Archive for February, 2011

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Love, The Gospel & The Law

This month we’ll read:

  • The three letters of John and the book of Philemon (think “love”)
  • The book of Luke (think “Gospel”)
  • Deuteronomy (think “Law”)

The exciting thing is that all reveal God’s purposes, His nature and His great love for us. Here’s a snippet from Deuteronomy, Luke and 1 John.

7“The LORD did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! 8It was simply because the LORD loves you, and because he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the LORD rescued you with such amazing power… 9Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and constantly loves those who love him and obey his commands. Deuteronomy 7:-9

30b“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end….35b So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:30-35

1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him…. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins…. 1 John 3:1-5

If you don’t know this God, I encourage you to read with us this month. If you do know this God, I encourage you to read with us this month. He has something to say to each of us. I’m looking forward to it!

Blessings, Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for March is below.

To download a PDF of March’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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A couple of weeks ago Phil and I started leading a Bible study at a local nursing home. What a blessing it has been! The residents are so engaged – even those who have cognitive and/or physical disabilities. And God is impressing a number of things on my heart.

Lesson #1: Those whose remaining lives may be short willingly linger to study God’s Word.
We are studying the book of Luke paragraph by paragraph. Yes, it will take us quite a while to go through all 24 chapters of Luke. And the residents are fine with that.

Phil and I have been leading small groups for a long time and know that covering material too slowly is death to a group. It doesn’t even matter so much how fascinating each week might be, people grow tired of studying the same topic or book for a long time – in fact, they grow tired of it even before they’ve experienced it. After spending their third week in chapter 1, members of the group will begin to think “Yikes, at this rate we’re going to be studying the book of Luke for a year and a half!” I confess, my thinking is the same. I’ll begin to think “Do I really want to spend a year in Luke?” How foolish we are to be willing to miss the treasures of Truth hidden in each paragraph simply to avoid spending a year studying the same document. It’s this mindset that causes people to avoid studying long books of the Bible and why the book of James is studied over and over again. If the study doesn’t fit into thirteen weeks or less, most groups won’t consider it.

Our nursing home study group doesn’t have that same perspective. They are thankful that we have come to lead a study and they are thankful for the lesson of the week. They aren’t dissatisfied if we’re not rushing from lesson to lesson. They are happy to linger over what God has for us in these few verses.

I have never felt more freedom to go through material slowly than when I am among these people who may not live through the entire study.

Lesson #2: Even those with cognitive disabilities – that is people who have difficulty processing information, have spirits that comprehend Truth. God is so good. He has created us with a mind, a soul and a spirit. Our mind processes information one way; our soul processes the same information another way; and our spirit process that same information yet another way. I am thankful that responding to God’s love isn’t dependent on any one of those three elements. I am also thankful that God enables us to respond to His love multi-dimensionally. That is, I respond to it in more ways than one. I can trust Him that should one of those abilities become injuried or deseased, He has already prepared me to know Him using the other abilities. We are truly fearfully and wonderfully made.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16

Lesson #3: Living joyfully is so much better than living in discontent or anger. The choice is ours. In the natural, most nursing home residents have little to be joyful about. Yet I see joyfulness on the faces of those who love the Lord, and I hear joyfulness in the tones of their voices and the light-hearted fun they have in everyday life. I want to choose joyfulness now. It’s such a better way to live.

We live the way we have learned to live, and we learn what we practice.

  • I’m afraid that I have practiced stress too much – I have learned to be stressed instead of joyful and confident in God.
  • I’m afraid that I have practiced discouragement too much – I have learned to be discouraged instead of joyful and confident in God.
  • I’m afraid that I have practiced complaining too much – I have learned to be discontent instead of joyful and confident in God.

Many residents who have every reason to be stressed, discouraged and discontent are joyful and confident in God. My heart goes out to those residents who live every day afraid, angry and unhappy. I pray for them and with them. God can change their circumstances. I also know that if He chooses not to change their circumstances, He can change their heart from being bitter, angry and discontent to being joyful and confident in God.

