The Trap of Imagined Perfection

The call was a reminder of a moment in time when I was less than godly!  I felt the weight of failure settle on me. Regret and remorse came to visit me as well. “Why did you make that choice?” I asked myself. I refuse to live in shame, however.  Our sins are fully forgiven when we confess them to our Savior. The Word tells us that there ” is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, NIV)  Are there consequences rippling my choices? Yes, there are. But there is no more guilt!

Romans 8Christians need the message of radical forgiveness. Some insist that ‘too much grace’ leads to more sin. Exactly the opposite is true! Accepting God’s declaration of forgiveness, believing that He reconciles us fully to Himself, frees us to live nearer to His heart, where we find power to choose to be holy. Bob Carlisle sings a song called “We Fall Down.”  (lyrics at the end) He describes a peasant who envies the monks who he imagines live above the temptations he experiences. He meets one of them outside of the monastery one day. The man tells him that monks are tempted and sometimes fall, too. The lyric repeats –  “We fall down, we get up – and the saints are just the sinners who get up!”

We may look at someone and slip into the trap of imagined perfection –  “Look at him. He is so much better than I am, he does not even struggle with sin any longer!”  It is never true! There is no place and no one that has achieved sinless perfection this side of Heaven. A disciple who is growing in Christ will always deal with temptation, often severe, always deeply personal. For one it may be lust, for another greed, for another pride. As the Holy Spirit leads us along the Way, we do conquer temptations, but evil conspires to find another way to neutralize us. Subtle pride is just as much a sin as blatant lust! Apathy is not as obviously a sin as stealing, but it is a failure none the less. Temptation is ever present and the war continues – sometimes raging, sometimes just a skirmish! “We fall down, we get up – and the saints are just the sinners who get up!”

The Word reminds us that “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT) Be very suspicious of the authenticity of anyone who claims they have found ‘the secret’ that allows them to live without any struggles with sin and/or temptation! Either they are self-deceived, lying, or they want to sell you something. The Word reminds us that “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7, NIV)  How do we grow in holiness of heart, the beauty of Christ Jesus?

We defeat Self, Satan, and Systems of this World – not by our cleverness, nor by escape to some utopia – but by standing in the Truth of God’s amazing grace in the middle of the war! -We know His love is deeper than our sin We know that the Spirit is at work in us giving us the strength to stand. If we fall, we reach for Jesus’ hand and get up, learning and growing from our failure. “We fall down, we get up – and the saints are just the sinners who get up!”

Are you struggling with past failures and sins today, feeling ashamed, alone, inferior, broken?
Is some temptation dancing in your mind?
To hide it, to deny it, to try to defeat it all by yourself will lead only to failure.

Saints (that is what WE ARE when we belong to Christ) are not perfect. “We fall down, we get up – and the saints are just the sinners who get up!”

Stand in Christ! Here’s a word from the Word. It’s the Truth. Hold onto it today.

That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives.
Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life.
Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time- (remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!) –
into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live.
After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.”
(Romans 6:12-14, The Message)

Listen to Bob Carlisle sing “We Fall Down.”  (YouTube Link)

 

______________

 

We Fall Down

Cursing ev’ry step of the way

He bore a heavy load

To the market ten miles away.

The journey took its toll

And ev’ry day he passed

A monastery’s high cathedral walls

And it made his life seem

Meaningless and small

 

And he wondered how it would be

To live in such a place

To be warm well fed and at peace

To shut the world away

 

So when he saw a priest

Who walked for once

Beyond the iron gate

He said tell me of your life

Inside that place

And the priest replied

 

“We fall down, we get up,

We fall down, we get up.

We fall down, we get up,

And the saints are just the sinners,

Who fall down and get up!”

