Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Conviction To Lead - By Albert Mohler

 Today, so many good ministries of conviction try to get you to support the teaching ministry of so-and-so in such a way as if the truth of God's Word will die unless the particular personality of that ministry/leadership of so-and- so survives.  Mohler's work is a 'breath of fresh air', so to speak, in the seemingly ever present Déjà vu era of "I am of Paul, I am of Apollos…Calvin, Arminius,…etc." Mohler's premise is that,  "There are no indispensable people, only indispensable convictions."  Truth will not die in the death of its teacher.   Even if so-and-so's particular ministry does not survive, eternal truths that they spread, even if only in the hearts of a few, will survive, regardless of the ministries demise.  God chooses by what means His truth will be spread and He may choose to end particular ministries and simply spread the truth by individuals transformed by the truths that they taught.  As the author states, "A legacy is what is left in the wake of a great leader…. The plans and visions of the leader will be outdated soon after his burial…what matters is that convictions survive…The wise leader does not try to perpetuate matters of style or taste, or even plans and programs.  The leader who aims at legacy aims to perpetuate conviction….In truth, there are no indispensable people, only indispensable convictions.  The convictions came before us and will last when we are gone.  Truth endures when nothing else can…."

Mohler delves into the many essentials of leading, all with the basis of conviction:  Leading  through communication,  teaching, repetition, thinking, teaching your followers how to think, setting the example, writing, managing well...etc.  Keeping in mind that time is short; remembering that your leadership position is God-given and that you are actually a steward accountable to Him.  He notes that "The Christian leader must have mental reflexes that correspond to biblical truth.  When something happens or an issue arises, the leader's mind must engage the right intellectual reflex.  Once the reflex is engaged, the process of the thought is already far down the road.  If the reflex is wrong, the leader is in danger - and so are all those he leads."
One of the things Mohler points out  is that leadership is not merely having 'knowledge'.   "Knowledge is fundamental, but convictional intelligence is not merely knowledge.  If this were the case, all the leader would need is a comprehensive and biblical encyclopedia close at hand.  This raises the issue of how leaders actual lead:  They make decisions and chart a direction….He [God] gave us the ability to process that knowledge and exercise reason.  He even gave us the ability to think about thinking.  But as the leader exercises the role of leadership, that thinking must be translated into something more automatic, something that does not require a constant process of thinking and rethinking everything the leader knows.  IF that sounds complicated, just consider how you awoke, got dressed and started your morning.  By now most of the actions you took have been forgotten….  You did not have to look for the kitchen because you did not have to think about how to get there…..Why?  Your intelligence was at work in all of those actions, but you were primarily operating out of habit, reflex, and intuition - three realities that point to the need for convictional intelligence....  If we had to rethink how to tie our shoes every morning, we would never get anything else done.  Much of our lives is lived out of habits of action, and most of these habits never rise to our active consciousness….We all know that we have habits of action, but we also operate out of habits of mind.  We did intellectual ruts that our minds grow accustomed to following."

One of the ways he brings up to help exercise and build mental reflexes is reading books and reading them critically.  The most important book for us to read is the Bible, and of course, critical reading reverses when you come to the Scriptures, the critical eye and thought must be applied to oneself and ones thoughts and not the word of God. The Word of God is the critique of us.   As Mohler writes, "Think of reading like you think of eating.  In other words, pay attention to your diet.  For the Christian, the highest reading priority is the Word of God.  Our spiritual maturity will never exceed our knowledge of the Bible." We Christians get our convictions from God's Word.  And "Until conviction is transformed into action it makes no difference in the world."

I thought this book was very 'gripping', perhaps more so because my dad(a pastor/leader)has already been talking about a lot of these things, and its neat to get a repeat of them in this book. This book is a good shove in the right direction.  I'll end my review, as I usually do, with one last quote from the book(though I could put in several more):  "Every leader needs to know the reality that we will die one day and that others will take our place.  Hopefully, these new leaders will bring talents and abilities and vision greater than our own.  Our greatest concern, however, is that they come with a wealth of convictions. Otherwise, all that we build can be turned against the very truths we have championed."

