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I. INTRODUCTION

A. Past Lessons

B. Text of Rev 7:9-17

“9After this I looked and behold: A great crowd which no one was able to count. The crowd was from every ethnicity, nation, people, and language and stood before the throne and before the Lamb wearing white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God—the one who sits on the throne—and to the Lamb.’ 11All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, the four living beings, and they fell before the throne on their faces and they worshipped God 12saying, ‘Amen! Praise, honor, wisdom, thanksgiving, reverence, power, and strength to our God forever and ever. Amen!’ 13Then one of the elders asked me, ‘Who are these clothed in long white robes and where did they come from?’ 14Then I replied to him, ‘My lord, you know the answer.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming from out of the great persecution, clothed in their long-flowing robes, and made white through the blood of the Lamb.’ 15This is why they are in front of the throne of God and serve him during the day and during the night in his Temple. The one sitting on the throne will live with them. 16They will not be hungry nor will they be thirsty, nor will the sun fall on them or its burning heat 17because the Lamb in the midst of the throne shepherds them and leads them to the fountain of living water. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:9-17) 1

 

God and the Lamb Are Praised (Rev 7:9-17)

Photo Credit: Nheyob

C. General Remarks

“The verbs in this section are very diverse, combining present, future, aorist, and perfect tenses. There is a great debate as to the temporal orientation of the passages, with some contending for a preterist interpretation (applying to the members of the seven churches), others to a millennial setting, still others to the time just before eternity is ushered in, and finally many to eternity itself” (Osborne, Revelation, 334).

“But, as so often in Revelation (and in Christian thinking generally), present and future overlap and interlock in various confusing ways, and already some of the blessings of the final city are to be experienced by these people – by these people who, John is eager to say, are you, you who are about to suffer in Ephesus, or Smyrna, or Pergamum, or wherever” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 75).

II. PRAISE FROM THE HEAVENS (Rev 7:9-12)

A. The Crowd in White Robes (v. 9) Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own

This post continues some of my work sharing the significance and application of specific books of the Bible. I welcome your feedback and insights into these important books of the Bible.

The Significance and Application of the Book of Jonah

Photo Credit: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing

I.    THE PURPOSE AND ARGUMENT OF THE BOOK OF JONAH 

A.   Purpose

The book of Jonah shows God’s love and compassion for Gentiles in addition to Jews because God wants to be present with people.

B.   Argument

Jonah’s God was a God that desired people to be loyal to him and show love to him. The book of Jonah shows both God’s desire to be in the presence of people as well as the desire of some people to not be in his presence. When the Lord gave the message to Jonah (1:1) about going to Nineveh to tell the people that their city would perish in 40 days if they did not turn from their ways (1:2; 3:4), Jonah decided to go “away from the presence of the Lord” (1:3, 10). Away from God’s presence is not what God desired, therefore he sent a storm (1:4). Furthermore, God desired that the people of Nineveh be in his presence by allowing Jonah to have a second chance (3:1) at proclaiming the message.

An example that show’s how extraordinary that God’s love and compassion is for Gentiles is seen in Jonah. When the sailors found out that the terrible storm (1:4) was because of Jonah’s disobedience (1:7) Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard (1:12) in order to stop the storm from killing everyone. Instead of Jonah recognizing God’s storm as a sign to turn back and do the will of God, Jonah would rather have died. God’s love and compassion for the people of Nineveh was much greater than Jonah’s love and compassion for those Gentile people (3:10; 4:11).

II.  HOW JONAH FITS INTO THE OVERALL MESSAGE OF THE BIBLE

Some might empathize with Jonah’s complacency to go to the people of Nineveh (1:1; 3:1), give them a message (3:4), and help them not be destroyed by God because of their repentance (3:5-10). As a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam II (2 Kings 23-25) in 793-753 Assyria was one of Israelite’s largest and most powerful enemies. After all, hadn’t God promised to make Israel into a great nation (Gen 12:2-3; 13:14-17; 22:16-18)? However, this message from God (Jonah 1:1-2; 3:1-2) to go to the Assyrians is a foreshadow of God’s future plans to use Paul and the apostles to go to the Gentiles and proclaim the Gospel (Acts 9:15-16). And, that gospel was successfully shared with the entire world (Acts 28:28).

