Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What the Church Can Learn from the Obama Campaign

This post is not political.  However, after reading up on how the Obama campaign won the election, I realized that there were a couple of tips that we as the Church could take from their strategy.

1. They had the desire to convert. Obama wanted to win.  He knew that every vote  counted and he went after it.

2. They went to the people.  I read in Time Magazine that Obama had a strategic ground formula that was unmatched by Romney. He utilized facebook in a way that will most likely change the game of politics from now on out.  All this being said, is that, as a Church, we must go to the people.  Isn't this what Jesus did?  :)

3. They did not rely on the rally.  Similar to point two, Obama did not rely on his rallies to get his message across.  If we as the Church relied solely on Sunday morning services to get the gospel out (which we tend to do), we are going to lose this race of building the Kingdom.

4. They told people what they could offer.  Again, this is not a political article, so I will not go into the details of whether they can do what is promised.  However, as Christians, we know GOD CAN DELIVER.  And people need to know that.  We have the greatest news and the greatest deal, yet we don't seem to want to share it with anyone.  However, if we communicated the life, joy, and hope Jesus brings, don't you think people would respond?

Whether you are an Obama fan or not, his strategy worked.  Don't you think it might be time that Evangelicals re-evaluated their own strategies of the "seeker" friendly model and adopt a ground game that might be a little more time consuming, a little more dirty, and a little more relational.  However, the effects could possibly be a little more eternal.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Lesson from Starbucks

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I went to a Starbucks the other day to find the slogan “Rekindle the Joy” emblazoned on their door. In July of this past year, their stocks fell due to a lowered projection in fourth quarter earnings.  Before the recession, a Starbucks cup was somewhat of a status symbol and brought with it a sense of well-being.  Now, the same cup seems to represent superfluous spending and a lack of priority.  In response, the company hopes to re-brand themselves by reminding people of the togetherness that happens over a cup of coffee.  
While this is a silly illustration, it makes me think of a much greater branding issue that we as Christians have.  As I was driving down the road the other day, a church’s billboard read “you may think someone is sweet until you sit in their pew.”  Somewhere, the church has gone from being the Body of Christ to a competitive bunch of social organizations.  We love those who are like us and judge those who are not. The name Jesus Christ no longer brings a sense of peace, hope, and joy to those but rather dread, condescension, and distrust. 

If we were to re-brand Christianity today perhaps a tag phrase could be: Truly Transformed.  You see, Starbucks began to lose business because people realized that the company was capitalizing on really expensive coffee. The product did not live up to the hype.  Unfortunately, for some cynics, they see Christianity the same way: a group of sugar-coated people on the outside that if you mess with them, watch out. Yet, these naysayers miss the ultimate picture of Christianity: Christ.  When Jesus was alive, people were attracted to him.  Today, the church constantly has to come up with catch slogans and programs to get people in the doors. Therefore, if we could re-brand ourselves, allowing Christ to truly transform us, the Church, and the way in which we relate to those around us, the world would have a completely different perception to Christianity.  Not only would it be different, it would be magnetic.

What are some practical ways you can “re-brand” yourself to where others see Christ in you?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Breaking the Cycle of "Normalcy"