I want to choose joyfulness and contentment now, so that it is a lesson I’ve learned long before my latter years become my experience. I want to learn the lesson now so that the years between now and my latter years are spent in God’s joy and confidence instead of my own stress and discouragement. Regular readers know that this is a theme I come back to again and again. It is very easy for me to have my eyes stuck in this world. I continue to be in the practice and learning stages of these lifelong lessons.

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:4-9

Friends, many people avoid nursing homes and nursing home ministry. I understand that. During the first years of my mom’s tenure as a resident of a nursing home it was a struggle for me to visit every few days. God honored my stumbling first efforts. He has faithfully met me and turned the stressful, discouraging and exceedingly sad situation into a joyful blessing and an opportunity to bless others.

Learn with me these most recent lessons from nursing home ministry. They are being taught by our elders who have learned them well.

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3So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. For the LORD has brought you out by his mighty power. (Remember, you are not to use any yeast.) 4This day in early spring will be the anniversary of your exodus. 5You must celebrate this day when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites. This is the land he swore to give your ancestors—a land flowing with milk and honey.
Exodus 13:35 (NLT)

In America we celebrate many things: birthdays, anniversaries (of all kinds), New Year’s Day, President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. In our house, we like to celebrate Ground Hog Day. Some people even celebrate Tax Day.

Some days receive major celebration, some just a little. I’m guessing, though, that we let the most significant days go by without notice. God told Moses and Moses told the people to celebrate the day they came out of Egypt because “the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand.” I haven’t been a slave in Egypt, but I have been a slave to sin. Then I came to read in the Bible that Christ died to set me free from that bondage and I prayed something like Lord, I don’t understand what I’ve just read, but I want to believe it and I want to believe in You. So if You’re real, help me to understand. A while later, I became convinced of the reality of God and further convinced that He loved me…even when I didn’t even believe in Him. At that point, my heart was changed and I prayed a different sort of prayer. It went something like this: “Lord, forgive me. I still don’t understand a lot of things, but I believe You are who You say you are in the Bible and I believe Jesus died for my sins. To the best of my ability in my limited knowledge, I give my life to You. That was my day of FREEDOM. That’s when God began to make the tremendous changes in my heart that have occurred over the past thirty-two years. It was May 21 that I prayed that second prayer.

Do you celebrate your Freedom Day? Do you commemorate the day in which the Lord brought you out of bondage? We typically do little more than remember “Oh, today’s my spiritual birthday.” I’d like to step that up a bit. Any ideas? What kind of Freedom Day or spiritual birthday celebration do you think honors the Lord?

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Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.
Matthew 24:12

This article by Francis Frangipane, titled Beware of the Stronghold of Cold Love, touches on the last two Let’s Be PC! Blogs I’ve written –

“A major area of spiritual warfare that has come against the church is the sphere of church relationships” Frangipane states. He cautions us to guard against unforgiveness saying “An earmark of this corporate, overcoming church will be its commitment to love.

His article is worth reading and taking to heart. Has a broken relationship (and lingering unforgiveness) caused your love for the Church to wane, and hence your church attendance to wither? Check out Frangipane’s article for encouragement to move beyond unforgiveness and lackluster church attendance.

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17When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.
Exodus 13:17-18

Do you sometimes wonder why God seems to be taking the long way around to fulfilling your dreams? Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s because He knows that taking the shorter route would require facing enemies that you’re not ready to fight. So He patiently leads you around those enemies until you have gained strength and knowledge, faith and perseverance. Then, when you are ready to make the final steps toward the land He has promised you, He’ll lead you into it.

I love serving a Father who truly knows what’s best for me and leads me into it! Lord, help me to embrace life knowing that You are leading me even when it feels like we’re going nowhere. Help me to remember that sometimes taking the long route is for my own good. Enable me to embrace that fact and enjoy the journey, not running ahead or falling behind.

God is so good!

