Saturday, April 5, 2014

This Paradoxical Step of Jesus Seems Counterproductive For Leadersôtres)_-_James_Tissot.jpg
Jesus Was The Greatest Leader Who Ever Lived
In John chapter six we read that many of Jesus’ disciples turned away and stopped following Him. This would seem to be a pivotal point in a preacher’s ministry. It would be a heartbreaking and crushing defeat to any of us. We might even wonder if we should keep preaching.

The Son of God seems to have simply dismissed the slight against Him.

Not only did He seem to dismiss the slight, Jesus brought the question to the Apostles—the question that would once again reinforce their faith. The question forced them to decide whether they would follow Jesus even if their friends abandoned Him.

At what could be considered one of the lowest points in the ministry of Jesus, He fearlessly risked even His own closest followers with one simple question:

“Do you also want to go away?”

Some people think that losing followers is the worst thing that can happen to a leader. After all, a leader leads others. If you "run off" your followers, you are not a leader. But Jesus taught us that leadership requires the courage to risk that very possibility.

Take the big steps.

Go the places you should go.

Lead with courage and faith.

Challenge people to deepen their level of commitment.

Do not become discouraged if people reject you or your message. Every now and then you have to give people the option: "Do you also want to go away?"

Ask them. Don't be afraid of the answer.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Add This To Get The Most From Life

For true life, add the kind of love the Bible teaches!

“The Greatest of These is Love.”

The above words from Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13 grow more meaningful as I grow in Christ.

Faith is awesome! It is electrifying! It helps me feel alive and keeps me rooted in God’s word. But love is greater.

Hope! What can we say about it? It has helped countless people walk through this life in the roughest of times. It has brought light to hearts that would otherwise be full of darkness. But love is still better.

How can we quantify faith, hope, and love and come to the conclusion that one is better than the other? It’s not a matter of quantifying but of essence and timeframes.

First of all, our hope for Heaven and our hope to see God one day will vanish when we meet Him. Why would we yearn and long for Heaven if we are already there? Hope will be fulfilled, but love will continue. 

The same is true about faith. We now live by faith, not sight. But one day we will SEE God. Our faith will be fulfilled, but we will always have love. So love is better because of how much longer it will exist.

There is another reason love is superior. Love is better than faith or hope because God’s very nature is love. John wrote by the Holy Spirit in 1 John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

When we show love, we are showing the essence of God’s character and nature.

Do you want to find God? Love.

Do you want to be like God? Love.

Do you want to show that God is living within you? LOVE.

There is no such thing as loving too much!

For You Nay-Sayers:

Oh, sure, I know that some will say that if you love someone too much you will cause pain, and that is true in a sense. But I’m going to get into a discussion of semantics here. IF we love in the PROPER FASHION then there is no such thing as loving “too much.”

In Galatians 5:23, Paul said that against love (among other things) there is no law. That simply means that God has not restricted us from showing as much love as we are capable of showing! There are no limits to this.

So in what sense can love be unhealthy?

I’m glad you asked! Love must be accurately defined by the Word of God, the Bible. In fact it is a much more complicated idea than most people seem to think.

In Romans 10:13 Paul stated that “love is the fulfillment of the law”. It’s said in the context of talking about all the laws that God has given to us to follow. The gist of the text tells us that when we obey the requirements of God, that is actually the way we show love to God and/or others.

Love By Any Other Definition...

So allow me to try to explain my thoughts here. If I do not treat a person the way God tells me to treat him, then that is not God’s definition of love. And I suppose we ought to admit that GOD’s definition is the only one that really counts. So while I might love my wife, if I am putting her above God, that action/priority is NOT showing her love. It is certainly not showing love to God.

So if you lose your mind and start stalking a girl because you “love” her, don’t blame me for the misery and trouble you’ll find in that pursuit. I said that you could never love “too much” but you can certainly warp love into something that is harmful to you and others.

Is that all semantics? Maybe so, but think about it for a bit and you’ll see the importance of it.

If you follow God’s word in how to treat others, how to treat yourself, and especially how to treat God, you will never find a problem with loving too much!

This Is A Biblical Concept!

Just to clarify that this is a biblical idea: Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:5-7 that (among other things) we should add love to our faith. If you look in verse 5 it says that we should do this “giving all diligence”. Diligence simply means haste or earnestness. “All” is self-explanatory. Peter said that we should devote ourselves to adding these spiritual elements to our faith—and one of those elements (in fact, the greatest) is love.

So do you want to live like never before? Great adventures in life await you when you embark on this journey! With all your gusto and might, add love to your character. Don’t hold back. Jesus came to show us how to truly LIVE—and He has shown us the best that life can offer. It all begins with deciding to love.