 

Disappointment followed him home

He’d hoped for so much more

But he saw himself in a light

He had never seen before

‘Cause if the priest who fell

Could find the grace of God to be enough

Then there must be some hope

For the rest of us

 

Then there must be some hope

Left for us

 

‘Cause we fall down and get up

We fall down we get up

We fall down we get up

 

And the saints are just the sinners

Yeah the saints are just the sinners

Who fall down and get up

 

Kyle Matthews

© 1997 Above The Rim Music (Admin. by BMG Music Publishing)

BMG Songs, Inc. (Admin. by BMG Music Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Nobody, from Nowhere, with Nothing

obscurityDo you ever read about people making a difference in the world and wonder if your life counts for much?  When you are challenged to ‘reach the world for Christ’ do you feel inspiration and guilt in about equal measures?

I know that response! Billy Graham preached to millions and brought the Gospel to hundreds of nations. Entire cities stirred to his message about Jesus’ love.  Bill Hybels writes inspiring books read by thousands and leads a church that ministers to tens of thousands each weekend. Andy Stanley speaks to conferences, inspiring thousands of Christian leaders and leads a church that is noted for helping the next generation to find Christ.  By comparison, what am I doing?  That is the wrong question!

What should we be asking ourselves? What should we be doing?  Let’s look at two stories in the Bible about obscure servants.

A little girl in ancient Israel was taken captive during a war with Syria. She was carried off to a foreign nation and made a servant to the wife of General Naaman.  He became diseased with leprosy.  That girl could have secretly rejoiced that Naaman was sick. But, despite being a nobody, from nowhere, with nothing – she spoke up. “She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:3, NIV)  After a series of dramatic events, Naaman did meet Elisha, exercised faith, and was healed! The greater result was that he came to know the Lord God. “Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” (2 Kings 5:15, NIV)  And, it all started with a servant girl who was willing to speak.

Mark tells us about another nameless woman’s devotion. “Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. “That’s criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year’s wages and handed out to the poor.” They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.” (Mark 14:3-5, The Message)  From a natural point of view her efforts appeared silly, stupid even.  But, Jesus saw her differently.  He saw love and devotion.  Her extravagance was not wasted in His eyes.  He silenced her critics saying, “Leave her alone … She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” (Mark 14:8, NIV)

There are opportunities to do the work of Christ that you, and only you, can do today. They may not be notable. They may not change the destiny of thousands. Some may judge your effort as ineffective, or silly, or a waste of time.  But, what does the Spirit say?  Who are you really serving? The Word speaks to us with this imperative: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NIV)

Christians may indeed be nobody, from nowhere, with nothing – but if we are FAITHFUL to live a life worthy of His calling, the results are beyond our ability to calculate.

Here’s the word from the Word. May it help us to stop looking around to compare and to look instead to serve.

“After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News.

Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.

It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering.

What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.

The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose.

And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-8, NLT)

___________

10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)

 

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning.

It’s time to sing Your song again!

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me,

Let me be singing when the evening comes!

 

You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger,

Your name is great and Your heart is kind.

For all Your goodness I will keep on singing,

Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find!

 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

O my soul,

Worship His holy name.

Sing like never before,

O my soul,

I’ll worship Your holy name.

 

And on that day when my strength is failing

The end draws near and my time has come,

Still my soul will sing Your praise unending,

Ten thousand years and then forevermore!

 

Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman

© 2011 Said And Done Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Everyday Wisdom, Take it!

proverbProverbs, read from it lately? This book in the Holy Bible is not the same kind of spiritual nourishment as Ephesians but to ignore it is to miss out on God’s rich resource of wisdom.  Proverbs does not unfold rich doctrines of grace, for example, but every line is full of pithy, practical truth for life.  An exclusive diet of Proverbs will not make a strong, healthy Christian.  But, a proverb a day will give you thought to live by.  They will cut through the complexities of everyday choices and make plain the best way. “A commonsense person lives good sense; fools litter the country with silliness.” (Proverbs 13:16, The Message)

Check out these gems! 

