This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

This photo I took a few summers ago shows the neighbor’s cows lounging around on a lazy afternoon.  I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps we are guilty of doing the same thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Everyone needs time to relax, unwind, and do absolutely nothing sometimes.  However, as a general rule, we need to be busy about the Father’s work.  So I wondered today if it’s only me, or do any of the rest of you seem to be moooooving rather slowly.

Mondays can certainly seem to come around two or three times a week.  And we check our to-do lists, calendars, and phones to discover we have more to-do’s on our list than we have time marked to be with the Lord.

As yet another new week is ahead of us, it is my prayer, and may it be yours, that we will get moooooving right along.  God is a very patient God.  Yet, He commands us to go, to preach, to teach, to share, and to love on our neighbors.  Come on, beef up your efforts.  There is much work to be done!

Just a (corny) thought, yet again!

Till later.

Defense in Depth

By Dr. Kevin Dougherty,

In Ephesians 6:11, Paul admonishes us to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Paul then goes on to describe the parts of that armor. Each piece is vital and they work together as a whole, but the sword, shield, and breastplate are especially useful in creating for us a “defense in depth” that allows us to stand against temptation.

In Ephesians 6:17, Paul says to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The idea behind a defense in depth is to have several layers of protection that can defeat an enemy in detail rather than to run the risk of just one line of defense that must stand on its own. The sword is that part of the full armor of God that comprises our outermost layer of protection. A typical sword of Paul’s day was between two and two and a half feet long. Adding to that length the length of the soldier’s outstretched arm creates a space of four to five feet that the attacker must penetrate. The idea for both the soldier and the Christian is to use the sword before he is hopelessly entangled with the enemy.

The sword is primarily an offensive weapon that can cut, thrust, and stab. As an offensive weapon, the soldier uses the sword to take the initiative, to put the enemy at a disadvantage, and to defeat him. For the Christian, this offensive action translates in to being so engaged in doing God’s will and work that the devil has no opportunity to interfere. Although the old maxim “idle hands are the devil’s plaything” does not literally appear in the Bible, the idea is very consistent with passages such as 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-10. When we are fully engaged in bearing the fruits of the Spirit as a Christian neighbor, parent, son or daughter, friend, disciple, worker, boss, church member, caregiver, citizen, or anything else, the devil has very little opportunity to lead us astray. We are simply too busy and too invested in doing God’s will for the devil to get our attention.

In addition to this offensive focus, the sword serves a secondary function of being a defensive weapon. The soldier can use the sword to deflect, parry, or block an enemy’s attack. This capability for the Christian is especially relevant when we consider that the sword “is the word of God.” Psalm 119:11 tells us to hide God’s word in our hearts so that we might not sin against him. When we have internalized God’s word in this way, we have it readily available to use to counter the devil whenever he attacks us.

The next layer of defense is the shield. Shields are primarily defensive weapons that a soldier uses to protect himself from attack. The typical Roman shield measured about three and a half feet by one and a half feet by one foot so it was fairly large, but unlike the sword, the shield’s protection extended only as far as the soldier could extend his arm. The shield blocked threats that had evaded the soldier’s sword. Indeed, Ephesians 6: 16 tells us that this “shield of faith… can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” These arrows will likely come at us from different directions and at different times so we will need to keep alert and move our shield around to protect us from each attack. We cannot become complacent or let down our guard.

Although the shield is mainly a defensive weapon, it can also be used offensively to push against an attacker and knock him off balance. Matthew 5: 15-16 tells us to not hide our faith, and we can use our “shield of faith” to minister to others in a way that keeps us in God’s will and less vulnerable to the devil’s attacks.

Whatever temptations of the devil that get past our sword and shield must still deal with what Ephesians 6: 14 describes as “the breastplate of righteousness.” This breastplate is a coat of thick armor that is directly against the soldier’s body to either deflect or absorb blows. The breastplate doesn’t keep us from being attacked but it is how we build the resiliency, confidence, and skill to not succumb to attacks. It is by this breastplate that the promise of 1 Corinthians 10: 13 is fulfilled: “God is faithful: he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

In addition to these three pieces, we have a helmet of salvation, a belt of truth, and feet fitted with readiness to complete our armor. These three pieces represent a literal head, to middle, to toe network of protection, and that is another useful visual image of how God equips us. Between that totality and the defense in depth of the sword, shield, and breastplate we can indeed stand!