III.  HOW TO APPLY THE BOOK

A.   4 Principles from the Book of Jonah

1.    We Cannot Escape God’s Presence

Just as Jonah attempted to escape the Lord’s presence (1:3) we too cannot escape God’s presence. Pss 139:3 says that God sees us when we travel and when we rest at home because he knows everything that we do (also see Pss 139:7).

2.    Obedience Is Important to God

Jonah’s first call (1:1-2) resulted in him disobeying God and running away (1:3). Jonah’s second call (3:1-2) resulted in his obedience to do what God had told him to do (3:3). The important principle here is that God could have moved on to another prophet to use to proclaim his message. However, God placed Jonah in the fish (1:17) where Jonah repented (2:1-4), and God gave him the message again (3:1-2).

3.    Our Response to God Yields Results

Jonah’s first call (1:1-2) resulted in him disobeying God and running away (1:3). Jonah’s second call (3:1-2) resulted in his obedience to do what God had told him to do (3:3). However, each response of Jonah (whether in obedience or disobedience) yielded at outcome from God (1:4, 17; 3:5-10).

4.    God Gives Second Chances

No one would have blamed God for choosing another prophet to proclaim his message after Jonah had actively disobeyed (1:3) God’s command to Jonah (1:1-2). Yet, God gives second chances. After Jonah spent three days and three nights inside of the fish (1:17; 2:10) God again gave his message to Jonah (3:1-2) and therefore gave Jonah a second chance to be obedient to him.

B.   2 Sunday School Activities

1.   Meditate on God’s Presence

It is clear from the book of Jonah (1:4, 7-8, 11, 13-17; 2:2, 6, 10; 3:1-2; 10; 4:4, 6-11) as well as other Scripture in the Bible (Pss 139:3, 7) that God’s presence is everywhere. Ask students what areas they can be conscious of God’s presence. Encourage them to pick one or two times during the next week that they will meditate on God’s presence and then have them report back to the group the following Sunday about how they did.

2.    Reflection on Past Running from God

All of us have had times when we “ran” from God just like Jonah did (1:3-4). Yet, God appears to bring us back to him in various ways just as he brought Jonah back to himself (1:17; 2:10; 3:1-3). Ask everyone to think back on a time when they were running from God. How did God bring them back? In what way did God bring them back to him?

C.   My Personal Application

The statements Jonah makes about God to the gentile sailors stood out to me most. When the lots fell on Jonah and showed that he was the cause of the storm (1:7) Jonah made a couple of brief statements about God to those carnal and uncircumcised sailors. In 1:9 Jonah boldly declared to those men who he was (“I am a Hebrew”), who he worshipped (“I worship the LORD”), elaborated on who he worshipped (“the God of heaven”), and further explained the majesty of the LORD (“who made the sea and the land”). When talking to non-Christians I too hope to be so straightforward and blunt about who my God is and how majestic and powerful he is!

Hebrews 6:1-8 is a passage most theologians either love or struggle with. Some theologians go to it repeatedly to explain their soteriological position while others attempt to avoid it because it does not match their theological method. This blog post will examine three views and how each of these views interprets Hebrews 6:1-8. The final section contains a brief exposition of the passage along with the view I prefer.

3 Views of Hebrews 6Photo Credit: Sander van der Wel

I.    3 SOTERIOLOGICAL VIEWS OF HEBREWS 6:1-8 1

A.   Arminian – “Grace Lost by Walking in the Flesh” Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. People refer to the views by different labels. For the sake of simplicity and continuity within this blog post I use the titles contained in the book, The Cross and Salvation, by Bruce DeMarest.

