Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Another Monday is here.  For me, Monday’s are a day when new to-do lists are written out and a successful Monday will set the tempo for my entire week.  It will frame what I accomplish and often will frame how I accomplish it.  Part of my Monday practice includes a time of deep contemplation.  It could be on a variety of things but usually settles on a ministry methodology, a scriptural passage or future planning.

Today I find myself contemplating the significance of a verse that the Apostle Paul penned.  He wrote in Philippians 1.21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  I am not sure why it has become stuck in my head but it is there stuck nonetheless.  Besides the obvious question: is this verse a reality in my life? I find myself contemplating what this verse actually looks like in our society and what it’s implications are.

I believe when evaluating  modern society  the verse could sound something more like this: For to me, to live is all about me, and to die is failure.  As a whole, humanity has defined living to be all about us.  We seek to cram as much as we can into our lives and enjoy our life to it’s fullest as if that is all there is.  Yet as society has nosedived away from accepting God-given principles as the normative way of living there too has been a cascade affect within the walls of the church.

I read articles nearly everyday written by men who I believe truly desire to make an impact but they are inherently flawed in their approach.  They ask the wrong question.  The question should not be be how can I please the masses rather it must be how I can please the Master.  At some point I wonder if those of us in leadership have forgotten that seeking blessing from God does not always mean pleasing and appeasing.

After all when you consider the life of Christ, it was one that was marked by hardship yet coupled with effectiveness.  He faced rejection everyday yet approached His ministry with a posture of prayer.  Yes, the masses followed Him yet the masses also rejected Him.  That did not make Him ineffective rather it showed the dichotomy that exists between a life that is focused on Christ and a life that is focused on self.

I wonder what you think…How do we fix the me-focused society?  How do we fix me-centered husbands?  How do we fix me-centered wives?  How do we fix me centered children?  How do we fix me centered churches?  How do we fix me-centered _________________(fill in the blank)?

Not a theological dissertation rather the musings of someone trying to make a difference…

Lord help me to maintain an eternal focus.  Please remove the temporal focus that so ofter pervades my thinking.  Allow me to model what a life lived for you truly is to look like to all who cross my path.

Consider The Slaves

Slavery is dark stain on the history of our nation.  It is an incredible evil that involved the kidnapping and oppression of millions.  It was a despicable practice that involved forced labor and often came with physical, sexual and extreme emotional abuse.  Human beings were forcibly removed from friends and family so somebody else could make money.  Those who were forced into or born into slavery were viewed as people that were not even human.  They had less value or worse: had no value.  For many property owners, they were just another farm implement that was used to harvest crops.  When they outlived their use, they could easily be disposed of.  It truly was a disgusting practice that our country allowed for years.   

Consider The Jews

Most people know Adolf Hitler as the most evil man to ever live.  He did things that are so grotesque that words will never be able to shed light on how evil he truly was.  From 1941 until 1945 Hilter and his followers are responsible for murdering 6,000,000 people.  The purpose of these murders: Hitler did not like Jews.  He was driven by a hatred that is beyond comprehension.  The fact that one person can call for the persecution of an entire people group because of their own personal whim is astounding.  This time period in the 1940’s does not just mark a lapse in judgment by Germany and their leader but shows the shortfall of humanity as a whole.  After all, how does one man and one nation get away with murdering 6,000,000 people before they are stopped?  Shouldn’t someone have stepped in and stopped the murders sooner?

The stories of abused and mistreated of people are abundant.  Nelson Mandela, ethnic cleansing, the civil rights era and hundreds of other examples prove to us that we live in a world that is dominated by evil.  Yet within stories of oppression and social injustice another story often rises to the surface.  It is the story of hope.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison in a country that proudly practiced the public oppression of blacks.  He also is the man who helped destroy the racial divide and led the country that once had imprisoned him into a place of unity.  What kept him going?  Why would he not give up?  How could ever think that he, a black prisoner in a country that hated blacks, could ever bring forth change much less become the president of that nation?  One word: Hope.

