Get back to where you belong!

October 15th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

2 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us.

Wow!  After Friday’s devotional article, this one just hammers it home.

Stop trying to get ‘a word’ for others just because they happen to be bothering you.  Let God straighten them out and get back to where you belong!

That’s pretty direct.

Whether you’re driven by your own ego or the expectations of others, any time you fail to hear from God for yourself you risk forfeiting His blessing.

This still doesn’t directly address how leadership is held accountable, but it’s probably not bad advice for that as well.

Mow your own garden – not someone else’s

October 12th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

John 21:22 (NIV)
What is that to you?…Follow me!

What do you do if you see someone do something that you know is going to produce negative consequences for them and maybe for those around them?  That’s the topic of today’s reading.

Today’s scripture comes from the passage when Jesus is visiting the disciples for the last time before the book of Acts when He ascends and He is asking Peter whether he loves Him as John looks on.  Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him and each time he answers that he does.  Jesus finishes by saying to follow Him.  As Peter looks around and sees John, he asks, "What about him?"  Jesus’ response is to just be concerned with himself.

Why did Peter ask about the other disciple?  And why did Jesus say to not worry about it?

The primary interpretation has been that God has a different call on each of us and we should not try to compare the calling He has on us with the calling He has on someone else.  The author of today’s reading extends that to also mean to learn to identify ‘who owns what.’  In other words, we may observe someone else doing something that we think is incorrect or even harmful.  How far do we go to deal with that situation?

Over the course of the last 10 or so years, I have had some trouble dealing with this question due to a factor that has not been mentioned yet.  What do you do if the other person is in a position of church leadership and their actions, attitudes, or behavior affect not just themselves or their family but also numerous other people alongside of whom you also labor?

I’ve always believed that leaders, particularly in the church, should be held to a higher standard since they have a greater influence.  Their actions and attitudes will most certainly sway and affect a much greater number of people than the average person.  This issue bothered me so much that I ended up spending some time talking with a counselor who made some very interesting statements.  People who are attracted to leadership, particularly in the church, have their own set of issues that they deal with often times which are the very reason they are attracted to church leadership.  It is these very issues which often cause their attitudes and actions to be no better than the average man.  His point was that I really shouldn’t be placing them on a pedestal or having a higher expectation of their attitudes and behavior than I do for anyone else in the church.  My response should be to pray and to trust that God will take care of it.

This is a very difficult thing for me to accept, but it certainly leads in the direction of greater relationship with God.  Who am I that I should be the guardian of all that is good and right?  That is the job of the Holy Spirit.

Still, what is our responsibility as members of a church?  Where is the line to be drawn?  I haven’t figured that out yet, but I am learning to trust God more.  I suppose that is the point.

Remove the contamination

October 11th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  The state of your heart.

Matthew 5:8 (NLT)
Those whose hearts are pure…will see God.

I like what the writer of today’s reading says:

If your heart is pure you’ll see God where others can’t, hear Him when they don’t, and communicate with Him in a way they’ll long to emulate.

God is present in some many places, but so often we are blind to it.  He speaks through how we see others behave, and He is present in the world around us, as Paul says in Romans:

Romans 1:20 (NASB)
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made.

How can we be so in tune with God that we can see, hear, and understand these things?  We need to deal with our sin.  "It means your carnal thinking must be abandoned, and self-interest crucified daily."  However, there’s more.  A pure heart is without contamination.

The difference between forgiveness and cleansing is like the difference between cutting off a weed at the ground and pulling it up by the roots.  Forgiveness deals with the result of sin; that’s easy to identify.  Cleansing deals with the cause of sin; that’s not so easy because it deals with  your natural traits and character flaws.  Forgiveness comes by confession, cleansing comes by walking in the light.

What does it mean to walk in the light?  It means coming to the table of the Lord regularly and spending time with Him, allowing Him to speak to you about the things that you think about and do; about how you look at other people and at things; about how you respond to the needs around you and to His prodding; and yes, about the sin in your life.

I’ll tell you what – dealing with and getting rid of the sin in your life is much more than doing the right things and following a code of ethics.  It is about opening up opportunities to experience the fullness of God.

That’s where I want to be.  How about you?

