Category

Personal

Get With It

By Envision, Headfirst, Personal
A wake-up call for those of us who need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and preach a message to an audience of one
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  • Re-focus
  • Re-calibrate
  • Re-engineer
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Whatever you want to call it, it’s time to get with it. To no one’s surprise, the latest disciple of poor exegesis was wrong about the end of the world. (Not before entertaining the mainstream media and giving them one more straw man to use as a whip to beat down on the faith community.)

So if you aren’t living out your calling, if you’re still waiting in vain for some excuse not to get your life in gear and start living for Christ, what is it going to take for you to make a change to your status quo?

Clearly the New Year’s resolutions aren’t working. Spring cleaning didn’t make it happen. No crisis stirred the need to crack open your Bible this morning. Your alarm clock did not usher you into the halls of worship. So why aren’t you living as if eternity is more important than today?

Have you invited the Holy Spirit to convict your heart of passivity? He is more than willing to help you re-focus on letting Christ rule in your heart. Will you stop and exhale for long enough to recognize that what you’ve been inhaling hasn’t been bearing the fruit you want in your life? It’s time to re-calibrate. Get your daily actions in line with producing what you want at year’s end. Your year is made up of many months, each month’s outcome determined by the composite of weeks. What you did today really does predict what you’ll possess at the end of your life. You’ve been told there’s no formula for living the Christian life? I don’t buy into that. No – one size does not fit all – because we are all uniquely created and wired. But if you don’t think you will reap what you’ve sown, you’re not just fooling yourself, you’re calling God a liar.[pullquote_left]For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12[/pullquote_left]

So yes, it’s time to re-engineer. If you aren’t living in your sweet spot, experiencing God’s favor and blessing, working out your faith, living to please the One who can say “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” it’s time to cut to the core and get that heart transplant you’ve awaited for far too long.

True discipleship – it starts with a pure, eager passion for Jesus. Remember that day you fell in love with Him? Start there. And just keep walking. Living in love with Him.

When Silence isn’t Golden

By Envision, Personal
[pullquote_left]Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him.  Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.  (1 Chronicles 16:28-29)[/pullquote_left]

I think all parents are acquainted with the maxim that “silence is golden.”   But the Lord was speaking to me this morning as I walked my dog, reminding me that when it concerns God and His Kingdom, there is no place for silence.  I felt His gentle rebuke of my spirit that I haven’t been lifting up His name with the frequency or volume that He merits.

Here are some of the things I must belatedly trumpet:

Each of these is true and needs no explanation. But God has illustrated each of these in my life recently, so I will give Him the honor He deserves and address why He put them on my heart:

  • The past year was financially tumultuous as the economy and other circumstances impacted many of our ministry partners and their ability to give to the Lord through our ministry.  Yet again and again, in His timing, God met our needs in the moment and is now engaging many new ministry partners to come alongside us and provide the means to advance our mission.
  • Thousands are dying across the Middle East as lost souls cry out for change.  They may not know that Jesus can give them the living water they are so thirsty for, but we must be ready to lead them to the Well. My heart is broken for those suffering and persecuted, especially for the believers punished for their faith.  I pray the Lord will enable us to again take part in building His unshakable Kingdom in this region.
  • Haiti also continues to be challenged in it’s governance.  The Lord is not surprised by any of the turmoil in the nations, but rather He holds the future in His hands.  I will follow Him back to Haiti and wherever He leads as often as He calls.
  • It’s all about Him.  There is nothing in my day today that has greater significance than living for Him and seeking His Kingdom.  If it doesn’t have eternal significance, why am I investing in it?
  • I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song of Songs 6:3.)  God has illumined and envisioned His eternal romance in my marriage, which grows sweeter every year.  I love being married to Anne, and I learn new things about Jesus through our marriage all the time.

Yes, there are moments in life when the old axiom about silence being golden can seem true.  But never when it comes to the glory of the Lord.  Lift His banner high!

Give it up

By Envision, Personal

The malls are full of shoppers looking for the perfect gift.  Or as we get this close to Christmas, any gift.  (I’m thinking that the advent of online shopping has got to bring immense relief to a claustrophobic.  Never had thought of Amazon.com as a purveyor of emotional peace before.)  I wasn’t even shopping for gifts today, yet I managed to visit both the post office and Costco today.  Did I experience the Christmas spirit?

Don’t even check your mail box or email if you can’t handle the flood of advertisements or a barrage of appeals directed at your year-end giving.  (Full disclosure: yes, our ministry was among them.  Just once though – not every five minutes.)  Hold on to your wallet and your checkbook before good intentions drag you into debt.

So Dave, is this the part where you insist something is wrong with my perspective and offer a different one?

