Sunday Review: Joy… and Snow

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Snow and church never seem to get along very well  – unless we’re talking about church in the mountains where everyone gets around on snowmobiles. In the Seattle area, it seems like everything comes screeching dramatically to a snail-like pace. The masses don’t know how to drive… people actually park their cars on the road and start walking!

Yesterday was one of those icy, snowy days. As pastors, we’re thinking things like: “should we hire someone to come plow the parking lot?” and “if it’s bad enough that the parking lot needs to be plowed, will anyone be driving in those conditions anyway?” and “should we just cancel church so people don’t have to risk their lives driving here?” and “if we cancel one or more of our services, how will we ever let people know?”

So, we eventually decided to go ahead with church as planned. No snow plow. No late start. No cancelled service. Just marching on with our regular services…

I wondered if anyone would show up. I expected a very small turnout.

By our 8:30 leadership rally point meeting, the church was buzzing with activity. We had a great group of volunteers that came early and were ready to serve.

Our total attendance for the day was about half of what it normally is, but church was excellent, fun and well-worth the effort of driving in the snow.

We even had first-time guests in both services… Wow! You know those people really wanted to come to church – they pushed through the arctic conditions and intimidation of going somewhere for the first time, refusing to accept even “legitimate” excuses for not coming to church.

After the second service, a group of guys from the church met at Meeker Middle School for a serious game of football… in the snow! It was awesome, a blast.

The message on Sunday was #3 in the Kingdom Christmas series… on joy.

Luke 2:10
…I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem

Jesus was a baby. He didn’t begin his ministry until he was 30 years of age. He didn’t go to the cross & die for our sins until he was 33 years old.

The joy was about something that could be seen down the road – it was about something that was not immediate – yet it was certain, destined, promised & was sure to happen.

The good news that brings great joy to all people – the birth of Jesus Christ – was an event, but that event would be incomplete without a process.

What did Jesus do until he began his ministry at the age of 30? The answer is found in Luke 2:52 – Jesus grew in wisdom & stature & favor with God & man.

Events are significant but they are incomplete without a process that follows…

Hebrews 12
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

Verse 2 in the New King James Version –
…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus wasn’t near-sighted. He was able to see the prize, reward, blessing, promise that was at a distance – which is why he was willing to endure the cross.

Why do we stop trying, bail out, drop out, quit, move on, and leave? Because we only see the immediate – we are so caught up with the discomfort of the moment that we lose sight of the goal, reward, or prize.

Jesus has 20/20 vision. We need “Jesus glasses” – the ability to see what Jesus sees.

We tend to overestimate the significance of events & underestimate the significance of process.

Events that produce the sensation of pleasure or happiness do not last –

Likewise, events that produce the sensation of pain or discomfort do not last –
Saving instead of spending
Eating healthy
Waiting for marriage
Talking through a difficult issue with someone

Events are good for making decisions but only process produces consistent growth.

Thank God for events but they are limited in what they can achieve.
Don’t attempt to build your life on events, rather, embrace the process.

Naaman threw a fit when the prophet didn’t come out and wave his hand over Naaman’s leprosy. He was looking for something spectacular and dramatic. Instead, Elisha sent a message through his servant for Naaman to go dunk himself in the Jordan river 7 times.

Naaman wanted an event but his cure was at the end of a process.

Galatians 6:9
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

A harvest of blessing is waiting for you
Joy awaits you, so…

Don’t give up
Don’t back down
Don’t quit now
Don’t lose heart
Don’t settle for something else
Don’t stop short
Don’t take the quick fix

Get your “Jesus glasses” on & see the prize, the reward, the promise, the blessing…

Psalm 30:5b
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 126
5 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.
6 They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.

Joy says, it might be tough right now, but I’m not giving up because my blessing is right around the corner.

Joy says this current pain is just a minor nuisance compared to the incredible reward that will be mine soon.

Joy says… Our marriage is difficult right now – but we will grow through this & experience the joys that come with the lifetime covenant of marriage.

Joy says… I don’t  always feel goose bumps when I read my Bible – but I am committed to the process of becoming more like Jesus, which is deeply satisfying & rewarding.

Joy says… I don’t need a quick fix, a hit, a pill, a drink, a shopping binge, a random sexual encounter, or a lotto ticket – because I’ve come to realize that these things leave me broke, hurt, lonely, hungry, addicted, strung-out, unsatisfied & always wanting more.

