Archive for September, 2009

29
Sep
09

what are you looking at?

worried-lookThere is a really cool story in the Old Testament about a guy named Elisha. Elisha was a prophet who was used by God to speak to the kingdom of Israel.

Israel was at war with a nation called Aram. (The story can be found in 2 Kings 6:8-23.) Every time the king of Aram came up with a battle plan God would tell Elisha the plan and he would go and tell the king of Israel. As a result Israel continually out maneuvered Aram.

As would be expected, the king became suspicious. He was convinced that one of his officers was a traitor. He conducted an investigation to find out who it was that was giving away state secrets. As they were being questioned one of the officers told the king, “It’s not us. It is Elisha the prophet of God. He is telling the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!”

Immediately the king gets his intelligence people together to find out where Elisha is staying and sends part of his army to capture him. Early the next morning the servant of the man of God got up and went outside; there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Ah, my lord, what will we do now?” he cried out to Elisha. “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened his servant’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

I’ll let you read the rest of the story to see how things turned out, but what I want to ask you is this: What problem are you facing right now that you have allowed yourself to fixate on rather than keeping your eyes completely glued upon God who is the source of everything you need? We all do it from time to time. We feel overwhelmed. We don’t see any way out of the mess we’re in and, like Elisha’s assistant, we panic. And all the while God has a plan to turn whatever the problem is into something of great value for us.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (12:2).

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22
Sep
09

partners

Larry-Rise-1951A wise man once said, “Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor.” (Solomon)

When was the last time you came along side someone to help them with the job they were doing? For most of us I’m sure it hasn’t been that long ago. It might have been our spouse, our children, a co-worker, or a friend that we made their job easier, maybe with our expertise or maybe just by our presence. We know by experience what Solomon said is true- two working together make the task at hand easier.

What about ministry? When was the last time you joined yourself with someone who was doing something for the Lord? After almost thirty years in ministry I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon among God’s people. We’ll help each move furniture, build a deck, or watch the kids, but we are hesitant to jump in and get involved when we see someone doing Kingdom work. Why?

I’m sure there are a number of reasons. The easiest answer is that maybe we just didn’t know, maybe nobody asked us to help. That’s legitimate. But is that the only reason? I don’t think so.

I think a lot of the time we fall prey to the tyrant of busyness. There’s no easy way to say it – we just get consumed with our schedules, our commitments, and even our leisure.

Before anyone tunes me out because I’m sounding “preachy”,let me be the first to say our families, our jobs, our community involvement and our leisure are all very important. We need to make priorities of them all. However, we cannot forget that Jesus sets the proper order of our priority list in Matthew 6 by reminding his listeners that all the things that I previously mentioned are important and deserve a place on our priority list. At the very top of Jesus’ list is the Kingdom.

I will be the first to admit that often the church has confused “Kingdom work” with busy work that has no lasting value and we need to guard against that. But we must also recognize that we have been called to “Work together as partners who belong to God” (1 Corinthians 3:9) to build the Kingdom.

15
Sep
09

passion

flamesMy favorite Scripture just might be Exodus 34:14: “God… is passionate about his relationship with you.” That absolutely overwhelms me every time I think about it. The fact that God loves us with such intensity is clearly demonstrated by what Jesus did for us through his incarnation, death, burial and resurrection.

As amazed as we might be at the passionate love God has for us, it is important to remember that God is passionate about everything he does. Everything he does he does with precision, plan, and purpose demonstrating his commitment to whatever he is involved with. God never does anything halfway or half-hearted.

Jesus was the same way. Scripture tells us that one day Jesus went to the Temple and found things not as they should be. (You can read the whole story in John chapter 2.) He didn’t just comment on the situation, he took action. The writer of John commented, “Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: ‘Passion for God’s house burns within me.'” (John 2:17)

Wisdom reminds us that, “Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” (Amiel) We are also told, “Follow your passion, and success will follow you.” (Arthur Buddhold)

I am so thankful that God has great passion for me. God never just “goes through the motions”. There was no price too high, no sacrifice too great, no inconvenience too disrupting to quench God’s passion for me. He comes through every time.

I cannot say that for myself. What about you? I am embarrassed to say there have been plenty of times I have “phoned it in”. I was too tired, too busy, too involved… let’s just cut to the chase, too self-absorbed to fully engage and be passionate about God or the work he has called me to.

Yet God remains passionate about his relationship with me. So, I am going to keep responding to that passion and learning from his example so that the flame of passion can be continually stirred in my life.

08
Sep
09

a balancing act

Philippe PetitHave you ever noticed that life in the Spirit can be a very delicate balancing act? Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out and can put your life on cruise control, something comes along that causes you to have to make an adjustment. Sometimes it’s a big adjustment. Sometimes it’s just a small tweak here or there, but the end is the same. You realize you can never get comfortable and just coast.

For us human beings that’s tough. We like to think that eventually we will figure it all out. Get all our ducks in a row. All the round pegs in the round holes and the square ones in… well, you get the idea. Then along comes a concave polygon (don’t worry – I wasn’t sure what that was either, I had to look it up on Wikipedia) and blows our system out of the water. We love absolutes. When something becomes murky or uncertain it creates an uneasiness that makes us very uncomfortable. The really interesting thing is that often, in an effort to deal with that discomfort we feel, we become more adamant in our opinion hoping that if we can convince others that what we are saying is true it will alleviate our discomfort.

I have learned one thing for sure – living my life by the leading of the Holy Spirit produces all kinds of discomfort for me. Im not sure anyone ever told me that would be part of the process. What I was told, indirectly perhaps, was that if I would let the Holy Spirit control my life I would always know all the answers and never have any discomfort. While it is true that the Spirit leads us into truth and teaches us things we need to know (John 14:17, 26), which will, in the long run, produce peace in our lives, it is absolutely mandatory that if we are going to embrace truth we must let go of error.

And so we find ourselves on an adventurous tightrope walk with the Spirit. Always adjusting. Always catching our balance. Always moving forward toward the prize set before us (Philippians 3:14).

02
Sep
09

improvise, adapt, & overcome

armybasic-3One of my favorite quotes is from newspaper columnist Art Buchwald who wrote, “Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.”

There are many implications to be drawn from this quote, but the obvious point is this: rather than complaining about things not being as we would prefer them to be, we need to make the most of what has been entrusted to us. That reminds me of the Marine Corps unofficial mantra which goes like this: “Improvise, Adapt, & Overcome!”

As Christ-followers, we have been called to do that very thing. Although at times the task seems daunting, we have been equipped by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the mission that has been assigned to us. That was what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 12:11 when he was teaching us about the abilities the Spirit gives us: “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts.” The verb tense in this passage is the present participle, which means the Holy Spirit is continually distributing these “abilities” in the church as they are needed for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom.

I know that sometimes it is easy to be overwhelmed by the circumstances we face in life, but just as the Holy Spirit “was hovering over the waters” in creation (Genesis 1:2), so He is hovering over the confusion that sometimes exists in our lives, and He is providing the creative influence and ability we need to bring God’s order to that confusion. We have not been called to sit around and complain about the way things are, but rather to draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit that resides in us to identify the needs that exist in our cultures and to have a redemptive impact on those situations.

By the Spirit you can “Improvise, Adapt, & Overcome!”