Thanks To Bethany House Publishers for sending me a free copy of this book to review! (My review did not have to be favorable)

One of the places where this book may be purchased is at Amazon.com

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Twelve Unlikely Heroes

This book was much better than the only other book in the series I have read, Twelve Extraordinary Women, which did not capture my attention very well.  I'm not sure that I can pinpoint why, but this 3rd book in the 'Twelve' series really started my thought processes more in regards to the characters dealt with, and God's usage of them. 

I'll say at the start that I appreciate that MacArthur doesn't try to make you see types in the people and events discussed, but takes the people and events as literal. And so takes the inspired apostle Paul literally when he said that " Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work. (2Ti 3:16-17 ASV) Which I would assume to mean that every inspired scripture is profitable as it is, without having to change it into allegory for it to be profitable.  As an example of this, in dealing with Sampson,  the author uses Sampson as an example for teaching and instruction in righteousness, stating that "His[Sampson's] fatal attraction to pagan women was not only the pattern of his life, but proved to be the path to his death.  If Sampson were Superman, his own sinful desires were his kryptonite.  He could kill a lion, but not his lust.  He could break new ropes, but not old habits. He could defeat armies of Philistine soldiers, but not his own  flesh.  He could carry away the gates of a city but allowed himself to be carried away when lost in passion."  MacArthur draws insights from literal Scripture, in his chapter on Jonah he notes that "The pagan sailors recognize the Lord's power over creation and worship Him as a result.  The pagan King of Nineveh likewise recognizes God's sovereign hand.  Surprisingly, the only person who resists God is Jonah - the prophet of Israel who acknowledged the Lord's sovereignty with his lips (Jonah1:9)yet rebelled against it with his life."  And all this without any of the characters or objects in the historical accounts having to symbolize Christ. 

For the most part, Macarthur keeps the focus on what the Scriptures actually say.  When dealing with James the brother of Christ, and how many people wonder about Jesus' childhood and that there are myths about miracles He performed as a youth, It is pointed out that "The normalcy of Jesus' childhood and early adulthood is confirmed by the fact that when He began His public ministry, His former neighbors in Nazareth did not believe Him to be the Messiah."  
Now for the negative.  "From the beginning, the Lord elected Israel to be a nation of Missionaries.  As His chosen people, they were to be a light to the Gentiles - a people so passionate in their devotion to the Lord and zealous for other nations to love and worship the true God that their corporate testimony would reverberate throughout the world….the people of Israel as whole failed in their missionary task……When Jonah rebelled against the Lord's command and ran in the opposite direction, he epitomized the collective failure of the nation of Israel." Where is Israel ever told that they were to be Missionaries to the Gentiles?  I know that they will be Missionaries of a sort in the Millennial Kingdom, but where are they ever commanded to attempt to 'convert' people on this side of things?  God Himself commanded them to wipe out the other nations as they were moving into the promised land, not to evangelize them.  From the Scriptures,  I understand that they were to be sanctified from the nations around them, and to welcome strangers/aliens, not to actively pursue them as possible converts.  Besides this, MacArthur sometimes delves into the realm of speculation when he states the possible feelings and thoughts of various characters.  There are some other things, but I’m sure they'll be noticed by the studied reader.

That stated, it was an interesting look at the lives of these 'twelve unlikely heroes'(though I have some trouble with the word 'hero' but I can overlook it).   MacArthur states "Some heroes are made in a moment.  Others are  defined by a lifetime." And most importantly, as he points out, "Noah did not preserve the ark in the midst of the flood; Abraham did not make himself the father of a great nation; Joshua did not cause the walls of Jericho to fall down; and David did not defeat Goliath on his own.  In each of these well-known examples, and in every other case, the Hero behind the heroes is always the Lord.  In literature, the hero is the main protagonist, the principle character, and the central figure of the narrative.  That is certainly true of God throughout the pages of Scripture.  He is the One who always provides the victory.  It is His power, His wisdom, ,and His goodness that are continually put on display - even when He utilizes human instruments to accomplish His purposes.  Consequently, all the glory belongs to Him. "   I'll let the back cover of the book provide the ending statements as it well sums it up: Speaking of these 'heroes',  "Scripture does not hide their weaknesses, caricature their strengths, or spin their stories as a display of human nobility.  Instead it describes these heroes of the faith with unflinching honesty and delivers an unexpected ending:  'God is not ashamed to be called their God' (Hebrews 11:16)"

 I received this book as a complimentary copy from BookSneeze® in exchange for my review(which does not have to be favorable).
 I review for BookSneeze®