Archive for January, 2010

“You shall not go out with haste,…”

As a culture we customarily equate New Years with resolutions. We resolve to eat better, exercise more, spend more prudently, improve the important relationships in our lives and generally begin with high expectations for a better existence than we have experienced before. Unfortunately most of this resolve gives way as the New Year progresses and we often find that life resembles the failures of the past and we begin to settle for the old anthem of “things are what they are”.  Perhaps our well intentioned desires for change are grounded more in the symptoms that we desire to treat rather than the root causes of our behavior. Perhaps there is something deeper in our nature that needs to change before our will to change can have the power it needs to survive.

tn_cake20121There is a reason that most cash registers in most stores are surrounded by candy bars and other gimmicky items. This marketing strategy relies upon the customer’s impulsive behavior. Impulse spending is nothing new to our society. It extends far beyond candy bars into more serious ventures such a car purchases, home purchases and daily spending habits. In the land of easy credit, self-gratification reigns and we are often tempted toward the indulgence of the moment. Such decisions are based upon a mental satisfaction created in our minds when we are confronted with our desires. However, we soon find that the reality doesn’t quite equal the expectation and we may have created financial burdens that far exceed the enjoyment of the moment. We all desire to feel successful and relevant. Many of our decisions are designed to promote and fill these needs and desires in our lives. The candy bar may be our way of rewarding ourselves on the spot while the larger ventures are meant to make us feel better for a longer period of time. So how do we know what choices are good for us and which ones may be more destructive?

Resolution number one for Christians should be for more ardent prayer and reflection. If we truly want to see lasting change in our lives we need to go to the source of our power. Jesus said He came to give us life, an abundant life. In order for us to receive this life we need Him to truly be the Lord of our lives. We need to develop the ability to listen and follow as God speaks to us through His word and his Holy Spirit. In Isaiah 52:12 we are told, “You shall not go out in haste,…”. This would clearly put an end to impulsive behavior. Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that you hold up the line in the supermarket while you drop to you knees and ask for God’s direction as to the purchase of a Snickers bar. What I am suggesting is that we need to seek God’s intervention in our lives well before we find ourselves in the moment of trial. The verse goes on to tell us “for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard”. He will provide the strength necessary for overcoming self-indulgent desires and to protect us from the mistakes of the past.

Our need is not what He can do for us. Our need is for Him personally! Being a Christian means having a relationship with Christ. We are to be totally dependent upon Him and trusting Him to deliver us from ourselves in moments of weakness and temptation. It doesn’t work well for us to begin developing that relationship in the moment of concern rather we need to build that relationship daily in times of prayer, devotional study and submission. Even Jesus spent a year of preparation before going out to minister. We need to develop this discipline now before we can grow in His peace and power.

Christians! Please Stop Persecuting Christianity…

Crucif15While recent comments voiced by Rev. Pat Robertson touched a nerve in the very pit of my being please know that I believe none of us escape the foul of misrepresenting Christianity from time to time. Whether through our actions or words, we all come up short, and that strikes at the very essence of my point. We serve a merciful God who cares for us and loves us beyond our imagination and only by His grace do we exist to serve Him another day.

Rev. Robertson commented that the people of Haiti are responsible for the earthquake in Haiti and that it is some form of retribution for a pact they made long ago with Satan. While I believe his comments to be well intentioned I fear that they are more harmful to the cause of Christ than helpful. One of the great misconceptions regarding our faith is that many of our brothers and sisters believe that our standing with the Father is based upon our goodly performance or lack there of. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our standing with the Father is based upon nothing less or more than the shed blood of His son Jesus Christ. Any other addition to or subtraction from this point is foolish arrogance on our part.

In terms of human logic, Christianity isn’t logical. In a world that values a “what’s in it for me attitude” the message of the Gospel doesn’t measure up. That God, the creator of the universe, would sacrifice His only Son to restore me to fellowship with Him for free is almost beyond comprehension. When we consider the enormity of the universe or the intricacy of microbiology how dare any of us contend that we know the mind of God? We can know His will in those things stated plainly in scripture; beyond that we are left only with blind trust in Him who created us and loves us beyond human reason.