What do you think? Start the conversation below!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Be Careful of Your Steps

Be Careful of your Steps!
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). 

The word “circumspectly” is an interesting word. Some translations render it “look carefully”. 

According to Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the original Greek word is akribos. It is used 13 times in the New Testament. It is variously translated in those other New Testament places as “accurately”, “carefully”, “diligently”, and “circumspectly”. 

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states that the word “expresses the 'accuracy' which is the outcome of carefulness.”

That one word tells us a lot about our Christian walk. We see that we are to be accurate, careful in how we live. 

While on the hills at the camp I attend each summer, I have learned a little more what this word means. Through certain circumstances I found myself outside my cabin, walking barefoot on a steep part of a hill that is covered in rocks of all sizes. Those of us “tenderfoots” know what that is like. I thought I could just start walking, but my soft feet and my extra weight helped me decide quickly that I had to be very careful where I placed my feet! I can say with all certainty that I learned what it meant to walk carefully and accurately in a physical sense!

We need to learn to walk in such a way spiritually. We must be careful where we place our feet— careful that we stay on the path, careful of any obstacles in our way and of dangers that can come upon us. What we are discussing is not just common sense things but those things the Bible teaches us.

Some people seem to care very little about doctrines of the Bible. God clearly is concerned about what we believe. Beliefs have consequences—even those beliefs we think are harmless. They may lead to great problems. They might lead others to difficulties. We must be careful about what we believe and what we follow.

Paul said that failing to walk carefully/diligently/accurately/circumspectly is foolish and a waste of our time. We should use our time wisely by learning and following the Bible. The days are evil. Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Let us be wise and follow the will of the Lord in all things! Allow the Word of God to permeate and rule in your life. 

Here are some simple, common-sense ways to help you watch your steps:

Study the Bible.

Daily reading and serching the Scriptures is the best way for you to grow.

Meditate on the Bible.

Find ways to creatively apply what you learn. Without application, the Bible will not make much of a difference in your life. Without thought, it will be very difficult to find applications that are helpful. (Thoughtful meditation also helps prevent you from "finding" things you already wanted to see there.)

Pray about decisions you make.

Prayer helps you align your motives and priorities. God is there and He does care. He is willing to aid those who come to Him.

Listen to the advice of wiser men and women.

Sometimes we don't want to hear it, but others do have perspectives that we might not have. They have knowledge and wisdom that we might not have attained at this point. Being open to the advice of other wise individuals is a great way to grow! And if you find a wise person who is willing to take the time (and risk) to share wisdom with you, you are indeed blessed!

Make decisions based on priorities and principles established by the Bible, not feelings and whims.

It is easy to go by our gut reaction. We tend to think that we have some power within us that allows us to automatically make the right decisions in life simply by instinct. Your instinct might do well for saving you from physical or emotional harm, but it is usually a poor guide for growth. It is usually good for defense, not offense. This is one of the reasons Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

Choose between good, better, and best.

Consider this article on an event involving Mary and Martha. Sometimes making good choices has nothing to do with good and evil. Sometimes it is all about deciding between what is good, better, and best.

What do you think? Tell us some things you do so that you step carefully.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Seed-Sowing and Rocket Science

The sower performed a simple role in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). He threw seed on the ground.

This is not rocket science. All it requires is time, a desire to learn a little, and a desire to spread the message to others.

After the sower in the parable sowed the seed, his work was finished. It did not matter who sowed the seed, just that someone did it. It had nothing to do with personality. It had nothing to do with the sower's clothing or attractiveness, wealth, fame, or talent. (See 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.)

That’s not to say that the sower is not important. It’s just that no one should boast. We're just seed slingers. God gets all the glory. Or at least He should.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Binding the Hands of God

The account of the life and work of Jesus is full of “impossible” events—events that are impossible for mere mortals. There are also many great ironies that, if contemplated, boggle the mind and thrill the soul. And one of the great ironies of the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is that these “impossible” events and highly ironic events and statements are often provided couched in casual presentation. There are no markers or hints from the authors when these things are presented. They simply state them and move on as if what was stated was just a normal event or statement. (I find this one of the amazing proofs of the genuineness and authenticity of these books, but that is a point for another time.)

One incredible irony is found in Matthew 27:2. The holy writ simply states, “And when they had bound [Jesus], they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.”

Did you see it there? Perhaps we are too familiar with the events of the crucifixion to notice it. Consider the One this verse is about and you will see the irony.

Jesus is the creator of all that exists. John 1:3 says that “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:9 that God, the Father, created all things “through Jesus Christ”. 

Jesus is eternal. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word with with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 reveals that this “Word” came to earth and put on flesh. That, of course, is Jesus. When the beginning happened, Jesus was already there.

