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Posts Tagged ‘Serving God’

… be of one and the same mind, 

have the same love, be in full accord …

 

You may be tempted to credit Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr Oz, or one of a host of contemporary pop psychologists for this kernel of wisdom, necessary for building a strong marriage, family, or community. 

 

Pop psychologists love to borrow freely from scripture.  This nugget of wisdom is from Philippians 2:2. 

 

God’s desire is that His people get along.  Unfortunately, the church today is a hothouse of division and conflict.  Go into any church in America today and you’ll find a divided house.  

 

Congregations are divided over:

Dress codes for worship

The style of music used in worship

Use of videos and projectors

Times for worship

Coffee, thermostats, sound systems, and volume

 

None of these are burning biblical or theological issues.  They are all issues of personal preference.  

 

Somewhere along the way Christians have convinced themselves that the 1976 Burger King commercial, “Have it your way.” is a quote from scripture.  It’s not!

 

It’s easy for us to point the finger at others who want to have it their way.  But God’s desire is that we look within at ourselves.  

 

Are you looking for a Burger King Church?  If you are angry at your Pastor or the leadership board of your church; if you have stopped going to worship; if you frequently change churches, all because worship and community life does not suit your personal preferences, God has a Word for you.

 

My wife admires those older couples in the congregation who never complain when we sing contemporary praise music.  She equally admires younger members who are agreeable when we sing hymns from the 1800’s.  

 

God smiles on these saints because they get it.  They understand Philippians 2:2.  They have learned to put others ahead of themselves.

 

What about you?

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Have thy tools ready; God will find thee work.  

Charles Kingsley (1)

It was the Tuesday after Labor Day, when I received a call from my bank asking me if I had made 23 purchases with my debit card at the local hardware store over the Labor Day Weekend.  I had.

That weekend I was tackling a home improvement project.  It seemed that every 20 minutes I had to run to the Hardware Store to purchase a tool, buy a bolt, or retrieve more materials.  While my heart and mind was ready to work, I was ill prepared to complete the project.

Those 23 trips to the Hardware Store consumed 8 hours of my time and 15 gallons of gas.  Some of the trips were to exchange items which I did not need for items I would have known I needed if I had planned ahead. 

By Monday afternoon the sales clerks and cashiers avoided me when I reentered the Hardware Store asking for help. While I eventually finished the project, it consumed a whole 4 day weekend.  

My wife offered the best summary of the experience:

“It would have been easier to ask someone else to do it!”

I wonder how often God thinks the same when He has work for us to do for Him.

God has work for us to do, but the work goes undone because we are not prepared.  We have failed to prepare our heart, mind, and hands through prayer and study.

I wonder what the world would be like if every Christian had their tools readied for God’s work.  

I bet the world would be a different place.

“Always be prepared to explain to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (2)

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  1. Samuel G. Hardman and Dwight Lyman Moody, Thoughts for the Quiet Hour (Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998).
  2. 1 Peter 3:15.

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Careless Faithfulness

A few weeks ago I was at a fundraising dinner for a community ministry which is near and dear to my heart.  At the end of the evening I felt led by God to give a gift to the ministry.  I joyfully placed my gift into the offering.  I was grateful that I could make the gift.

The next day I received my annual property tax bill.  My property taxes had gone up by 7.5%.  Ouch!  My first thought was in regards to the gift I had given the evening before.  That extra cash would have come in handy.

God was rejoicing while I was fretting.

God loves it when we live with careless faithfulness.

God prefers this over calculated faithfulness or as Oswald Chambers calls it careful infidelity.

In contrast to the generous mercy and grace which God has freely extended to us, most Christians weigh the cost of being faithful.  We are careful not to overextend our time, finances, energy, or selves as we exercise our faith.

While we affirm God’s providence most of us hedge our bets and keep extra grain on the side, just in case God’s providence does not arrive as expected.

When God gave manna to Moses and the freed Hebrew slaves in the wilderness God only gave them enough manna for the day.  If the Hebrews carefully set aside some manna for the next day it spoiled and was not fit for consumption.

Quickly, the Hebrews learned that God would only provide for their daily needs one day at a time.

In America we are hounded to be wise and to save for the rainy day.  I understand this wisdom.  I  continually set aside money for retirement.  However, this wisdom runs contrary to God’s desire that I live with careless faithfulness.

God has covered me on rainy days, yet I still fret and worry.

Careless faithfulness does not come easy for me.

A few days after making my gift and getting my tax bill, I received a gift equal to the gift I had given.

God had everything covered.  I never saw it coming.

Abraham called the place,

the Lord will provide. 

Genesis 22:14

 

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Fight the Lord’s battles!

1 Samuel 18:17

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Fighting takes emotion, time, and energy.  A fighter uses the best of these resources before, during, and after the battle.  Resources are used to strategize, react, and recuperate.  After the battle has ceased, the fighter finds himself exhausted emotionally and physically, in mind and in spirit.

During the past few days I have engaged in several battles, not physical, yet draining.

Two of the battles were over silly issues neither of which would be won or lost, neither of which had significance, and neither of which would change the course of human history or a single life.