Judging by appearances

October 11th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

John 7:24 (NCV)
Stop judging by the way things look.

The writer of today’s reading relates a story of when a young man gets his guitar tuned by country singer Lonzo Green.  The young man was from the wrong side of the tracks and felt self-conscious because of the upscale neighborhood and because the parents of his friend, Lonzo’s nephew, wouldn’t let him in their house.  Lonzo tuned his guitar, played a few songs, taught him a few chords.  In the end he left with a warm memory.  The young man was Elvis Presley.

Scripture tells us that discrimination is a sin:  "If you favor some people over others, you are committing sin" (James 2:9 NLT).  I believe that most, if not all, people are racist to some degree.  We all have experiences that affect how we treat other people.  Some people allow those experiences to dictate how they treat all people that fall into a particular group, not realizing that not all people in that group are like those with whom they had those experiences.

I’ll admit to being cautious around some people based on how they dress, walk, talk, or act.  I don’t think that caution, however, is the sin James talks about.  I believe our experiences are to be used as guidelines to help keep us safe – sometimes a stereotype reflects reality.  However, even with the caution, I always try to be kind and courteous because I don’t know how God will use me in their life – or how God will use them in mine.

Mountaintop experiences

October 11th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Romans 15:18 (NIV)
I will not…speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.

Today’s reading talks about a couple of mountaintop experiences – when the disciples accompanied Jesus where he was transfigured and when the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies – and then the need to go back down from the mountain to do what is mundane, i.e. to do the work of the ministry.  The point being made is that there is a balance – "We must spend quality time with God, then carry away from His presence the answers needed by those around us."

Our mountaintop experiences with the Lord are really important – whether there occurred an hour ago, last night, last week, last year, or 20 years ago.  They remind us of God’s goodness and spur us on to do bigger and better things for Him.

Waiting for God’s appointed time

October 9th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  God’s timing

Habakkak 2:3 (KJV)
The vision is…for an appointed time…though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come.

"God is a God of order."  How many times have you heard that?  How about, "Everything He does is by appointment."  I think for us finite human beings that often the trouble is that we didn’t get the Outlook schedule request for the appointment.  It’s too bad things like that aren’t like email.  On the other hand, maybe they are.  How many emails have you missed because it either got lost in all the other email you get, or, even worse, was never delivered because it was considered to be spam by your spam filter, or maybe your email server was down for a while and the sender gave up?

One thing you can count on with God is that He won’t give up.  He gives us lots of opportunities to hear about His "appointments."

God has a scheduled time for bringing to pass two things in your life:  His promises and His purpose.  You can count on that!  Whatever you’re going through today, there’s peace in knowing that nothing the enemy does will preempt these two things.

I like that.  Anything the enemy tries to do God will turn for His purposes in our lives.

Of course, we need to wait for the appointed time.  Have you ever shown up early to a meeting…really early?  Sometimes, we show up to God’s appointments hours, days, weeks, even years early.  We do this by trying to rush God’s timing.  When we’re that early, the room is usually locked or it is being used for something else.  That’s kind of like what happens with God’s appointments.  Things don’t seem to go like their supposed to; there isn’t peace in the situation.

Consider this passage:

Colossians 3:15 (NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.

The King James says to let the peace of Christ be ruler in your hearts.  Consider allowing God’s peace to help you know when it is the right time, the appointed time.

Having the passion for it

October 8th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  Discipline and sacrifice

Colossians 1:29 (NIV)
To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Today’s writer has some challenging words to say about the Christian life.

Do you want God’s best for your life?  The path of ease won’t get you there, the path of sacrifice will.  It’s not easy to rise early while others sleep in order to prepare for the challenge.  Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, you’ll discover it’s hard to find people willing to stand with you in your times of testing.  But there can be no celebration without preparation!  Everybody wants success but not everybody can handle it; some would rather have tranquility.  They don’t like criticism and they can’t take pressure.  But if you’re the kind of person who isn’t satisfied sitting on the sidelines – go for it!  If you have the passion, the price won’t stop you.

