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Monday, May 31, 2010

A Memorial for You

“. . . And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”
Joshua 4:7 NKJV

The children of Israel needed these stones. They didn't need them erected as an idol. They needed these stones to serve as a reminder, a memorial of what God had done on their behalf. These stones would not simply serve as a conversation piece. Joshua shared: They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, 'What do these rocks mean?' These stones would allow the children of Israel to share their testimony with their children and their children's children.

It’s one thing to have testimony, but many of us need to have lives that serve as a voiceless testimony of God’s goodness to us. People need to see God in our lives as much as they hear about Him from us. We need to demonstrate and display the change that God has made in our lives. People will see it. Although they may not recognize it, they will see it as something different that sets us apart from others.

Proverbs warns us not to remove the landmark set in place by our forefathers. In Proverbs 22:28, the Word teaches that the landmark was set in place for a reason that was given to those who came before us. Let us learn about that reason before we set our hearts and minds on removing it. In Proverbs 23:10, greed is addressed by warning people not to remove the 'ancient landmark' or oppress the poor by taking their land. Our obsession with accumulation may make us oblivious to the way we treat others, even our ancestors and their legacy.

With a lifestyle that respects the past, people will see us as blessed and ask what does it mean and how did we arrive at such a place in this life. We will be able to share about His goodness and His mercy towards us. God wants to work through us to reach others. Let the ancient landmark serve as a reminder to us that our lives our on display before the entire world. Keep it as a memorial.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Encouraged in the Lord

... but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.- 1 Samuel 30:6 (KJV)
Leadership is lonely business. David knew that firsthand. He had personal knowledge of what toll leadership could take on a man. There was an issue at hand, and the situation caused a stir among the camp, leaving David as the King James Version states distressed. David sought the Lord.
You may find yourself in a similar leadership position. The people are up in arms about something. They are doing anything but singing your praises. You wish you could cut your losses and leave them all behind, but that would not demonstrate genuine leadership. You, much like David, will need to encourage yourself in the Lord your God.
You will need to do something. You will need to do something on your own as a leader.
You are going to need to:

Friday, May 28, 2010

The World Uses the Word

...The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.- 1 John 3:1 (ESV)
...For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.- Luke 16:8 (NIV)
The world did not know him according to the first verse posted above. In fact, John wrote earlier in his gospel account: He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. Believe it or not, John also said that Jesus came to His own people and they did not even receive Him. Needless to say, Jesus was not received well by the world.
Yet, the world did something different with His Word. While many did not accept Jesus as the Messiah and the Anointed One, the world did take His Word to a totally different place. The world took His Word and did something different with it.
The world tainted His Word. It puts everything else alongside His Word and simply held the Word without reverence or much regard. The world twisted the Word. It bent the Word this way and that way to make it work for them. They use the Word in such a that makes the Word as more of a reference source than a relied-upon source. The world tweaked the Word. It added some here and removed some there, straying away from the truth of the Word.
Don't rely on the world. Rely on the Word. Put your full trust in the Word. As a Christian, the world does not understand you because the world does not understand Him. Stay with the Word.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

We are accountable, not excusable.- William Wilberforce

Some may not be familiar with William Wilberforce other than the motion picture Amazing Grace. Yet, Wilberforce demonstrated the faith and fortitude that is needed among professing Christians in public office. Whether it be the influence and inspiration of John Newton's stirring words from the pulpit or Amazing Grace or the atrocities witnessed and expressed by those like Olaudah Equiano, Wilberforce was stirred into action by those who shared with him about the African slave trade along with his faith. As a man of faith, Wilberforce raised awareness and sought action against the inhumanity of the slave trade.

We are accountable to God. Wilberforce simply said: "Sin has consequences." When we realize that the grace of God is the saving force that sent forth Jesus Christ as our Savior, then we realize the immense accountability that comes along with the mark of Christianity. To truly follow Christ, let us walk and talk as Christ did. Let us be accountable to the Master as stewards over all that he has bestowed upon us.

