Tuesday, November 13, 2018

November 13 Thought for the day...be excellent

When I was growing up an elderly neighbor lady, Mrs. Gee used to tell me, "Keep your shoes shined, it shows people who you are!" It took me a while to get what she meant. When I would enter their home everything was pristine, her and Mr. Gee were in their 80's, but everything was in order. They had very little money, but they took care of everything they had. I asked Mr. Gee one day what she meant about the shoes, He told me they had very little money their entire lives, but because he took care of his shoes, Mrs. Gee knew because he could be trusted with the small things she could trust him with her life. They were nearly married for 65 years, and he took care of her every day. God looks for people with that kind of passion and attitude of excellence for the bigger things.

"This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work." 1 Timothy 3:1

The Gees had very little money or the things of this world, but they always trusted the Lord. They did everything they did to the absolute best of their ability. They valued all they were given, each other, and the Lord. By doing so, they honored the Lord. Too often today, excellence is not something we strive for passion is based on the moment, not on the way to live your life and value what God has given or called you to do. Paul is challenging us with passion.

The word "desire" means to reach beyond, to stretch to grasp, it is a fierce, unyielding passion to have or be something. It is the inward attitude of a person to always desire to be and do the best. The Holy Spirit is speaking through Paul and saying that is the type of person you should be looking for to place in any type of leadership position.

It is a very sad thing when people have gifts, talents, and abilities and refuse to grow with them. It is equally disappointing if someone is limited in their gifts but chooses not to improve themselves or their position by studying, researching, or simply working to be better. This is showing the Lord they do not have a desire for excellence. The first thing the Holy Spirit list regarding  quality leaders is, "desire!" Mrs. Gee taught me the little things matter because they reflect the big things. Jesus said, "he who is faithful with little will be given much." I am not a perfectionist, but I desire to grow in the Lord, my skills, my abilities, and in any way I can. I always want to be the best I can be for the Lord, not striving for perfection, just a deeper relationship with him.

When people look at your work, your life, or your attitude, are you emulating things that honor the Lord? Why would the Lord entrust great things to someone who will handle them with mediocrity rather than excellence? God has great things for all of us. If you know of someone, who is comfortable with the status quo gently encourage them to push into the Lord more. A desire for excellence is so essential the Lord puts it at the top of the list for what to look for in leadership. I hope it is at the top of yours. If we are not growing and learning, we are dying!

Monday, November 12, 2018

November 12 Thought for the day....leaders needed

What do you think God looks for in leadership? Many would think someone that has the right gifts, talents, and abilities. While these things are important they are not what God wants us to look for, Paul helped young Timothy find the right people

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 1 Timothy 3:1

Timothy was going to be pastoring one of the largest churches in the world. To do this efficiently, he needed leadership he could trust. Paul gave him advice regarding who to look for and trust. God's leadership choice is always about character first, gifting second.

The word translated bishop really means, "a person who has oversight!" I believe every person in the church, because of our need for integrity in the church and leadership in the world, should live up to these qualifications. I am thankful, in my church,  that many do and many others are working on these character traits. It doesn't stop within the church.

This term can be applied in all aspects of life. Paul is preparing to tell us various traits that one should look for in a person that can be trusted to be a leader in any area. In Rome, this term was used of people who could be trusted to get jobs done, oversee projects, handle and account for funds, a person that would make sure everything was completed with excellence, and integrity.

Today this could be a manager, supervisor, administrator, anyone who wants or desires to hold a position of leadership. God expects people who love Him, to be excellent in all they do it is one of the ways, we can bring glory to Him. When we use our gifts the best, we can we bring Him glory. In the church, people are needed for areas of responsibility, areas of excellence. The church of Ephesus that young Timothy pastored needed quality leadership to meet all of the needs and impact the world.

Every pastor needs and should be looking for leaders with the character traits we will be talking about over the next few days. Every business deserves to have Christians that live these character traits as well. Every boss, who calls themselves a Christian, should emulate these traits giving their employees an example to live by.