Matthew 10:37-39  37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
When Jesus called each of His disciples, there was nothing special about the moment to the call.  However, the events that transpired afterwards altered every moment for the rest of the follower’s life.  Discipleship was an epic journey marked by sacrifice, learning, and dependency on the Master.  Nothing about the disciple’s life was normal.  His schedule was made by his Teacher.   
We live in a world that loves schedules.  There are calendars, day planners, IPads, phones, computers, etc., that all have apps or programs that support the use of a schedule.  And most of us love to use these schedules.  The devout even schedule in their religious activities.  But what if we had the conviction and freedom to  where there was no schedule but to do what God asked of us?  What if we lived a life of such Epic proportion to where God’s Kingdom was so on the forefront of our mind that it dictated how our day was planned? 
Take a moment to re-read Matthew 10:37-39.  Now, insert what I like to call “Kingdom Wasters” (such as TV, Social Media, naps) into the blanks.  How many of these Kingdom Wasters can you think of?   
Matthew 10:37-39  37 “Anyone who loves their ____________more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their _________ more than me is not worthy of me.
38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
When Jesus taught these verses in Matthew, he was showing through hyperbole that love for Him must come before all else.  However, it seems that love for Jesus is no longer a close second to family if we used time to gauge our affections.  Work, school, friends, sports, entertainment, vacations, etc. The list keeps growing and growing.
If we as Christians want to effectively impact the world for Christ, we are going to have to break the cycle of doing what’s “normal” in our culture.  Some of these changes might seem drastic, but in case you haven’t noticed, we live in a desperate time.  This world needs Jesus and they need to see Him through us.  We need to step up and become the followers He has called us to be.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Importance of Unity: Part One - Unity Amongst Believers

John 17:20-26
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

John 17 consists of Jesus' prayer for himself, his disciples, and all future believers.  It is Jesus' final prayer before he is arrested and later crucified.  In his prayer for future believers, Jesus asks the Father specifically for unity.  The first type of unity he prays for is amongst believers.  The second type is between the believer and the Father and Son.  When Jesus intercedes on behalf of future believers, he prays that believers will share the same type of unity that he has experienced with the Father. The purpose and result of this unity, given in verses 21 and 23, is that the world will believe that: 1. Jesus was truly sent from God and that 2. God loves them.  In verse 22, Jesus states that he has given believers the glory needed to accomplish this unity.

So, if unity amongst believers was one of Jesus' primary concerns before facing the cross, should it not be one of our priorities today?  However, settling discord and building oneness seems to be less than a precedence in many of our lives as well as in the lives of many churches.  If someone has a problem with their brother or sister in Christ, often times, they complain to another or avoid the issue rather than mending the relationship.  Or if someone has an issue with the body of believers, they simply find another one that suits them better.  It seems that there is more competition and conflict between and within the Church than unity. Yet, we are surprised when unbelievers want nothing to do with us.  Jesus stated that the result of unity would be that the world would know that he was sent from God and that God loves the world.  However, if there is no within the body of Christ, how will that message be delivered to the world?  Jesus' gift to us, according to verse 22, is that he has given us what is necessary to be one.  Yet, we often stray from that glory in order to seek our own. 

Jesus' work on the cross was the ultimate example of humility (Philippians 2).  It was this act of humility that allows us to be united with God.  I believe that it is Christ-like humility that allows us to be united with each other.  As we prepare for Easter this year, let us look at our own lives and ask ourselves how we are doing at being united with our fellow believers.  Our unity is a greater testimony to the world than we often realize.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stopping the Pity Party Mindset

2 Timothy 1:8-12 -  8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

Today, as I began my Bible Study, I did so with a pity party mindset.  I was tired, frustrated, and had simply had enough drama from all of the "messes" going on in my life.  However, as I began to sit down and pray and read the beginning of Second Timothy, my Heavenly Father began to give me a slight attitude adjustment. 

At the beginning of the letter, Paul is in prison and is writing to his beloved pupil, Timothy. Other supporters had deserted him and he has suffered a lot for the cause of Christ.  However, Paul instructs Timothy to not be ashamed of the gospel or of its messenger.

I began to meditate on verse 12.  Paul suffered so much, yet complained none.  The reason for this is because He knew WHY he was suffering.  He realized that there was a purpose for it.  His purpose was to share the gospel, no matter what.  More importantly though, Paul was able to suffer well, because He knew the Lord well.  He was not ashamed because he KNEW whom he believed.  The Greek word used here that means "to know" can have two different meanings: the first is to have information about someone or something and the second is to be intimately acquainted with someone or something.  The range of the word is as vast as our own use of the English equivalent.  However, Paul KNEW Jesus.  It is evident by his testimony he gives in verse nine. 