  • “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”  (Proverbs 22:1, NIV)
    There’s a direct slap in the face of our culture, celebrity-crazed and character-starved.
    Somehow we have come to believe that having wealth or fame excuses us from living honorably.
  • “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.”  (Proverbs 22:2, NIV)
    What a powerful reminder. We’re all equals before God. He does not care about class distinctions.
    If that idea takes root in our minds, it will revolutionize the way we relate to others.  Envy and disdain die when we live as brothers.
  • “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7, NIV)
    If we really believed this, we would resist the temptation to spend tomorrow’s income today on things that will be worn out before they are paid for!
  • “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.” (Proverbs 10:4-5, NIV)
    It doesn’t get much more plain than that.  What a challenge to our entitlement culture.

Americans of this 21st century desperately need to know what Proverbs says about sex and faithfulness.  (see chapter 5!) It warns about the emptiness of materialism. It exposes vanity that chases flattery instead of true honor. Proverbs teaches us to respect to those who guide and lead us.  “Listen, my child, to what your father teaches you. Don’t neglect your mother’s teaching. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and clothe you with honor.” (Proverbs 1:8-9, NLT)

Here’s a word from that book. Read it and be blessed.  Make a trip to Proverbs frequently, to learn the ancient, yet timely, wisdom recorded there.

 “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, 

the man who gains understanding,

for she is more profitable than silver and
yields better returns than gold.

She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.

Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.

Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.

She is a tree of life to those who embrace her;

those who lay hold of her will be blessed.”
(Proverbs 3:13-18, NIV)

 

____________________

 

Father, lead us to wisdom.

Expose the folly of self-will, vanity;

The emptiness of a life built without

The foundation of Your Truth,

Without the pursuit of worship.
Teach us to love the Word,

All of it.

Spirit of God may our way

Be shaped by the words of life.

 

In Jesus’ Name. Amen

“Lord, help him to understand he is an idiot.”

Ever had a “difference of opinion” with someone? There are plenty of things to differ over –  some that really matter.  Often the real issue is just ‘what I think.’  A statement as benign as “I think avocados taste like dirt” will bring on a challenge. (Really, I do not care for avocados, but if you do, enjoy!)  Differences often escalate into an argument.  Arguments turn into attacks, attacks end relationships. When all the noise ends, we wonder, “how did it come to this?”   Couples who were once deeply in love find themselves in a lawyer’s office planning a divorce. Christians who were allies for the Kingdom of Christ  no longer even speak. Neighbors build fences.  Nations raise armies for war.

bridgeConflict in human relationship is inevitable. Thinking people will have different opinions. If we will take even a moment to be honest we will recognize that many of our ‘convictions’ are more like our preferences, what we know and where we are comfortable. For the Christian, the real failure is not having different ideas, but refusing to work at understanding and reconciliation. Followers of Christ should be ‘in the bridge-building business.’  God’s Word teaches us that we must approach conflict differently from the rest of the world.  Power resolves conflict by conquering.

The Kingdom of God never advances with guns or fists or even bellicose words!  Scripture directs us to approach others, even those with whom we differ, this way: “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace. We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future.” (Ephesians 4:1-4, NLT) What a practical passage, but full of challenging concepts: humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance!

Never under-estimate the power of prayer when working through a conflict, be it in your marriage, at work, with a neighbor, in your family, or in the world! What kind of prayers do we pray?  The natural tendency is to ask the Lord to change the other person.  Have you ever prayed something like this?  “Lord, help him to understand he is an idiot.” Perhaps you would not use those words, but was the sentiment similar?  Jesus taught us that resolution begins with kind of prayer: “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Luke 6:28, KJV)  The Message says, “When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.”

“Get’em God” prayers reveal anger not love. Conflict makes us angry and the Holy Spirit will help us to work through it when we take that anger and/or frustration to the Lord. Confession is the foundation of healing and change.  However, our prayers need to mature beyond “help them to see how right I am” to “Lord, open my ears and my heart. Help me to listen. Be our peace.”

