Friday, May 26, 2017

May 26 Thought for the your all

Many years ago the Lord met me in such a dramatic way that I was challenged with a simple but profound call, which has become part of my daily prayer. Break my heart with the things that break your heart, help me to see people, things, and circumstances the way that you do, and teach me to be a man 100% sold out to you. Even though that prayer was many years ago, I am still learning all three parts. Paul challenges us to live that way

"So, affectionately longing for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives because you had become dear to us" 1 Thessalonians 3:8

Here is what I mean. In this one sentence, Paul is challenging both leadership and laity with his example. He begins by saying I am thrilled to have taught you the life-giving word of the Gospel. We know Paul was a master theologian. Most of the New Testament are his writings. He was a strong preacher of the Word.

He went beyond the word by saying "also our own lives". He was living the gospel as well as preaching it. I remember running into a guy at the gym who wanted to argue Calvinism with me. He did have some good points as many with a theological bent do but then I posed the question, "with all of your study of the word and John Calvin's teachings, how many people have you lead to Christ? How many families have you helped to heal? Tell me about the fruit in your ministry regarding lives changed, the poor hearing the Gospel, the captive is set free? His answer sadly was "none". 

It is not enough for anyone to be able to preach the Gospel. It is just as important and actually at times more so to live the Gospel before people. Do people know you are a Christ-follower by your actions or only your words? Do they see you facing similar problems to their's and not losing it, growing fearful or angry? Do people see you as a loving person who cares about them? Do you live in fear, anxiety, and worry about tomorrow? Do you have complete confidence the Lord has your tomorrow? Does the way you work, do your taxes, spend your money, time, and talent show you are a Christ-follower?

It is never enough, as a Christ-follower to talk about the light we must be the William Tyndale, a translator of one of the first English translations of the Bible and martyr for the Kingdom. "I set myself on fire so that others may come and watch me burn." The inference being give your all for the Gospel so that others will see the truth.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

May 25 Thought for the day...a need for desire

A large portion of the call of God on my life is to enable people to become who God wants them to be. If they don't now Jesus, to make sure they are a child of God. If they do know Jesus, to help them fulfill their destiny and purpose. That is why I do this "thought for the day," my preaching, counseling and mentoring. Paul speaks about the need to desire to be all of this in 1 Timothy 3:1

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

Paul begins his outline of leadership in the church by using the phrase "desires the position." The word "desire" here means to long for, have a burning desire, great ambition, to achieve something or become something. Paul begins by saying that someone who is called to be a leader must possess a burning desire to be a leader.

One of the saddest and most frustrating things for me is to see is someone with great gifts, talent, ability, intellect, wisdom, love, or whatever exceptional trait they may have, sitting on it rather than using it. Having lots of gifts but being desireless is one of the saddest things I can imagine.

Not only does a desireless person rob themselves of the intimacy and promotion from the Lord, they could have by fulfilling their call, but they also can drag others down with them. Laziness is contagious but so is industry. We are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength yet the desireless person does none of this. They may, for a season, think about getting involved but thinking about getting involved and fulfilling God's passion for your life are two different things.

Without passion, burning desire in your heart, you will never rise above the mediocrity of life. If we only do what we see others doing, then we will never achieve greatness in our jobs, church, relationships, or lives. People will always want to pull down a rising star but God has called all of us to shine, and I believe to outshine the crowd of mediocrity. We need the ambition to do better, seek more, to not settle for anything less than God's best for our lives that affect everything from our jobs to our global impact.

It can feel exhausting to go for God's best. It can be frustrating to want to break out of the pack and be better than mediocre. However, desire is the key to fulfilling our destiny in every avenue of our lives. Jesus challenged us with "to whom much is given much required." Every person of faith has been given so much. The same Spirit that raised Christ lives in us. He can give us drive and passion, but we must want to want it first. If you are missing this "desire," don't wait any longer. Ask the Lord, and He will stir it within you. There are many holes in the church because people refuse to rise above mediocrity, but you can start today on the worship team, children's church, coaching, giving, helping, mentoring, using your construction, cooking, teaching and so many other skills that will also help others rise above it!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 24 Thought for the day...helping or hurting?