During our regular Campaign Coordinators’ Meeting at United Way we had struggled to have a good meeting on this particular day. We had started a little late, not always stuck to the prearranged agenda, and the meeting ran a little longer than I had planned for it to go. As a result, there was a volunteer who had some suggestions for how to better run the meetings.

As a result, at the end of the meeting Joe (not his real name) spoke up and said that he hoped that the future meetings of this Campaign Coordinator’s Council could be more productive. Mainly, he hoped that we could start on time, identify some things to research, and end on time. It was a little awkward to have him suggest these things in front of the entire meeting, but we as staff of United Way agreed that we might be able to take his suggestions in.

And, the way that Joe shared his thoughts led me to think that if we didn’t attempt to implement some of his changes, then he might not stick with our organization and might stop coming to the meetings.

I was the staff person in charge of this volunteer-led committee of Campaign Coordinators. So, I called Joe on the phone and told him, “Hi Joe, you have provided some ideas and suggestions for how to improve our Campaign Coordinator’s Council. Mei Mi Nu–our former chair of this committee–has served for a year and we are now looking for a replacement. Joe, would  you like to serve as our Campaign Coordinator’s Council chair for the next year and therefore implement your ideas?” Joe’s response was “yes.” He was grateful that we had heard his thoughts about how to make improvements and he was glad to be placed in a position where he could implement his ideas.

Going forward I meet with Joe every month one-to-one where we would simply talk, share ideas, and let me plan out our Campaign Coordinator’s Council meetings. As a result, Joe spent the next year and a half as our Campaign Coordinator. In that time he took our group through much of the training he had received as some certified as a “Black Belt” in the “Lean Six Sigma” material.

For the next two years we receive numerous trainings in how to use Six Sigma to evaluate our work, see weaknesses, identify recurring problems, seek solutions, and build systems to improve the way we did things. As a result of Joe’s trainings the United Way staff and our volunteers were able to receive thousands of dollars worth of trainings about Lean Six Sigma. Additionally, as a result of me listening to Joe’s ideas and providing him a chance to implement those ideas he provided us with help to do make those ideas happen. So, he didn’t just provide ideas of things that should have been done, but he provided the resources to make sure those ideas were implement (with our permission, of course). As an example is that when Joe wanted us to revamp our Campaign Kickoff event we were going to need some large partitions. When that need came up he said, “Don’t worry about renting those, we have those at work.” When the Campaign Kickoff event came Jim’s work did not have the partitions, they had paid for those partitions to be rented!

The point with this story is when you listen to volunteers’ voices you get to see them take charge of items and they stick with them. And, when you listen to a volunteer’s voice you help ensure that they will stick with your organization long term.

Among the research I found when developing a class about how to keep volunteers at nonprofit organizations was about how to listen to volunteers’ voices. Listening to volunteers’ voice is one thing that anyone can do in any nonprofit organization and that can increase the likelihood that a volunteer will continue volunteering.

I. DEFINITION

“If volunteers are involved in the planning and the evaluation of their jobs and of the total volunteer program, they have a much greater commitment to it. All too frequently they are forced to work in a vacuum, with little information or no influence on how their jobs fit into the whole. This commitment to you is often in direct correlation to your commitment to them. The same is of course true for paid staff” (Marlene Wilson, The Effective Management of Volunteer Programs, 63).

“Related to the sense of the significance of their work is the volunteers’ feeling that they are appreciated and influencing their coworkers and the job situation: that their suggestions and ideas are being used, that they are invited to join in planning and policy thinking, and that they are trusted to take on more and more responsibility” (The Volunteer Community, p. 56).