Getting up early has never been easy for me.  In fact, I avoid it whenever I can.  With my current job schedule (I work from home) I am able to structure my schedule so that I can fit my devotion in whenever I want.  I rarely have a fixed schedule so I can usually spend time with the Lord at the beginning of my day – whenever that happens to be – in the middle, or at the end.  But am I getting God’s best when it comes to fellowshipping with Him and hearing His voice if I am only spending time with Him when it is convenient for me?  I can testify to times when I have exercised more discipline and sacrificed to spend time with Him that it has been a sweeter time.  Maybe that’s because, as the apostle Paul says in today’s verse, I’m not operating in my own strength but in His.

How’s your discipline?  In what ways are you sacrificing to reach the goal set before you?

It’s not in your accomplishments

October 6th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  Finding fullness of joy.

Revelation 4:10 (NIV)
They lay their crowns before the throne.

Today’s writing starts like this:

A lot of people race from one goal to another yet never feel fulfilled!  Sometimes we envy them, yet these achievers can’t see their own worth.  They attain, but never enjoy it. Imagine dying of the very success others envy!

A few days ago I talked about how I am most satisfied when I am reaching toward an goal and involved somehow and that I’m not truly satisfied enjoying beauty.  Today’s writing really hits home for me.  I’ve done a lot of things in and out of the kingdom – worked at Microsoft for almost 13 years; raised (and still raising) four great kids who love the Lord; led worship for youth, adults, and kids; sang in the choir; led, directed, and acted in a drama team that toured area churches and prisons; even played the role of Jesus for two years in my church’s passion play.  With all of this, I still struggle with self-doubt and a need for approval and validation.

The praises of men are wonderful but what if they fall into a leaky heart?  No matter what you put in, it all leaks out.  If that’s where you are today let God fix the leak.  Your job can’t, sex and money can’t accomplishments can’t – but God can!

In today’s verse (and the surrounding passage) we read about the 24 elders worshipping God.  Notice that they didn’t just worship Him, though; they also cast their crowns – a metaphor for their accomplishments – at His feet.  I like what today’s writer says next:

The discovered that when you come into God’s presence you can let it all go, and still not lose it.  Sometimes we just need to lay it all down, look up and say, “Lord, I need to spend time with you!”  The truth is, your accomplishments may bring you some joy, but only in God’s presence will you find “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11 NAS).

Without the presence of the Lord, there can be no fullness of joy.  I have experienced His presence lots of times since I first met Him over 27 years ago.  I think, though, that I need to experience it more fully and more often.  That is true relationship.  What about you?

12 Areas for New Christians

October 5th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

My good friend Bob Jordan preaches and teaches in jails and prisons with Prisoners for Christ Outreach Ministries as well as at PFC-University, a semi-annual training conference to prepare those wishing to participate in their ministry.  Out of that ministry he has published the messages he brings to the inmates on his web site.  He also sends a message to a mailing list each month.  His message for the month of October is entitled “Two Years” presenting his views on “what every Christian should know, understand, and do within their first two years of being in the kingdom.”  It’s a very good read and may even challenge you.

Don’t be put off by his tone.  Since he writes for inmates, his language is very direct and often very hard-hitting.  I’d recommend reading it with an eye to the truth that he is presenting rather than getting hung up on how he is saying it.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to talk to me about it.

Here are the 12 points he presents.  I recommend reading his entire message, however, to get the most benefit from them.

  1. Christian Doctrine.  (Titus 1:9)
  2. Church Affiliation.  (1 Corinthians 12:27)
  3. Overcoming Addictions.  (1 Corinthians 6:12)
  4. Reading the Bible Through.  (2 Timothy 3:16)
  5. Share Your Faith With Others.  (Mark 16:15)
  6. Understand Other Religions.  (1 Peter 3:15)
  7. Be Filled With The Holy Spirit.  (Acts 1:8)
  8. Giving.  (Malachi 3:10)
  9. Growing Up.  (1 Corinthians 12:11)
  10. The Christian Disciplines.  (Galatians 5:22)
  11. Memorize 100 Scriptures.  (Psalms 119:11)
  12. Learning the Will of God.  (Romans 12:2)

Cause I Am The Mom Song

October 5th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

A friend sent my wife a link to this very funny song about being a mom.  If you’re a parent with school-age kids, I think you’ll appreciate it as well.

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