Joy says… I will embrace the process – the process of learning, growing, improving, changing, being transformed, of raising my kids to know Jesus, of working on my marriage even when it’s uncomfortable, of being smart with my money when everyone else is charging away, of serving my church when others are hopping from place to place, of becoming whole not just full of Christian clichés.

Psalm 34:5
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

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Leadership Insights From Daniel 4

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Leadership isn’t about YOU – it’s about OTHERS.

Too many leaders are concerned about THEIR title, power, authority, perks, rights, place, agenda, comfort, etc.

Great leadership is motivated by a genuine desire to HELP OTHERS .


Daniel was quickly promoted. He was a success story. God’s favor was on his life and Nebuchadnezzar (the king Daniel served) benefited from having Daniel “on his team.”

Daniel certainly received the perks of leadership. Not only was Daniel promoted but he was also showered with gifts and the “extras” that seem to go along with leadership positions.

One thing I noticed about Daniel is that HE BROUGHT OTHERS WITH HIM AS HE RECEIVED PROMOTIONS.

Daniel 2
47 The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret.”
48 Then the king appointed Daniel to a high position and gave him many valuable gifts. He made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon, as well as chief over all his wise men.
49 At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be in charge of all the affairs of the province of Babylon, while Daniel remained in the king’s court.

Notice what verse 49 says, “At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be in charge…”

Daniel saw to it that his friends were promoted. He didn’t have to. He could have left them in the dust as he moved on to bigger and better things… but he made sure that his buddies were brought up along with him.

Leadership Thoughts:

As you grow to new levels, make sure you bring people with you!

Promote others.

Believe in people. Believe in them more than they believe in themselves. Help them accomplish more than they could on their own.

By the way – that last point is my life mission statement: I exist to believe in people more than they believe in themselves and to help them accomplish more than they ever could on their own.

Leadership Insights From Daniel 3

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Daniel was incredible confident as a young leader. He wasn’t cocky, arrogant or masking some deep insecurities with an over-exaggerated “fake confidence.”

His confidence wasn’t in himself… it was in God.

Daniel knew he was loved very much by God. He knew he was called by God. He knew that the favor of God was on his life.

Daniel 9

21 As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came…

22 He explained to me, “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding.

23 The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision.

Daniel 10

11 …(He) said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up…

12 Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.

19 “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!”

Leadership Insights:

As a leader, I must be confident… that God has called me, chosen me & loves me.

Leadership Insights From Daniel 2

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Daniel was a young leader serving in a foreign land. He trusted and obeyed God (this was not the status quo in Babylon).

Daniel was unwilling to do what everyone else was doing. He didn’t feel the need to feed on all the same things being offered to the other young people…

Daniel 1

5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel,

10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,

12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.

13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”

14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.

16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.

19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service.

20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

In Daniel’s case, he resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine (as a Jew, he followed strict dietary rules under the Old Testament law).

As a leadership principle, I believe we must make tough decisions about what we will and will not participate in.

Some things may be AVAILABLE for our enjoyment, but not everything is BENEFICIAL.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is beneficial. – 1 Corinthians 10:23

Daniel resolved… it was his decision. He had the courage to say “no thank-you.” He chose to do things a little differently… and because of it, he excelled.


Leaders are willing to say “no thank you” to some things.

Leaders choose not to do what everyone else is doing.

Leaders make tough decisions from a place of conviction.


Are there some things I have been saying “yes” to that I should be saying “no thank you” to?

What are some things “everyone else is doing” that would produce no benefit in my life as a leader?

What difficult decisions or resolutions do I need to make from a place of conviction?

Leadership Insights From Daniel

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I love the story of Daniel – a young man of faith who is given leadership opportunities in a foreign land. Daniel rises to the challenge, leads with excellence and is promoted. The other young leaders become jealous and start looking for some “dirt” on Daniel… they find nothing, and realize the only way to get Daniel is to go after his faith.

Daniel 6
1 Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province.
2 The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests.
3 Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.
4 Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy.
5 So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.”

Leadership insights from Daniel –

He was a capable leader and had great ability.

He was without fault – there was nothing to condemn or criticize.

He was faithful – always responsible & completely trustworthy.

The only grounds for accusation was in connection with the rules of his religion.

All of the church leadership scandals that I know of have nothing to do with faith or the “rules of our religion.” Rather, they are about things that even the world considers bad (stealing money, taking someone else’s wife, lying, etc.).

God’s church deserves quality leaders… leaders like Daniel – leaders who are capable and have great ability, leaders who are without fault, leaders who cannot be condemned or criticized, leaders who are faithful, leaders who are responsible, and leaders who are completely trustworthy.

Let’s be leaders like Daniel!