In thinking about these verses, I have come to realize, how we handle suffering directly correlates with how well we know Jesus.  If we simply know him to be the subject of children's songs, hard times will seem pressing.  However, if we trust in Christ as the one who has the power of God, who has saved us and has called us to a holy life, not because of anything that we have done but because of his own purpose and grace, not only will we endure suffering, we will conquer it with JOY.  Paul was such a great testimony to Christ because he was not ashamed in his suffering. Rather than blaming God for his perils, He praised Him for His purpose because he knew that in his suffering, others would see Christ.

Paul understood how difficult it was to have such fortitude in a harsh world.  That is why he wrote Timothy such strong words of encouragement.  I know I often cower in my own discomforts, but it is my prayer that I may have the MINDSET of Paul so that my actions may gravitate toward gratitude.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Get Over the Guilt

1 John 3:19-24
19 By this (Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and our response of love) we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

The power guilt has over a believer is often suffocating. It distracts us from our ultimate purpose of seeking God's kingdom and His righteousness.  We often wallow in guilt, allowing our hearts to condemn us over and over again for either an isolated mistake or a habit we are trying to break.  Yet, Scripture gives us comfort.  First John 3:20 reminds us that when our hearts condemn us, we must remember that God is greater than our heart and He knows everything.  This is not a verse of judgment, stating that God can make you feel worse because He is bigger and can remember more of your transgressions because He knows everything.  Rather, it is a verse of comfort. The all-knowing, all-powerful God has extended mercy and love to us through His Son, with the only requirement that we believe and love (1 John 3:24). Therefore, we have no reason to allow our hearts to condemn us when the God of the universe no longer does.

No matter what has happened in the past, or perhaps even what is going on now, there is no reason to let guilt have a strong hold over you.  It is not the life God wants for you.  He has made it possible to become free of that guilt simply by believing in who He is.  God does not want us to cower before Him, but rather to have confidence, because our confidence comes from knowing the Truth.  When we are self-absorbed with guilt, we serve and love for the wrong reasons, and others do not see Christ in us.  However, when we are confident before God, we are focused on Him and love like Him, which allows others to see Him in us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Your Responsibility to Ask, Seek, and Knock

Matthew 7:7-9 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened."

Often times, in hardships I hear, "I just can't see God" and "I don't believe God hears my prayers."  As I've pondered on these statements and surveyed Scripture, I've come to the realization that our ability to see God at work is based on how hard we are actually searching for Him.  I've gone through some difficult times in my life, and 100% of the time, how much I saw God in the picture was dependant upon how hard I was seeking Him. 

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus gives a conditional command.  In essence, he is saying, "if you ask, it will be given, if you seek, you will find." These are not simply a one time event of asking, seeking, and knocking, but Greek grammar dictates that the command is continual. In essence, the person is to continue to ask, seek, and knock.  There is no object to what is given.  Many people think this verse implies that we may ask anything of God and He will give it, which makes God out to be our own personal genie.  However, Jesus is speaking these words in Matthew 7 during the Sermon on the Mount, where the emphasis is the kingdom of God.  Therefore, what is asked for, sought, and knocked upon should be seen in light of the kingdom of God.

One of the most striking examples of this is that of George Mueller. He began praying for five of his friends to come to faith.  After many months, one of them became a Christian. Ten years later, two others were came to faith. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Mueller continued in prayer until his death for the fifth friend, totalling 52 years of fervent prayer. Mueller's faith was rewarded, for soon after Mueller’s funeral the last friend was saved.
in Matthew 7:7, it is interesting to see who makes the response happen with each of the corresponding actions a person does.  God is the giver to the asker and the opener to the knocker.  Yet, nestled between the two, the seeker is the one who will actively find.  Therefore, the biblical principle is made: if someone continually and actively seeks, he will find."

Sometimes life doesn't make sense.  It seems unfair and unjust.  And if we get down to it, it isn't just, because sin has entered the world.  However, sometimes, we place the blame of life's conditions on God. We think that God doesn't hear us and that He doesn't care. That belief is not biblical truth. The truth is that if we seek Him, we will find Him. The challenge for us is this: when we walk through trials, we continue to seek because the seeker is the one who finds.  No one else can do it for us.