Bridge-builders must be committed to reconciliation. That does not mean that we give up on the truth or wave the flag of surrender to purchase peace at any price. We patiently allow the truth to mature.  An amazing thing happens when we wait on the Lord in this way.  We change! Humility is a key. Dying to self means we give up our desire to be comfortable – either by walking off or exercising power to win! In constant prayer, we lay ourselves down before Him. When we surrender to Him, the Spirit comes with new life, new love, new peace.

Never forget that just as we can ‘wage war,’ we can ‘make peace!’ Here’s a word from the Word. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9, NIV) “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” (Matthew 5:9, The Message)

I’m going to be a bridge-builder – with God’s help! How about you?

__________________________

I found this appropriate to my life today.

 

The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.

Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.

 

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Words for River Crossings

Words for River Crossings
Here we go, again.  There are problems waiting to be solved, people who want counsel, letters to write, messages to prepare, decisions to be made …  and it’s only 6 AM on Monday!  Does your week look like that, too?  Does a river of responsibilities flood the way in front of you?  There’s an encouraging story from Joshua for us.

Israel was at the door to the Promised Land once again. The Israelites who had left Egypt had died after failing the test of faith and wandering for 40 years. The next generation now had that opportunity to take what God had promised.  Would they see the hardships and turn back as their parents had done? Would they allow fear to drive them to faithlessness?

feet in waterGod said, “Be strong and courageous!” Spies went out on reconnaissance missions. Plans were made. The people were on the move. Then, they met their first obstacle.  The Jordan River ran along the entire border of Canaan. As they approached it this time, it was at flood stage. What could they do? God said, “Step into the river and I’ll stop its flow!” In obedience to this seemingly impossible directive, Joshua placed the Ark of the Covenant on the shoulders of 12 priests! What happened?  “As soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water began piling up at a town upstream called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry.”  (Joshua 3:15 NLT)

What did those men think was going to happen when they walked into that river?
How long did it take before they saw the miracle start to happen?
Did the ones at the front get waist deep, chest deep, up to their shoulders before the water receded?
Did they hesitate, even for a moment?

I do not know the answers to those questions but I see the lesson of faith.
If we want to enjoy God’s providence we must be prepared to be obedient to His Word and take steps of faith before we see results! It’s not hard to jump on the bandwagon once we see the miracle in progress, is it? But, it is a real challenge to do what God tells us to do when all we have is a promise!  Christian, step up to the challenges this week, with confidence in the promise of Jesus.  He says, “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, The Message)

Has He called you to take on a new responsibility and you’re stalled, focused on the impossibilities? Step into the river!  The Lord seldom reveals the plan for tomorrow until we are walking in obedience today.  We will not experience His provision for Wednesday’s need unless we have lived for Him faithfully on Monday and Tuesday.  There is another amazing, wonderful blessing that comes from our faithfulness. Others are blessed by it.  Those priests who did what Joshua told them to do made a way for others to experience a miracle. The story continues …  “Then all the people crossed over near the city of Jericho. Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by them. They waited there until everyone had crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” (Joshua 3:17, NLT)

Here’s the word from the Word for those who are ready to step into the river.
“What is faith?
It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen.
It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see ..

 So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith.
Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God
and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:1,6 NLT)

_______________________

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) (click to listen and let this song inspire you to step into the river)

You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep my faith will stand

 

And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine

 

Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sov’reign hand will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Saviour

 

I will call upon Your name

Keep my eyes above the waves

My soul will rest in Your embrace

I am Yours and You are mine

 

CCLI Song # 6428767

Joel Houston | Matt Crocker | Salomon Ligthelm

© 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

For use solely with the SongSelect Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. http://www.ccli.com

CCLI License # 810055

Heaven and Home and Hope!