I was drawn into these battles by my own will, through my own pettiness, and with the illusion that I was right and could win.  In one battle I irritated a long-time friend.  In both, I walked away from a draw.  While I found the fights exhilarating, each left me weary and frustrated.

The other fights were of significance.  They were battles which our Lord fought, which He invited me to join in with Him.

Jesus fought for the care of the poor, for the purity of faith, and for the sanctity of marriage.  The battle for these things did not leave me exhausted, defeated, nor friendless.

I entered each battle with trepidation.  Yet, I found the Lord at my side, giving me courage and strength, providing passion and words, drawing the enemy to His side. I may have fought the good fight, but He won the battle.

I am a fighter.  I get passionate.  I go into battle, sometimes with armor and others times fully exposed.  Sometimes I win, other times I lose.

My father taught me to stand for my convictions. 

Our Father calls us to stand for His.

The hardest lesson for me to learn was to choose my battles carefully.

The best lesson I was taught was to fight the Lord’s battles!

Our world would be a better place, if we learned to fight His battles and to walk away from the rest.

God told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, I am with you wherever you go!” (Joshua 1:9).

This promise is good only when we fight the Lord’s battles!

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Christians should not be surprised 

when the world treats them with hostility. (1)

Why?

Why doesn’t the world appreciate and honor Christians?

I do not mean to brag, but:

  • I am a good husband, treating my wife (and all women) with honor and respect;
  • I am a good father, who taught my boys to be men of character with values;
  • I give my time and money to care for the poor, hurting, and homeless;
  • I am a good citizen, volunteering to help those in need;
  • I promote fairness, justice, and strong values;
  • I forgive others and confess my mistakes.

Yet the moment I mention I am a conservative Christian Pastor the world turns on me.

Why?

Is it my faith in Jesus which offends?

Is it my endorsement of family values which offends?

What is it?  I am not the holier-than-thou type.  I am an ordinary person seeking to live my life as God desires, which should be a blessing to all.

Why is the American media on a campaign to attack Christians, the Christian faith, Christian values, and the Christian Church?

Behaviors and beliefs which were honored when I was a child are now scorned.

Why?

Jesus told me that I would be persecuted for righteousness sake!

He was persecuted and suffered, why should I expect any less?

Peter wrote:

Have a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. It is better to suffer for doing good, than for doing evil. (2)

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  1. John MacArthur, Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God’s Grace (Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman, 2001), 117.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Peter 3:16–17.

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Easter has come, but it does not need to be gone.

If yesterday’s celebration is beginning to fade, I encourage you to print and post this personal affirmation of faith on your computer screen, refrigerator, mobile devices, and anywhere else you regularly look during the course of your day.  

Read it, memorize it, and recite it.  Jesus went all the way to the cross and through the crucifixion to secure for you the forgiveness of your sins and the resurrection of your body at death.  Surely, you and I can do the same.

Unfortunately, I am unable to tell you who wrote this commitment.  Regardless, make it yours.

My Commitment as a Christian

I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. 

I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. 

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. 

I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees,  colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. 

I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. 

I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, live by prayer, and labor by His power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough,  my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. 

I cannot be bought, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice,  hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. 

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. 

And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me, my banner will be clear!

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When it comes to forgiveness, I talk a good game, thanks to my selective memory.

 

Yesterday I shared with others the heroics of my forgiving spirit and how God honored my graciousness in His time.  While I was speaking about what God is able to do when we have a forgiving heart, I spoke too much about my graciousness in light of the hurt I endured.

 

There are other stories I could have told.  

 

I could have rattled on about the times when I harbored deep grudges, nursed wounds beyond their expiration date, and gossiped about how I had been wronged.

 

Jesus handled the betrayals, denials, and physical blows against Him differently than me.  Except for telling Judas to “Do it quickly,” He received the betrayals, denials, and blows against Him in silence.  

 

Jesus never threatened His executioners with impending judgment; instead He forgave them. He accepted His suffering without bitterness. (1)

 

When we chatter on about past hurts and wrongs against us, we cannot boast about having forgiven the offender.  As long we allow the hurt or offense to live in the present, we have not put it into the past.  

 

Forgiveness involves the placing an offense against us into the past.  

 

I remember the tenderness of being wounded by someone who refused to forgive me when I asked for forgiveness.  A close friend tried to console me by saying, “Do not worry, they will forgive you eventually!”

 

It was the eventually which crushed my spirit.

 

How long would I need to wait to be forgiven?  How long would I have to live on edge, teetering between the loving grasp of forgiveness and the rejection of un-forgiveness?  How long would I need to earn brownie points before I could step away from egg-shell living?

 

I expect others to forgive me now and to do so with a grace that does not humble me.

 

As I move closer to Easter I anticipate celebrating God’s amazing, life-giving, death defying grace.  

 

God is anticipating the same from me.

 

Jesus taught me to pray, “Forgive my debts as I forgive the debts of others!” (Matthew 6:12).

 

You cannot grasp the joy of Easter while holding fast to an unforgiving spirit.

 

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  1. John MacArthur, Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God’s Grace (Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman, 2001), 107.

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