Don’t get me wrong – I like gifts.  I’ve even been known to buy myself gifts [insert appropriate gasp of shock here.]  But here’s the deal:

  1. You can only give from what you have.  Affection, wisdom, experience, cash, whatever – if you don’t possess it, you can’t give it away.
  2. If they don’t want it, they’re not going to receive it.  (Favorite phrase on Christmas morning: “Oh, this is lovely…”)
  3. The truth is, you’re the ultimate re-gifter: nothing you have is really yours anyway.  What you were born with was a gift from God.  Everything you’ve earned is a blessing from Him too.  (See James 1:16-17)  So why are you holding on to everything so tightly?

Philip James "Jim" Elliott (Oct 8, 1927 – Jan 8, 1956)

God has already shown us that it’s better to give than to receive.  It just takes humanity longer to accept it.  (Though researchers have indeed found this to be true – see the Science Central Archive or the original study.)  He modeled true gift giving in Christmas and Easter – by giving Himself through His incarnation and redeeming us through His crucifixion and resurrection.  (How long we take to accept that is also up to us.)  As written in Romans 5:8, God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The best gift you can receive is Jesus.  He gave up His life for you.  The best gift you can give is the Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ.  And the best way to give it is through your life.  Even if you have to give it up.  It isn’t yours anyway.

(In the words that Jim Elliott paraphrased from Scripture: He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.)

Water into Wine

By Envision, Personal

Worship leader Chris Tomlin

I’ve had Chris Tomlin‘s new worship song Our God stuck in my head for a month now, which has been a great thing.  It has a driving melody with inspiring lyrics, reminding God’s people of His power, majesty and unshakable love.  It begins with a reminder of Christ’s first miracle – turning water into wine.  Usually when I hear those words, I think of the wedding in Cana, as it is historically recorded in the Gospel of John.  This week of Thanksgiving, the Holy Spirit has been nudging me in another direction.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus began His ministry and publicly substantiated His divinity with supernatural demonstrations.  His first terrestrial display, essentially making something from nothing, echoed His act of creation when He literally made the universe out of nothing.  And this theme of transformation extends beyond the physical world; indeed God is spiritually bringing life to the dead and redeeming His creation.

Nearly 25 years ago, in 1986, at the end of my rope, I made a decision to end my life but God supernaturally intervened and gave me salvation, hope and purpose.  He gave me eternal life and began a process of transformation in me.  Once again, God made something out of nothing.

Jesus continues His work of redemption and transformation every day.  Capture today by taking a moment to pause and give thanks for His work in you.  How has God turned water into wine in your life?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJ65aNv28Jc

Whose vote counts?

By Involve, Personal

Remember: the right to vote is not universal

The privilege of self-government is an amazing blessing in our republic – few nations have historically given every citizen the right to freely cast a confidential ballot without fear of reprisal.  Today’s midterm election in the U.S. is a reminder that we have a remarkable opportunity to choose our leaders.

In fact, as I worked my way through my election materials and down my ballot, I struggled with my disappointment in our candidates for city council.  We were allotted three votes for the three open seats, and I had only been confident in two of my choices.  So, after weeks with no new conclusions and even unanswered email to a candidate requesting more information on his platform, I did what few citizens opt: standing there in the booth, I (digitally) wrote in my own name.

I’m not going to win – I hadn’t even mentioned to my wife that I was doing this, so I am confident I received just that single vote.  But I saw the computer print the ballot – and there was my name with my vote.

Which brings to mind the aphorism that every vote matters.  How many re-counts will there be after the polls have closed, only to discover the thinnest margin of victory?  How many judges will again be ruling on the validity of overseas ballots, absentee ballots and defining the value of the infamous “hanging chad” while the media elevates or vilifies a state or local election official?  And this is when mortals get involved in determining whose vote actually matters.

For me, this stream of thought brings me back to the worship of the One – holy, righteous and perfect in judgment – who in His grace has made my salvation sure through Christ – by voting for my election.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble… (2 Peter 1:10)

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness… (Titus 1:1)

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mark 13:26-27)

My Part, God’s Part

By Envision, Headfirst, Personal

A hinge can only function with two engaged and matching halves

There are many theological dynamics to the concept of “My Part / God’s Part” –  after all, if God the Father planned salvation, God the Son accomplished salvation and God the Spirit applied salvation, then my part is simply to receive salvation.  Easy enough?

So once I’m saved – by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone – what’s the division of labor between me and God as I step into the good works created beforehand for me to walk in? (see Ephesians 2:8-10.)

