Archive for February, 2010

23
Feb
10

leaving it all out there

I was watching the Olympics the other day while I had a few spare moments. The event being broadcast is, to me, one of the strangest sporting events ever – the Biathlon. (The only one stranger is curling. What is that about? I apologize in advance to my Canadian readers, but is this really a sport?) For those who maybe aren’t familiar with this event it is cross country skiing and target shooting all in one event. You ski for a while, you stop and shoot, then you ski some more, stop and shoot, so on and so forth.

What I noticed as I watched this particular day was the finish line. To borrow a phrase from the athletic world, the leading competitors were “leaving it all out there.” In other words, they were putting every ounce of energy they had into finishing the race. You could tell because it was not uncommon that as the leaders crossed the finish line they would be grimacing and then literally collapse from sheer exhaustion.

As I watched I thought about what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9: “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should” (verses 24-27). Paul was talking about “leaving it all out there” when it came to the Kingdom. How many of us will bring ourselves to the point of sheer exhaustion when it comes to our families, jobs, homes, hobbies or vacations, but when it comes to the church we have to establish “healthy boundaries” because it’s not good to over commit? I understand the need for balance in our lives, it is essential in fact. However the balance we should be seeking as Christ-followers should find its definition in the context of “seeking first the Kingdom” (Matthew 6:33).

15
Feb
10

clarity

Being from south Florida, one of the things I love is the ocean. I love to water ski, fish and go diving. The water in the Caribbean is fantastic. It’s alive with animal and plant life in colors and shapes that defy description. When you put on your diver’s mask and go under the water it is like 3D on steroids with super charger boost thrown in for good measure. Everything is so vivid and clear it is surreal.

Have you ever had a moment of revelation when all of a sudden everything became clear and you wondered why you hadn’t seen it like that before? Maybe it was how to complete a task you had been struggling with? Or, maybe it was a relationship issue that, all of a sudden, became crystal clear?

What about a spiritual revelation where God, in a moment, made some truth so vividly clear that you had to respond? You had to decide what you were going to do because you were changed by the encounter. That was what Paul was talking about when he told the church at Ephesus, “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.” (Ephesians 1:15-19) In 2 Timothy 3:5, he described this “power” as having the ability to change us. That’s the kind of insight (i.e., revelation) God wants to give us. He wants to show us what he wants to do in our lives so that we might be transformed so we can be agents of transformation in our relationships.

Let me ask you a question – do you really want that kind of insight?

09
Feb
10

transformed


Paul writes, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Romans 12:2, The Message).

A lot of us are familiar with that passage (at least a more traditional version of it) and assume that, for the most part, we’re doing a fairly adequate job living out Paul’s teaching. After all, it’s pretty easy to do when we interpret and evaluate “culture” based on: our tradition, our prejudice, our personality strengths, our likes and dislikes, our goals, and our definition of evil. But what happens when we “fix (our) attention on God” and allow him to “change (us) from the inside out”? That’s where this whole thing gets confusing because when we allow the transforming work of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18) in our lives we are given a whole new set of definitions by which to evaluate ourselves; and, trust me, that is a painful, and at times confusing, event!

The KJV Bible says that the first century church “turned the world upside down” – At least that’s how the culture of that day viewed it. Talk about being counter-cultural! But, I’m pretty sure that before we can turn our world upside down we are going to have to allow God to turn us upside down. There is more to conversion than accepting Jesus as your Savior so that you can go to heaven when you die. God wants to radically transform you so that he can bring “the best out of you, (and) develop well-formed maturity in you”.

02
Feb
10

basic instinct

“Look at the birds of the air . . .” (Matthew 6:26). Jesus said, “They do what my Father designed them to do so they have no worries. They trust him for everything they need.”

Oswald Chambers put it this way – “Their function is to obey the instincts God placed within them, and God watches over them. Jesus said that if you have the right relationship with Him and will obey His Spirit within you, then God will care for your ‘feathers’ too.”

What instincts dictate your behavior?

The Apostle Paul says there are two possible answers to that question. “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Paul continues this thought in Galatians 5:16-25 when he tells his readers that those who are controlled by their sinful nature will be disquieted souls as proved by their behavior: sexual immorality, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, envy and drunkenness, driven by their lack of inner peace. Remember, peace is the legacy left to us by Jesus (John 14:27) and listed along with love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as evidences of the Spirit controlled life. These characteristics all describe an individual who has found acceptance and fulfillment in their identity as a child of God. There is no fear (i.e., worry; anxiety) because “perfect love expels all fear” (1 John 4:18). There is only trust in a loving, gracious, kind, benevolent, generous (I wish I had more adjectives to use) Father who cares for our every need and has assigned great value to us (Matthew 6:26)!

So what instinct is controlling you? Is it a fretful, self-destructive instinct, or is it a calm trust in your Father who loves you?