The words of William Wilberforce are simple and true. We are accountable to our Lord and Master. We have no excuse for not being vigilant in our faith to execute rather than claim excuses. In our times, we need Christians who will assert themselves in raising awareness and stirring up advocates for the issues of our times. We need Christians who will take action as a force of faith rather than simply taking force by faith. We are accountable without excuse.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Inside Out: Demonstrate

In the same way, let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.- Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

We talked about the church working from the "inside out." We consider it the outward working of the church that starts with an internal spark like a combustible engines. You start discipling and developing people. Then, after that, you look at disseminating the Word and demonstrating the Word. All of this is done with a kingdom mindset that is not of this world.

Jesus talked about sharing and showing our light as He calls us the “light of the world” in Matthew 5:14-16. He shares that a lit candle is not lit to be hidden but to shed light on all that is around it. He expressly states that we should let our light shine before men for a two-point purpose:
*Men are to see your good works
*Men will glorify God

Paul shared that we should think and act like Christ as if we had His mind (Philippians 2:5). We have to be careful to not just talk a good game but to be able to walk it as well. We must practice what we preach.

Ministry has the ultimate purpose of glorifying God. Guess what? When you do your good works, you are letting your light shine before men just as Jesus shared for us to do as the light of the world. However, when these men see your good works, they won’t give you the glory. No, they will see your good works and give glory to the One who provided the light. They will give praises to the Lord who caused us to let our lights shine before men in the first place.

Share it and show it.
Let your light shine.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Inside Out: Disseminate

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.- Mark 13:10 (NIV)
The Good News is to be spread throughout the world. The Gospel of salvation and redemption, according to Jesus Himself, must be preached to all nations. The Word of God that saves and redeems the lost must be shared worldwide. Jesus said so.
The church is called to share the Word with the world. The Spirit gives the church power. That's part of the way God has it in place. The Son came and showed us the way. Now, with the Son risen and ascended, the Spirit leads us in the way. The Son and the Spirit give the church all that it needs to reach the world just outside of the church's doors.
All we have to do as the church is step outside of the doors of the church and into the streets of our local communities. We need to have our eyes open to the conditions of those around us. We need to see ourselves as salt and light in the most missional sense. Our given mission is to share about Him and show others the way to Him. Let us share the Word by both word and deed. Let our walk talk more than our sermons. Let our ways and works speak more than our mouths and lips. All we do should speak and share about Jesus Christ, the Savior.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Discipleship Inside Out

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.-1 Corinthians 11:1

Paul outlines the dynamics of discipleship that most church leaders should take today. He doesn't offer a do-as-I-say-not as-I-do leadership credo. He simply shares truth with a church that had numerous internal struggles a way for getting on the right track and simply following another follower of Christ. Such an approach echoes much of what Jesus shared after offering the parable of the Good Samaritan when He stated: "Go and do likewise."

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Church leaders have to see themselves leading others down the right path of Christian living. Just as Paul shared, an example of faithful Christian living should be provided to the Christian newcomer in the form of a living, breathing believer who can mentor others as the embark on their personal journey with Jesus. Every pastoral leader should have a body of people he has trained and taught for leadership roles that may or may not fit into the church's organizational chart. If you can't find anyone you have taught and trained for leadership, then your first move may be to pray to the Lord for insight and ideas on how to identify and start training others for future leadership roles. Here is where vision serves as a key ingredient. You'll have to see where you want to go and design a pathway for getting there.

Paul demonstrates another key component of discipleship. Discipleship is personal. You have to be willing to allow someone to examine you up close and personal as you seek to disciple them. They'll hear you more as they come to know and understand you more. They need to know that you are still flesh and blood behind all of that saintly speaking and righteous rhetoric.

Don't expect to be perfect. Try with all your might, but don't simply expect it. We are all imperfect people privileged to be working on God's perfect plan. The journey is worth telling others because they can look forward with hope to the joy that they will experience when their Bible students get a grasp of their weekly small group lesson on righteous redemption or when the man who struggled with his identity in Christ becomes at peace with striving to be more like Him. Discipleship is exactly that; a journey that you have agreed to go on with someone else as you serve as their tour guide. Yep. That's what it is.