II. INVOLVE VOLUNTEERS IN PLANNING

A. Have volunteers Sit in on Regular:

1. meetings
2. committees
3. program and service planning

B. Have Volunteers Help Plan Services

III. LISTEN TO VOLUNTEERS IDEAS, SUGGESTIONS, AND SOLUTIONS

A. Through Evaluations

“One opportunity to promote voice is through volunteer evaluations” (Allen and Mueller, “The Revolving Door,” p. 150).

B. Through Staff and Team Meetings

“Another opportunity to promote voice is through weekly or monthly volunteer team meetings” (Ibid).

Meetings contain the following elements that can increase voice:

1. resolving conflicts
2. solving problems
3. generating innovative ideas
4. decision making
5. a time for volunteers to voice their concerns (Ibid)

Charisma seems to be a magical leadership word in American culture. It’s that magical thing that some people supposedly have and others don’t. If you have it you are supposed to be endowed with magical leadership abilities, opportunities, and potential. If you don’t have it you are doomed to a life of mediocrity.

I realize I might have exaggerated in the above paragraph, but I think there is some truth to how charisma is commonly viewed within the topic of leadership. People seem to think that if you are going to be an effective leader you have to have charisma.

Why Charisma Is Optional and Character Is Essential

Photo Credit: Martin Fisch

In today’s post I am going to explain why charisma is absolutely not necessary for effective leadership. In fact, I will provide research and examples of how it can actually hurt a leader. Instead of charisma being a requirement for effective leadership, I would like to show you why character and competence are essential to effective leadership.

I. Level 5 Leadership

In 2001 Jim Collins published the book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap. . . and Others Don’t (New York, Harper Collins, 2001), in which he wrote about “Level 5 Leaders.” These were the leaders of the companies that were the most productive, profitable, and continued their growth over long periods of time. Continue Reading…

I want to encourage you to create an inspiring mission for your city, nonprofit, church, or company. Why? Because in my experience I know that when you create an inspiring mission good things happen because people want to get involved and help.

My goal is for you to learn how to create an inspiring mission. As you may know I have experience running nonprofit programs, leading volunteers, and fundraising money to help make a difference in communities.

Nehemiah’s Model for Creating an Inspiring Mission

Photo Credit: TownePost Network

In 2005 I started a nonprofit program that fed more than 5,000 people in five years. Additionally, I worked at the United Way of Stanislaus County for six years raising funds to support community and coordinating volunteer groups. Together I’ve spent eight years working to improve the communities I’ve worked in, mostly through the nonprofit industry.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing over the past two years is studying the biblical book of Nehemiah in light of the work being done to transform and improve communities. Through this study I have observed some things Nehemiah did that can be transferred to our current context and cities. I would like to share with you just one principle that you can do and when you do do it, it can transform your city.

Let’s look at the book of Nehemiah to read two verses and see what it can teach us about how to be leaders who transform the city we live in. But, before we look at those two verses, let me start with a story. Continue Reading…

In late January I became an official graduate of Fresno Pacific University (FPU) with a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries and Leadership.

Graduation

Photo Credit: scot2342

I am excited and grateful to have been able to attend college and graduate. Even though it took me six years (most of the time I worked full-time), I am glad that I took that path I did.

Continue Reading…

Throughout my life I have worked hard to compile the best advice possible from anyone who would give it to me. While listening to a CD from the John Maxwell Maximum Impact Club back in 2009, I heard a tip that a leader should sit down and create a list of the best advice ever received.

Photo Credit:  swanksalot

Photo Credit: swanksalot

So I sat down and wrote out some of the best wisdom people have shared with me. Continue Reading…

Today is the final post in my series of posts sharing what I learned about momentum from the Catalyst One-Day event taught by Craig Groeschel and Andy Stanley. 

Andy Stanley's talk in the final session of the Catalyst One-Day Conference was mostly focused on programing. Specifically, he talked about how programming can become part of our organizational culture which leads us to focus on our programing, not the people we try to serve. Over time this can cause us to lose sight of the mission and people we are attempting to serve because we are so focused on our programing. 