Within the historical accounts of slavery and the homicidal reign of Hitler come stories of beauty.  We find men and women who make the decision to run and escape to freedom.  Yet once they are free they became seized by the vision to help others experience freedom as well.  It is not enough they have freedom, they wished others to experience it as well.  Why?  They have a hope that the world will become a better place.  They had a hope that they could be the agents of change.  They had a hope that they could be the change in the world that they desired so intensely to see.

Hope is a powerful tool.  One that does not allow people to give up even while they are in the most dire of circumstances.  Hope allows people to live with integrity because they know that giving in is not an option.  Hope gives them a mission because not only will life get better but they will help it get better for others.

Here is a definition of hope:  the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

Hope is the reason we can rejoice on the vilest of days!  Hope is why we can get up in the morning when yesterday was extremely painful!  Hope is why we can find joy in every situation!  Hope is why can answer the question “Is this really as good as it gets?” with a resounding no!  Why, because we can believe that it will get better!

For those who have placed their trust in Christ as their Savior hope is an amazing thing.  Two days ago my grandmother passed away.  Yet I know she loved Jesus.  I know she is heaven.  I know she is free from pain.  I know I will see her again.  Hope is my comfort and my promise. 

Consider the following verses:

1 Thessalonians 4.13-18

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive [d]and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Titus 3.7

So that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

If you are living a life that is devoid of hope please stop!  Recognize that hope can be had and can be experienced.

If you wish to know more about this hope that I have found in Christ Jesus please message me so we can discuss further the hope that comes in knowing Jesus. 

I would challenge you not to become overcome with the evil of this world when you have opportunity to become overcome with the Hope of Christ Jesus!  Make a choice…Make the right choice.

Quite often in Christian circles I hear a statement, “just focus on the essentials”.  However, the longer I study God’s Word the more confused I become about what this statement means.  Perhaps I need to start asking those who would make this statement to give me a clear definition of what the essentials are. 

Some would say that that which is essential is just the Gospel.  The more I study God’s Word, the more convicted I become that just focusing on the Gospel is never enough.

If every Word of God is inspired and every Word of God is profitable then wouldn’t that make all of Scripture essential?  If every Word of God is inspired and every Word of God is profitable (2 Timothy 3.16) then is it not supremely arrogant on my part to pick and choose which of God’s truths are the most important ones.  After all when I consider all of the truths God chose to preserve for us in His Word, aren’t they all the most important ones?  Perhaps in the Old Testament God made for the Israelites a list called the Ten Commandments (oh yeah He did) and then told them the four commandments that were the essential commandments (oh yeah, He didn’t)(Exodus 20).  The very idea of this is ridiculous.  Yet, it is done every day to preserve harmony.  I do not believe rejection of truth can ever result in biblical unity.  If rejection of truth is what causes an apparent unity, then it is better classified as apostasy and not unity.  Lowered standards do not exalt our  Lord.

Why is that many pastor’s never mention money…Jesus did!  Why is it if I speak on divorce people become offended…Jesus talked about it!  Why is that a well known evangelical pastor claims to have never used the word sin from the pulpit…After all Jesus did.

Our obligation is not to decide what is essential and what is non-essential but rather to focus on correctly handling all of God’s Word so as we have no need to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2.15).

The moral of the story is this, rejection of some truths to keep peace is not acceptable. 

As a minister of God’s Word, my obligation before God is to confidently preach the whole counsel of God Word not just the parts that will make others appreciate me.  After all, is my desire to please man or is my desire to please God (Galatians 1.10)?  At the end of my life my prayer is that it will be said that I ministered out of integrity not out of a desire to be a celebrity.

Syncretism is the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.

In the Old Testament we find the Israelites attempting to blend their worship of Jehovah with practices that involved worship and sacrifices to idols.  To make a long story short…it ticked God off.  He burned with righteous anger toward He people.  He held them accountable for their actions and punished them.

