Tag Archive | C.S. Lewis

Courage To Succeed

RP & PauletteMany people who read my blog are leaders in either church, community, or business. There are so many different styles and philosophies when it comes to leadership, with countless books, seminars, and self-help videos on the subject. Just typing in “leadership” on YouTube yields over 4.2 million results.

As a pastor for nearly 50 years, I have witnessed stunning changes in leadership demands.

In the first two churches I pastored, I was the ONLY paid staff member. The fact is, we did everything through the use of volunteers. As pastor, I had to look at my congregation, identify those with leadership skills, and train them how to serve in a church/ministry capacity. When I graduated from seminary, I became pastor of a church in a rural area that was rapidly becoming suburban, with a lot of growth potential. There, I had two part-time secretaries and one part-time custodian. My staff was all volunteers… Richard Wilson, a court reporter, led our choir and music. A young businessman by the name of Jim McGriff led our student ministry and student choir. An architect was our education director. Our church grew to over 500 in attendance with no paid staff.

Today, I lead a church with over 100 paid staff members, yet the leadership principles we operate by are the same for both paid staff and volunteers. Moreover, these principles and the truths contained therein are not confined to the church-house. They also apply to the business world and, for that matter, any endeavor in life that involves people.

So how can a leader truly succeed?

  1. There must be a clearly defined vision. The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18). No one wants to follow a guide who doesn’t know where they are going. If there is no definable end-result for your organization (church), your vision (or lack thereof) has doomed it from the start.
  2. There must be defined goals. No runner is going to simply wake up one day and run a marathon. It takes months of preparation with goals along the way. If you are driving from Atlanta, GA to Chattanooga, TN up I-75, when you get to Dalton, GA, you know you are only about 25-30 minutes away from your destination. Leading your organization is no different. You must have, not just the end in sight, but landmarks and achievable goals along the way. It helps to eliminate the frustration of following blindly on the part of those you are leading, as well as your leadership team having to endure the constant cries of, “Are we there yet?!?!?!?”
  3. There must be measurable accountability. “Just because I said so,” may be reason enough for a three-year-old to clean their room, but generally does not suffice when it comes to running an organization and motivating adults. There must be a clear chain of accountability for actions and decisions, and that accountability has to be modeled from the top down. Remember the old saying… Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  4. Leadership1There must be a culture of mutual honor, respect, and teamwork. You cannot be an effective leader from a high and lofty towerFormer President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” A businessman in my church once told me that “I don’t ask anyone to do something I either haven’t done, or wouldn’t do myself. The people who work for me will do anything for me for one simple reason — because they know I will do anything for them.” Treating people with respect, honoring their time by being prompt and on-time, being forthright and honest, approaching each task with a well-thought-out plan, being conservative with criticism and liberal with praise, letting each individual know how important they are to the organization — all of these things help to build an atmosphere that goes beyond teamwork… it creates the atmosphere of family.
  5. There must be a focus on goals, and the steps to achieve them. While looking at the “big picture” can give you a sense of importance and meaning, most people work best with goals that are progressive, logical, and attainable. Make the goals clear for your team. Clearly explain the steps it takes to achieve each goal. Give them the tools they need to be successful for each step in the process. Encourage them to focus on the goal immediately in front of them, and not fixate on the enormity of the “big picture.”
  6. Hands togetherThere must be disciplined financial principles that include healthy revenue streams, careful spending, and total accountability. Most organizations crumble because of financial woes. Bad financial planning (insufficient funding), mismanagement, and dishonesty are just a few ways financial problems can doom an organization. Being disciplined with how you spend, how you manage growth, and how you invest your resources will go a long way toward giving you a healthy bottom-line. Being realistic about projections, operating within a well-defined budget, and being an “open book” when it comes to accountability will not only give you a reputation for integrity, but can also provide others with confidence in investing in or donating to your organization.
  7. There must be flexibility and a willingness to change. Change is inevitable. Change is unrelenting. Change is coming, whether we like it or not. George Bernard Shaw once said,Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” If you want to progress with your organization, being flexible to the changing winds of public needs, technology, and the direction of your industry are essential. Keeping an open mind about new innovations and ideas is the only way to survive having your methods bent to the breaking point. Being forward-thinking to the future needs of your market, and being able to adapt quickly can mean the difference between extinction, survival, and success. C.S. Lewis made this observation…

