I would like to take this opportunity to share with each of you some of the major principles that have shaped my philosophy of ministry over the years. It has been my joy to serve the Lord in a number of different churches across the country. I have served the Lord in Flint, Michigan, Midland Michigan, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and then Grand Blanc, Michigan. I have been here in Grand Blanc since 1982. During these years I have tried very hard to live up to the principles that I have found in the Word of God. I trust that these thoughts that I will share with you will not only bless you but help you to think biblically in every area of your life.
1. Live for the glory of God. This is the most important principle that we can use to shape our lives and our decisions. Paul says, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Whenever I make any decision for my life or for the Church I always ask myself, "What will bring God the most glory?" God's glory trumps everything in my life. That is the most important thing. We should all live with this foremost in mind in all that we do both in or out of the Church.
2. Let love be prominent attribute in your life. Jesus said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13:34-35. Love is the one way that we can show the world that we belong to Christ. Love must be the most visible characteristic in our lives. Love should manifest itself in the following ways.
* Love your enemies.
* Love those who oppose you or disagree with you.
* Be patient with those who are stubborn and hard to work with.
* Be forbearing with those who are difficult to work with or who might annoy you.
* Be kind to those who are often unkind or mean spirited.
* Don't speak behind some one's back by gossiping, backbiting, or slandering people.
* Be slow to criticize, complain, grumble or pout.
* Be swift to forgive.
* Don't hold grudges, keep score, or judge people by what happened in the past.
* Give people the benefit of the doubt.
* Be approachable. That means be a good listener, empathize and care for people.
3. It is more blessed to give than to receive. This is taught to us by the Lord Jesus and was quoted by the Apostle Paul in Acts chapter 20:35. I have felt that God's people must learn the wonderful principle of what I call "godly generosity." God Himself was the most generous giver when He gave His Son to be our Savior. Being generous to the poor, the needy, and those people that we are able to bless when it is in our power to do so makes us truly godly. Generosity is just one attribute of being a godly Christian. If we are to err let it be on the side of being gracious and generous to our brothers and sisters in Christ. I have always tried to put the needs, the concerns, and the feelings of other people before my own. This is one principle that I have tried to follow over the years. One of the ways that I have tried to demonstrate this was by taking care of the Lord's servants. I have been on the receiving end of unjust criticism, hateful remarks and misrepresenting attacks. I have known the betrayal of those that I thought were friends. I have felt the wounds that unkind words can cause. Because of this, I have tried to be a friend to other ministers in a way that I often needed, but many times never received. Therefore, I have sought to honor God's servants every way I can. When we have been privileged to have some of the choice servants of God in our midst at Berean Baptist I have tried to have our church show them the respect, kindness, and generosity that is becoming to a servant of God. Of course this applies to all the body as well. Let us seek this godly and generous spirit to all that we meet in life both in the ministry and to all the family of God. Whenever we have an opportunity to help, to serve, to honor, to be thoughtful to those in the body of Christ we should do so and do it with joy. It is a shame when people look at some in the Church and say they are like Scrooge. Let us be like Christ!
4. Live in the spirit of praise. It is very important that we all live in the atmosphere of praise. God inhabits the praises of His people. That means when God's people praise Him He is pleased to draw near. This is one way to ensure that the presence of God is with us. We must be a praising people. It is always easier to be negative, critical, mean spirited, and be a complainer. Why is this so? I would suggest it is because it is in our fallen nature to be this way. Oddly, some people have actually thought that a critical spirit is being godly or Christ like. I think this is a mistake. There are times, to be sure, that we must correct, rebuke, and confront sin in the lives of those in the church. But we must aim at being a people that are positive, friendly, loving, and gracious with all that we meet. If you read the book on legendary coach John Wooden entitled "Wooden" one of the main things that comes out of that book is that this gracious Christian coach and gentleman lived in this manner. Wooden over and over again makes comments about this attitude of complaining, whining, and grumbling. We need to be seen as a different people. We are the people of God and need to live in the spirit and atmosphere of praise. I have tried to do this myself and I urge all of our church family to aim at this noble goal of being a people known for their praise and love of God. Let us live our lives in the habit of praising God. This means that we should not be found praising God while at the same time we are tearing our brothers or sisters down by our criticism and complaining.
5. Learn to die to self on a daily basis. Dying to self is one of the principles that I have tried to live by over the years. Dying to self means simply means we do not live by putting our wishes, our wants, our needs, our feelings before others. We must learn to die to these things. We must live by the great principles of Christ and always think of others first before we think of ourselves. It is not easy to die to self. It is very natural to demand our rights. It is a part of our fallen nature to want to seek revenge, to get even, to keep score, and to put our feelings first. But this is not the Christ like thing to do. Let us all aim to so live before a holy God that we will seek to die to self on a daily basis. The body of Christ is greatly honored and esteemed when its members live in this way. The great Christians of history have been people who have practiced this virtue of dying to self. Our heroes should be godly Christians who have modeled this noble behaviour that makes us like the Lord Jesus Christ.
6. Be filled with the Spirit. It should be the goal of the Christian to be filled with God's holy Spirit on a daily basis. Paul the Apostle lists the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. When a Christian is filled with the Spirit these fruits will be visible in their actions and daily life. This is crucial to everything that we do. Most of the problems we face in our marriages, our work, our families, and in all of our human relationships can be traced to a lack of being spiritual in this sense of having our lives conformed to Christ. A spiritual man or woman will have great advantages over the person who lives in the flesh. To be filled with the Holy Spirit means that we must ask God to fill us on a daily basis. We must pray and ask the Lord to take control of our lives, to enable us to live in the power of His holy Spirit and in the power of his presence. This is not an option. Every Christian must seek to be filled with God's Holy Spirit every day of their lives. The future and the glory of the Church depends on our obedience here. Many times the quarrels, the disputes, the wrangling, and the fighting in the Church are due to the fact that the parties involved are not filled and walking in the Spirit. Let us make sure that this is our daily goal. No one should serve in the Church in any capacity if they cannot make this commitment to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to walk in His power and in His presence on a daily basis.
These are just some of the principles that I am trying to live by. No one is perfect. We all make many mistakes and have many failures to be forgiven from and to overcome. But if we will seek to live for Jesus by implementing these simple principles we will see the glory of God fill our Church. To this grand end may we all live.
God bless you all.