The writer of Hebrews stated in Hebrews 1:12 that Jesus is eternal. “Like a cloak You will fold them [the heavens, verse 10] up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and your years will not fail.”

From these passages we can also see that Jesus is extremely powerful. In fact, He proved this many times in His earthly life. He was able to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, and control the waves of the sea. In every way He showed Himself to be superior to His creation.

A man of such magnificence, such power, and such authority was bound and delivered to a governor. The King of Kings was ushered into the presence of a governor for trial. The Perfect Creator and Judge faced the judgment of an imperfect man of His own creation.

Can a man bind God’s hands? These men certainly did. What powerful irony! It should make us take note. As God said to the Jews in Malachi’s days, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?” (Malachi 1:6). But how is it possible? The only possible way they bound the hands of Jesus was because He ALLOWED it to happen. It was part of His will.

Let us not think for a moment that we cannot do the same thing today and bind the hands of Jesus! 
  • We bind the hands of Jesus when we refuse to repent of sins (Isaiah 59:1-2).
  • We bind the hands of Jesus when we choose to keep silent and not teach others.
  • We bind the hands of Jesus when we refuse to support the church financially and actively.
  • We bind the hands of Jesus when we know good things to do but do not do them.

How can those things be part of God’s plan? How can God allow us to bind His hands in that way? Because His plan was for His treasures to be placed in earthen vessels. If the Gospel is to spread into the world, it will be spread through the mouth and work of His children. There is no “Plan B”. Think about it: Do you hinder the progress of the Gospel or help it?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

God Can't Do Everything

God can't do everything. There are even some things humans can do that God cannot do.

That is not an insult to Him.

  • God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) because He is truth.
  • God cannot be tempted by sin (James 1:13) because He is goodness and love.
  • God cannot die because He is eternal (Psalm 90:2).
  • God cannot force us to obey Him and maintain free will (Joshua 24:15).
  • God cannot change (Malachi 3:6) because he is the Ultimate of all goodness.
  • God cannot learn because He knows all (Hebrews 4:13).
  • God cannot grow because He is perfect (Psalm 18:30).
  • God cannot ignore sin forever because He is Just (Acts 17:30).
  • God cannot act in an unloving way because His nature is love (1 John 4:8).
  • God cannot be overcome because He is all-powerful (Job 36:22).

Yes, there are some things humans can do that God cannot.

That in no way should be considered a point of pride.

There is a God. We are not He.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Confessions of a Reforming Recluse

I’m standing in the hallway on the sixth floor of the Frank-Crowley Courts Building in Dallas. I am patiently waiting with about 90 other potential jurors. Some people are standing. Some are sitting on the few benches provided by the interior designers. Some people are sitting on the floor.

Many people have electronic devices to occupy themselves. Some people brought a book to read--they have obviously been in this position before. Others spoke quietly to friends they happened to see there by the coincidences of the randomized juror selection process. I am spending most of my time standing and sometimes typing notes into my phone about an idea for something to write.

I'm used to being a recluse
The mood is somber. There are no signs telling us to keep quiet, there is simply the situation. Some fidget. One or two men are pacing the floor. I find myself looking around at everyone. I am not great with people, but when I am in a crowd I do not feel comfortable unless I make at least glancing eye-contact with most of or all the people in the room. I don’t know why I am like this. 

I also do a lot of thinking during those times I find myself in a crowd. I think about all kinds of things. I think about the people sitting. I think about the men who are perfectly capable of standing to allow a lady to sit in their places. Then my mind goes back to a time when Karla was pregnant and I went to the doctor with her almost two decades ago. I became engrossed in a sports magazine and tuned out the world around me. Reality escaped and, though my body sat in the room, I was transported to another place. Before I left on this journey there was no one in the waiting room. Karla had gone into the doctor’s room for her check up. So I went away--at least mentally.

I was brought back to reality with a tap on my shoulder. One of the friendly nurses was talking to me. She asked if I would mind giving up my seat for a pregnant lady. My confusion morphed into dread because, to my horror, I was surrounded by pregnant women. They were all unconcerned at my presence, but I remember how surprised I was that I could become so engrossed in my thoughts that I would not even notice others around me. As realization of my situation dawned on me, I saw several women in the doorway. I could feel their eyes burrowing into mine. They were probably not angry, but I was sure they were at the time. Maybe the source of the heat I felt was not the heat of their anger but the heat of my own blood as it rushed to my face in embarrassed reaction. I was mortified. And I was clearly in the wrong.

I always think about that when I see men sitting when women should be allowed to sit. I marvel at the insensitivity and at the same time realize that those men are not even there. They are some place else, as I was while waiting in the doctor’s waiting area.