Andy starts out the talk with the example of an old beat up couch that the family does not want to get rid of because of the memories and history of the couch. And he uses that as an analogy for his talk about how we need to be focused on our mission and the people we serve, not on the past history we want to preserve.

DON'T BE THAT COUCH
Andy Stanley

Programing is the answer to a question or a need.
All programing that takes place in an organization should be an answer to a need of the people we are trying to serve. Or, programing can be an answer to a question we have about who needs served and if we can serve them this way. Programing is a way of attempting to answer that question by creating a product or service.

Over time programming becomes part of your organizational culture.
This is definitely true. I experienced this when I first started working at the United Way of Stanislaus County. There were so many things we did that I was not sure why we did them. As the new guy, when I asked, "Why do we do that?" the answer I received so many times (that it still angers me to think about it) was, "We have been doing that for xx years." Correct me if I am wrong, but that was not the answer to my question.

Now, I am all for respecting processes and time tested tools and methods, but everything we do (as leaders and followers) should be for a purpose. When an organization begins doing things "because we have always done" them, that is a clear sign that the programing has become part of the organizational culture.

We must be more committed to our mission than or programing or model.
This is so true and applies to what I shared above about what I thought when first working at United Way of Stanislaus County. The focus of an organization should be on its mission and everything it does should evolve around, support, and push that mission forward. When programming does not support that mission, then we need to cut it. Cutting it frees up our time to do what supports our mission and it gives another organization an opportunity to provide that service.

Over time, sustaining the model can become the mission.
I think this does happen in organizations and churches. Especially churches because so much of what a church is resides in history. Sometimes people working at organizations or volunteers who are involved that have seen the "good ole days" do not want to see changes because they remember how things were.

It is good to remember that the model should support our mission. The model might change, but the mission probably will stay the same.

Over time, a model can work against the mission.
This is true also. I remember taking a class in 2011 called, Church and the Mission of God. The professor shared a story of a church he served on staff at in South Dakota where the church was very committed to creating a good looking and well built church as a way to get people to come to church. As a younger man who was an up and comer in the church world, he had fresh eyes and could see that what brought people to churches in the 1990's was not attractive buildings (like it has been in the 60's, 70's, and 80's), but it was that people needed to feel that the church cared for the community around them. This man saw that people were coming to church when the church came to them in their community by providing services and giving away information on what the church did.

He attempted to share this with the church leadership but because so many people were committed to (and had seen) the old model work effectively, they proceeded to upgrade their building hoping it would attract the people to the church.

The end result when the building upgrades where completed, as this pastor shared, was very few new people came to the church. For a few weeks they had some fresh visitors, but that was it. Within a month or two the church attendance was back to normal despite the thousands of dollars and many hours people worked to make the church upgrades. In the end, the old model was more destructive to the church than constructive because the labor of both staff and volunteers seems to have failed and left the people discouraged. 

Don't be in love with a tactic, be in love with a message or a population.
When it comes to being committed to your mission and not being committed to a model, make sure you are in love with a message or a population.

For A Day of Hope this was always simple for us. We were in love of serving and helping people who needed food for Thanksgiving. We did not want to help with any other holiday or need, we were in love with that family who was having a tough time and needed a nice Thanksgiving meal they could enjoy as a family.

Because we were in love with a population, it always allowed our "model" of fundraising to change. Often from year to year it looked very different.

If you commit to the "what", God will show you the "how".
I think this statement was from the last part of Andy's talk because he felt that people might not be believing that they can make a positive change in their organization because of the history and protectiveness of the models they might have. I think he was hoping to share that if we commit in our organization to the "what" of the model we need to change or move away from, God will show us "how" to do it. Because, changing the way people think about a model of what has been done can be very tough. People have lost their jobs over these things so we need to deal with it with sensitivity and tact.

Question: Is there a "couch" in your life or organization you need to remove? How do you plan to remove it?