Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Joy an Pain

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
Throughout the journey of life, there are moments of unspeakable joy and crushing heartache and pain. Most likely, as you read these words, you may have recently experienced both joy and pain, celebration and sorrow. Often these emotions exist within us at the same time, where moments of joy are tempered with sorrow, and seasons of pain can be relieved by the promise of hope and peace.
So often, our experience of joy and sorrow is entirely out of our control. Joy comes to us as a free gift, or sorrow becomes an uninvited companion on our journey. In a sense, there is a passive reality to emotions, we often receive them whether we want to or not. 
In the Apostle Paul’s words to the early Christians in Rome, we find another dimension to emotion: a radical invitation into an active and intentional life of joy and sorrow.
What if joy isn’t simply an emotion that comes your way but is instead something you intentionally look for and seek out? To do this, it means you must broaden your capacity to love and celebrate, looking not simply for your own joy but for the joy of others as well. A sign of the Spirit’s work in your life is the ability to celebrate with others even when you receive no direct benefit in return. Their joy truly becomes your joy, free from all envy, jealousy, or comparison.
Likewise, we must ask for the grace to take the sorrow and pain of others into our hearts and let it become our own. This is an active and intentional choice, for it is possible to hold the pain and brokenness of others at arms length, remaining emotionally detached and unaffected. It is for good reason that Paul’s words to us are a command, not a suggestion. We must choose to weep with those who weep, actively looking for those who are in sorrow and letting their pain become our pain.
This way of life goes against our natural desires and inclinations. It requires that we open ourselves up to the joy and sorrow of others. Our personal joy and pain cannot be our only concern.

Our Prayer: May God give us the grace to live this radical life of empathy and compassion for the sake of others and as a sign of his coming Kingdom In Jesus name Amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The best leader is first teachable

After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. Matthew 11:1
Leaders who take the time to explain the “why” behind the “what” to do, expand the team’s capacity. Anybody can dictate what to do, but the wise are patient to instill why you do what you do. This applies to all platforms of leadership: to parents, to preachers, to politicians and to policemen. If a leader only intimidates the staff for short term results, they sacrifice the opportunity to train individuals for long term effectiveness and retention. Why should anyone do what they do? The greatest motivation is to serve for the overall vision and mission of the organization or ministry.
Though God in the flesh, Jesus took the time to flesh out the disciples’ faith by instructing them in why to live for Him and serve with Him. Before the Lord went to teach and preach to other people, He willingly and purposely invested in training the twelve to understand why they do what they do. Christ’s disciples would eventually comprehend they could only do what He taught by surrendering to His Spirit working in and through them. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount only frustrates us if we seek to serve in and through our own strength, but when empowered and instructed by the Holy Spirit, we are well able.
Perhaps you and your team invest an hour a week in personal and professional development. The book 5 dysfunctions of a team is a proven resource to grow trust, create healthy conflict, commit to follow through, have mutual accountability and achieve the right results at work. The best leaders invest and commit themselves to ongoing education, so the team is empowered to execute and operate with a spirit of excellence.
Above all, lean into the Lord to instruct you in the way you should go. As you remain a student of Scripture, the Holy Spirit will continue to hone your character and competencies. Education from above, saves time below. An uninstructed life is a dull life, but an instructed life is full of life. So as a disciple of Jesus, stay at the feet of Jesus, as a hungry student, who never graduates from God’s graduate school of grace and humility. The best leaders learn from the Lord first and then seek to transfer the lessons they are experiencing to other hungry hearts who want to learn.

Our prayer:  Lord create in me a heart that desires to learn of you continually.  As my hunger for you grows give me a heart of boldness to share with others all that Your Spirit imparts into me that I might be a blessing to others Amen.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

overcoming evil

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21
Terrorist attacks. Racism. Violence. Hatred. Fear.
Take one look at your phone or newsfeed over the past few weeks and it is undeniable that the world simply is not as it should be. Sin has fractured our relationship with God and with one another, and we feel the effects every single day. In a world where evil seems to be on the rise with each passing moment, how are we meant to respond? How do we live as faithful followers of Christ in the midst of such pain and brokenness?
It is easy to see the needs of the world and feel helpless and overwhelmed, wondering how we can possibly make a difference or bring about peace and hope. I believe it is important to remember that faithfulness begins with seemingly unremarkable acts of goodness and love. You or I as individuals likely will not be able to solve global injustices or terror threats, yet we can seek to bring God’s peace to our neighborhoods, families, and workplaces. Where on your own street is there injustice that you can seek to overcome? Where in your family is there brokenness and hurt that needs the healing touch of Christ?
Faithful Christian discipleship is often found in the small, unseen places. It is the daily life of prayer and repentance that God uses to change the world. We join him in his renewing work when we turn away from sin and evil and let our lives be filled with the goodness of His presence. As the great novelist Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
When you see stories of evil and sorrow that leave you speechless, do not be overcome with despair. Instead, look close to home and ask the Lord to show you how you can be an agent of his goodness and love in the spheres of influence he has given you. This is how we as Christians learn to faithfully follow Jesus in the midst of a confusing and broken world. As we resist evil and overcome it with good, we encounter a foretaste of the goodness and justice of His coming Kingdom.