In the New Testament we find people that have been referred to as Judaizers trying to promote law and Christ at the same time.  They would say on one hand that Christ was sufficient yet on the other hand that you must be circumcised and fulfill Jewish dietary laws.  In essence, they were declaring to a watching world that Christ is not sufficient.

In modern day American churches we find a different type of syncretism.  Baal worship is not prevalent and neither is dietary laws.  What is prevalent is the worship of me.  I am not talking about people worshiping Jon Goodwin but I am talking about people being so focused on themselves that they will go to any means necessary to please themselves and all the while gladly proclaim “I am a Christian.”

The selfish nature of the modern day church is what I believe has contributed to shrinking congregations all across America.  If my focus becomes me, then is sure isn’t on reaching a lost and dying world for Christ.  If my focus becomes me, my family will take a back burner.  If my focus becomes me, then church becomes optional.  If my focus becomes me, then Christ is not my focus.

I am curious what your thoughts are on this subject.  Share your thoughts.  What are specific examples in the modern church where you belief syncretism exists?

A man by the name of John Hancock Field once stated, “All worthwhile men have good thoughts, good ideas, and good intentions, but precious few of them ever translate those into action.”  In other words, that age old adage, “it’s the thought that counts” is not true.

Too many people declare to the world that they are perfectly content with the world by their actions.  Yet with their lips, they declare quite another truth.  They teach their children to complain yet not how to work.

The former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, said, “There are times when a leader cannot be this thoughtful, in-the-corner-guru.  You cannot be a moderate, balanced, thoughtful, careful articulator of policy.  You’ve got to be on the lunatic fringe.”  Far to many people get stuck in the thinking phase and never move to the action phase.

A man name James wrote this in the New Testament of the Bible, “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works.'”  It is time we stop telling people what we believe and start showing them what we believe….

If we say Christ desires us to be compassionate then how are we showing compassion?

If we say Christ desires us to extend forgiveness then how are we extending forgiveness?

If we say Christ desires us to live a sacrificial life, then how are we living sacrificially?

If we say Christ desires us to boldly proclaim the Gospel message, then when is the last time we did?

 

It is time we stop talking about being Godly and stop talking about doing the right thing.  In the words of Nike, “Just Do It!!!”

Acceptance…

Posted: January 31, 2012 in Lessons From Scripture, Thoughts
Tags: , ,

Pondering the word acceptance… I was hit with two questions:

1. Have you accepted the world as it is?

or

2. Have you accepted the fact that you are to be an agent of change?

You see either you make a difference or you don’t.  My prayer is that when people talk about me at my funeral that they don’t share how comfortable I was but rather how much positive change I made in the world.  My prayer is that I will leave this world a better place then when I got here.

~Jude 22 “And some have compassion, making a difference.”

In Job one we find Job losing his children, his employees and his wealth.  In Job two we find him losing his health along with the support of his wife.  All of these things were completely out of Jobs control.  His life was in a tailspin.  Yet it was a tailspin that Job did not need to take responsibility for.  He had not made dumb choices to cause these things.  These attacks on his life were not a result of God’s punishment because Job had chosen to live in sin.  They were part of a larger spiritual battle for Jobs heart.

God does not expect you to be held responsible for circumstances that are outside your control.  There are things in life that happen that just aren’t your fault.  Yet in dealing with these circumstances, God does expect to hold you responsible for your response.  Response to tragedy is often a good indicator of someone’s heart.  After all, it is easy to bless the name of God when life is going well.  Yet do we acknowledge God’s goodness when life isn’t?  The goodness of God does not change even when we don’t feel like we are experiencing.  God remains the same yesterday, today and forever.

In my house, we have a family photo and on it is printed the latter half of Joshua 24.15 which says, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  The first half of this verse is a challenge to the people to make a choice;  who is it that you are going to serve?  This verse is fitting because it does not provide a clause to not serve God when circumstances do not go our way or when we feel that God is not near.  It says, choose it and liveit.