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“When you feel like your heart is broken beyond repair, remember that nothing about this place is ordinary. You are uniquely poised, at this very moment, to share an intimate part of God’s character. It’s the place of the broken heart, and it’s sacred ground.” Stephanie Voiland

Experiencing rejection, betrayal or abandonment? Read Stephanie Voiland’s article “The Sacredness of a Broken Heart.” It’s a great article and you’ll be glad you took the time to read it.

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Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

4 Reasons to Go to Church

  1. Scripture commands it. Our key verse makes it clear – “let us not neglect our meeting together.” Early Christians met together regularly for worship and teaching. The writer of Hebrews warns the early Christians not to neglect those meetings, and stresses that it becomes even more important as we see the end times drawing nearer.
  2. You need it! It is exceedingly difficult to maintain a passionate pursuit of God without participating regularly in corporate worship, receive biblical teaching on a regular basis, and be encouraged and sharpened by other Believers.
  3. Your family needs it! It doesn’t mattered whether you are married or single, your family needs you to go to church. Sometimes the person in your family who you least expect to impact is watching. Your consistent pursuit of God will impact family members over the long haul. A spotty church attendance sends the message that God does not play a significant role in your life, that He can be pushed aside when other things come up.
  4. Your friends need it! As with your family, your friends need the witness of you attending church regularly. We don’t live in isolation. Our friends are influenced by what we do. Even those friends who try their hardest to persuade you to participate in other activities on Sunday morning or late Saturday night are sometimes secretly disappointed when you abandon God to join them.

4 Reasons You Might be Tempted to Skip Church – This Week or Every Week

  1. It’s the only morning you get to sleep in. I understand. The temptation is pretty strong some days. I would even endorse the rare missing of church to rest or relax with your family – rare means about once a year, not once a month! Rearrange your schedule if you need to. If you’re absolutely unable to, trust God to give you the rest you need at another time.
  2. It’s the only time you have to yourself. You’ve just made serving and worshiping yourself an idol above serving and worshiping the Lord God Almighty, Creator of the Universe and Savior of your soul. Did you really want to do that?
  3. You’ve been hurt or offended by someone in authority. You have a “sacred cow” that was swiped at by someone in authority and you’re unhappy about it. Get over it. Jesus was abandoned and betrayed but He forgave. Don’t cling to your offense. Forgive.
  4. Unresolved conflict with other attendees. Again…get over it. Forgive and pursue reconciliation.

When I look at the reasons for not attending church, they seem so small compared to the reasons for attending church. Setting aside God’s desire for us to regularly worship with other Believers (which is a pretty big thing to set aside), the personal benefit and potential for impacting those around us is so strong that they far outweigh the inconvenience and discomfort I might experience.

I have gone through long spells of spiritual dryness – long periods of time when I had no desire to attend church every Sunday and during which I felt like I gained nothing by being there. In hindsight, I am so thankful for the commitment God put in me to continue attending each week. I know without that regular food and fellowship, my walk with the Lord would have deteriorated significantly.

So let me encourage you to be a practicing Christian in this area – don’t forsake your weekly attendance at a local church. There are rich relationships waiting for you there and God deserves your devotion.

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Sometimes our inability to make a decision – to decide which option to choose – leads to waiting…and waiting…and waiting – until it becomes too late to make a choice. It can be tempting at those times to simply say “it wasn’t God’s will.”

Perhaps that’s true. Or perhaps it’s simply that you were too afraid to make a decision – to commit yourself to some task or activity that included some unknowns. There will always be unknowns in life (hence the need for faith). This short blog begins “Today I realized my fear of failure is more influential than I want to acknowledge.”

Check it out. Then consider that decision you’ve been avoiding and…go for it!

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I periodically get asked about various translations of the Bible, so today’s blog is a bit different from others. It will be much more informational than most blogs. Even so, this is a very summary level overview of the topic, but it’s a good start. I haven’t included all translations by any means, only the most popular or well known ones.

