The Christian Effectiveness Officer (C.E.O.) (Clayton Pruett) — SBC Voices

Over the last few years, a stunning shift has taken place in church culture. Successful, influential, and powerful pastors are being dismissed from their churches. Not for the typical moral failures or money scandals but for unhealthy leadership practices. Why has this become such an issue? Understanding the problem The simplified version is that decades…

The Christian Effectiveness Officer (C.E.O.) (Clayton Pruett) — SBC Voices

Nature Reveals God’s Perfection to Us All

Years ago, a friend and I took a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. It was a short trip via the nation’s premier hiking path. For us, it was a mere three days and two nights. Many others hikers take months to cover the entire 2,200-mile foot path from Georgia to Maine. As we hiked near Damascus, Virginia, when the spring blooms were fresh on the trees, we were awe struck by the beauty God’s handiwork.

Taking a break at the top of a hill, a silver, rock-strewn creek meandered along the bottom. Fresh magnolias bloomed. The colors of the painter’s palette treated our eyes and the smell of the exploding forest surrounded us. Such beauty makes me think of how it must have been at creation.

“God is everywhere. Take a step outside and you will be surrounded by the intricacies and fascinating systematic creation that was created by our God. He is in the mountains, the beaches, jungles, ocean depths, prairies, farmland, deserts, and valleys,” Mandy Smith writes on her website, https://www.ibelieve.com/faith

God’s handiwork is all around us. That’s why Romans 1:20 struck me so.

For His invisible attributes that is eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen since the creation of the world being understood through what He made.

Question: How have we known God’s handiwork and not recognized Him as creator? How can we attribute nature’s awesomeness to the Big Bang Theory or evolution without proof evidence.

A long time ago, I accepted that God created the world. I acknowledged that it was not a random collection of molecules from a primal swamp as the evolutionists claim. Why? Exhibit A is the majesty of the human body. How else could the body come into existence with the merger of two cells, yet grow to–in some cases—more than seven-feet tall and live for more than 100 years? How else is just the right amount of blood run through our veins? How else do a man and a woman come together to produce a child?

Think for a moment about your body and how magnificent it is. The brain is the best computer ever invented. The eyes are unmatched by any optical lens. We–unlike any other animal– can use tools to make marvelous things like airplanes.

How appropriate that we don’t have to search too far for an answer to how this came into being. This question was answered in the first verses of the Bible. As if God positioned it in the first verse of the first chapter for emphasis.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, Genesis 1:1

Application: Have you accepted that God created the world and accepted Jesus Christ as your savior? If not, why not? To become a Christian, pray this simple prayer.

Father, I know that I am a sinner and that distance from you to me is huge. I am sorry for my sins. I’m asking that you forgive them. I accept that Christ died for my sins and the sins of all. Jesus, take over my life and lead me on the right path. I cannot do this alone. Send the Holy Spirit into my life. Amen.

Then, find a Bible-based, local church that can help you grow in your walk with Christ.


Finding Your Way

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          “All a person’s ways seem pure to the, but motives are weight by the Lord, Proverbs 16: 2 (NIV)

I remember when I was a Boy Scout being taught how to use a compass.  We were in the middle of a grassy, open field in a large Michigan forest on a sunny summer day.  Mr. Maxwell, our Scoutmaster, held a compass with a clear plastic base on to which was attached a dial with a red magnetic needle. Orient the magnetic needle to find north.

“If you have a compass,”  I remember him saying, “you can always find north.”  Once you know north, you can find out where you outta be.”  Likewise the Bible is our moral compass.  Whether it’s deciding right or wrong in behavior, business decisions or national politics, the words of the Lord should be our guide.

What is your moral compass?  How do you decide what’s right or wrong?  Is it what your mother taught you?  Is it popular opinion?  Is it legal versus illegal?  Is it the likelihood of getting caught?

A compass can prevent you from making bad decisions, guiding the way at every crossroad in life. Like a hidden blind spot on a road, the Bible warns you about what’s around the corner.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” we are reminded in Jeremiah 29:11.

The Bible, as the compass, always points to the path you should take, and is a guide to the decisions we make.

