by Bill Lawrence, President of Leader Formation International
The Twenty-third Psalm is The Leader’s Psalm, David’s psalm, one he may have created as a shepherd, that he sang over and over again throughout his leadership as the King and when he was a warrior. It must have been a vital verse for him. For that reason I offer it to you as a word for all who lead in these seasons of injustice as Jesus walks beside you in your season of darkness.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
For our brothers and sisters in Ukraine under
the attack of the evil one from one who walks with you
Today I speak to you as a pastor to pastors.
If I could be with you as you serve your frightened sheep, the suffering, the crying, the questioning, the suffering—all who wrestle in the most difficult times of their lives—I want to tell you what the ultimate Shepherd is saying to you. You have so many overwhelmed hearts, so many who carry such terrible weights, who have such penetrating pain and face such undeserved injustice. You must bear all of this with your sheep. And yet as pastors you have your own families, your wives, your children, and even your aging parents. Still you are their shepherd, the one who turns to follow the Chief Shepherd.
So I come to you to support you in some way, with words that I hope will encourage and help you and give you strength from the One who gave all for you. May it be that the sheep you lead can find a way to follow His word as you follow Him, the Chief Shepherd who walked the same path of pain for us and paid the price for sin that we will never have to pay. We will pay for following Him, but never for our sin, and through us we trust Him that many others will know the forgiveness He has given us.
What you must understand is that the evil one who attacked Him now attacks you who follow Him who enter the valley of death with Him. The Lord walks alongside you and protects you now. He can never take you down even if the shadow takes you from the struggles of life into the glory of eternity without ever actually taking you down into the damage of death. This is what the death of Jesus on Calvary and His resurrection brings to us. This is what I would say to you if I could be with you and what I say to you now. Read my word to you as I take you to Psalm 23:4. There is no word greater than this, no certainty truer, nothing more absolute, nothing more certain.
So I say to you no matter what you face that you must do what this verse says.
Follow the Leader
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
On our way to eternal life as we follow the Leader, we will enter into the shadow of death.
This is not a way we would choose, but it is a way we will all face. Many of us have already walked through the valley of death with Him as we have walked with Him even when we didn’t know it. I certainly have. When I was five years old I entered this valley when I had pneumonia and lived on the edge of death for three weeks, but the Good Shepherd took care of me through the desperate prayer of my parents and the newly created sulpha drug that delivered me and brought me to health. And once again, only five years ago I had a fall that took me to the edge of death, yet God delivered me from death to life through prayer and the amazing wisdom of medical experts enabled by God.
Many of you have had the same experience in very different ways.
Now large numbers of you face this same risk as the Russians rush in on you. They come to take you and those you shepherd. They tear upon your fold, strive to destroy your safe place, tear apart your secure life, and destroy all you have built. What must you do? Can you take as many as possible to a safe place, perhaps in Poland or Romania or even further? What of those who are weak and in deep need? Can you protect them? The answers to these and other questions are confusing and uncertain.
But we must remember that we experience only the shadow of death, not the destructive grip of death. Yet if death takes you, He takes you to the banquet of glory He has prepared for you that lies ahead of you as He promised.
Those who know Jesus will never know the true grip of death, the choaking grasp of death, the tear that takes us down and rips life out of us. We are never torn away from life. Death never grips us or holds us or rips us away from eternal reality. We are never dead. Our bodies are, but our hearts, our souls, our spirits, our eternal realities never ever take is into any true loss of any kind. Instead, we are transformed from the temporal to the eternal. And those who follow Jesus with us must know this. He walks beside us, in the shadow of death, between death and us. He is always real to us no matter what we face. Call upon Him and lead them to call upon Him, and they will know His presence and His protection.
This is why we only enter the shadow of death and never death itself no matter how real it appears to be. We die, but we are never dead. Our bodies die, yet our selves are never dead. We only know eternal life through the grace of God.
Those who follow the Shepherd with us must know this. You must constantly tell them this.
This is not a false truth. This is the greatest truth we can ever have and give to those we shepherd. There is a dark valley, but there is a brilliant celebration for all who trust Him. Putin can never take this away from us!
Fear no Evil
I fear no evil, for you are with me.
Fear will come upon us when we first face death.