“You’re pre-occupied, honey, aren’t you?” Bev noted last night. And, so I was.  I’ll be ministering to a family of a young woman today and my mind was thinking about their loss.  Driving through our town yesterday I realized anew that Christ’s church has much to do in leading others to know Him.  Our troubled world is an unsettled place – war, terror, poverty, oppression being the lot of millions today.  Those things, and more, made me think of heaven, home, and hope –  the inheritance my Father has prepared for me.

Am I complaining heaven1or in despair? Not at all! I enjoy rich blessings – the love of God, many friendships, a loving wife, great kids – overall a privileged life! What I am trying to say is that even with a good life, there is a longing for that promised place where sin cannot enter, where suffering is unknown, and where intimacy with God is unbroken.  The Psalmist expresses my desire:  “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, NIV)

Our Creator made us to love and serve Him and His Spirit works in us causing us to intensely desire His Presence. We will only fully know rest and communion with Him when we reach Home!  The late Dallas Willard pointed Christians forward to eternity.  Without a real conviction about Heaven and home we risk becoming disillusioned, even embittered, with the passing of time.  Read his thoughts slowly. They are rich with meaning.

“I meet many faithful Christians who, in spite of their faith, are deeply disappointed
in how their lives have turned out. Sometimes it is a matter of how they experience aging,
which they take to mean they no longer have a future.
But often, due to circumstances or wrongful decisions and actions by others,
what they had hoped to accomplish in life they did not ….

Much of the distress of these people
comes from a failure to realize that their life lies before them
the life that lies endlessly before us in the kingdom of God.” (The Divine Conspiracy)

Christian, are you taking hold of Heaven, home, and hope that is your inheritance?  Remember, too;  eternal life DOES NOT begin only after we die.   WE are citizens of Heaven, now by the grace of Jesus Christ.   I commune with the Lord of Glory now.   I am called to bring Heaven to earth, to live in earnest expectation of glories to come, while confronting the darkness of sin with the Light of Heaven, right now.

Abraham is a model for us.  He heard God’s call, grasped the reality of eternity, and lived the rest of days here on earth on pilgrimage. Was he perfect?  No! He took some detours from the straight and narrow path, but he never lost sight of where he was going.    “By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.”  (Hebrews 11:8-10, The Message)

Our silly fantasies about heaven can diminish our anticipation of that prepared home.   The images of the misty fog enveloping transparent spirits floating in a ghostly realm, the fat little cherubs strumming harps as their feet dangle over the edge of clouds, are nonsense. Heaven is a real place, created by the same God that thought up the refraction of sunlight by water moisture which produces the beauty of a rainbow.  He did that for a thing of beauty that lasts for a few moments.  The One who designed this temporal world, which is destined for destruction, has built a place where we will live eternally.

If He would make a temporary world of such splendor, what must the eternal home He’s created for to enjoy forever be like?  John tried to describe it for us, but could only speak of gates of pearl and streets of gold.  The amazing beauty of a Mozart composition will sound like a beginner’s piano piece compared to Heaven’s music.  The inspiration I find in Hillsong’s worship song, Oceans, will be nothing compared to the roar of the throngs around the Throne of God who will raise a song of worship.

The best conversations, the deepest love for another, the most wonderful worship, the most blissful day – are just glimpses of what we will enjoy ALL THE TIME in our Home!

So, by faith, reach out and set your hope in Heaven.  Never lose sight of that place.  When life is overwhelming, when sin threatens to engulf you,  when all seems futile,  when disappointment breaks your heart – look up and thank God that He has written Heaven into your heart.    It is precisely that longing for home that makes us unwilling to settle down and desire our best life now.

Jesus’ words of promise are our word from the Word.  Read them, believe them; He promised. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3, NKJV)

_________________________

Onward to the Prize before us,
Soon His beauty we’ll behold.
Soon the pearly gates will open,
We shall tread the streets of gold.

When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be,
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory.