A Different Way of “Reading” the Bible

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“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” Romans 10:17  (ESV)

We all know that the Bible is the word of God, that it is the most read book in human history (estimates of 6 billion copies printed), and that there are more than 6,900  translations.  But is reading the best way to absorb the word of God?  Are there advantages to hearing it?

Recently, I fell behind in my effort to read the Bible through in a year.  Something always got in the way:  Meetings, work, family time.  Reading the Bible was pushed to the side.  I didn’t want to be a slacker.  I wanted to keep this commitment.

Then, I remembered that several years ago I listened to the Bible on CDs.  I enjoyed the richness of the Lord’s teaching, but somehow in the move from Indiana to North Carolina, the CDs got lost.  Should I buy another set?  Was this my answer for staying up on my read-the-Bible-through-in-a-year assignments?  Could I stream the Bible for free online?

No.  Yes.  Yes.  I eventually found out.  I decided to avoid the cost of a new set of CDs because I could listen for free from multiple sources.  This was the answer.

This new way of “reading” turned dead time into useful time.  For example, on my 30-minue weekly trip to Wilmington, I listen to more than my daily assignment.  I hear the Bible while making a pot of  beef stew, doing yoga, or riding the exercise bike.

Sites to download or stream the Bible are plentiful on the Internet.   All I had to do was click on the speaker icon on Biblegateway.com to hear the word in the elegant voice of Max McLean read Exodus to Revelation.  Unlike me, Max doesn’t stumble over names of places like Kiriathiam or names of people like Jehoichin.  But there are other great site too, including Biblestudytools.com, audiobible.com, and theonlineword.com, to name just a few.

Whether you read the Bible, as has been done for thousands of years, or listen to Scripture through online streaming or downloads–as we’ve done the last 30 years or so, the truths of the Bible are a priceless guide.
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A Prayer Brings A Second Chance

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          I met Claire (not her real name) when I met with a business group at a local coffee shop.  When the meeting was over, Claire casually mentioned she’s recovering from two debilitating diseases (Lyme and Chron’s diseases) and they have taken their toll on her body for nearly two decades:  not being able to get out of the bed for months on end, a neighbor repeatedly finding her sprawled on the floor where she had fallen, not driving for five years, and, worst of all, almost total loss of her memory.  Then she told me about her miraculous healing.
 
     
          I was fascinated to hear her story.  My enthrallment increased because I had started a book on prayer, and I was petitioning to have people with interesting prayer stories identify themselves to me.  Actually, two people identified themselves on the same Saturday, a minor miracle itself.  I’ll tell you about the other amazing recovery from cancer in the near future.
          I knew that Claire and I did not have time then to chat, so I invited the small, 50-ish woman to meet me for coffee the following week.   This story poured out as Claire, dressed stylishly in jeans with the knees out, a white sleeveless top, and tear-drop earring that moved back and forth as she shook her head.
     Formerly an executive with a company that included frequent travel, she was forced to live on disability.  “I hated sitting still and not working,” she said as we sat at a small, rectangular table in the empty children’s section of the coffee shop.  The privacy of being hidden by bookshelves allowed us to talk freely.
     A native of a mid-western village of about 500, “I finally decided to leave,” she says.  Then Claire, who has other past traumas, explained what it was like for a friend she had worked with two years earlier to try to give her a hug, only to have her recoil in fear because she didn’t know who was a friend and who was trying to hurt her.  “I started shaking and crying,” she said.  Then, the hurt expression on that his face asking;  “How can you not know me?  I could see how much it hurt him.” The woman who used to do math calculations in her head and a normal recall of people and places, could not remember much besides her parents, who took control of her life, including her financial affairs.
  