How do we get to the place where we can decide for ourselves the mind of God? Often it is because we regard knowledge more than we should. After all, wasn’t this the original sin. In Genesis three Adam and Eve ate from the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”. Since that time mankind has measured the balance between good and evil perhaps with too much human wisdom sprinkled in. Beyond wisdom we as Christians often rely too heavily upon our emotions and feelings that arise from our own fallen nature. Christian immaturity is costly to the kingdom. It isn’t attractive therefore it inhibits our witness for Christ. When we place our personal feelings above that of God’s desire for us, then we act as if we know the mind of God. When we fail to get our way in church and leave for another setting, far too often we commit the same foul. When we are members of a church and fail to wholeheartedly support the leadership we offend His nature. When we find ourselves being critics, we need to back up and take stock of our own spiritual condition.

To the extent that we display our arrogance, our ignorance or our immaturity we harm the Kingdom. Before we empower ourselves once more to “do ministry” for Him I ask that you just STOP! Please let me burden you with the voice crying from the scriptures. Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…”. The great commandment spoken by Jesus himself implores us to first “…LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART…” and second “…LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF”. The order is clear. We need to have a right relationship with Him first and then “He” will empower us for the ministry to others. Far too often in the name of Christianity we gloss over the first part and empower ourselves toward the second.

I have met Pastors who confess that they do not regularly read God’s Word. I have participated in many men’s ministry groups where men confess they do not have the time to study God’s Word. I have read hundreds of prayer requests that seek God to do this or that, heal this or that, fix this, fix that or show up here or there, however far too often they do not include or simply ask to know Him more. Too often they do not suggest an attitude of surrender and acceptance of His divine providence.

In His great plan of salvation and restoration for us His number one purpose is to have a relationship with a people of His own possession. When we fail to strive (work out our salvation) toward the ultimate goal of having this relationship, then by default we misrepresent and persecute our own faith. We are living in an urgent time. God desires to wake up the church. He desires authentic Christianity. He desires us to be ambassadors for Christ. This can only come through the surrender of our self nature in blind obedience, faith and trust in Him who loves us in spite of what we have become. If the recent earthquake is God’s judgment on the people of Haiti then perhaps we should all walk in fear of His wrath for we have all been found wanting.

God genuinely desires for us to know Him. We can begin be knowing His nature a through the scriptures. READ THE BOOK! Study it and He will change your life. Is this logical? I think not, but for me I choose not to “lean on my own understanding”.

Do You Have A Sense of Community?

ShareIt occurred to me while considering the New Year how impersonal our world can be or may have become. I had the occasion to call Verizon the other day to try and implement a program on my computer. First I received the automated message regarding the potential use of their website as opposed to annoying them with my phone call (the last part is my inference). Next I was routed to the menu selection where I was presented a number of options for proceeding to the next level. With great trepidation I selected what sounded like the closest option to my concern fearing that I may be lost forever in another loop of options that would deliver me no closer to the sought after solution. Eventually I had to re-dial and start all over again utilizing the wisdom gleaned from round one.  After completing all the hurdles the program finally gave up and placed me on terminal hold waiting for a human to answer. However helpful the person was trying to be it was difficult to understand what he was telling me as I was unsure what continent I had reached. We all have had this experience and unfortunately it has become more the norm than the exception. The world is becoming more impersonal.

I sincerely believe that God created all of us to be there for one another and to relate to each other personally. Most of us can count our close friends on one hand and some need no fingers at all. As a person who has transitioned from a hectic business life to my next career of building community in the church, I have gained not only a major understanding of the value of relationships but also I have learned to respect the investment of time that is required to truly connect. Good friends and acquaintances rarely develop quickly but rather require time for interaction. You have to make an investment of your time to get to really know someone. Often we are quick to mentally dispose of people based upon  a surface analysis without holding out hope for the unknown possibilities. Many people will surprise you given half the chance.

In a society that runs on a microwave mentality we need to make a serious effort to make room for others and to allow them to honestly know who we are. We all have opinions and would love to convince the world around us of them but before we can persuade anyone of anything we must first let them know that we care for them personally. Of course we must begin by sincerely caring. I find no easier place for getting to know others than the church. Unfortunately that microwave thing has convinced us that church is an hour on Sunday and we need not relate with each other in between weekly services. If you dial back the clock you will find a time in our history when we needed each other and were interdependent. It would have been unheard of for someone not to know your neighbor. People had a sense of community. Big business and the electronic age have robbed us of our sense of community. Perhaps a great New Year’s resolution would be to begin attending church and become a part of the community and while we’re at it let’s get to know our neighbors. Who knows, the time may come when once again we need each other.