One who will be faithful to the end. One who is dependable through thick and thin. The fact is that not everyone who volunteers actually comes through. Not everyone who says they will perform a task actually does it. Not everyone who makes a commitment can be counted on.
Faithfulness is not just a religious duty that we employ on Sundays or when we are supposed to be Christian. When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember that God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a dependable and reliable accountant or teacher or parent or engineer. Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us.
In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery.
"Your Majesty," said Prior Richard, "Do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king."
"I understand," said Henry. "The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you."
"Then I will tell you what to do," said Prior Richard. "Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you." (Steve Brown, Key Biscayne, Florida)
Not bad counsel. Go forth and do likewise faithfully.
The shepherds saw a babe in a manger. The wise men, arriving later, also saw a young child. But the one who emerged from Mary’s womb that cold winter night in Bethlehem of Judea was much more than what was discernible with human eyes.
He was God. The sacred record is clear: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’