My response to everything I encounter says alot about my heart for God.  The question is, when life and circumstances are not pleasing to me, is my life still pleasing to God?

Yesterday I remarked on Job.  I made some brief remarks on how obedience is not dependent upon understanding.  I would like to continue and share another observation that we can make from the life of Job.

As a father of three kids I have noticed that when my children do something wrong they are quick to point the finger at someone else.  If I am to say to Matthew, why did you push your sister it is quite possible he will tell me that his sister stuck out her tongue.  I then will ask his sister why she stuck out her tongue and she will respond with, because he called me a name.  You see blame shifting is normal part of humanity that we need to be aware of and respond to purposefully.

Back in garden of Eden, Adam blamed Eve who blamed the serpant.  It has been part of the process of mankind from the beginning.  Yet God did accept the excuse instead He punished all who were guilty.

In the case of Job, he was given the opportunity to sin.  In fact he was encouraged to by his wife.  Scripture tells us (Job 2.9) that Job was encouraged to throw his integrity out the window and to curse God and die.  Job could have done exactly what his hurting wife called him to do.  He could have lost his integrity.  He could have uttered curses against his God and ended his own life.  Yet he did not.

Job responded to his wife with “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks.  Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2.10)  Job recognized that all he had, had come from God and that God was still in control.  He realized that he could not follow his wife’s ill advice because regardless of how tough life was, it was still wrong.

How often do we hear lame excuses that are birthed out of the “he made me do it” syndrome?  God does not accept this and neither should we.  An obedient servant of the King is called to accept responsibility for his or her actions regardless of any other influences in their lives.  The question is, whose influence is stronger, God’s or man’s?  How we respond with actions and excuses will clearly answer that question.

 

Thank God potty training is done in my house.  There is something about discovering wet puddles on the kitchen floor with sock feet that is quite unsettling.  In fact, it is down right gross.  Soggy underpants…puddles…running to the bathroom… extra laundry…

It has probably been a good 8 months since we have moved past this training period in my house with my youngest and I am ok with that.  I was thinking that my wife and I never gave up on our son when he wet his pants.  We cleaned him up, carried him to the bathroom, did lots of laundry and sometimes picked him up and ran for the bathroom.  We knew that sooner or later he could and would get it.

I know it is an odd analogy but aren’t you glad God doesn’t give up on you when you make a mess.  In fact He continues to give you chances even though you get a little messy.  He still loves you even though cleanup is required.  When you get a little stinky it doesn’t matter because you are still His child.  He still wants you to experience the best.  He does not want you to give up and settle for a stinky, messy life.  Rather He wants you to conquer and live a victorious life.

Thank God, He doesn’t give up on us as fast as we give up on others!

This morning I did some reading on Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth.  I walked away from this narrative doing a lot of contemplation on an oft overlooked character in the story: Joseph.

What a confusing role this guy played in the whole story.  While I am not going to do an in depth explanation of Joe’s role in Scripture I am going to share what I was challenged with after reading Matthew 2.  It is this: Obedience is not contingent upon understanding.  Joseph had more than one dream where an angel appeared to him and he acted in obedience every time.  Consider the midnight dream telling Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt in the middle of the night.  Joseph did not consult his bank account, read the papers, check the weather or ask friends what to do.  In fact he did not even wait for morning to come.  He simply grabbed his belongings and family and left.  You can’t tell me he fully understood all the facts but you can tell me he fully obeyed.

I struggle with acting when I do not understand and I know I am not alone in this.  I research things I do not understand.  I have hundreds of books and spend hours researching and reading every week.  Yet sometimes God just wants me to listen and do what He is calling me to do.  I fear that to often I strive for understanding when God just wants me to strive for obedience.

So I shall say it again…Obedience is not contingent upon understanding.