Keep reading over the next few days to see if this is you! I hope it is. Try to live in such a way that if someone spoke badly about you that no one would believe it!

Friday, November 9, 2018

November 9 Thought for the day....never disqualified

Several years ago the Lord hit me with a scripture. I was busy doing all the things the Lord had asked me to do. I was quite productive in every way. However, there were a few things off in my life that I did not recognize until he hit me with today's verse.

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27

I have always been a prayer, faster, Bible reader. I had always been faithful to serving others and serving the Lord to the best of my knowledge. However, I had put on weight. Everyone has a weight that is good for them, as long as you are healthy you are good. For me, I was getting unhealthy my blood pressure, and cholesterol was rising, but what was worse as I traveled the world I was beginning to feel like my weight was being a bad witness of Christ. For me, my weight had begun to disqualify my witness.

Paul is talking about bringing every fleshly desire under control. Anger, greed, lust, gluttony, manipulation, all of these things and more that the flesh so desires. When Paul is writing "disqualified" it means that or discredited, disapproved, dishonored, shamed, set aside.

Demas was a disciple and friend of Paul and Luke. We find him having traveled with them on part of their journey, in the book of Colossians. However, in 2 Timothy 4:10, we find he was disqualified, he left the faith because he didn't want to lose his reputation or fear. It is dangerous for us to assume because God used us at one time that because we may be used by Him know that we are still someone powerful in the Kingdom.

Most falls of men and woman of God are because they could not control their flesh. My being overweight was not some major downfall it just showed me that I was lazy in one area and it could have easily followed through in others. I needed to bring my flesh under subjection to Christ.

It doesn't take blatant sin to start us down the road to being disqualified as ministers of the Gospel (if you are a Christian you are a minister of the Gospel). A little pride, anger, greed, lust, gluttony manipulation, (you can find a nice list in Galatians 5:19-21) can easily start you down a road to disqualification.

There is hope. Be filled with the Spirit. He not only will protect you from the flesh overrunning your life but will cause growth, life, freedom. For me, I'm 38 pounds lighter, have more energy and strength, and a certain freedom I hadn't realized I had lost. Whatever is trying to disqualify you, ask the Lord to show you and then ask Him to show you how to overcome...you will win!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

November 8 Thought for the day...opportunities for God to shine

For 8 hours I had been driving with my Russian friends. We had seen maybe two or three cars in all of that time. I was on my way from a ministry time, and they were hurrying to get me to the airport so as not to miss my flight. All of a sudden the van ran out of gas. They were upset thinking I was going to miss my flight. I had enough time to share with them a story of how the Lord managed to get me out of another impossible situation in Nicaragua and because of that experience I knew the Lord would get us out of this one. As I completed my story, we saw lights coming from behind us a few miles back. My brothers began to figure what they would do if this car gave us a little gas. To all of our surprise, in a few moments, what we thought was a car turned out to be a truck hauling gasoline. It pulled up beside us and sold us enough gas to fill up the van. God is always looking for people who won't give up but will trust that He will always get you where you need to be.

"...Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea." 2 Corinthians 11:25

We only have one record of Paul being shipwrecked, but apparently, it happened to him three times. Can you imagine? Did Paul miss God's plan? Should he never have gotten on those ships? Had he stepped outside of God's will because these bad things kept happening to him? Of course, the answer to all of these questions is, "No!" Aren't these the types of questions others ask us, or we ask ourselves when bad things happen? Acts 27 we can read Paul's story of shipwreck.

The one thing the devil is terrified of is a Christian who stays on course. He will do everything he can to hinder, hassle, cause confusion, or simply get you to give up. The only time the devil wins is when we give up, become frustrated, or surrender our dream/God's plan for our lives. Paul did not miss God, the devil simply tried to stop him. Paul didn't panic, didn't complain he sought the Lord, and the Lord told him what would happen and how to protect everyone on board. Can you imagine the revival that took place among the crew? Can you imagine the power the Gospel had to these men after this incident? God's plans are bigger, and we don't always understand why we go through what we go through. We always have a choice trust God and win or surrender to a negative mindset, give up and let the devil win.

