Stay in step with God!

January 22nd, 2008  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  We can’t compartmentalize our faith

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
For we are…created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Our culture seems to think that leaders must not lean on their spirituality – their relationship with God – to help them make decisions.  I wonder how much of that attitude is also in the church.

We must never think we can compartmentalize our life to the point where we say, “In this category, in this season, in this circumstance, I am operating on my own.  In this other category, or season, or circumstance, I am operating according to the power of the Holy Spirit within me.”  The Holy Spirit does not come and go from our lives.  He is always with us.

If the Holy Spirit is always with us, how can we separate our decision making from our relationship with Him?

Facing the New Year with courage! (3)

January 22nd, 2008  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  Becoming a courageous leader

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
Be strong and courageous.

Dr. John Maxwell writes:

When I began my career I was very ineffective as a leader.  My problem was that I wanted to please everybody.  Making people happy was the most important thing to me.  I lacked the courage to make right but unpopular decisions.  How did I turn things around?  By making small decisions that were difficult.  With each one I gained more confidence and more courage, and I began to change.  The process took me 4 years.  At the end of that time I felt I had learned many valuable lessons, and I wrote the following to help me cement what I had learned:

‘Courageous leadership simply means I’ve developed:

  1. Convictions that are stronger than my fears.
  2. Vision that is clearer than my doubts.
  3. Spiritual sensitivity that is louder than popular opinion.
  4. Self-esteem that is deeper than self-protection.
  5. Appreciation for discipline that is greater than my desire for leisure.
  6. Dissatisfaction that is more forceful than the status quo.
  7. Poise that is more unshakeable than panic.
  8. Risk-taking that is stronger than safety-keeping.
  9. Actions that are more robust than rationalization.
  10. A desire to see potential reached more than to see people pleased.’

This message spoke to me; I consider myself someone who finds it difficult to deliver an unpleasant message, to make hard decisions.  Where are you in your journey to become a courageous leader?

Spiritual intimacy

January 22nd, 2008  Email Email  Print Print  

Philippians 3:10 [AMP]
That I may…become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him.

The full text of this verse in the Amplified Bible is:

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly].

The devotion talks about how easy it is for us to get so busy that our relationship with God is shallow; that when we sing His praises that our minds are elsewhere.  I confess that this is true of me more often that I would care to admit.

But this verse – particularly as expressed by this translation – expresses my true desire.  I sin and I fail, yet I know He is faithful.  What am I doing to implement “my determined purpose [to] know Him that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him?”

What are you doing?  Feel free to comment and let me know.

When it’s good to be alone

December 12th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Jeremiah 15:17 (NIV)
I sat alone because your hand was on me.

There are a number of examples where someone is described being alone:

  • Jesus on several occasions is alone, usually to pray.
  • Jacob was alone and wrestled with “a man” until daybreak.
  • Moses was to approach God on the mountain alone.
  • Elijah spent the night alone in a cave.
  • Daniel was left alone, gazing at a great vision.
  • Jeremiah sat alone.

This reading makes the statement that “your greatest spiritual victories come from the battles God calls you to fight when you’re alone.”  This could be because he is speaking to you or clarifying His plans for your life.  This could also be because it is when you are alone that you are most tempted since there is no one else around; it is then that you may have your greatest battle and can be victorious as you lean on the Lord rather than on your own strength to fend off the enemy.

Scriptural keys to success in life (1)

December 4th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus: Talent isn’t enough.

Proverbs 18:16 (NAS)
A man’s gift makes room for him.

My primary focus in ministry is in areas of performance – music and drama.  In these areas, there are a lot of people who are extremely talented.  Unfortunately, too many of these people don’t put in the work.  I on the other hand have a modicum of talent but have to work very hard to get where I want to go (and do so gladly).  It just frustrates me to see people with too much talent selected over people who are committed and loyal and are hard workers.  I’d take someone like that over someone with a lot of talent in a heartbeat.

You can make a comeback

November 26th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  Being on your guard

Judges 16:28 (NLT)
Samson prayed… ‘Lord, remember me… please strengthen me just one more time.’