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

I took this picture several years ago in New Orleans.  The city of New Orleans, LA, is quite a place – filled with all the sights & sounds you can imagine.  There is good food, good music & entertainment, and interesting people.  However, one memory that makes me chuckle each time is that the most lasting impression my young daughters have of New Orleans is that “it stinks!”

We walked quite a bit around the Bourbon Street area and out to Jackson Square, and that was their main summary – “it stinks”.  Even in the fun, excitement, food, music, etc., there was the lingering smell of who-knows-what all around us.

Life is full of great opportunities from food & fun to people & places, but for some strange reason we seem to focus on the “stink” around us.

Instead of letting the tough parts of life affect how you view your week ahead, how about just dealing with the stink of it all and enjoying all the wonderful blessings and opportunities the Father has provided for you!

Praying you have a “stink-free” week ahead!  (And if you’re ever in New Orleans, try some fried alligator!  That’s one of the good memories!)

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

Well, I can’t speak personally about your part of the world, but here in ours, we have experienced all four seasons of the year within the last few days, along with tornado activity and snow flurries.  Not even the weather is constant.

This picture is of a robin.  Does that mean it’s spring time already?  No.  But, it can certainly be a reminder to us that spring is coming one day.  Better days are ahead.  For the Christian, there is always hope for tomorrow.

Perhaps you find yourself in the wintertime blues right now.  The weather is tough.  The world is tough.  And yet, none of that is constant either, thankfully!  It may have stormed lately, but the sun will shine brightest right after a storm.

Whether you are dealing with tough days right now or not, hold fast to the One Who is always constant, never changing, and never failing.  It may be dreary in your world today, but better days are always on the horizon for God’s children!  Praise Him for that this week!

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

These two fellows were part of our church’s Vacation Bible School crowd this past summer.  They were a source of entertainment for us, but they were also a source of information as well.  They helped tell our Bible stories.

You know, of course, that a puppet is only as good as its master.  A puppet will only go or do or “say” the things that the controller will allow.

Picture yourself as a puppet this week.  And as a puppet, you are at the will and the mercy of the one you let control your day.  The puppeteer will either be the devil, and your days will be at his whim, or the puppeteer will be the Lord, and His plan will become yours.

Regardless of what or who becomes your master, you automatically fall under the will and the control of that master.

So, puppet, who will be your master puppeteer in the week ahead?  To whom will you relinquish the control of yourself, allowing yourself to be led along at their mercy?  Unsure?  Try letting the Lord guide your week.  Sometimes the puppet show is funny, sometimes extraordinary, but always meaningful, and always for His good.

Just a thought.

Intrusive Spiritual Leadership

By Dr. Kevin Dougherty –

I recently was blessed by the opportunity to give my testimony at Uptown Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Everyone has his or her own experience in coming to Christ, but mine was certainly an example of 1 Corinthians 3: 6 where Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” I have had many “Apollos’s” in my life, and one I highlighted during my testimony was Ken Jenkins.

Ken and I worked together at Fort Benning, Georgia. My seed had long been planted by the time I met Ken, and my identification as a Christian was pretty well known in our office. Ken’s was generally less well known, but would soon become very important to me.

My desk was outside of our boss’s office and I was somewhat of his principal assistant as well as being one of the regular team members. Geography positioned me where my colleagues would pass by me several times a day going to or coming from the boss’s office, and the extra duty of being the boss’s principal assistant gave me a little extra work that was spared my colleagues. One otherwise nondescript day as Ken was going to see the boss, he nonchalantly asked me “How it was going.” Assuming this was at best the commonly gratuitous pleasantry and at worst a suggestion that I looked busier than usual, I responded with a noncommittal “Fine” and a small mention of the latest project the boss had me working on. I thought that would be the end of it, and that Ken would continue on into the boss’s office. Instead he stopped square in front of my desk, locked eyes with me, and with a new sense of intensity and caring asked, “Very good. How’s your Christian walk going?”

Ken and I had never talked about our faith so I was somewhat caught off guard by his asking, but not by the subject in general. I was well aware that I’d reached a certain plateau in my discipleship, but I’d ascribed it to several things I’d vowed to “get to later.” Ken had accelerated that process so I took the opportunity to tell him I felt fairly stagnated, but really hadn’t come up with a plan to do anything about it at present. Ken then provided me with that plan, inviting me to a small Bible study and accountability group led by Mike Bingham. Mike was both a more mature Christian and a more senior member of our organization, and he proved a wonderful and inspired mentor to Ken, me, and the others in our group. That experience launched me on a path to deeper study of the Bible, more spiritual discipline, growth in my personal relationship with Jesus, a better understanding of what it meant to be a Christian husband and father, and greater accountability with Christian brothers. Several Apollos’s blessed me with water throughout those experiences, but Ken is who I credit as the catalyst.