One of these shipwrecks caused him to tread water for an entire day. Most of us would have never gotten on a ship again. Paul understood, it didn't matter if he was on water or on foot, the enemy was terrified of him. The devil was determined to stop Paul at any cost. Paul knew all of these circumstances were opportunities for God to shine and he was determined to allow God to use him to shine!

What opportunities do you have right now for God to shine? Have you given up on God because of things that have happened? Have you been hurt or disappointed so badly that you gave up on God? Allow me to challenge you to revisit those places, allow God to pick up the pieces, and look at them in light of today's "thought!" You terrify the devil when you keep going and trust God! Start scaring him today!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

November 7 Thought for the day...senseless and stretching

Senseless shootings are just that, senseless! When they happen in a house of worship that makes them particularly heinous. It is the world we live in but not an unusual event.

Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 2 Corinthians 11:25

By now you might be saying why do you keep talking about this. I am bringing this up to remind us to live each day with intentionality. I am not fatalistic here, I am one of the most hopeful and hope-filled people I know, We need to understand we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Let's stop wasting time with our little squabbles, disagreements, prejudices, and sin.

My first trip to China we smuggled in some Bibles. I was met in the dark by two men who wept as we gave them their Bibles. When they reached for them, I noticed rope burns on their wrists. They had been hung by their wrist, with them tied behind them for 30 days. The only thing that saved their shoulders was their feet were tied just right to keep their shoulders from dislocating. If they wanted to eat they were fed their own feces, to drink, their own urine. Their crime, being a Christian in Communist China. Two or three days after their release they were meeting me to get more Bibles. Their love of God was amazing. China has dramatically changed since those days, but things like this and worse happen every day to believers around the world. November is persecuted Christian month, and we need to remember what faith in Christ cost many around the world.

Paul was "beaten with rods." Three times they bound him with ropes, strung him upside down then beat the bottoms of his feet severely to brokeness. The devil had hoped Paul would give up, so he attacked his means of transportation, his feet. Three times Paul got right back up and kept on walking. Rather than give up, Paul knew the resurrection power of Christ, and he quite literally walked in it knowing that God would bring him through anything. Why do we allow little offenses to hurt our relationships? Why do we give up so easily when the flesh or the devil causes some frustration? Paul's heart beat more for God's plan then these "minor inconveniences!"

In this world, we will have troubles; we will battle physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual battles. God has already won every battle for us. If you really believe, if you have a real vision of God's divine plan, don't allow anything or anyone to steal that from you. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy but Jesus has come to give us abundant life. The life we live in America is really unusual in light of Christian history. Pennsylvania was founded as a state to harbor those who suffered from persecution because they were true Christians. Allow the Lord to stretch your view of your faith. God wants to bless his children, always but we must always keep our eyes on Him, not our circumstances.

You might be thinking what does the photo have to do with the topic? Nothing, the topic was so intense I thought I might give you something peaceful to look at to take the edge off a bit!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

November 6 Thought for the day...real faith

One of the advantages I have from traveling to over 100 nations is I have seen the church around the world. My point of view is a little different from the "American Christianity" many of my brothers and sisters in Christ have in the US. Some of the happiest Christians I have met are those in the worst circumstances. They have come to know Christ not through stuff but as the friend He is. Struggles have not pushed them away but instead, have made them among those with the most profound faith.