Even in the grimmest situations, God can be found.  It might not be in the answer for which you were looking, but that does not negate His presence nor His purpose for you.  Our emphasis should not be placed on the impending result, but rather on our continual plight to ask, seek, and knock.  When we do, our hearts will be more in line with the heart of God and we will better understand the plan He has for us in light of whatever circumstance you are going through. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Importance of Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 - "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

As we approach the Valentine's Day season, we cannot help but be bombarded with one message: LOVE.  For some, this day is dreaded (at one point I was one of those rebels, wearing black to show my denouncement of the holiday).  For others, it is the most anticipated day of the year because it is the one day their significant other must show their love in a tangible way. No matter how you celebrate February 14th, it is hard to ignore.

While I was thinking about this upcoming holiday, I began to think about 1 Corinthians 13.  Here, Paul tells the Corinthians about the importance of love.  He tells them that they could have and use the greatest spiritual gifts, but it would fall on deaf ears if they did so without love.  They could possess great faith in God, but it means nothing if they cannot love another person.  They could be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for Christ, yet if they do not love, the sacrifice is worthless.

How many of you have ever tried to listen to someone give a spiritual talk when they had scorned you in some way?  Was their message engaging or did it sound like a broken record?

If someone knows the Word and is passionate about it, and has great faith, but does not care about others, how receptive will others be to the message?  Jesus was the ultimate lover.  He saw the "unlovable" and welcomed them.  He saw the "untouchable" and healed them.  It was His love that compelled people to listen. 

We as the Church need to examine how we are doing at loving others.  How are we loving those closest to us?  How are we loving those with whom we worship?  How are we loving strangers?  How are we loving our enemies?  So often we focus on our own spiritual lives and disciplines, that we forget that there is a hurting world around us who need Jesus.  We are his disciples and his ambassadors representing him on earth.  If we do not love, we give the wrong impression of him and every effort we make is in vain at best.

This Valentine's season, I want to challenge you to begin to pray that God will give you a heart for his people and will grow your love. 

They Shall Know We Are Christians by Our Love.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Personal Word on Prayer

For those of you who do not know...last week my daughter and I were involved in a fairly bad car accident. I had just taken my son to school. As we were turning out of our driveway, I noticed I was on empty. I made note of this to my son who pleaded with me to stop at the nearest station by our house. I told him that I would stop after I took him to school. On the way to the gas station, I was t-boned by another car going about 65 mph because I turned without seeing him coming. I then hit another truck which landed my vehicle on the ground. After it was all over and I had my daughter in my arms, I realized how bad it could have been. My SUV was in shambles, as was the other one. Yet all parties walked away with minor injuries.

In the next day or so, people began to tell me how on that morning, they had felt compelled to pray for me by name. They stopped what they were doing and prayed. One person was praying at the exact moment my son was trying to tell me to choose another gas station. I can pinpoint several people who had specifically prayed for my safety that morning. I am grateful and humbled to say the least.

Oftentimes, I dwell on the Sovereignty of God and I think that my prayers make no difference. However, that is an unbiblical view of prayer. In Luke 11, Jesus tells us to ask of God. Our God is not simply some unfeeling powerhouse. He is our loving Heavenly Father who hears us when we cry to Him. He wants us to ask of Him because when we ask and He gives, it is a testimony of who He is.

I know without a doubt that I walked away from that accident because my Heavenly Father listened to the prayers of His people. He compelled them to pray, they followed in obedience, and He heard their prayers. This example shows both God's Sovereignty as well as our responsibility.

I know I do not typically log about my own experiences, but this truly was a defining moment that will shape my priority and content of prayer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Are you OK Being a Loser?

Let's face it, the first item on our goal list is not to be the most unpopular person within our social environment.  I was watching a comedian one night, and he described himself as 15 degrees off from cool.  He said that you could take the "cool kids" and compare him with them, and he would be slightly awkward.  While the audience laughed, I think that at the same time, each one could relate to some degree.  We all want to be liked and accepted. We want to have friends and be considered people of influence within the community.  But when does that desire become too much?