You cannot help but feel fear. It is all around you. The reality of what you face will come upon you and you cannot avoid the reality of what is happening. I have spent days thinking about what is happening and I have seen the events become worse and worse until now I see buildings where you have lived being destroyed, beautiful buildings being reduced to ashes, hospitals twisted into places of pain rather than sources of strength, husbands and wives weeping as they are crammed onto trains and separated, perhaps forever. I see places where I have been now attacked, men and women whom I have served being threatened, all because of one evil man. Just one evil man! One sinful evil man! How amazing can the evil one be. Perhaps you have noticed that I have not capitalized the term “evil one.” I choose not to dignify this term nor that demon. I will not honor such an evil person in even such a small way. No evil person is worthy of even a capital letter.
Yet it is a battle not to fear the evil of our world, especially the evil of our time that would destroy this great country of Ukraine that has become the strongest testimony for Christ in Europe in our day. The country has grown to become a major center for the cross of Calvary, the core of the good news of Jesus of Nazareth, the proclaimers of His message, so strategic that the evil one has acted against its true greatness.
So we must turn from our weakness in ourselves to radically dependence on the Shepherd we follow, the One who walks beside us in the shadow of death. We carry the cross even as He did and bear His fruit for so many who face His sacrifice. Pray for them as they walk untouched through that dark, dark valley of death to the glory that awaits them, whether it is the glory of time or eternity.
Find all Comfort
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
How can we have comfort as we struggle in the days of darkness?
We share many days of darkness as I write this, the valley of the shadow of death. Still, Jesus is beside us. While we are full of fear, we must trust Him, and He frees us from the fear of death. So we can be free from fear because have His rod and His staff. Yet you have never needed the Shepherd’s tools and the Shepherd’s comfort so much. What else can you count on? How can you count on it? The Russians are all around you! All you have are the weapons of the Cross and the tools of the Shepherd. All that Jesus carried on His back is now on your backs and all that He used are in your hands, as you remain radically dependent on Him. I cannot be physically with you, but I am prayerfully with you, and I call on scores and scores of brothers and sisters around the world to join with you to support you and walk with you as you carry that Cross on Calvary’s road, even on the Ukrainian Way. But remember, you walk on the Resurrection Way also, the Jesus way, the way Jesus walked as He went to the Cross and then was carried to the grave and then rose to the resurrection and finally arose to His throne. He rules even over Russia. He rules over Russia, and He will carry you with Him either through life or through death to resurrection, but always to worship at His throne and His glory. In this darkest valley you must be full of hope even as we are for you and with you.
What weapons do you have? Some rifles, some grenades, perhaps some artillery, maybe you will get some fighter planes or some rockets. Who knows? But maybe you will have none. Remember that David was often without weapons in his battles, or at least with adequate weapons or enough weapons, but God always out weaponed by His enemies, even when He had no weapons. We do not know what He is going to do, only that prayer is one of the greatest weapons of all. And who is greater than the Holy Spirit? We do not know what Jesus is going to do and we do not know how He is going to win, but we do know that He will defeat His enemies in His time, yet at great cost, the cost of the Cross.
David, the poet, knew much about battle. After all, he was a warrior, a king who fought many wars. The first one we know of was for few short moments with the giant Goliath, whom he defeated with apparent ease because his giant faith overcame the giant’s armor. Yet he faced many other struggles, some of which were in himself with his pride and his lust, even greater than with Goliath. And some of them he lost because he didn’t face them the same way he faced them with the Philistine because he lacked trust in the sovereign Yahweh who was always on his side. How tragic it is not to remember that God is constantly on our side, especially when we suffer. It is then that we learn about resurrection.
There is suffering at this time and Calvary is always more than we want to pay, but His triumph is always resurrection, yet at great cost, but only through Jesus, who walks in this dark valley with us, and we have His weapons, the weapons of the Cross that brings us to resurrection and prayer.
The chief weapon is prayer, our cry out to the Lord who also cried out in prayer to His Father from the cross. But now we have what He has finished. His work is done. He not only has the weapon of prayer but also the weapon of His very resurrection, His defeat of the evil one, the triumph over death and the eternal victory of lasting life. He has won the war! No matter what battle we face, if we cry out to Him and fight with the weapons of prayer and resurrection we will have His presence, even when the battle is overwhelming.
You walk through the valley of the shadow of death. You didn’t choose it or cause it or create it, you just suddenly enter into it with those who unexpectedly enter it. Actually, I have not entered into this. My far away friends, my brothers, my fellow pastors, those I served but never knew except as I spoke to you when I met with you at Kiev and in other parts of Ukraine, those men whom I taught from God’s word, you are the ones who are now in the valley of the shadow of death, and I enter it with you as I can. If I could, I would walk with you against the evil one and his agents in this time. I want to walk with you as best I can, which is not very much, but God’s word takes me there, and I want His truth to sustain you. What little I have I give you, but while I have little, He has all, and He gives all to you. May His weapons and His tools be your strength in this terrible time
As He said,
I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.