I’ve been thinking about this for a very practical reason – trusting God to provide for our family’s financial needs.  That’s something pretty much anyone can relate to, especially right now in the world economy.  For our family, the nuance is that all of our funding comes from God through His people contributing to our ministry.  I have a job, and it doesn’t matter how many hours I work – if people don’t give to the ministry, there’s nothing for me to be paid.  So fundraising becomes a spiritual endeavor, much like evangelism: it’s my part to initiate with people and tell them the news (e.g. God loves them, Christ died and rose again to forgive sin, you can be our partner in bringing the Gospel to those who’ve never heard) and it’s God part to move in their hearts and reveal who responds.  I have no control over who receives Christ, nor over who chooses to join with us and give back to the Lord through our ministry.

Here’s where I recognized a rebuke from the Holy Spirit – I decided that God wasn’t providing adequately for our needs, and I became frustrated and angry with Him.  After all, wasn’t I doing my part?  I’d been inviting people to join us as ministry partners.  So if I was doing my part, and we still had such a significant need – that meant that God wasn’t doing His part.  (My guess is that you can relate to getting frustrated or mad at God for your circumstances.)  After all, Moses raised his staff and the sea parted, right?  Elijah called down fire from heaven and the offering was burned up.  Hey God, in case You hadn’t noticed, I’ve been sitting here and praying and I’d like to see some supernatural action, okay?

The truth is that I wasn’t doing my part.  As my heart was convicted, I asked myself: have you truly done everything in your power or ability?  Or have you only done what you were willing to do, and then blamed God for not responding?  Could He be waiting for you to step out in faith, to go beyond your comfort zone, to truly trust in Him alone for your needs?

So it became much clearer who I should be frustrated and angry with – me.  I haven’t been doing my part.  Once I’ve done everything within my power, everything humanly possible, I can go back and seek Him out and…  give thanks for the ways He has answered and provided.

P.S.  Your equation of “My Part, God’s Part” may not be financial, it may be something else.  I expect that the principle still holds true in your circumstances.

When you can’t get along

By Equip, Personal

Anger.  Frustration.  Anxiety.

What happens inside you when you experience conflict?  And what do you choose to do with the relationships that bring this conflict?

This isn’t meant to be a treatise on conflict, but I do have a few thoughts as it relates to ministry.  Whether accurate or not, haven’t you heard the contention that the number one reason for missionaries to leave the field isn’t lack of fruit, opposition or finances – but conflict with teammates?  Or watched a church split that wasn’t really about theology or ministry philosophy, but actually about personalities? Read on about dealing with conflict

Trajectories

By Envision, Personal
Jason Berken pitching

Throwing well: RHP Jason Berken prior to his call-up (courtesy Green Bay Press-Gazette)

I love playing catch.  There’s something so simple and so peaceful about it.  Playing with a good friend or with one of my kids.  Unlike pitching in the Majors, it doesn’t take a lot of talent either – once you release the ball, it flies on a clear path to its target.  A good throw follows a natural trajectory to its destination.  A bad throw also follows a predictable route.  Our minds naturally understand and follow the flight of the ball, accounting for the force with which it is thrown, any blowing breeze and the gravitational pull of the earth.  Our eyes trace it, our legs speed us along – we track it down, ideally until it lands firmly in the outstretched web of the leather mitt. Click for more on our trajectories on and off the field

Sliding Headfirst

By Envision, Headfirst, Personal
All Star Logo

courtesy of MLB

Baseball exemplifies living headfirst in many ways – and stealing 2nd base with a headfirst slide may be the all-time epitome.  It might be safer to slide feet first, but it’s an all-out, no-holds-barred, face-forward assault.  I regret that too much of my life was lived “safely” without the risk or the glory of living headfirst for the Kingdom.  I had an internal question mark interrupting every opportunity, shouting out warnings, demanding permission, and challenging my choices.  It took a chapter of my life to recognize, understand and reject the fears and lies, but that’s a story for another day.

This month is filled with tremendous baseball opportunities.  See more

Vulnerable

By Headfirst, Personal
John Eldredge

John Eldredge, courtesy of Ransomed Heart

John Eldredge posted an article last month in which he unpacked the connection between the pace of life and our weakened resistance to spiritual attack.  “The world is utterly draining,” he wrote, “and when we are drained, we are vulnerable.”  He also offered eight suggestions for drawing close to the Lord and building our defenses against the adversary.

I agree with John in his assessment of my vulnerability.  Whether it’s a direct spiritual attack or just the barrage of the world system, my defenses become worn down by the distractions and pressures of life.  Like all believers, I need to refresh and refocus on Christ through prayer, study of the Scriptures, solitude and the practice of other spiritual disciplines.  The power of God in answer to prayer cannot be overstated. Click for my prayer needs