     

    It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

     

  8. There must be a strong prayer ministry and a sense of God’s leadership.  My thought process for this point comes from my years in the pastorate and ministry. As a believer in Christ, our life in Him should permeate all we are and do. There should always be an attitude of prayer, as well as a desire for God’s direction when it comes to the life and direction of your organization (church). True Christianity is not just a religion or thought process — it is an all-encompassing immersion into the life and death of Christ, and surrender to the control of the Holy Spirit.  There should never be a time when we operate separate from that reality. There should never be a decision made that is not bathed in prayer, with our spiritual ears open to hearing from Heaven for wisdom and guidance. The realization that all we are and have is God’s should motivate, inspire, and guide us in every facet of business, ministry, and life.Creación_de_Adám hands

I hope that embracing these steps will give you the courage to change, the desire for more for you and your organization, and the tools to encourage those in your circle of influence to live life ready to succeed.

Pastor Ron

Let It Go.

CSLContemplate, if you will, this quote by the late C.S. Lewis…

“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.”

Why do we find forgiveness to be such a difficult thing? Does it come from our need to be right? Is it born of our desire to “one-up” someone who has wronged us? What is it about a lack of forgiveness that makes us feel superior?

A friend once said that, “It was easy for me to be unforgiving until I was the one needing forgiveness”. In Matthew 18, Jesus is painfully clear what judgment awaits the person who does not forgive “from the heart”.

Unforgiveness is like being locked in a prison cell, with the keys sitting within your reach. Forgiveness unlocks the doors, and sets ALL of the prisoners free.

Is holding on to unforgiveness against the one who has wronged you worth sacrificing true joy?

Let it go, and find the freedom God has waiting for you.

Happy?

CSLI recently saw a quote by C.S. Lewis on social media. It was taken from his book Mere Christianity, and he made this observation:

And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

We see this being played out ad nauseam in our society today. Being happy is the topic of countless movies, books, self-help seminars, and popular music. One of the best-selling songs of the last year was even entitled Happy. Happiness has now become the driving force behind ill-advised and ungodly judicial and political legislation as we see the religious rights of individuals being trampled on for the sake of another person’s “happiness”.

But while there is nothing inherently wrong with being happy, how we go about it can have quite the opposite effect. The pursuit of happiness as the ultimate goal has populated divorce courts, abortion clinics, medical and mental hospitals, and cemeteries for decades (and longer). The idea that happiness is the most important thing in life is the lie that has perpetrated itself in one form or another down through the centuries. The days of Noah, Sodom, Gomorrah, Babylon, Rome, and many other civilizations that have passed into oblivion because of moral failure and degradation bear witness to the fleeting satisfaction of happiness.

The fact is that there is a void in every person that only God can fill. And while God does not promise us happiness, He does promise every person that puts their faith and trust in Him life and joy. In John 10:10, Jesus says…

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

In John 15:11, He goes on to say…

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

If we are searching after our happiness, we will find it to be elusive and empty. However, if our pursuit is His joy in our lives, that is something no man or circumstance can take away, because it is not dependent on our situation, but on His goodness — and His goodness is something that no diagnosis, disaster, or decree can change or take away.

And who knows… in your pursuit of the joy of the Lord, you might just stumble across the happiness you have been looking for.

Have a blessed week!

Living in the Graveyard of the Past

As we begin to wind down another year (only 42 shopping days left until Christmas), it is only natural for most of us to look back at the year we’re leaving behind, assess the good and the bad, and try to make changes to improve the quality of life for ourselves and those around us. As someone once said, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result”. No one is interested in repeating the mistakes of the past with their tortured consequences, yet oftentimes, we become obsessed with the past (good and bad).

Grave 1We see this when someone dies tragically, and the mantra of friends and family becomes “If only they had (fill in the blank)”.