     Finally, she recalls, the pain, fear, anguish became too strong and sitting on her bed, she took a handful of pills, narcotics, painkiller and whatever else she could find in a suicide attempt.  Reds, yellows and other colors of the rainbow, from a nearby nightstand.
                When I lie down I say,
                ‘When shall I arise [and the night be gone]?’
                 But the night continues,
                And I am continually tossing until the dawning of day, Job 7:4          (Amplified Bible)
          She remembers, like an out-of-body experience, the ambulance squad responding.  Hearing a paramedic asking:  ‘Who’s going to tell her dad?”  Smelling the strong odor of tobacco on the breath a female EMT.   And plans to take her body to a nearby funeral home.  “They all were crying.”  It was a town where everyone knew each other.
          Then the strangest thing happened.  She woke up.  She looked around the bedroom, and the pills–every one— was laying on a table across the room!  How’d they get there?  She says that a pile of books, her Shih-Tzu dog, and other stuff on her bed did not allow her to simply reach over to the table.  Even if they had not, because of the queen-sized bed, it was too far to reach.
          She was dazed and angry.  “Why God,” she asked, “did I wake up?”
What happened to the ambulance crew?  Were they there?  
How could it be?  She remembered taking the pills, putting them in her mouth, swallowing them.  The bitter taste.
          Did she really take them?  Was it a just a vivid dream?  Did God spiritually intervene?
          Claire, who describes herself now as “a real strong believer,” thinks it was God, and so do I.  He may have been telling her it was not the time for death.  That she is needed here. Or that He has other plans for her life.  Claire would tell a skeptic, “You can take it for what  its worth, but I took those pills.”
  
          Not a Christian at the time, Claire decided some things needed to change.  She met a personal trainer who led her to faith in Christ.  Now, she describes herself as a “seer,”  who believes in supernatural things.  “I go out with the expectation of seeing God’s work every day.” She calls them “God bumps–what we might call goosebumps–describing God work.  “Whenever I share about God’s mercy and blessings, I don’t want to call them goosebumps,” like the bumps on your arms that might be caused by a scary situation.
           Part of the change was getting away from people who knew her but she didn’t know and moving to a seaside Atlantic Ocean town.
          Since then, Claire has founded a nonprofit organization that promotes awareness of Lyme Disease, adopted a daughter, and started her life again.  All of which, lest to say, would not have been possible if the suicide attempt had been successful.
          She frequently walks and takes pictures on the nearby beach.  Nearing the one-year anniversary of moving with her daughter–Claire shows a picture of the teenager standing at the water’s edge, silhouetted against the rising morning sun.  The girl has her hands raised above her head like a football referee signaling a score.  It is symbolic of their new North Carolina life.   It is a tale of a Job-like transformation from despair to triumph, as Claire continues to walk with God.
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Starting a Conversation with a Stranger

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“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling,” 1 Peter 4:8

I admit it, I am not the most hospitable person on the world. I’m one of those persons who never learned to smile. Most of the time, I’m stone faced.  I’m a proud introvert.  I don’t mean to be standoffish, but sometimes I am.

But is that an effective witness for Christ? Was Jesus an introvert?  How many opportunities to witness have you, and I, missed?  For example, when Jesus was travelling through hostile Samaria and stopped by a well.  He starts a conversation with a woman, then offers her “living water,”  as told in John 4:10.  A pretty extroverted act.

Clearly, Jesus was not an introvert. He often started conversations with strangers.  And we must emulate Him. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

We must be bold in sharing!  While screaming the gospel on a street corner may not be the best way to share, we do not want to be a closet Christian either.  “But whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in Heaven,” it says in Matthew 10:33.

We must be hospitable to others.  Our kindness will create opportunities to witness.

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“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Who Would You Die for, There is No Greater Love?

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“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” John 15:13

Who would you die for?

Would that decision be spontaneous, like your sister is drowning in a lake and you try to rescue her even though you can’t swim?  Or have you already made the choice, such as if your  family is ever in danger, you’ll gladly step in front of a bullet if that’s would keep them safe.  Or a friend needs a kidney transplant, you volunteer despite the risk to your own health. Or a combat soldier who will follow orders even though he will be open to machine gun fire?

Jesus made the choice to die for us on the cross.  Because gave his life so our sins are washed away and He serves as an intercessor for us in Heaven.  What a friend is He?

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He made the choice to follow His Father’s decision that He be ransomed for our sin.  “Father, if you are will, take this cup from me: yet not my will, but yours be done,” Luke 22:42.

Giving up your life is never easy, but “if you haven’t found something you are willing to die for, you aren’t fit to live,”  says the Rev.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who gave his life for  what he believed.

What would you die for?