Bible translations fall into three categories, based on how the translation was developed:

  • Formal Equivalence (word-for-word)
  • Dynamic Equivalence (thought for thought)
  • Paraphrase

Formal Equivalence
Formal Equivalence translations seek to translation the Scripture word for word. Examples of this type of translation are:

  • King James Version (KJV), also known as Authorized Version (AV), published in 1611
  • American Standard Version (ASV), published in 1901
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB), published in 1971 (New Testament revised in 1969)
  • New King James Version (NKJV), published in 1982
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), published in 1990
  • English Standard Version (ESV), published in 2003

Technically, word-for-word translation is the most accurate method of translating text, but it is not always the most accurate method of conveying the thought being expressed in the text. That’s where Dynamic Equivalence translations find their strength.

Dynamic Equivalence
Dynamic Equivalence translations seek to translate the passage thought by thought. Instead of translating word-for-word, they are translating thought-for-thought. Here are some examples of Dynamic Equivalence translations:

  • Good News Bible (GNB), also known as Today’s English Version (TEV), published in 1974 (New Testament revised in 1993)
  • New International Version (NIV), published 1978
  • New Living Translation (NLT), published in 1996

Most people find these translations to be more readable than the word-for-word translations (as you’ll see in the examples below).

Paraphrase
A paraphrase translation is just that – it is putting the concepts into different words. When Phil and I were in the Air Force, a running joke was that after a new second lieutenant gave his boss an answer to whatever question was on the table, the sergeant would always say “what the lieutenant meant to say.” In other words, unless you’re speaking the language of your audience, you’re most likely going to get yourself and others in trouble. A paraphrase translation seeks to speak the language of the audience while remaining true to the text. The most commonly known paraphrase is:

  • The Living Bible (TLB), published 1971

Why So Many Translations?
It’s important for people to read the Bible in their own language, and language changes over time. The King James Version was the only English Bible available for over 300 years. Most middle-aged and senior Americans were raised with that version. Most of the Scripture memorization that I have done is in that version. (And it’s hard to re-learn Scripture that one has memorized.)

Yet Phil often comments that he now realizes that what he once thought of as “revelation” about a passage was simply finally being able to work through the arcane language of his Bible and understand the plain meaning of the text.

Then along came the newer translations. Now we can read passages in a language we understand so that the plain meaning of the text is easily understood. Understanding the plain meaning of the text is the first step to Biblical interpretation and further revelation.

The Value of Many Translations
While some people are uncomfortable with the concept of multiple translations of the Bible being available (either they have a significantly strong association with one translation or they are uncomfortable that there isn’t a single, definitive translation), having multiple translations is really a good thing.

  • It gives the reader the ability to compare how different passages have been translated. Such comparisons often yield a rich understanding of the original writer’s intent.
  • It provides the translators the opportunity to apply knowledge that has been gained over time to the new translation. Translations are not being made from the original manuscripts. They no longer exist. Rather, translations are made from copies of the more than 24,000 ancient manuscripts that exist. (If you have questions about how reliable the Bible is, I recommend this site by Josh McDowell, or read his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict.. Josh has done a tremendous job of reviewing data from a skeptic’s perspective and presenting it in a compelling and readable fashion.)
  • It allows a broader representation of the Body of Christ to participate in the translation, reducing the opportunity for error based on denominational bias. For example, the King James Version was translated by 47 scholars, all who were members of the Church of England. The new King James Version was translated by 130 scholars from a broad spectrum of Evangelical Christiandom.

How to Choose a Manuscript
First, don’t think of it as choosing one over another forever. There are many opportunities to compare multiple translations. There are several good online Bible translation sites, but the one I use most often is www.BibleGateway.com. I highly recommend reading in multiple translations when you are studying or meditating on a passage.

Having said that, you do want to choose a single translation for “every day” reading. This “every day” reading Bible may change periodically, but for continuity I think sticking with a single Bible makes sense. I tend to stick with a single translation for my Resting at the River’s Edge until I have read through the entire Bible. Then, I consider selecting a different version for the following year’s reading.