In the churches, I have pastored, and when I worked for Christian Television, I have always worked to meet people's needs both spiritually and physically. It is one of the joys of ministry to see a burden lightened. I learned very early that there are those that would want to take advantage and Paul addresses that in Galatians 6:5

"For each one shall bear his own load (burden)."

Yesterday we talked about bearing the burden of others but today just a few verses later Paul is saying that we must bear our own load (burden). This seems a bit confusing. In the Greek, the word used for "load or burden" is completely different that in Galatians 6:2. This word means to carry a backpack, the expected amount of weight every soldier should carry.  It is the normal responsibilities every person is expected to carry in life.

In Acts 2 we see that the early church had everything in common. They sold their land and other possessions to make sure that everyone had enough. This failed! People became lazy and rather than helping the community they would sit and wait to be cared for rather than caring for the needs of the community. Paul had to tell the church (2 Thessalonians 3:10) if someone does not work they will not eat.  It is in the nature of some, not all, to become lazy and not carry their own responsibilities.

The Holy Spirit is making clear here that we each have our own responsibilities for our daily life that we must bear. Paying our bills is our responsibility to hold down a job and live within a budget. Caring for and disciplining our children is our responsibility as a parent. Mowing our own lawn, keeping our homes clean and in good repair, taking care of our health, these are all things that are the normal responsibilities that the Holy Spirit is saying are our burden (load) to bear. There are always times where a person may need help in these areas, and we do, but they must realize it is their responsibility, not anyone else's because God has blessed you with all of these things He expects you to bear your burden and be wise.

In situations where someone is not bearing their own load, it is our job to help them, but our help must be to help them grow up and become adults. Our actions of "help" may actually hinder their growth as both a Christian and an adult. God wants to bless us all and if we shirk our responsibilites we can not be blessed and if in the process of feeling sorry for someone we enable them, we are not really helping but instead hindering their growth and ultimately thier blessing from the Lord.

Be wise when you are about to help someone that you are really helping and not hurting them, hindering a blessing in their lives.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May 23 Thought for the day...bearing burdens

Every time someone comes into my office or into our church, it is my hope and desire that whatever burdens they bring with them will be lightened or eliminated altogether. What are we supposed to do when we see someone burdened.

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

It breaks my heart to see so many people overburdened. Whether the burden is of their own choosing or some other reason, we are to bear one another's burdens. The word used for burdens here means to be crushed under a heavy weight. This weight could be spiritual or physical. It could be the result of the person's sin, a bad habit, poor judgment, failure of a family member, a broken relationship, job situation or health crisis. The reason for the burden does not matter. The burden is not to ever steal God's destiny away from them. It is our job, as their brother or sister who sees the burden, to come along side of them and to lift it with them.

It may be that to help them lift; we solve their problem, we give them guidance to get them to where they need to go, or perhaps we simply listen to them and pray for them. Whatever it is we are called to lift one another's burdens.

On the other side, if we are under a crushing weight, don't just assume others know you are carrying a burden. Humble yourself, ask for prayer, reach out for help, don't allow the burden to crush you.

Lifting each other up shows our real love for one another. Thus we do fulfill the law of Christ!

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 22 Thought for the day...the art of listening

This has been harder for me, at times, than you might think. It may be for you too. Every day I would hear dozens of people's struggles, at the same time I am thinking about the direction the Lord wants to take us, prayerfully trying to keep others lifted up, hearing suggestions from some, and working on solving corporate and sometimes international church problems. All of this is going on in my head at the same time so when I sat to listen to someone it had been hard to focus. James challenges us regarding this issue.

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." James 1:19

It is very easy to jump to quick decisions when hearing someone. I believe that is part of the difference between hearing and listening. The word James uses for "quick" has an important implication to it. It implies the idea of a runner running a race is so focused on winning that they block everything else out. Their "listening" is so intense that they do it with the desire above all else to win. James is saying we should be so focused on being a good listener that we would do with the intention of winning the race of being a good listener, listening with intentionality. There are times when this is simply impossible for me, so I have to turn off my phone or stop others from talking at the same time because as a Christian listening to others is absolutely necessary.