In my leader development job at The Citadel, I recognize what Ken did as an example of “involved” or “benevolently intrusive” leadership. Involved leaders interact with people on a level that transcends superficialities and reflects genuine concern and understanding of the relevant details of the person’s life. The involved leader uses communication and interpersonal skills, presence, and patience to have the situational awareness necessary to learn and meet other people’s legitimate needs. So instead of gratuitously saying, “Have a good weekend,” the involved leader asks, “Anything special going on this weekend? Are you going to watch the football game?” Instead of a casual “Good luck with your mid-term exams,” the involved leader asks, “I know you said you were worried about calculus. Do you think you’re ready? Is there anything I can do to help you?” Ken could have easily accepted my “Fine” as the end of our conversation, but as an involved leader—and as an involved Christian brother– he kept peeling back the onion until he found meaning. I am very blessed that he did.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

Do you ever look at a situation, a person, a news story, etc., and simply wonder, “Why?”  Well, this week, as I searched my photos for one to share with you, I ran across this one.  Last Spring, we were blessed to gather with a group of my wife’s family members on both sides and have a reunion.  In the middle of all the pictures of cousins was this photo of someone’s ham and cheese tray.

My first thought was, “Why?”  I didn’t take the picture.  Someone was snapping photos with my camera.  Why would there be a picture of the ham and cheese tray?

However, in the wondering of “why?”, comes the remembrances of a great day, wonderful visits, very good food, and a happy time.  So while I might not know just why someone borrowed my camera to snap a photo of the ham & cheese, it was a reminder of the good and savory time from a deliciously wonderful day.

In beginning a new year, we sometimes can only seem to focus on the people and things of last year that didn’t make it to this one.  As tough as that certainly can be, perhaps instead of focusing on the “Why?”, we can focus on the deliciously wonderful memories of times gone by.

As you kick off your new year, be thankful for the memories that push us on, be thankful for the new ones we plan to make this year, and accept the fact that even if we don’t know why the ham & cheese is there, we do know it was good!

Corny, maybe.  but sweet anyway.

Just a thought.

The “In, Out and Up” Leadership of Jesus

By Kevin Dougherty –

In a recent message at the First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Pastor Marshall Blalock described for us his vision of a church whose members were engaged in ministries that were directed “in, out, and up.” Looking in, he challenged us to be daily reading the Bible and praying. Looking out, he challenged us to share the Gospel with those around us. Looking up, he challenged us to stretch ourselves and grow in our walk with Christ.

As I pondered Pastor Blalock’s vision for our church, I was struck by the many intersections it had with the leader development work we do with cadets at The Citadel. I increasingly became convinced that the “In, Out, and Up” paradigm also had application for individual leaders. Bob Briner and Ray Pritchard call Jesus Christ “the greatest leader of all time,”[1] and his example certainly reflects the “In, Out, and Up” model.

When leaders look inward they build self-awareness and develop an array of leadership styles, tools, and techniques. It is hard to imagine Jesus having to prepare to be a leader, but the Bible tells us that that is indeed what happened. As he prepared to enter his public ministry, Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature.”[2] He spent time in the temple courts, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”[3] It was not until Jesus was about thirty years old that he began his public ministry after being baptized by John the Baptist.[4] Briner and Pritchard note that these thirty years were a period of preparation for Jesus as a leader.[5]

After being baptized, Jesus went in to the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and nights.[6] This was a time for Jesus to prepare for his ministry. He was tested by the devil and in each case responded with words from Scripture, reaffirming what Jesus valued and the frame of reference he would use moving forward. After this period of inward reflection and preparation, Jesus was ready to begin his ministry.