This reading is primarily about the comeback, but I want to focus on avoiding the fall.  Consider this:

[Samson] was used by God as few men have ever been, but the enemy found his weakness – a woman:  “She pressed him daily… and urged him” (Judges 16:16 NAS).  Note the words pressed and urged.  Be alert, your enemy is persistent,  It starts with an unguarded moment.  There are doors you should never open.  If you feed the wrong appetite for a day you may end up struggling with it for a lifetime. [emphasis mine]

That last statement is oh so scary, but oh so true.  The appetite could be as relatively innocuous as food or TV, or it could be a more serious substance/activity such as alcohol, drugs, or sex.

Perhaps you’ve read the poster, “Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakens and knows it has to run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.  Every morning a lion wakens and knows it must outrun the swiftest gazelle or it will starve to death.  It matters not whether you’re a lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up you’d better be ready to run!”  Peter warns us to be alert because our “adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NKJV).

Our enemy the devil is always looking for ways to entice us and trip us up.  If he can get us to slip up, then he’ll try to get us to wallow in our sin.  If we wallow in our sin, he has effectively neutralized us as a force of righteousness.  But God has other plans for us.  Consider what Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV)
So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And 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 stand up under it.

Of course, if you do fall, there is also forgiveness, as John tells us:

1 John 1:9 (NIV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Of course, if we wallow too long in our sins, we may need to do more to give us tools to keep away from it.  Sometimes counseling and support groups need to be added to the treatment plan.

Can you see God’s hand in it?

November 25th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:

Psalm 37:23 (NLT)
The Lord directs the steps of the godly.

This verse is a central theme for any Christian wanting to be true to the Scriptures.  If you are godly (follow what God has laid out in His word), the Lord will direct your steps.  This is reemphasized in Proverbs:

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

I’ve loved these verses since the time I accepted Christ as a teenager I suppose partially because they gave me hope that the hardship I’d experienced wouldn’t be in vain, that there was a bigger purpose, that I could have someone to depend on to help me through those times.

The writer for this reading makes the following statement:

God loves to use flawed people for when they become successful they aren’t arrogant like some who think they deserve it.  They’re a little warmer, a little more willing to reach out and embrace others.  They understand that without God they wouldn’t have made it.

That certainly describes me – a flawed person that God has used.  I’ve a certain level of success, but I know that I couldn’t have done it without Him.  I have met some who are much better and more successful than I, and I have met some who always go to the best.  I tend to go to the ones who may not be quite as good but who are committed to the same purpose, for I know that when the going gets tough, they will continue the race.  The one who is successful or who is “so much better” so often seems more committed to that success.

Where do you stand?  Do you think you deserve your success?

Dan in Real Life

November 14th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Michelle and I went to a movie Saturday night while Bethany had friends over and we settled on Dan in Real Life (see my entry on RottenTomatoes.com).  I’d seen the previews and it looked like a good movie, but I’d heard that it was getting mixed reviews.

My bottom line review:  This is the kind of movie I want to see more of!

Yes, there were some corny moments.  Yes, some of it was predictable.  But the premise situation (a widower with 3 daughters who meets someone) had a sense of reality to it that was really touching.  Having daughters of my own, I really felt for Dan when he was dealing with his middle daughter.  The family scenes created a yearning in me to create that with my family.

If people go see this movie, we’ll see more movies like it.  Please, go see it!

But God (1)

November 14th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  God’s plans, not our plans

1 Chronicles 28:2-3 (NAS)
I…intended to build…but God said.

The writer of this reading related the following story:

Drawing from http://www.vangoghgallery.com/Vincent’s passion for ministry led him to the Belgian coalfields where he preached to miners, tended the injured, fed the hungry and earned a place in the people’s hearts.  His church was filled to capacity with those eager to learn about Jesus.  But his superiors weren’t happy because Vincent wore cast-offs, lived in a shack and gave his salary to the people.  “You look worse than the people you came to teach,” they said.  “Wouldn’t Jesus have done the same?” Vincent asked.  His bosses disagreed and he was dismissed from the ministry.  He was hurt and angry; his only desire had been to build a church that glorified God, so why hadn’t God let it happen?  Then one day he watched an old miner struggling beneath a load of coal.  Moved by the sight he began to sketch the bowed figure.  And although he didn’t realize it at the time, he’d discovered his real calling.  The young preacher who was rejected by his denomination eventually became an artist the world will long remember:  Vincent van Gogh.