We experience this when we make bad financial decisions… “If only I knew then what I know now”.

We even see this in worship in our churches… The tendency after God works in an amazing way to try to replicate the experience whenever we do a specific chorus or song. Instead of a fresh word or experience, we want to relive the “feel-good moments” of the past.

Regardless of the context, in order to move on with God, we have to move out of the past, and its perceived security. God is all about doing a new thing in our lives regularly if we will let Him. It reminds me of a line from the C.S. Lewis classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Mr. Beaver and the Pevensie children are discussing Aslan, the character that represents Jesus in The Chronicles of Narnia.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver… “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Moving on with God means moving out of the security of our current environment into the unknown – a place where the only thing we have to hold on to is the goodness of God.

Decide to leave the cemetery.

You’ve got to be willing to leave the graveyard of the past. Make a decision to change. The very day Israel made the decision to change, the manna stopped. They got off welfare and went on God’s prosperity plan to gain the land that was theirs! As long as we operate in a circle of unbelief, complaining, “We’re short of money; we don’t have enough to try that path”—we will make it through the day and no farther. When every decision is based on only the resources at hand, we limit our vision and focus for the future.

I’m tired of living in worry over provision, aren’t you? I’m looking for a land flowing with milk and honey. I’m ready to drink out of a fountain with waters from which I’ve never tasted. I want clusters of grapes so large that it takes two men to carry them! I want my portion of fruit from that new land. I’m ready for some milk and honey!

Grave2aIn the academy award-winning movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, Sissy Spacek won the award for Best Actress, effectively and believably portraying singer Loretta Lynn. For me, the scene most compelling in the movie is the moment when Loretta’s father dies. Loretta had just made a record, scraping up what money she had to complete the project. But when her father died, in her biography we find that she secluded herself beside his remote grave for over a day and a night, refusing to leave.

Frustrated, Loretta’s husband, Doolittle, plows up the side of the mountain with a bulldozer, as there was no road up to this graveyard. He basically says to her, “Lorettie, we’ve got all these records and we’ve done all this. You’re going to have to make up your mind whether you are going to do this singing thing or not.” Turning, he leaves her by the grave and goes and gets back on the bulldozer. In a minute she leaves the graveyard, climbs up on the back of that truck and says, “I want to sing.” He says, “What did you say?” “I want to sing.” “What did you say?” he asked her for the third time. “I want this.”

All the success and fame could have been forsaken in that critical moment in Loretta Lynn’s life. She could have sat by her daddy’s grave and mourned the past and talked about how it used to be in the good ‘ole days. “You know, one time I made a record,” she could have said. Her whole destiny, and perhaps even the history of Tennessee and country music, changed when she crawled away from that grave and got on the back of that bulldozer saying, “I’m not going to live in the past anymore.”

It is possible to sit by a past personality and miss the future. You can sit by a past hurt and nurse your pain and miss the future. You can sit by a past grievance and be so angry that you can’t hear anything about what God is saying. You can be hooked to somebody’s past failure or mistake, even if they have asked for forgiveness, that you can’t forget it and you become chained to that place in the past.

I’m encouraging you today to go to prosperity and success. I’m not just talking about a financial situation. I’m talking about true eternal prosperity: embracing a life that counts! A life that counts must say goodbye to some of the things of the past. They are not coming back. They’ll never be here again. It’s time to move on.

Don’t get me wrong… stepping into the future can be full of uncertainties and insecurities. It doesn’t always feel safe. But you know what? That’s ok, because — to paraphrase the sentiments of Mr. Beaver — the (plans of the) King may not be safe, but He is good. He’s trustworthy. He has YOUR best interests at heart.

So get up from the graveside… your destiny is waiting for you!

— portions of this post adapted from my book,  A God-Sized Future
© 
Copyright 2012 by Ron Phillips, published by Charisma House

Life In The Age of the Little White Lie

Through The Looking Glass2

A few of days ago marked the anniversary of the passing of one of the greatest minds of the last century. Albert Einstein was a German-born physicist who, among other things, developed the theory of relativity, as well as won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. Einstein once said…

Anyone who does not take truth seriously in small matters
cannot be trusted in large ones either.