1 John 2:15-17 says -  15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

There is a disconnect between what the world wants and what God wants.  Sometimes, we get a little confused and our minds start to drift from the things of God to the things of the world.  We begin to think about how nice a newer car, a larger house, a more fashionable wardrobe, a more powerful job,or a fuller day planner would be.  Yet, in the end, none of these things will last.  However, the work that we do for the kingdom of God will make an eternal impact.

Think about the people who have made the biggest impact in your life. Was is because they were the most popular, had be best "stuff", or even had the charisma to impress you the most?  What was it about those people?  Chances are they were humble in nature, not given much credit for what they did, and you would not be able to pick them out in a crowd.  Or at least, it was not their popularity that made the impact on you.  Conversely, they most likely had the love of the Father in them and shared that love with you.

When we begin to focus more on how to increase what belongs to the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, or the pride of life rather than focusing on God, we are heading down the wrong path and need to turn our thinking quickly.  God knows his plans for us and when we look to him and trust him, they will work out as long as we seek him.  Then, wherever we are placed, it is God who is glorified.

The temptation is to have the world tell us how great we are, but when they do that, they do not see how great is our God.  To God Be The Glory!

*Disclaimer - I am not saying that God does not place people in high positions, because we see that in Scripture (a great example is Joseph).  However, our mindset should not be on getting to those position, but rather loving the Father.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Getting Rid of Excuses Part Two

I would love to serve you Jesus, but not in THAT way....

My mantra for this year has been Matthew 6:33.  I must admit that it is not the easiest verse to follow.  As I try to seek first the kingdom and God's righteousness, I find that my own pride sometimes gets in the way.  Often times, we think of God's kingdom as the church, meaning, the church we attend or are affiliated with.  Therefore, our righteousness is sometimes measured by what position we have or how active we are.  If we are truly seeking the kingdom, our church attendance would be at a high percentage.  If we were truly righteous, we would serve in a position of leadership.  However, this way of thinking is far from the truth.

Paul writes about the unity of the Church and the spiritual gifts given among the members in 1 Corinthians 12.  He begins the chapter by discussing that it the Spirit who gives, apportions, and empowers all service to God (1 Cor. 12:11).  However, the Corinthian church had a status problem.  There was a lack of unity between the higher class and lower class and position meant everything to them. Therefore, there was a problem in Corinth with people seeking out the gifts that they were not given.  They were unhappy with the service to which they were empowered.  Some of the roles within the church were being viewed as noble, while others were being viewed as less honorable.  In today's church, it would be comparing a national pastor to the local toilet scrubber of the church.  Therefore, there was potential tension within the community.  The "lesser" members perhaps would feel less important while the "more important" members might look down on the others.  Yet, Paul emphasizes that  God composes the body, gives great honor to those who lack it, and appoints the roles (1 Corinthians 12:28).  Therefore, in God's eyes, each role is the same and is all useful for His glory.  However, the Corinthians continue to "earnestly desire" the greatest gifts. 
Paul then tells the Corinthians that there is a way to unity that far surpasses the direction they are going.  His next section is his famous lesson on love: 1 Corinthians 13.  For Christians, pursuing the kingdom is not about what gifts you have or what position you hold because God gave you that gift and placed you in that role.  The way to building the kingdom is love.  The Corinthians had it wrong: seeking higher gifts and status were not the answer because the sovereign God gave them out in His plan for the Church.  Love is what will build the kingdom and unify the Church.

Sometimes we get so caught up in "refining our gifts" so God can "use us for His kingdom" that we forget who gave us the gift and who placed us in His service. Oftentimes, the far superior way of the kingdom is staring us in the face.  It is the child asking us to read him a story.  It is the friend who looks like she needs to talk.  It is the stranger we feel convicted to share the message of Christ.  Yet, we get so distracted by what "tier" we are on in this false hierarchy of the Church. We get mad when someone does not complement our “service”, be it a solo at worship or a lesson in Sunday school.  We get hurt when we are not asked to join a committee.  Yet, all the while, when it comes to our work, what God asks of us is fairly simple: serve where He places you, utilize the gift He gives you, and do both in love.

