Michael B Linton

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Great Lesson for Pastors

Others May; You Cannot
by George D. Watson

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In many ways, He seems to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Others who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and scheme to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward while keeping you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He will make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility, and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.

God will take you at your word. If you absolutely sell yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot. Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand or closing your eyes in ways which others are not dealt with. However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My sermons online!

I'll be adding them as I get them formatted. All of my recorded sermons should be up in about 2 weeks, because I can only upload a certain amount per week.

Go here:

Monday, April 4, 2011

A New Beginning for Us and the End of Hope Fellowship

(This is a repost of what was put on our Hope Fellowship website on April 4th.)

Today I share with you the news that I had hoped to never have to share, but knew that it would always be possible: Hope Fellowship came to an end yesterday, one day short of the 1 year anniversary of our first preview service. This was a mutually agreed upon decision by our leadership team. It was an incredibly hard decision for me to make, but it was exactly what needed to happen.

There are many reasons why we made the decision, most of which I’ll process and blog about at http://www.mick-b.blogspot.com/, but I can briefly cover a couple here. We’ve been working at this for over four years now and we hadn’t seen the results we expected. More specifically, I’ve worked two jobs the whole time we’ve tried to start the church and, because of that, I just wasn’t able to give it the time I needed to. I had hoped that, as we progressed, the state convention and other churches would see our commitment and advancement and join us with financial support. When that didn’t happen, we knew it would be difficult to continue but we pressed ahead. We also know now that we are the third church to be unable to start up in that community. (We weren’t aware of this until after we had begun meeting as a church.)

It is, however, very difficult for us to refer to this as a “failure”. We know, without a doubt, that God called us to this mission in this location at this time. I can only assume that I misunderstood what the goal was. God was using this to teach, not build the next mega-church in Houston. There have been numerous times that we were ready to call it quits, but God would give us something that made us know we were to continue. The interesting thing is that, as Etta and I discussed ending it this time, no “divine rescue” came. It was clear that it was time to stop and see what God had next for us. Just so you know, I don’t know what that is yet. But He’ll tell us when He’s ready.

I can only begin to tell you all the things I have learned that I can take into my next ministry--I’ll cover more of it at my blog. I can say that one thing I’ve learned is that when God gives people in your church a vision and a calling, you get behind them. I’ve also learned things about planning, budgeting, vision-casting, outreach, and countless other things that I never would have learned in a traditional, established church setting. I have amassed a treasure trove of knowledge that I can’t wait to begin to unpack and see how God is going to put it to use.

Thank you, from the bottom of hearts, for all of you who prayed and gave to support our vision. You didn’t give to us, you gave to God, and He used that to change lives. That’s all you can ask for any time you give to Him. And your prayers kept us going when nothing else did.

This isn’t the end for us, just a page turn to the next chapter. We are eager to see where God takes us next. Pray with us as we seek to be right in the middle of His will.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Humble Pie: Tastes Like Crap and Good for You Too!

Have you ever sat in a room with your wife and a group of people you consider your friends and have all of them tell you how the very thing you love to do isn't as good as you think it is? I have. It ain't that great.

Sunday night, February 27th, in the course of discussion of our vision and future as a church plant, we got on the subject of my preaching. I think I may have been the one to bring it up. Thus began about 15 minutes of what was wrong (and occasionally what was right) with my preaching.

This is nothing new. Every Sunday, I ask Etta what she thought of my sermon and I want honesty. I want to know if I made sense, if it connected, etc. I want her to analyze the delivery, style, content--everything. And she does. Completely. Honestly. Bluntly. But that's how we roll, so it's okay. Many of her critiques have centered around the fact that though I get very excited about the research and the exegesis, which is vital to deliver God's word with clarity, I tend to deliver a sermon that's very wooden and academic, at least for the first 15-20 minutes. But she always adds that the application portion, usually saved until the end, is better and more relateable. And she expressed the same on that Sunday night.