When leaders look outward, they develop relationships with those above them, lateral to them, and below them. After his time in the wilderness, Jesus began gathering the Twelve Apostles who would help him with his ministry.[7] Briner and Pritchard note that Jesus did not just passively receive his Apostles. He called them, and he did so with the leader’s maxim to “follow me.”[8] He taught these twelve and his other followers in a variety of ways. Sometimes he taught with sermons such as the Sermon of the Mount.[9] He taught often using parables, such as the Parable of the Sower.[10] Most powerfully, perhaps, he taught be example such as when he washed the disciples feet.[11] Regardless of the form of delivery, Briner and Pritchard attribute Jesus’s success as a leader who teaches as being that he taught with authority.[12] He gave them clear expectations and instructions when he sent out the Apostles.[13] He taught them skills, such as how to pray.[14] He organized them effectively and gave them authority to do certain things.[15] He cared for them, ensuring they had food and rest.[16] Briner and Pritchard note that Jesus modelled the recognition that “those you are leading can only be effective when their needs and the needs of their families are met.”[17] Jesus looked outward and, in the Apostles, recruited and trained a team of loyal followers and fledgling leaders.

When leaders look upward, they create growth in both themselves and others. Jesus was particularly careful to prepare his Apostles to continue the ministry without him. He warned them of possible deceptions and the hardships that lay ahead of them.[18] He explained that after he was gone, the Holy Spirit would come as “another advocate to help you and be with you forever.”[19] He prayed for their protection.[20] He specifically identified Peter as the rock on which he would build his church.[21] “Almost from the moment he called them,” Briner and Pritchard note, Jesus began preparing his disciples that “he would not always be with them. He wisely began to focus quite narrowly on those few who would be most capable of leadership when he was no longer there.”[22] Looking upward, Jesus ensured his followers were equipped to continue without him.

Today, Christianity is the world’s biggest religion, with over two billion followers. This is the result of the leadership of Jesus, both in his earthly and enduring ministries. Looking inward, outward, and upward, Jesus, is the best practical example of leadership in action.

[1] Among the many others who share this opinion are Bob Briner and Ray Pritchard, Leadership Lessons of Jesus, (NY: Gramercy Books, 1998), 1.

[2] Luke 2: 52.

[3] Luke 2: 46.

[4] Luke 3: 23.

[5] Briner and Pritchard, 25. See Matthew 4:18-22.

[6] Matthew 4: 2.

[7] Mark 3:13-19.

[8] Briner and Pritchard, 19.

[9] Matthew 5: 1-12.

[10] Matthew 13:1-9.

[11] John 13: 1-17.

[12] Briner and Pritchard, 25.

[13] Matthew 10-1-15.

[14] Matthew 6: 5-15.

[15] Mark 6:7 and Matthew 10:1-4.

[16] Mark 6:30-33.

[17] Briner and Pritchard, 27.

[18] Matthew 24: 4-35.

[19] John 14:16.

[20] John 17:16-19.

[21] Matthew 16:18.

[22] Briner and Pritchard, 127.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

As 2018 draws to a close, we of course look for the new year of 2019 to quickly arrive.  As that new year arrives, many folks make resolutions.  Some just vow to do differently.  Most of us hope and pray for great days ahead.

This week’s picture is of a heron on the pond behind our house.  I chose this picture for you this week because it was the very first picture I took on my camera in 2018.  The last picture I’ve taken this year is of a Christmas gathering of our family.

The heron stands tall as it closely watches the water for its next meal, anticipating all that is ahead.  He pictures a good new year’s start – taking care of needs, but at the same time, looking ahead in awe as to what will come next.

My last photo for the year, a gathering of many of my family members, does not necessarily represent an end to anything.  Rather, it celebrates all that we have been throughout the year – family, friend, supporter, prayer partner, hero.

As you end a year and begin another, I pray that your visions of what is past are good ones and that you can lean on those precious memories with great fun and admiration for the time shared and the blessings received.  Then, as you look ahead, I pray that you will look to the Lord for the strength to stand tall, no matter what, eagerly anticipating the next blessing, knowing that God will always provide!

Blessings on your 2019!

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Hi all.  Just a thought to help start your week.

Christmas is here, and New Year’s Day is just around the corner.  Are you ready?  Do you have all your planning done?  Are all your ducks in a row?

The birds in my picture are obviously not ducks.  They are sea gulls on the Alabama coast at Orange Beach, but they are definitely all in a row!

When you see a line like that, you might automatically think of words such as ‘organization’, ‘planning’, ‘ready for whatever comes next’.

As you and yours go through the holidays over the next couple of weeks, don’t feel as if everything has to be lined up, perfect, just like ‘everyone expects’ us to be.  Take time to stop, breathe, and remember the true reason for the season itself – Jesus Christ.  In the busy-ness of it all, be sure to “line up” some time to worship the One Whose birth we are celebrating this blessed time of year.

Merry CHRISTmas and a very blessed New Year to all of you!

Just a thought.