-public domain

Jesus-style Leadership

spiritPeople have opportunities to lead – in their family, at their church, in civic organizations, at work, and in government. Not all leaders are generals or Presidents!  No army could function without its sergeants (a word that comes from a Latin word meaning ‘one who serves’).  Don’t make the error of believing that only those who hold command rank, or those who are chiefs, or those who are in the CEO’s chair can lead.

Jesus never held any office. He was without an organization. He had no budget, no buildings; but what a leader He was and is!  Isaiah, moved by the Spirit, described His leadership this way.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. 

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.
In his law the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42:1-4, NIV)

Since we are called to be like him, our leadership will mirror His.

Spiritual leaders are CHOSEN.
Jesus did not appoint Himself. His influence did not come from a Harvard degree or a well-connected family tree. God put the Spirit in Him, sent Him with a commission.  Christian your influence and authority – be it in your home, at work, or in your church – comes from the Spirit’s call.  Yes, you can prepare with education. It is valuable. You can find the right mentors. But, a true spiritual leader seeks God’s anointing and with that is empowered to lead.

Spiritual leaders are SELFLESS.
Jesus’ mission was to reconcile people to God and to one another. He did not seek the perks of power. He did not try to associate with the beautiful, the intelligent, or the privileged. Instead, He gave Himself to those who needed an Advocate.  He never tried to position Himself for the next level, hoping to catch the eye of somebody higher up.  The Message says, “He won’t call attention to what he does with loud speeches or gaudy parades. He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right.” (Isaiah 42:2-3, The Message)  Are you a selfless leader, seeking the best for those in your sphere of influence?  Do you give yourself to those that others ignore, seeing God’s image in the least among us?

Spiritual leaders are FAITHFUL.
Hebrews says that “Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God— he (Jesus) could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.” (Hebrews 12:2, The Message)  Leaders, even the best, are met with disappointment.  Plans are frustrated. People can be uncooperative.  Fatigue sometimes stalks them.   Good leaders keep the vision.  They see beyond the mountain and push on. “Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, NLT)

Disciple, God has a calling for you, a role He has chosen you to fill, and gifts of the Spirit that will equip you for that service.

Will you serve well?  Will you be content to be placed where He desires?  Will you contentedly lead as a sergeant or a general, surrendering your ego to Him?

There is a constant temptation to take a poll to see if we are a success.  We love results, numbers, charts – measurable indicators that we are ‘good leaders.’  Spiritual leaders know that not all results for the Kingdom can be charted.  They know that as they are faithful to the Lord’s calling some will regard them as failures.  Here’s a word from the Word.  Let it encourage you to finish well- seeking the praise of the One whose approval matters most.

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. . . . no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-23, NIV)

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:2-4, NIV)

Chosen, Selfless, Faithful – go change YOUR world!

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I Would Be True

 

I would be true,

For there are those who trust me.

I would be pure,

For there are those who care.

I would be strong,

For there is much to suffer.

I would be brave,

For there is much to dare.

I would be brave,

For there is much to dare.

 

I would be friend of all,

The foe, the friendless.

I would be giving,

And forget the gift.

I would be humble,

For I know my weakness.

I would look up and laugh

And love and lift.

I would look up and laugh

And love and lift.

 

I would be learning,

Day by day, the lessons;

My heav’nly Father,

Gives me in His Word.

I would be quick to hear

His lightest whisper

And prompt and glad to do

The things I’ve heard.

And prompt and glad to do

The things I’ve heard.

 

I would be prayerful

Through each busy moment.

I would be constantly

In touch with God.

I would be tuned to hear

His slightest whisper,

I would have faith,

To keep the path Christ trod.

I would have faith,

To keep the path Christ trod.

 

Howard Arnold Walter | Joseph Yates Peek

© Words: Public Domain

Help Wanted!