We live in a culture that has grown to overlook the “little white lie”. In today’s society, the old adage ‘a man’s word is his bond’, is (I fear) exactly that… old. It seems that we often go from political season to political season in an attempt, not to get the best person for the job, but simply trying to avoid the worst. Whether personal, political, or business, we desire to overlook the “small issues” for the greater good in individuals, instead of looking at these issues as potential warning signs of more serious problems. Even King Solomon recognized the potential for the little things to become bigger problems when he said…

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. ~ Song of Solomon 2:15

Jesus drives the point home in the parable of the talents when the master tells the servant…

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things… ~ Matthew 25:21

While forgiveness for past shortcomings is important, so is faithfulness and integrity. Character is critical, but it is unlikely that a person will learn from a mistake they are unwilling to take responsibility for.

C. S. Lewis once said…

The safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot,
without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

Accountability goes a long way in keeping the “little thing” now from becoming the “big thing” later. As believers in Jesus, we must make every effort to be truthful in all we say and do, to be lights in a dark world, and to still be “as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves.”

 

he safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/cslewis115353.html#ZtszMH3OHVUD2Hmo.99

he safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/cslewis115353.html#ZtszMH3OHVUD2Hmo.99
Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins165191.html#A7u8bdxcsZxtJxIA.99
Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins165191.html#A7u8bdxcsZxtJxIA.99
Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins165191.html#A7u8bdxcsZxtJxIA.99

Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins165191.html#A7u8bdxcsZxtJxIA.99

Don’t Give Up The High Ground

Through the Looking Glass

In recent years, more and more focus has come to bear on the area of spiritual warfare. A topic that many, even in the church, tended to scoff at 20 years ago has gained more and more in attention. From movies that focus on the supernatural to stories in the news in which witnesses claim supernatural influence or intervention. there is a lot of talk about angels and demons, and the place they have in our world today.

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis made this observation:

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence of lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

With this statement, Lewis hits at the very heart of the principle of spiritual warfare. Whether we succeed or fail in the battles we face in life is often largely due to the decisions we make, and the doors we open to the enemy. Our own actions, however seemingly insignificant, can open passages to the enemy, not just in our own lives, but in our families and churches as well. Just as Achan’s sin led to Israel’s defeat (Joshua 7), and Ananias and Sapphira’s sin led to their own demise (Acts 5), so our actions can impede what the Holy Spirit wants to do in and through us. Consider Isaiah 33:15-17…

Those who walk righteously
and speak what is right,
who reject gain from extortion
and keep their hands from accepting bribes,
who stop their ears against plots of murder
and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—
 they are the ones who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
Their bread will be supplied,
and water will not fail them.
Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
and view a land that stretches afar.

Standing firmly in every area of life, following God’s commands in obedience, and making the decision to “Be Holy because He is Holy” (1 Peter 1:16) gives us the high ground against the enemy, and gives him no foothold with which to defeat us.

So what is it going to be, Christian? Are you going to stand on the truth of God’s Word and live in victory, or “take another lap around Mount Sinai,” and learn that same lesson one more time?

It’s your choice.

Pastor Ron

Finding Joy

Through the Looking Glass

British philosopher Sir Francis Bacon once said…

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not…
a sense of humor to console him for what he is.”

In spite of the state of our world today, humor can go a long way toward making tough times bearable. Humorist Bill Cosby observed that..

“You can turn painful situations around through laughter.
If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.”

Our God is a God of joy, happiness, and laughter. Proverbs 17:22 says that,

“A cheerful heart is good medicine…”.

Throughout scripture, God puts great value on joy.

There is strength in joy…

There is hope in joy…

There is health in joy…

No matter what your circumstances, make it a point to find joy.  As C.S. Lewis said…

“Joy is the banner flown from the heart when the King is in residence”.

Allow your life to be a declaration of the presence of the King.

One Day In November

JFKOn Friday of this week, most people in our nation will remember it as the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. As history reminds us, President Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin’s bullet as his motorcade drove through the streets of Dallas, TX, on November 22, 1963. For the last 50 years, conspiracy theories have swirled around the event, inspiring countless books, movies, documentaries, and websites.