Let's just say my Leadership Team concurred. They were very positive about it and even told how they generally love that kind of academic, in-depth study. But not so much on Sunday morning. It would be great on Wednesday-small-group-night but it comes across as more professorial and less preacherly on Sunday.

Now, I wanted to give them all the reasons for exegetical, verse-by-verse, through-the-Bible messages. But it wasn't necessary, especially to my wife who typed all my papers in seminary. Besides, I had to hear what they were saying, not the words they were using. What they want is not a less exegetical sermon but a more passionate one.

I admit, I'm not a snort-and-blow preacher who slings snot and tears at every turn, but I am passionate--I thought. But again, they weren't asking for flair and emotion-they were asking for passion. They were asking for their pastor to preach from his heart not from a series.

You see, I want to be like all the great preachers out there that have a clever title that everyone smiles at and preach a series that has, at least figuratively, motocross behind me and hot air balloons and Ferraris and dog tricks. But that's not me. So what my people were getting was a seminary lecture because there was a box I was trying to put myself into: the preach-through-a-book-exegetically-but-keep-it-topical-and-interesting box. And I was having trouble making me fit there.

I'm pretty sure Etta said this every Sunday, a friend wrote me a note last summer that said this, and my team said it Sunday: passion isn't external, it's internal. They want me to preach from my hurts, struggles, victories, questions, and needs. They want to see a pastor on the stage that gets them and where they are. You can read my post on plastic preachers and how I dislike them, and now I was becoming one. Until Sunday, February 20th...

Saturday, February 19th, I was done with church planting. Too many things were falling down around me to be able to continue. My sermon prep day is Saturday but this time, I didn't want to do it. So I didn't. I knew one family would be out; therefore, we would likely only have two families at church on Sunday. So we were going to cancel church and go to Denny's. There, I would probably tell them that we were closing the church before too long because I was done. Sunday morning came, I had no sermon prepared and at 10:15 we would cancel and leave. And at 10:14 a very sweet family that has shown they want to be a part of our church came. So I couldn't cancel. Did I mention I had no sermon?

Earlier in the week, a friend had sent me a verse, Isaiah 41:8-10.
8 But you, Israel, my servant,Jacob, whom I have chosen,the offspring of Abraham, my friend;9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth,and called from its farthest corners,saying to you, “You are my servant,I have chosen you and not cast you off”;10 fear not, for I am with you;be not dismayed, for I am your God;I will strengthen you, I will help you,I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
So I fed off this verse and mainly talked about how, though I believe this verse, it's often hard for me to live this verse. I basically griped a little while and bared my soul.

And it turned out to be one of my best sermons. And this according to my team, definitely not according to me. I thought it probably sucked. So why did they think so highly of it?

Because it correctly parsed the Hebrew? No.
Because it had a clever title and a catchy hook? No.
Because I had a Bentley or skateboarders on the stage? No.
Because it was from my heart and an expression of what God was doing in my life? Yeah.

So that Sunday night, February 27th, I feasted on humility. It wasn't easy, but I know it was best for the church and for me. Am I now worried that I have lost my ability to lead, because I allowed my team to critique me? Just the opposite. I believe I am a better leader because I showed I am willing to learn and correct myself. If we as leaders believe we are infallible, we will soon have no one following us. People are begging to follow someone who "gets" them. One of the many attractive aspects of Jesus is that, because He was fully human, He fully gets us. We as leaders are certainly no better than Him.

So, it didn't taste good. It wasn't fun. But it was necessary. Leaders: be willing to hear the criticism of those that are following you. It might just make you a better leader.

Monday, January 10, 2011

11 Rules of Life That You Won't Learn In School

From an article written by Charles J. Sykes in 1996, so forgive the reference to a "car phone" as a status symbol.

Rule 1: Life is not fair--get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will not make $60,000 per year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping--they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault. So don't whine about your mistakes; learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you "find yourself." Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.