Imagine a person thinking that being the President of the United States was only about getting a big limousine in a motorcade, having a band play “Hail to the Chief” when he entered the room, and traveling in the luxury of Air Force One! There are perks that go with the office, but the cost of leading the nation is all-consuming. The President carries responsibility that does not stop, from which he takes no breaks. His decisions have real consequence for millions, his word sends soldiers into battle. Look at pictures of recent presidents from the day of their election to the day they leave office.  The weight of responsibility etches lines into their faces, grays their hair, and bends their shoulders.

servantChris (name changed) had an ambition. He wanted to be a leader. He read leadership books, attended seminars, and sought positions in various organizations. He was turned away, over and over again. He wanted a position of importance. He wanted an office, a title. He thought that with those things he could enjoy the love of devoted followers.  Chris did not ‘get’ that leadership is about serving, not Self.

Two of Jesus’ disciples were like Chris! James and John approached the Lord one day and asked for positions of importance.  “Make us your right-hand men,” they said. “Put us on either side of your throne when you come into your Glory.”  They had seen the aides standing next to powerful men. They craved the perks they imagined belonged to those people. Jesus did not refuse their request. He clarified the cost!  “You think you’re ready to pay the price that comes with those places in my kingdom?” He asked them.

In Christ’s Kingdom, those who lead must die to Self.  He knew that the path to His throne would travel through the Cross. “Can you drink the cup I’ll have to drink?” He asked them.  They naively insisted that they were prepared to go the distance. The other disciples were equally clueless.  They were ready to fight for a place of importance, too.  “When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:41-44, NIV)  That took some of the shine off of being a ‘big man’ next to Jesus!

One of the most desperate needs of the Church in 2014 is for servant leaders.  There are millions of people that think Christianity is just a two-hour long ‘weekend experience.’  Some want to lead, but only if that means having a title and visibility in an organization.  The real need is for men and women who want to give their lives to serve, who pray and think about ways to help others find hope, peace, purpose, and eternal life.  They will mobilize others, equip and inspire them, without craving power or perks. Jesus points us to the path of true leadership – selfless service.

It’s not that genuine service goes without reward in God’s work. There will be a rich return but it is not the same kind of reward that the leaders of industry or politics may enjoy. It’s not wealth, prestige, or power that those who serve Him well will find.  It is the commendation of the Lord of Glory, a celebratory welcome into Heaven, “God’s applause!”  Near the end of his life, Paul wrote that he was anticipating receiving “a crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8)

Moses was of the great leaders of God’s People. In the word from the Word note his inspiration to serve. Let it inspire a prayer in you – “Lord, I’ll go and serve.”  “By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. He valued suffering in the Messiah’s camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff. By an act of faith, he turned his heel on Egypt, indifferent to the king’s blind rage. He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going.”  The Message (Heb 11:24-27)

“Help wanted” – will you go to work for Christ today?

Think you’re “Mr. Wonderful”?

standfallHubris is the point of vulnerability in us all!  What’s hubris?  It is “excessive pride or self-confidence, arrogance.” We want to believe the wonderful things about ourselves that others say. A great compliment is encouraging.  Caution is in order, however. None of us has life completely mastered nor has any of us conquered every sin.  Young or old, we have blind spots, broken places, and unfinished business in life.  Hubris makes us blind to our brokenness. I cringe when I remember occasions of arrogance in my life. Nothing has cost me more dearly than becoming too confident in my own wisdom and failing to listen – to the Spirit of God and the wisdom of counselors!

Rehoboam, son of King Solomon came to the throne from a prince’s privileged life. Everybody admired him, told him he was wonderful- and he believed it!  After his coronation, the citizens of Israel asked for relief from taxation. Solomon’s building of a great nation had been costly.  Knowing the young king did not have the affection of the people that his father enjoyed, they advised him to go slowly,  “but he rejected the counsel of the elders and asked the young men he’d grown up with who were now currying his favor,” (1 Kings 12:8, The Message) “and went with the advice of the younger set, “If you think life under my father was hard, you haven’t seen the half of it. My father thrashed you with whips; I’ll beat you bloody with chains!”  (1 Kings 12:14, The Message)  Is that not the very definition of hubris? A short time later the nation divided, with the northern half rebelling and appointing their own king!