Answering a Fool

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.- Proverbs 26:4 (NIV)

Yes, it is true that Jesus said that we are not to call our brother a fool. The caveat to that teaching is a study of context that speaks about the anger in which we use such words rather than simply inserting some euphemism that says what we meant in code. Jesus was teaching about judgment and anger in Matthew 5:22. However, the Proverbs are clear about identifying the foolish actions that separate the fool from the wise and prudent. Obviously, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we see it as a duck. If it acts foolish and sounds foolish... It is what it is.

The words of Solomon teach us that fools act differently. In fact, Solomon teaches us through Proverbs that a fool is wise in his own eyes. Answering a fool according to his folly requires you to get on that fool's level. In other words, what you are doing is addressing the fool by the same foolish ways that he uses. I picture it like this: a wise man and a fool get into a verbal argument, hurling insults at one another and calling each other fools. How do you identify the wise man from the fool? Exactly! The precise problem is what it projects to others, especially the fool himself. You just justified his argument to some degree by what you did in response to him. Such actions on our part kill the power of our witness.

With those who choose to go about things foolishly, I say simply show them another way by example. If they are foolish, they'll keep doing what they've always done just for the sake of it. If they have any degree of common sense, they'll see how you go about things differently and at least inquire of what makes you different. Keep in mind that you can win someone over by killing them with kindness, showering and smothering them with lovingkindness. Catch more flies with the sweet honey of your lips rather than poisoning them with the venomous vinegar.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Scriptural Self-Talk

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.- Psalm 42:11 (ESV)
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation- Psalm 42:5 (ESV)
I talk to myself. I have done so for years. Oftentimes, I even talk out loud to myself. It drives my wife and kids crazy. I find myself talking to myself more often when I am troubled or disturbed. I am just trying to sort out my thoughts it seems. But I am talking to myself...
Look at these two Psalms. The writer is speaking to his "soul." In other words, he is speaking to who else but himself. If you ever want to ride an emotional roller coaster, get on board Psalms as your daily devotion. Somewhere between sharing about the man who delights in the Law and the praise of the Lord through thanksgiving, this repetitive verse emerges in two back-to-back Psalms full of self-talk. That's what the motivational psychologists and feel-good pundits and propagandists call talking to yourself these days.
Feel free to exercise your freedom of speech. Speak out loud and speak loudly. Use your voice to get yourself back on track. The psalmist did so. He used this expression of self to get back in focus. His focus was to be centered on the Lord, His Savior. Regain your focus. Talk it up and talk it out.
I see the value of talking to myself. I see that it helps me sort some things out without losing it entirely. I think I am going to keep talking to myself, even if it drives the rest of the house crazy from time to time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bridging the Denominational Divide

Thank God that the kingdom of God is not divided into areas for big, important
people and areas for little, unimportant people.
- A.W. Tozer

We have come a long way since Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving His disciples to await the coming of the Helper, the Holy Spirit of God. Yet, we seem to have splintered away from the Way. The early church was rooted in its actions and interactions with each other and the outside world. In fact, it was a known fact among the people that many respected the believers of that time. Nowadays, we have many denominations that it can be hard to keep up with who is doing what and what is going on with whom. Nevertheless, we seize the opportunity to possibly bridge some of the divide that men have created and build bonds on what Christ has established as the head of the church.

We need see Christ as the focus. Our agreement should be on the main thing, and the main thing should be Christ. If we can't agree on baptism, the Lord's Supper or the gifts of the Spirit, let us at least agree by faith that Christ is the main thing that we should focus upon.

We can agree that there are works to be done. We may not agree on how they should be done. We may not agree on whether they add to our salvation or not, but we certainly can agree that there are works that need to be done.

There is an enemy. He may take many forms. He do many things within this world. Our particular theology may see him as one thing as opposed to what other brothers and sisters may think, but we can agree that we have a common enemy who seeks to kill and destroy us.

Our nature is sinful. We may not be able to recite the whole five-point Calvinism and various "ministries" of the church based on our particular doctrine with agreement. Yet, we can admit that we need the pure and righteous sacrifice of the Lamb of God to take care of our sinfulness. We should be able to agree upon that much.

In doing so, we will find plenty of work to do based upon our common ground. We should find much to pray about based upon what we have accepted as true and agreeable. We can at least agree that we need to pray, even if we don't agree on how to pray. Amen.

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