When I’m in a crowd I begin to think--and that is not always a good thing. I wonder what everyone around me must be thinking about me. I know in my mind that no one cares to watch my every move. There is just no reason to imagine they would look twice at me. Perhaps I have delusions of self-importance. Some people have suggested as much in the past. All I know is that if I were so “self-important” why would I get so flustered with the idea that people are looking at me and judging what they see? There is an important reason that I stand in corners and against walls while in public, and the reason certainly is not because I have delusions of grandeur!

Now I find myself in middle of a room, surrounded by people I have never met, and because of the nature of the situation, I’m at the center of the hallway. There is no room in the corner or against the walls. I had a great spot leaning against a pillar, but just a few minutes ago I started to feel bad because the ladies around me standing up must surely also be tired. Perhaps it was my turn to stand somewhere else and let one of them lean against the pillar. That sounds chauvinistic to many, I’m sure, but it actually comes from a place of deep respect. I don’t think women are weak and inferior or cannot stand for an hour or two. I just believe in showing honor to them. This was part of my process of thinking. I do this thinking a lot while in crowds. Now I find myself in middle of the hallways, surrounded by people along the walls and leaning against the pillars. (There are probably ten of us who don’t have a place along a wall or pillar.)

As I stand here, I can’t decide what to do with my hands. For some strange reason I am very concerned with what people think of me folding my arms at my chest. I remember hearing someone say that this is a sign that I have something to hide. I don’t want people to think I am closed off. I also heard someone once say that folding the arms can be a sign of anger. So I put my hands in the pockets of my slacks. 

The pose I now hold is also saying something to the people around me. Do I want them to see me as afraid to be in front of a group? Wouldn’t I rather want them to see me as strong and confident? After all, hands in the pockets are a sure sign of insecurity. Or does it say I am unsure of what to do with my hands? Maybe it says I am too casual.

I took my hands from my pockets and am now fidgeting with my fingers. But this is a sign of nervousness. What do I have to be nervous about? As I look around to my right I see a man staring at me. He is likely staring past me, or maybe does not realize what he is doing, but his eye-contact does not break when we look at each other. I look back and wonder if my body language somehow made him think I was a threat. I looked to the other side and a woman’s eyes made contact with mine and she quickly looked away. Was she also thinking I was a threat? Surely not. But it certainly made me rethink my pose. At this point that is the only word for it: “pose”. There is nothing natural about my body language anymore--and this point does not escape my thoughts.

I put my hands to my sides outside the pockets in a position that I can only define as neutral. This makes me aware that I am the only person in the room standing that way. “Why am I standing at attention as if I were military?” I’m obviously not military. I’m fat and old. But as I stand with equal weight on my feet and hands to my side, I remember that I was taught that this is the right way to stand. It shows that I am ready and confident. But ready for what?

Now people must be seeing me as a person ready to strike. This pose is too assertive. Maybe if I keep my hands to my side but lean my weight onto one leg...

Why do I care what others think about my “pose”? Why am I concerned with what my body language says to fellow jurors? I don’t know, but this is the way things are. 

And now I realize something important. I had been thinking about ways I can keep people from looking at me as nervous or looking at me in other negative ways. I realize now that I have a choice to make. I can hold myself in a way that makes me look closed to others, or I can hold myself in a way that makes me look open to others. I imagined what that would be like. Maybe instead of putting my hands to my side I could hold them out to others in a handshake, or put one on someone’s shoulder while greeting him. This seems to be a much better use of my hands!

I can show myself to be self-centered or people-centered. 

I want to be a people person, but my habits make me less than that--including this habit of wondering what my body language says to others. So I asked myself, “In this situation, with all these people around, what would Jesus do?”

That is a dangerous question to ask. It is dangerous for me because I know at least part of the answer was that Jesus would at least try to get to know some people so He might have the opportunity to teach them later. For a man who has difficulty meeting others, this is a scary thought.

I put aside my paranoid feelings and my normal self-criticism and critiquing and leaned toward a man standing next to me and made a comment to break the ice. When I did that, the criticism fell away and for the rest of the day I did not think about my body language except for a few very brief moments when it was appropriate. I stopped worrying about what people were thinking about me and started to consider their own lives and feelings.

Jesus can make you what you ought to be. His life shows us the way. If we live like Him, we will be much better people. He can make you whole. He can make you normal. In fact, when you begin to follow His example and put others before yourself, you will notice a lot of your problems do not seem like problems anymore. 

I made a few friends while spending a day at the court building. I helped people get out of their own shells. I even got to talk to people about church. The self-criticism, the paranoia, the endless chatter about myself melted away because I took the time to think about someone besides me.

Maybe I’m becoming a “people-person” after all. Maybe you can become one too.