A little success can  be more dangerous than a string of failures. When we are ‘winning’ there are plenty of sycophants that will surround us to remind us of our amazing talents. Governments, corporations, and even churches falter when those leading them start to believe in their own ‘exceptionalism.’ The Lord says: “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12, NIV) Paul’s understanding of God’s gifts and his responsibility instructs us well. “Whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” (1 Corinthians 15:10, NLT)

Lose hubris, gain humility. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, NIV)  Accomplishment will not bring on hubris in that person who knows that he is who he is only who he is because of the grace of God.  When we are impressed with ourselves, this question needs to come to the forefront of our minds: “Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” Paul wrote, “but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3)

Hubris or humility?

What will it be?

Take the wisdom of Jesus with you today as you meditate on this word from the Word.
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4, NIV) 

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“Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire
with God:

But only he who sees takes off
his shoes.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Follow the leader

followRodney Atkins released a song a few years ago, “Watching You.”  It’s about his little boy copying the things he sees his Dad doing, saying the words he hears his Dad saying.
“He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands
Spoke to God like he was talkin’ to a friend
And I said, “Son, now where’d you learn to pray like that?”
He said,”I’ve been watching you, Dad, aint that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I want to be like you.”  – Rodney Atkins – Watching You

A note showed up in my email thanking wrote me for the part I played in shaping the life of the writer.  “You have no idea how you have helped me, the ways in which your teaching changed me, and how much I value the example I see in you.”   First of all, that is humbling.   Second, it was surprising given that I am not well acquainted with the writer.  We are only casual acquaintances and it would never have occurred to me that I had any influence in his life but, there it was, a simple note of gratitude.  It’s good to be reminded that someone is always watching.  My commitment to Christ is not secret and I aim to be an authentic disciple.  My daily prayer is that what others see in me will reflect well on the One I follow.

Disciple, if you’ve gone public about your faith (you should) others will be watching you, too.   Jesus talks about influence with two down to earth parables.

“You don’t light a lamp and put it under a clay pot or under a bed. Don’t you put a lamp on a lampstand?” (Mark 4:21, CEV)  “What is God’s kingdom like? What story can I use to explain it? It is like what happens when a mustard seed is planted in the ground. It is the smallest seed in all the world. But once it is planted, it grows larger than any garden plant. It even puts out branches that are big enough for birds to nest in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32, CEV)  We are to be like light and  growing seeds!

Light is life-giving.  Light breaks the darkness driving fear away. It keeps us from stumbling around, falling over things,  and it raises our spirits.  I ask myself, ‘are you influencing your world like that, Jerry?’   When you’re around, do you bring life, hope, clarity, and encouragement?

A seed is amazing, too.  Jesus spoke of a tiny seed that grew into a huge plant;  quietly, persistently, over time, drawing energy from sources outside of itself.  Again, I put a question to myself. ‘Are you drawing on the power of the Spirit, growing in Christ and His character, so that there will be fruit and shade offered to others through you?’

Jesus said, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NIV)  We are quietly influential-  loving someone, praying with and for someone, caring for our family, putting God first, being a person of integrity consistently…. and so much more.   What a calling.

When the thought of being a representative of Christ Jesus overwhelms me, I read this.  It reminds us that it is not all up to us, that He is working through us by His Spirit.  Let it stir you, encourage you, and challenge you.   “But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NLT)

Yes, we are influential for our Lord.  A challenge too big for you or me?  Not if we are filled with the Spirit. “We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, NLT)

Who’s watching you?

Where are you leading them?

May the message of our lives today be -to friends, family, and the world – “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV)

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