As a young mentee, I would start to talk over my mentor. He was gracious and allowed me to make the mistake of missing out on much that he had to say because of my arrogance and ignorance. Then I had the "aha" moment of realizing my mentor was wise and I needed to learn to listen rather than speak. People who are hurting, confused, lost, need to be heard. Even if I don't agree wth them, I will still listen because in speaking to one who will listen, most people find their answers.

In being intentional about listening and working to focus I will often repeat to the person...

“Is this what you’re trying to tell me?” “Is this the point you’re making to me today?” “Is this what you want me to get from this conversation?” “Is this what you want me to do after we’re done talking?” “Is this how I need to respond?” “Is there anything else I need to know about this?”

Asking these questions makes sure I don't miss anything. It will assure the person I am talking to that I am listening.

Listening is the first step to good communication. If you can learn to listen you will become a great team player, be able to resolve many conflicts and help people and yourself,  get to where you need to be, and ultimately win the race. Listening is indeed an art!

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19 Thought for the day...growing in strong faith

We all know as Christians we must grow in our faith. If we stagnate we are actually going backward. If we are willing and open God will provide opportunities for us to grow in our faith every day, some small and others giant leaps. Jesus did this for the disciples. See if you have challenges like this in your life today.

Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” 6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. John 6:5,6

Jesus "saw" the crowd that is to say He assessed the size and makeup of the crowd accurately. Who knew exactly how large, how hungry, and the breakdown of the crowd. He turned specifically, we are told to Philip and asked a question. Jesus always knows the answer before he asks us anything so why did He ask Philip? Philip didn't know where he was in his faith.

Philip, like the other disciples, had seen Jesus heal the sick, cleanse lepers, and even raise the dead. He certainly had a level of faith. All of us have areas in our walk with Christ where we are strong. For us to become all the Lord wants for us we must grow strong even in our areas of insecurity, growing in our understanding of who Christ is in us. We must grow to understand the real power of the Holy Spirit in and through us. Like Philip Jesus will "test" us.

The word used for "test" means to prove, put through the fire, purify. It is best pictured as the way a blacksmith would test the metal of a sword for impurities. A sword may look strong but once it is placed in a fire the impurities are revealed. They can then be removed otherwise the impurities would have remained and sword while looking strong would easily have been broken.

God purposefully brings us into situations where we must be proven. He knows what we are made of, the impurities we have in us. He will walk us through faith growing situations to reveal to us our impurities so we might grow through them. He then turns a weakness into a strength.

Be thankful today for the growing and stretching situations you find yourself in. God will always be faithful to you and part of that is to help you "prove" the person you are and the person you will become!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

May 18 Thought for the day...the effective communication of the Gospel

It is not always easy to present the Gospel. We are all supposed to do it but fear of failure, rejection stifle our attempts. Paul had a really bad experience but found a way to turn it all around.

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."  1 Corinthians 2:1, 2

Paul had just come off of his famous Mars hill discourse (Acts 17:16-34). He had talked to the Athenians about the "unknown God". By every sense of the word, it was brilliant.  It was the perfect blend of contextualization, theology, and proper exegesis (a lot of fancy words to say any theologian or trained missionary would have been proud). The problem was it didn't work! Acts 17:32 "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” Verse 34 tells us there was a small group from the massive crowd that did believe. So what happened?

Athens was a city full of supernatural power, demonic, but still, supernatural. In one temple prophets prophecied to every person who entered. In another, healings took place on a regular basis. The city was full of temples and supernatural occurrences were a common thing in Athens. The supernatural to the Athenians validated the truth that was being spoken.  Paul had reverted to relying on his own strength of theology and had forgotten the key to this city was the demonstration the Spirit and power. As he is writing the Corinthians he corrects this mistake in verse 4 he makes this statement, "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,"

To be effective in sharing the Gospel we have to not only understand what we believe and why we believe it. Paul was not discounting that but we must have the fruit of the Spirit (demonstration of the Spirit) and the power of the Spirit (gifts, actions) active in our ministry. In every meeting our church has, in every service I preach or teach, I expect God to move in power. We should always expect the Holy Spirit to show up. Our attitudes and character should always reflect the fruit of the Spirit and our actions the power. If you are filled with the Spirit you should expect the Spirit to flow in power through you and if you are filled with the Spirit God expects the fruit to flow through you too! This is truly the effective Gospel message.