Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Leadership Thought

It seems there are two things God isn't really happy about in regards to aspirations toward leadership.

The first is "ambition":

  • Romans 2:6,8 says that God will render wrath and indignation upon those who are selfishly ambitious. Ouch!
  • 1 Peter 5:5,6 says God is against those who exalt themselves, and we need to humble ourselves and He would exalt us in the right time.
The second is "reluctance".
  • Boy did God become angry with Moses when he asked God to deliver Israel through someone else because he didn't feel qualified (Exodus 4:10-14).
  • And God told Jeremiah not to disqualify himself because he was a youth and he was afraid (Jeremiah 1:7-8).
So what does the Lord want? Apparently His timing is not our own, and we must cultivate a heart of patience (waiting) and humility for the when and if. Additionally, the Lord wants us to be a willing vessel. Many times when we think we can do it, He says, "no you can't". And then when we think we cannot do it, He says, "yes you can".

Thus, it seems He wants us to wait (when we think we can), and to be willing (when we think we can't).

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Faith Romances God

I came across this intriguing quote from Winkie Pratney in his message, "Little Crumbs for Little Dogs". (You can subscribe to his podcast here and download it through the iTunes store.) What do you think is meant by this quote: "Faith romances God"?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Frustration vs. Patience

I was recently involved in some plumbing projects in my house. Can I say "I hate plumbing!"? As I was buying materials from a local hardware store, the owner gave me one piece of advice: "Be patient."

Many times when I have embarked on house-projects-that-shouldn't-take- very-long-but-always-do, I would find myself in the place of being overwhelmed and frustrated. But after this man gave me advice about being patient, I found, that even in very overwhelming circumstances, I didn't have to get frustrated. I came to the conclusion that "frustration is an enemy, patience is an ally."

Sure it took me 9 days to replace my shower diverter -- because not only was the diverter bad, but I discovered the walls in the shower needed replaced because of water damage -- but I got the job done well. Since then I've had several major repair jobs (house and vehicle) all at once, that took extremely longer than they should have, but I've found patience is a friend in these overwhelming circumstances.

(Now you know why I hire so much work out!)


It seems that Jesus has a special place in his heart for people who are broken, crushed, down-and-out. "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34) and "I dwell... with the contrite and lowly of spirit" (Isaiah 57). He was with Joseph during 13 years of cruel isolation and slavery, and showed favor to him in a place of affliction and suffering. And with David: he was anointed as king, and then spent years on the run, hiding out in caves from a king that would destroy him.

Many times we are in crushing circumstances that are beyond our control. And the natural tendency is to kick, scream, fight, vindicate ourselves... and run from brokenness. But this is the very place we will find the embrace of God. He is near to the brokenhearted. He is with the contrite (crushed) and lowly of spirit. And many times we feel like He is so far away. A friend recently shared this verse (his life-verse) with me: "So now, descendants of Jacob, trust in your God and return to him. Be loyal and just, and wait patiently for your God to act" (Hosea 12:6).

"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for God is with me" (Psalm 23).

Friday, November 2, 2007

Self-Centered Christianity?

I first came across this quote in a John Piper book, but you can check out the source of it here.

I suddenly saw that … someone could use all the language of evangelical Christianity, and yet the center was fundamentally the self, my need of salvation. And God is auxiliary to that... I also saw that quite a lot of evangelical Christianity can easily slip, can become centered in me and my need of salvation, and not … in the glory of God.
-- Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, Missionary to India
I'm interested in any feedback on this comment.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wait a Minute Guys -- I was just Kidding!

Did the disciples of Jesus make up the story of his resurrection? The interesting thing is, they were all persecuted or killed because of their "story". None of them said, "Okay, wait a minute guys. It was all a big joke! You don't need to take it THAT seriously."

Check out what happened to these followers of Jesus:

  • James, the brother of John - Beheaded
  • Thomas - Speared to death
  • Simon the Zealot - Crucified
  • Bartholemew - Flayed with knives
  • Andrew - Crucified
  • Matthew - Speared to death
  • Philip - Crucified and Stoned
  • James, the son of Alpheus - Sawn in pieces
  • Peter - Crucified (upside down)
  • Jude - Shot with arrows
  • Stephen - Stoned to death
  • James, brother of Jesus - Thrown down from the temple and stoned
"He would not have preached the honor and glory of the cross, if he feared the death of the cross." -- Andrew

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

But My Situation is Different!

"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it" 1 Cor. 10:13.

No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man. Your situation is not exceptional. People all over the world have gone through what we are facing. Sometimes our enemy wants us to think that our situation is worse than what others have faced. But many have faced it, and many have triumphed.

God is faithful. When we think that our situation is exceptional, we are choosing to believe that God is not faithful. We feel that God is being harder on us than on others.

Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability. But do we allow ourselves to be tempted beyond what we are able? Sometimes the temptations we face are not the ones God allows, but the temptations we allow. Should a recovering alcoholic go to a bar? "Flee immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18). "Flee from idolatry" (1 Cor. 10:14). "Flee the love of money" (1 Tim. 6:11). "Flee youthful lusts" (2 Tim. 22).

God will provide a way of escape. He will provide a way of escape for the temptations He allows. The only way of escape for the temptations we allow is ESCAPE -- FLEE. But the temptations God allows? He says we will be able to endure them. The temptations we cannot endure, then, are probably temptations that we've allowed.

When God Cannot Be Found

Isaiah writes, "Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts..." (ch.55:6,7a NASB). It's interesting that he says we need to forsake "our way" and "our thoughts", because (he explains later) God's ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than ours. To put our ways and thoughts before His, is perhaps a type of wickedness and unrighteousness called "presumption".

Why does he say, "Seek the Lord while He may be found"? Maybe because sometimes when we work our way out through natural and logical reasoning, we end up far away from the will of God. And many times we can make decisions where there is no reversal, no going back. By then, it is ridiculous to seek the Lord about the matter. Sure God can work all things together for good, but it would have been best had we sought His direction before we proceeded. We could have avoided some nasty consequences.

Paul writes about it this way, "... a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised [examined]. But he who is spiritual appraises [examines] all things..." (1 Cor. 2:14-15a). The context here is that the spiritual man examines everything from a spiritual (rather than natural) perspective. How do we examine things from spiritual perspective? By seeking God while He may be found, and by calling on Him while He is near - gaining His perspective before we try to work everything out in our natural and fleshly thinking. Because by then, it may be too late!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Finger Painting

Little Johnny and Julie were hard at work at their newspaper-covered kitchen table. One big sheet of heavy paper stretched between them as their shared canvas. Plastic bottles of paint stood on both sides of the white paper.

Johnny painted a blue cloud with purple lightning coming down. Julie painted an orange Mommy. He painted a yellow snake in a brown tree. She painted a green Daddy pushing a red baby stroller. He painted purple and blue guns. She painted pink and red hearts. He painted brown Indians shooting arrows. She painted green and orange stars.

The buzzer announced the end of their painting time. Mom strode into the kitchen, initiating Project Cleanup. She set their masterpiece on the sunlit counter with a smile. In the bathroom she took off their plastic smocks, and cleaned the paint off of the faces, arms, fingers, and hair of her newly created Indian children. Now how did Johnny’s blue paint end up in Julie’s hair? she wondered. And that’s Julie’s red paint above Johnny’s eyebrows!

Mom clicked on the washing machine and headed back to the kitchen. She cleaned off the kitchen table... and chairs... and floor... and how did it get on the ceiling! Only later did she notice the colorful hand print on her blouse...

As a Branch church, we are called to relationships. This is not an option. “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Phil. 2:4 NLT). “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1 ESV).

Relationships are the finger paintings of life – and they can be messy. No, the children didn’t mean to get paint everywhere. It just happened while they focused on their finger paintings. Relationships are like that. In our best intentions, we end up smearing paint on places it doesn’t belong.

As long as there are relationships, there will be messes – and opportunities for offense. There is no guarantee that in the church we will not be painted upon. Actually, we could guarantee the opposite. Is it because people in the body are trying to get their paint on us or our side of the canvas? Is it because they are intentionally hurtful? Probably not. Maybe opinionated. Maybe poor communicators. Maybe unaware of another’s sensitivity to an issue. Maybe still growing up into Christ (Eph. 4:15). But not usually intentionally hurtful.

As intrinsic as messes are to finger painting, misunderstandings are to relationships – because none of us know everything. None of us can know all that could be hurtful to another. Jesus doesn’t require us to be perfect in knowledge, but perfect in love (Matt. 5:48, 1 Jn. 4:12,17,18).

The Message paraphrases Paul’s words like this: “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self... [Love] doesn't keep score of the sins of others... [It] puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best... [and] keeps going to the end” (1 Cor. 13).

Because relationships are the finger paintings of life, misunderstandings will occur in a relationship based church. Thankfully, God is the Perfect Parent who knows how to clean up after our messes. He doesn’t notice the imperfections of our paintings, nor is He hindered by us getting paint everywhere. He takes pride in the fact that we are painting our masterpieces together for Him.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

C.S. Lewis' thoughts on Right and Wrong

Excerpted from Mere Christianity.

"Every one has heard people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: 'How'd you like it if anyone did the same to you?' - 'That's my seat, I was there first' - 'Leave him alone, he isn't doing you any harm' - 'Why should you shove in first?' - 'Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine' - 'Come on, you promised.' People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

"Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man's behaviour does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: 'To hell with your standard.' Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or, that something has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football."

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