"....In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

A few days ago I shared with you the cost of changing the world. Paul went through many tribulations as Jesus spoke of here. What did Jesus mean? The word "tribulation" means to be pressured, squeezed, super stressed to be in a situation that is so intense that in the natural it is almost unbearable. Paul told us in 2 Corinthians 11:24 that he was beaten with 39 stripes. They did this to him 5 times. They bent him naked over a post 13 times they beat him on the face and chest with a three strapped whip that had bits of bone in it to rip at his flesh. The other 26 stripes were done to his back, legs, and buttocks. He then put his clothes on and kept sharing the Gospel not allowing anything to defeat him! That is real faith

Paul gave us an example of "being in good cheer" despite tribulation. This means, be courageous, take heart, be bold, keep moving with zest. It takes no faith to never face and trial, difficulties, or struggles. Chances are if you aren't facing these things and at times deserts you aren't growing! Faith is overcoming, a lack of faith gives up in the face of struggles.

When Jesus said, "overcome the world," this means that we will continuously, always, in every way have victory. In other words, Jesus is telling us despite what we may be walking through, we had the victory, will have the victory, and will continuously have the victory.

The word "world" here refers to the arena in which Satan tries to wield his power. People of faith, despite trials, tribulation, and struggles, if we keep our eyes on Jesus will have victory, continuously over Satan and the authority he has, because "greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the "world!"

Real faith doesn't mean we don't go through stuff. In fact, it means just the opposite if you are growing in Christ you will face opposition at every turn because the "prince of this world" doesn't like you making claims and taking his territory, the people and/or stuff he controls. Real faith takes the stuff and overcomes it to walk in victory every time. We don't walk by might, nor power, but by His Spirit for victory continuously!

Monday, November 5, 2018

November 5 Thought for the day...the cost to changing the world

Everyone wants to change the world like the disciples. They want to see the power of God move like it did in the first century. My challenge is, are you tough enough or too soft?  It seems in our culture it doesn't take much to ruffle people's feathers or hear them start to complain. They run from one thing to another when something gets hard. The problem with changing the world is it means taking the devils territory. If he can make it "hard," most will just stop. Paul showed us we must have the determination to win. (This will be my most intense post yet)

Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  2 Corinthians 11:23

To be mightly used of God takes mighty determination. We must know the Lord, how to pray, His word, and our call. Paul knew all of that and didn't waver from any of it. To do something mighty for God, you must throw yourself into it regardless of the inconvenience or the cost. Jesus said, "Give, and it will be given to you"..." the measure that you use it will be measured back to you."  We need to remember we will see the Lord moving in our lives in exact proportion to our willingness to give our lives to Him. Paul was sold out!

To push hell out of the way we have to be more determined than hell itself to see God's Kingdom moving. To take territory we will fight, we will choose His Kingdom over our Kingdom, and we will be more than conquerors! This is Paul story here. "Stripes above measure" Paul is telling us he was beaten severely and more frequently and intensely than anyone really understands. If we are going to take on hell, we have to stand up to the pressure hell might give. Otherwise, you will say, "this is too hard" or begin to whine, complain, or place blame. We must determine to be tougher than anything the devil can throw our way. That is one of the many reasons we need the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

"In prisons frequently" Pauls was talking about his regular imprisonment were rather than complaining, he used it as a time to write parts of our New Testament. The word he uses refers to small, very confining cells, where only the worst criminals were held under the heaviest guards. This was Paul's confinement and his best place for writing.

Paul writes "I die daily," we generally interpret that as our spiritual condition. What the actual interpretation is that he literally faced death on a regular basis. He knew how not to fear death and to trust that his life was in the hands of God and he kept his eyes on the Lord knowing no man could take his life until God gave permission.

The Holy Spirit empowers us to walk in truth, power, life. He causes us to be hope, joy, love, and peace filled. We have the power to overcome the enemy every time. We have the power to change our world. We must be determined to push into God 100% rather than only giving Him part. Ask yourself these questions: Am I in the Word every day? Do I spend quality and quantity time talk with God? Am I giving my time, talent, and treasure to God always? Am I choosing to trust Him above everything including my feelings, every day? As you come to the place of being able to answer yes to all of this, then you can expect to have the impact in the world that the disciples had. This is the cost to changing the world.

What do you gain? Peace, love joy, power, life, all that you need every day emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually! Knowing God intimately. What a life that is!!!