But while the attention of the world was focused on Dallas on that fateful day, two other world-renowned personalities slipped into eternity within hours of the death of the President…

ALH

Well-known British author, humanist, and agnostic Aldous Huxley died in Los Angeles, CA, at the age of 69. Best known for his novels, including Brave New World, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry.

LewisChristian author, lecturer, and apologist C.S. Lewis died at his home in Oxford, England, one week before his 65th birthday. Lewis was known for so many timeless classics including The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters.

The contrasts are palpable… one man in the prime of life, while the other two entering into their twilight years. One man cynical of God and spirituality, while the other two with deeply held religious beliefs. One man a powerful world leader, while the other two intellectuals from the halls of academia.

But by the end of the day on November 22, 1963, all three men were standing before God, faced with only one question that mattered…

“What did you do with Jesus?”

Whether a prince or a pauper;

Whether from prestige or from poverty;

Whether the most powerful leader in the world, or an individual lost in obscurity.

The Bible says that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). No matter who you are, what you’ve achieved, your net worth, or what you’ve become notorious for, we all live by the same non-negotiable rule:

“And as it is appointed for men to die once,
but after this the judgment…” ~ Hebrews 9:27

Judgment. The one thing all men face and no one escapes. But just as this destiny awaits all men, another promise is just as real and just as available…

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” ~ John 3:16 (NKJV)

My friend, judgment was something you were never made for. But just as God’s righteousness could not allow sin to go unchecked or unchallenged, His mercy would not allow mankind to be lost without hope.

He would not allow YOU to be lost, without hope.

Hope is as close as your next breath – that breath that calls on the name of Jesus.

If you would like more information about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus, click here.

The Human Touch

Through the Looking GlassIn A Letter to Arthur Greeves, C.S. Lewis wrote:

“If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘Sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’”

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, and the plethora of other social networks, it is easy to lose the human touch. Through instant messaging, texting, and email, we think we can show affection, settle conflict, and stay close to our “5,000 closest friends”.

However, when times get tough, how many of those 5,000 friends are going to show up on your doorstep to help? When you get the bad diagnosis, how many of your Twitter “followers” are going to offer you a ride to the doctor, or come visit you in the hospital? When you just got news that your company is laying off, and you’re probably going to lose your job, is a “poke” on Facebook going to touch you like a hug from a true friend? While social media has its place, no amount of online chatting can take the place of sitting down across the table from a friend, sharing a cup of coffee, and engaging in a heartfelt conversation.

Jesus said that there is no greater love a man can have than to lay down his life for a friend. He understood the value of deep, abiding, face-to-face friendship.

Take a moment today (now is a good time) and reach out to someone in a very real way. Schedule a lunch together. Go grab some coffee with them. Make it a point to reach out and be real. There’s no telling the difference you can make in someone’s life today.

Going Down With the Ship

Through the Looking Glass        On April 14, 1912 at 11:40p.m., the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage. In less than three hours, it slipped beneath the surface and sank at 2:20a.m. on April 15… 101 years ago today.

What was it that sent this mighty ship to its watery grave in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean? Was it a massive, gaping hole caused by the collision?

No.

Some experts have speculated that, had the Titanic hit the iceberg head-on, it would have survived. What sunk this magnificent vessel was a series of small holes and cracks punched along the hull by the iceberg. It was the the culmination of all of the seemingly insignificant cracks that led to a breakdown of the fail-safes and safeties, and took the great ship to its watery grave, over two miles down on the ocean floor.

TitanicWhat a picture of the Christian life.

For most of us, it is not the “major events” in our lives that put distance between us and our Savior. It is the little things – the gradual slipping away – that results in that loss of fellowship. It is our unwillingness to surrender completely to the will and authority of Christ that begins the breakdown in our own fail-safes.

In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis hits the nail on the head:

“Christ says ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it… I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’”

Are you feeling like you are sinking? What are the little things that you need to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus? Find those, and you’ll find the lifeboat you need to carry on.