 ESV  Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:17 ESV)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Getting Rid of the Excuses Part One

Luke 9:62 - Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

In my last post, I wrote on laziness. God can do very little with a lazy person when it comes to building his kingdom. However, one who is just as useless is the one who continually makes excuses to God. In the next few posts, we are going to look at why we make excuses when it comes to serving the Lord.

In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus is call disciples to follow him. Their responses are, "I will follow you, but let me first...." One man was concerned with his provision, and one man was concerned with his familial duty. In essence, they saw something else as more important at that time than proclaiming the kingdom of God. While Jesus' words seen harsh in verse 62, if you imagine the word picture, it makes sense.

If a farmer is plowing a field, it is necessary that he plows straight rows. That way, the crops have enough room to grow and will not get intertwined with each other. In order to plow a field, one must hold the plow straight and look straight ahead. Otherwise, he will get off course. Knowing from experience (sorry little garden), when you look back while your hand is on the plow you begin to plow in the direction where your head is turned. The result is a messy garden and unfruitful labor. Applied spiritually though, we cannot follow Christ with our hands or our actions while our head and our hearts are still hung up on something that belongs to the world. If we do, we will simply be making excuses to either delay obedience or worse.

Jesus says that you cannot serve two masters. You will either love the one and hate the other or you will despise the one and love the other. If you have been making excuses lately about serving Christ to the fullest, I would like to ask you to examine the reason why. Could one of the reasons be that there is something else that has priority in your life? If so, ask God to begin to change your heart and help you prioritize your life around Him.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dealing with Laziness

Proverbs 6:9-11 How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

As winter settles in, it suddenly becomes harder to rise out of bed. Suddenly, the warmth of the covers seem to entice you to hit the snooze button more times than you ought. And we often think to ourselves, "what is the harm in giving ourselves ten more minutes?" However, Proverbs 6:9-11 holds a great deal of wisdom on the subject of laziness. The essence of these verses is that with laziness comes a slippery slope leading to disaster. We often do not realize the effect laziness has had on us until it is too late. For instance, the lazy student does not realize his transgression until he reaches his test and has no knowledge of the material.

We all like to take breaks and enjoy times of rest. However, when we allow these "rests" to become more than just a season of refreshment, we settle into a realm of complacency and sloth. The result is an unproductive life. We begin to have the mindset of ,"just a little more sleep, just a little more rest, just another hour of television or facebook." When we have this mindset, not only will we be physically impoverished, but we will do a disservice to the kingdom of God. We are called to be active agents of the kingdom of God. When we allow ourselves to become lazy, not only do we hurt ourselves, but we miss out on having an impact on the world.

In what ways have you been lazy lately?

How can you overcome your laziness?

What can God do through you if you actively seek Him?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pursuing Righteousness

The last two days, I have focused on Matthew 6:33 which says, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Yesterday, I discussed what it meant to seek the kingdom. Today I want to focus on how we can seek righteousness. As I have mentioned before, the because the Greek verb "to seek" is in the present active imperative, the writer is stating that the pursuit of righteousness should be continual and active. This is not a one time occurrence that happens at salvation. Pursued righteousness should be a focal point of the believer. It is not simply right living that we should seek, rather we should desire to live the way in which God lives. We should devote our behavior to his standards.

I have heard much debate as to whether it is actually possible or not to achieve complete righteousness on earth. That is not what this blog is about. Rather, it is about how we can pursue righteousness. God tells the people of Israel in Isaiah 1:16-17, "“Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil. Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause.” Here in these verses we see that righteousness includes the omission of evil, the addition of good, the accountability of others, and the defense of the needy. James writes it more concisely in James 1:27: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

When it comes to righteousness, a pictoral image is an unstained garment. There is no residue of sinful behavior, selfish ambition, and ignorance of others. Rather, it is pure and clean due to living justly and seeking justice for others.