Wow!  I never knew Vincent van Gogh was a preacher.  The only thing I ever learned about him was that he was a brooding sort that cut off his ear when he was older.  How sad it is that stories like this are lost in our culture in all the fame and glory – which of course didn’t come until after his death.  Even his biography at his gallery site downplays his ministry.

In any case, the point to be made here is that when God nixes our good plans, it’s time to look around and see how He wants us to respond.  It won’t be to brood and complain; instead it begins with being grateful for what we have and what we’ve done already.

David said, “I…intended to build a…home for the ark…But God said… ‘Your son Solomon…shall build My house'” (1Ch 28:2-6 NAS).  When God nixed his plans, David immediately followed his “But God” with a “Yet God,” and declared, “Yet God…took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel” (v.4).  Instead of complaining about what he didn’t get to do, David rejoiced in how God had already blessed him by promoting him from herding sheep to leading the Israelite nation.  Think about it!

Reaching the world starting at home

November 11th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

The church as a field vs. the church as a force

Years ago when we lived in California we had a pastor (Butch Pluimer) who taught about the differences between viewing the church as a field (i.e. a mission field, the place where non-believers should be brought to come to Christ) and the church as a force.  He felt that so many people viewed the church as a field instead of realizing that they could take the Gospel beyond the walls to become a force to influence our culture.

Pastor Joe Fuiten, our pastor at Cedar Park, taught a message this morning about the influence the church should have in the world today.  He made a very compelling argument that we should not be ashamed of the Gospel, nor should we shrink from fighting for the rights of Christians, lest our ability to share the Gospel with others be restricted to the point of being snuffed out.  I was really quite inspired by his words.

The rank and file

One of the things I believe must happen, though, for the rank and file in the pews to reach the world in this way is for them to be involved in ministry, of which there are certainly plenty of ways to do so.  My thoughts, however, are drawn to one area of ministry – that of music and drama (if you know me, I’m sure you aren’t surprised :-) ).  My wife and I have been involved in music and drama ministry for most of our Christian walks, and something we notice is that opportunity breeds improved competence which breeds more opportunity.  How are people to get involved in reaching our world through music and drama if they don’t have opportunity, and how are they to improve in their competence if they are not provided the opportunity?

There are some terrific things going on in our church in both these areas.  Pastors Peter Blue and Aaron Welk are taking Canvas Ministries all over the world teaching others how to build their worship ministries, and they are involving people – especially young people – in worship ministry right here in Bothell.  Pastor Daniel Perrin is bringing extremely talented musicians and drama directors from the professional world as we present professional-quality musicals and is growing the skills of the individuals in the choir.  Both of these ministries are extremely important for the local church and for the church at large.

What’s missing?  Opportunity

However, I believe there is something missing.  There are a number of people who want to be involved in these two ministries but for one reason or another can’t, people who have been involved in the past in significant ways but can’t be now.  Why is this?

I contend that it is largely due to lack of opportunity.

If there is no opportunity for a musician to be involved in music ministry or an actor to be involved in drama ministry unless he has reached a certain level of competence, how do we expect those with a desire to be involved to do so?  Note that I am not advocating allowing just anyone with absolutely no skill to participate in these ways.  Certainly there must be a base level of competence.  However, I would take a mediocre actor with a willing heart over a great actor without one any day, because the mediocre actor can be trained – maybe not to the same level – and community can be developed through the kind of commitment offered between the church and that actor.

The bottom line

The bottom line point I am trying to make here is that to reach the world we need to raise up people within our congregation, providing the appropriate opportunities and training.

Michelle and I are an example of this.  We started in drama and music ministry with the Victor, the annual passion play produced by Cedar Park for 18 years or so (the last year we produced this play was in 2006).  Through that ministry we grew in our passion for ministry, for people, and for drama.  We founded Catalyst Drama Ministry which grew from a small team performing a series of sketches to presenting missions plays and leading worship not only at Cedar Park but also at churches and prisons across Washington state.  We were afforded the opportunity to be involved and then to be trained, which provided us with more opportunity to reach beyond the walls of Cedar Park.  But none of it could have happened without the support of the church.  It is and always has been an extension of the ministry at Cedar Park.

How do we make that happen again?

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