P.S. This is a message of the word I sent to the pastors I served in Ukraine to support them in their effort to help those who struggle so much from the injustice of Putin in Ukraine. It is all I can do to stand with them in these overwhelming days. Please pray for these pastors and make every effort you can to stand with the Chief Shepherd to stand beside the shepherds of the suffering sheep in that terrible nation. The evil one has done all he can to attack the Cross and overcome the Resurrection, but no one and nothing can overcome what the human Jesus did, the One who now reigns eternally on His divine and holy throne. Cry out for them even as He did from the Cross and has commissioned us to do from the mountain in Galilee. He rules over Putin. No one can overcome Him! Go and live The Leader’s Psalm in His will.
Published on Monday, March 14, 2022 @ 8:24 AM CDT
He is growing you to be the kind of man or woman He wants you to be so you can make a difference for Him—the kind of difference Jesus would make, since He is the One doing it through you. That means that your church, your career, your position, your marriage or your children can be His means of transforming you from who you are to becoming who He wants you to be.
God is at work in you, not only because of what you do, but even more because of who you are becoming. After all, what matters the most to Him—what you do or who you become, especially as you become like Christ?
Isn’t what you do as a leader important to God? Of course it is, but if you think it through carefully, you realize that what you get done is God’s means to make you like Christ. He uses the experiences of your life to make you into His image to accomplish His purpose and fulfill His will.
So, God is at work in you, forming you to become the kind of person He wants you to be, a ministry or business leader like Christ, a man or woman who does what Christ would do if He were the leader of your church or your business or your movement or your mission.
Therefore, everything He wants you to accomplish has another major aim besides success. He not only wants you to get a deal completed, a building built, a business organized, or a successful ministry established, He wants you to grow on your way to become like Christ. He is growing you to be the kind of man or woman He wants you to be so you can make a difference for Him—the kind of difference Jesus would make, since He is the One doing it through you. That means that your church, your career, your position, your marriage or your children can be His means of transforming you from who you are to becoming who He wants you to be. It is true that He wants things done through us, but that’s not the end in itself. His ultimate intent for every one of us is that we should become like Christ through the issues we face in life.
Only God’s kind of person can be God’s kind of leader. There is only one way to become God’s kind of leader and that is to serve as well as to live His way.
How can you live God’s way? Only by understanding the Jesus way to live which He taught in the Gospels. Don’t just study information. Study how to live, and then learn to depend on Him because that’s the only way you can live the Jesus way. It is not only a matter of performing miracles as He did, but a matter of truth and love, endurance and patience, sacrifice and trust, shame and glory, death and resurrection.
We take His place in the world today. Are you ready for this? Who could possibly be ready for this? That’s why God is putting you in situations that can be carried out only through resurrection resources.
This is why you must grow to become God’s kind of leader—a Christ-like leader. A real leader.
Quite a task, isn’t it? A real task to make you a real leader.
Published on Aug 06 @ 11:04 AM CDT
For us this has the ordinary meaning of who He is, a statement of identity, but He means far more than that. He means I AM YAHWEH, the God of the Old Testament, the One Who Is, the Ruler of All, the Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper, who delivered the nation out of Egypt and gave them the privilege of being His people...
I am the true vine
A long time ago, on the night before Passover, twelve men walked the narrow streets of ancient Jerusalem going from an upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane.
All of them were from Galilee in the north—fishermen, craftsmen, one tax collector—ordinary men with no value in the Roman empire, except for the tax collector. They were led by, of all things, a carpenter, though by the time they were together He was a recognized Teacher. He had attracted a handful of men who listened to what He said and debated it among themselves. They had a different understanding of what He was saying, but He was radical, and they were radical, so they listened to Him with expectation that He meant what He said. Eventually they would become as radical as He was, but not yet. Nonetheless, we need to understand His words to them in that upper room, today as much as they did if we are going to be used to make the difference He wants to make through us. Consider these few words.
I am the true vine.