So how is this pursued on a daily basis? The first way is to know the character of God through his Word. If you do not know his character, it is hard to emulate. The second way is to start evaluating not only your actions, but your motives. The third way to pursue righteousness in your life is to begin to have a consciousness for the needs of others.

A righteous young man might not make it to the top of his company, but he will know that he never harmed anyone or took unfair deals to advance himself. A righteous young woman might not be seen as the most desirable by the world's standard, but she kept herself pure and modest in order to honor her God.

What is your current standard of righteousness? Is it everyone else, or is it God?

How can you increase your standard of righteousness this year?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Starting out with a heavenward mindset

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Yesterday, I posted about how we are supposed to seek first the kingdom for God. As a New Year begins, it is easy for us to make commitments and have good intentions, but they are much hard to place into practice. So how do we hold to our commitment to continue to seek God's kingdom first?

The first answer is to understand the importance of God's kingdom and our participation in it. The kingdom of God (heaven) began at the beginning of Jesus' ministry of earth. It can be defined as God's reign being applied on earth. Where sin and death had victory over the earth, through the death and resurrection of Christ, they have been overcome. However, the kingdom of God has not reached it's fullness, but will occur at the second coming.

The importance of the kingdom to us is that, as believers, we are now a part of his kingdom. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven (Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20). With citizenship comes both opportunity as well as responsibility.

So, here is no question about the importance of the kingdom. The question now becomes, how do we continue to seek the kingdom of God? The Greek word "to seek" refers here to a continual strive to make the kingdom the center of one's existence. The way in which we do this is to place our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). When we wake up, we think first about how we can help God's kingdom expand and be glorified, whether it be in the way in which we act towards others or the words we say. We are not to strive to build our own "kingdoms" of power, wealth, fame, or friends. As believers, we are to have a kingdom focus.

The process of maintaining a kingdom focus is a discipline. It is not simply relying on our emotions to carry us through the day. Rather we are to continually set our minds on the kingdom rather than the earth. Being a faithful disciples requires training (1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Timothy 4:7).

The Challenge for today is to brainstorm ways in which you can develop disciplines that will help you stay focused on the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Perspective on Resolutions

As I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish for the upcoming year, ultimately I began to think about the things that I had let slide in 2011 (ironically, one of those being this blog). Regardless of which of my "resolutions" of 2011 were not banners of success, the reason was all the same, I had made a sincere declaration, had started off with fervor, but because I had not developed a discipline for each goal, no matter how high of a priority, when demands came, my goals shifted a little in order to accommodate the need of the moment.

In Jesus' discourse about being anxious, he tells the people to "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33). In essence, he is saying that believers should actively be seeking God's eschatological kingdom. This is not some aimless treasure hunt, but rather it is a focused pursuit of our desire. We should continuously be striving heavenward. This focus paired with the second should be the priority of our lives. The second command is to seek his righteousness, meaning the righteousness of God. We are to continually strive to live upright. If we fall, we are to continue the journey.

So what does this passage have to do with my New Year's resolution and goals? Well, initially, I wanted to sit down and make a list of all these thing that I wanted to accomplish: write on my blog every day, get published, contribute financially to the family, help Daniel learn to read, etc., etc., etc. But God's message to me was much more straight forward. This year, I am to seek first the things of heaven and pursue God's righteousness. God is big enough and sovereign enough to add whatever else he feel that I need. This is not a passive resolution or a cop out to where I can sit home all day. Rather, it is a decision that I am actively going to pursue ways to grow and glorify God's kingdom. My desire is to be a vessel in whatever way God allows. Yet, even in this quest, it takes disciple, because in the rush of life, the temptation to turn our eyes to the world and make hasty decisions rather than seeking God's benefit first is hard to do.

My question to you: will you join me on this journey? I would love to hear your stories, as it will encourage me. Let's make 2012 a year of difference.