How Do You Find Your “Every Day” Translation?
You simply have to try several out to determine which version accomplishes your goals. If you are studying scholarly, you probably want a word-for-word translation. If you are a layman studying for personal edification and teaching those around you, I recommend a phrase-by-phrase translation. I would never recommend a paraphrase as the primary translation you read. It is much better in a supplemental role.

What do I read? My every day reading Bible is the NIV. It’s phraseology is easiest for me to follow. I enjoy reading it more than others.

A Point on Which We Ought Not to Divide
There are some who feel that a specific translation is the only accurate one. May I suggest that no one has the corner on Truth and we ought not to argue this issue. Just as there are many denominations and we’ll find members of each of them in heaven with us, so there are many opinions on Bible translations and we’ll find those who prefer different translations next to us in heaven. If you believe that a single translation is considerably more accurate than others, I encourage you to continue to read that translation. If others prefer a different translation, allow them the freedom to do so.

Following is a taste of several different translations. Perhaps it will be a starting point for you. Hebrews 12:1-3 is provided in each translation.

A Side by Side Comparison

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. – King James Version (KJV)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. – New King James Version (NKJV)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – New International Version (NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven. Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up. – New Living Translation (NLT)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – English Standard Version (ESV)

Above all – READ! Reading God’s word daily is incredibly more important than which translation you choose to read.

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This blog is for all you readers who don’t think of yourself as a leader. It’s time to think again!

I recognize that God has created us each with unique personalities, and that He has gifted each of us differently. However…(gotta watch out for those “however’s”)…whether you see yourself as being gifted as a leader or having leadership qualities or not, God has positioned and called you to be a leader. That being the case, it only makes sense for you to view yourself as one.

“Positioned” and “called,” you say? Yes, I say. Well, no, actually God’s Word says. And if we way to be more specific, in the following passage, it is Jesus who says we are called and positioned to influence others:

14“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16

That’s leadership. Standing up so that your light shines is leadership. Influencing others is leadership.

Our positioning and calling for leadership is also one of the themes in Peter’s epistles. Check out these two verses:

9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

…..

12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 Peter 2:9, 12

Even a cursory reading of the Bible makes it clear that priests were in positions of leadership – certainly spiritual leadership, but often other types of leadership as well. Under the New Covenant, we have all become part of the royal priesthood. That puts all of us in positions of leadership. One of the ways we exert that leadership is by living godly lives among those who don’t know God. For what purpose? So that we might influence them toward the Gospel message.

Have you ever known someone who professed loudly to be a Christian but whose actions spoke volumes that contradicted that claim? I worked with such a man once and sometimes I just wish he would have been quiet about his faith – because everyone knew two things about him: (1) he was a Christian and (2) he was a lazy and poor worker. And that behavior influenced people.

Yours does, too. The question is “In what way? Is your behavior influencing people toward the Gospel or away from it?”

Whether you recognize your calling or not, you have been called by God to influence people for the Gospel. Whether you believe it or not, you have been positioned for influencing those around you for the Gospel.

I want to encourage you to believe those two facts and then act upon your beliefs. Settle it in your mind (believe) that you are a leader, positioned for influence. Effective leadership begins with viewing yourself as a leader and taking up the responsibility of leadership. Until you view yourself as having influence over others, you won’t think much about what influence that will be. Again, settle it in your mind that you are a leader.

Then put your faith into action. Am I asking you to become like others you might label as “leaders?” No. God has unique gifted you. Be yourself, but be that person within you who has confidence in the way God made you and look for opportunities He gives to influence others.

I am asking those of you who are uncomfortable with the title “leader” to reshape your thinking and step up to the leadership table. God will meet you there and will give you your assignment. That assignment will be consistent with the way He’s made and gifted you, so don’t be afraid of it. You might want to prepare yourself for an adventure, though! God loves to take us on adventures when we confidently take our position in Him and trust Him to take the reins!

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