For us this has the ordinary meaning of who He is, a statement of identity, but He means far more than that. He means I AM YAHWEH, the God of the Old Testament, the One Who Is, the Ruler of All, the Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper, who delivered the nation out of Egypt and gave them the privilege of being His people. He is the One who met them at Mt. Sinai and made them into a nation, and who has kept His covenants with them. What it must have been like to walk along the streets of Jerusalem with Him after hearing Him declare that He was the Maker and Keeper of the New Covenant through the Cross.
He is the One who made the New Covenant, the only One who makes eternal covenants and keeps His word, the One who we can trust no matter what happens. Jesus, in John 15, is talking to His leaders, those who will speak for Him, equip others for Him, reproduce for Him, and who will prepare one generation after another for Him. We, as His leaders, must also lay the foundation for Him, bear fruit for Him, and matter for Him. These are the aspects that give us life, strength, and value, all the elements that make us leaders. There are many claims, but He is the only one who does what He does. The, a small word with an amazing meaning that speaks to us, His leaders, in the 21st century.
I AM THE TRUE
He is the true vine, the real thing, in radical contrast to all others who claim to be the true sources of life and success. Large numbers of leaders rely on false resources in the name of Jesus, and don’t even know they do that. The primary source of significance for many who lead is themselves. They do all the things they must do to become leaders, but what they produce is temporary, weak, without fruit, and then gone. Only Jesus does what is eternal, and He does this through us. No other vine can bear eternal fruit.
I AM THE TRUE VINE
He had to tell them this on His last night with them to prepare them for His departure and to get them—and us—ready for the Great Commission. This is part of the coming assignment.
Think about Jesus as the Stem in your life and ministry because He is the Source.
He is the Sustainer of your Life.
He is the Strength of your Life.
He is the Enablement of your Life.
He is the Stability of your Life.
He is the Fruit of your Life.
He is the Value of your Life.
He is the Identity of your Life.
He is the Reason for your Life.
He is the Hope of your Life.
All of this is what it means for Him to be our Vine. As a leader, we must be radically dependent on Him because HE IS THE TRUE VINE.
The only way you can be effective as His leader is to be radically dependent on the Vine for life and fruit. You can have position, recognition, honor, authority, and all the other elements that are part of leadership, but you will never bear His kind of fruit without His enablement. Draw on these truths and you will accomplish things you would never have otherwise.
Published on Jul 29 @ 12:25 PM CDT
God wants you to equip others in order to build your ministry, strength Christians in your business, or lead an organization or church that impacts your world with the gospel.
“. . . make disciples of all the nations . . .”
This is the start of several resources designed to help you grasp how you can learn what Jesus did to obey the Great Commission. The one aim of these concepts is to enable you to form leaders in obedience to Christ’s command to make disciples—that is, to reproduce leaders who reproduce leaders. This is exactly what Jesus did with the men He formed during His time on earth, this was His intent in giving this commission in the moments before He ascended onto His throne at the right hand of the Father, and that is exactly what the intent of the following materials are designed to do.
Reproducing leaders is the impact of an effective leader who wants to make a difference for Christ. A constantly triumphant leader produces constantly effective leaders. This is the essence of the Leader Formation message. Any leader who forms future leaders according to the biblical principles found in this truth will gradually produce effective leaders who will equip even more productive leaders. As a result, the body of Christ will do what God created it to do and reach the world with the Good News concerning Jesus. Your church will grow, your community will receive Jesus, your city will have many new believers in Christ, and your nation will be changed according to His will just as the Roman Empire was impacted after the cross and the resurrection. The leaders of Israel and the rulers of Rome both tried to resist God’s truth and destroy the body of Christ only to be overcome by God and replaced by the gospel. What happened in the first three hundred years of this era will happen today, even in the most resistant parts of the world, if only leaders will have the heart of Christ, a head that is influenced by God’s truth, and hands that are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The purpose of every Christian leader is to form leaders who lead this way.
God wants you to equip others in order to build your ministry, strength Christians in your business, or lead an organization or church that impacts your world with the gospel. This is what you can accomplish through this thinking because this is what I have seen in fifty years of forming leaders. I have certainly not done this alone, but I have seen the truths found in these studies work in amazing ways as many have learned them and implemented them through radical dependence on Him.
Published on Jul 10 @ 4:26 PM CDT
How do we become all that God wants us to be this year? What can we do to live 2020 in obedience to God and thus become a blessing to Him? Scripture instructs us to Bless the Lord and to Bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord Oh my soul...Bless His holy name
How do we become all that God wants us to be this year? What can we do to live 2020 in obedience to God and thus become a blessing to Him? Scripture instructs us to Bless the Lord and to Bless His holy name. God is a holy God and we are unholy, yet He wants us to bless Him. What does this mean? How can we possibly be a blessing to God? Does He want ordinary sinful men and women like us to bless Him? Yes, He does or He wouldn’t command us in His word to bless Him as He does. How do we bless Him? After all, He blesses us, we don’t bless Him, or do we? Consider some of the ways we can bless God.
By thanking Him for all that He has done...
We first thank God for salvation by which we are delivered from condemnation. We have been given a permanent relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three gave themselves to give us eternal life. The Father released His Son for us. The Son gave His life on the cross for us. And the Spirit gives us His power by living in us. How can we do anything but thank Him? When we thank Him for all that He has done and is doing in our life, we will bless Him.
By trusting Him even when we don’t want to...
Life is painful at times, so we may become resentful and not want to respond to God. But He still wants us to bless Him even when we don’t feel like it. We may deny our faith as Moses did. He attacked God and accused him of doing evil. Imagine that—he called the sovereign holy God evil. Yet God used him and He made Moses the leader of His people. We may not be able to see or understand what God is doing in our life, we may feel that He is failing us, but we must still trust Him, remembering that He loves us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His own Son on our behalf. When we trust Him we will bless Him.
By worshipping Him even when we doubt...
Worship is an act of exalting God and being dependent on Him no matter what our circumstances. It is relying on Him in the midst of facing a powerful opponent and keeping our mind centered firmly on God alone. Worship is crying out to God and turning away from ourselves to focus only on Him. It is praising Him for who He is—His character, and for what He has done—His actions. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that God wants us, unholy and sinful men and women, to worship Him and be His people. As worshipping our great God becomes more and more a central part of our lives, we will lead others to worship Him as well.
Plan to improve your vision this year so it is 20/20. Not with glasses but by seeing God in a new light. Do what God wants you to do by thanking Him, trusting Him, and worshipping Him. In this way you will bless His holy name consistently, remembering all that He has done for you and all that He wants to do through you in 2020.
Published on Feb 14 @ 11:25 AM CDT
Rome ruled the world for centuries. Armies marched, kings were defeated, territory was taken, an empire was established, Caesars ruled, and taxes were demanded. At the beginning of the first century AD a Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, passed a decree that a census be taken of all who lived in the Roman world.
Rome ruled the world for centuries. Armies marched, kings were defeated, territory was taken, an empire was established, Caesars ruled, and taxes were demanded. At the beginning of the first century AD a Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, passed a decree that a census be taken of all who lived in the Roman world. This meant that everyone under Caesar’s rule had to return to their place of birth to be counted. At that time a man named Joseph, engaged to a pregnant woman named Mary, lived in a town called Nazareth on the eastern edge of the Roman empire. They were required to go to Bethlehem in Judea to be counted and eventually taxed for the empire’s benefit. They were two common people who had no wealth, no power and who did not matter except for their value as taxpayers. When they arrived in Bethlehem and found there was no room for them, Mary gave birth to her son in an animal’s stall and laid Him in a manger.
No one knew, of course, that the One born in that manger was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No one knew that He would die for the sin of those who would take His life as well as for the sin of all who lived before and after Him, including we who live today in the twenty-first century.
It is at Christmas that we recall that the Light of the World was born into the kingdom of darkness in order to overcome the darkness of sin with the Light of God’s love. No matter where we live, whether it be in Asia, Latin America, Europe, Africa or North America, whether in Arabia or the Islands of the sea, all of us are citizens of one of two Empires: the kingdom of darkness or the Kingdom of Light. Christmas is a time of remembering the grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness of Christ’s compassionate sacrifice, given to all who accept it.
Jesus, whose birth we celebrate, had an unknown birth in order to be offered as a well-known sacrifice so we do not have to pay the price for our sin. If you know Him, praise Him and rejoice in His provision for you. Have joy because that’s what He wants you to have, as He said on the night of His arrest (John 15:11). Be thankful for all He has done for you and allow Him to bear fruit through you. Remember, He was born to die for the sin of all, from the beginning of time. Remember that He rejoices that we have trusted Him for what He has done for us.
And if you don’t know Him, now is the time to accept all He has done for you, for dying for your sin, for offering forgiveness for your disobedience, and for providing eternal life.
Christmas is a constant celebration of our deliverance from sin to the anticipation of eternity. Rejoice with Him for what He has done for you and make Christmas your way of life.
Published on Dec 16 @ 1:35 PM CDT