Our prayer:  Lord when we are confronted with evil, give us the strength and power of Your Spirit to overcome evil with good and love Amen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:14
Jesus is a friend to His followers. He is Lord, but He is a friend. He is Savior, but He is a friend. He is the Son of God, but He is a friend. He is sinless and holy, but He is a friend. He is a friend to sinners, and a friend to those He saves. Jesus is a friend to his followers, but it is a friendship based on obedience. Compliance with Christ creates companionship.
If I do not obey Christ’s commands, He does not call me friend. It is out of our actions that friendship with Jesus is validated. Obedience to Jesus inspires intimacy with Jesus. It is imperative that we obey Jesus so that we can really get to know Him. His friendship is free for all who follow hard with a hungry heart to obey. Friendship flourishes with faithful fidelity.
Friendship with Jesus is an invitation to intimacy. He reveals to His friends the riches of His grace, and the hope of His glory. It is a friendship that bears the fruit of saved souls and solid character. You begin to emulate the attitude, actions, words and spirit of Jesus, because this is what friends do. Friends look, act and sound like each other. You know you are a friend of Jesus, when Jesus consistently influences you to be like Him.
When others are around you does your behavior provide evidence that you’ve been with Jesus? Is it a friendship based on conviction, not convenience, intimacy, not intimidation and giving, not getting? As you grow in your friendship with Christ you better understand His heart, and your prayers align more with His will. Friendship with Jesus facilitates friendship with people. True friends flock to be with fellow friends of Jesus. Evangelism of the lost and edification of the saved flow freely when Jesus is your best friend.

Our prayer:  Dear Lord thank you for being a friend that sticks closer than a brother.  Each day may we make every effort to grow deeper in our intimacy and friendship with you Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Secret to Success

He [Uzziah] sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success. 2 Chronicles 26:5
It should come as no surprise that success, as God defines it, comes from seeking Him (see Matthew 6:33). For the disciple of Jesus, doing the will of God is the highest degree of success. As we follow God’s will, we are successful. Success is not something waiting for us sometime in the future. We have already achieved success if we are walking in step with our heavenly Father. If we’re not in step with Him, we may have an outward shell of success, but inwardly and relationally we are a failure. Seeking God is a volitional and relational act. It is consciously and regularly seeking to understand our Creator. Seeking God is to know Him. Seeking God is to love Him.
Seeking God is to praise and worship Him. Seeking God is confessing and crying out to Him. It is enjoying the comfort of our heavenly Father. It is practicing the presence of Christ in you. You seek God at church, at home, at work, and with your friends. There is no place where He is not sought, other than in hell itself. What a privilege and perk for Jesus’ people, anytime, anywhere, and for any reason, to be able to seek God. Therefore, seek Him just as aggressively during the calm as you do in the chaos. Jesus doesn’t want to just be your crisis manager; He wants to be your Lord, who leads you into wise living.
You cannot seek God in isolation. This involves the counsel and advice of those much wiser, godly and mature believers in Christ.  Seeking God involves validation from the wise. In danger is the man or woman who attempts to seek God without submitting to godly teaching, mentoring, and discipling from gifted leaders of the faith. You learn to fear God from those who fear God; you learn to love God from those who love God; you learn to forgive from those who forgive; you learn to pray from those who pray; you learn to serve from those who serve. Seeking God comes from seeking the godly. Avoid hero worship. No one except Christ deserves this level of admiration. A wise way to understand God is to understand the godly.
Hang out with those you want to be like. This is why church and community is vital to seeking God. You cannot seek God while not seeking supportive people. Scripture teaches, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out” (Proverbs 18:15). Seek God in His Word. The Bible is God’s anthology and it is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Scripture is the first and last word on God. It defines Him, so it can define you. Know His Word, and you will know Him. Read it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Learn it. Above all else, apply it.  Success is a result of seeking God. Therefore, seek Him more often than not.
Our Prayer: Heavenly Father, I seek You for success in life—as You define success.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Resting place

God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”—but they would not listen. Isaiah 28:11b-12
Everyone needs a place to rest, a time to rejuvenate and restore your soul. A soul without rest is vulnerable to doubt, disease, sin, and dread. Without soul care, you risk being ineffective for the long term. So, allow your soul to catch up with your activity through rest. A restless soul loses hope and perspective. Stop right now and take an audit of your soul. Is it strung out and anxious?
If it is, rearrange your schedule for rest before it rearranges you. A non-restful pace is unsustainable, and a restful place is necessary to persevere. Do not fall for the false feeling that activity somehow equals progress or success. Without rest, you are going nowhere fast. If you intensify the pace, you are going nowhere, faster.
Rest allows you to recalibrate your priorities and replenish your cistern of creativity. Your work rhythms may require a day with no scheduled appointments. Indeed, each resting place looks different, depending on your need. For example, your resting place may be the quiet screened porch, where you relax with a cup of coffee and a good book. For someone else, a resting place may be a comfortable couch, where they nap to the steady beat of raindrops pelting the rooftop.
It can be the park where you walk with your best friend, a secluded drive in the countryside, or an adventurous exploration. Whether your resting place is the beach, the mountains, or in front of a good movie, make time to engage with it. God speaks to you in your place of rest. This is one of His favorite spots to shape your soul.

Furthermore, your resting place allows you to resist temptation. Fatigue causes you to stumble and fall through life. If you are working through exhaustion, you may be missing God. A lethargic life struggles to listen to the Lord, and a heart worn down from weariness has a hard time hearing His voice. A depleted spirit is not primed for discernment, and decision-making during duress can be dreadful.
Therefore, go away to a resting place. Find God and find yourself under the canopy of His creation. A resting place is your protection from yourself, from evil influences, and from lost perspective. Above all else, your resting place reveals God in a refreshing way. His program takes on a new priority in His place of rest. Your confidence is resurrected. Your trust takes on a new level of intensity.
Your patience leads to a deeper understanding of what it means to wait on the Lord. A resting place is for your sake and His. It is necessary to experience God’s very best for you and your family. Discover your resting place in prayer, and go there often. Repentance follows rest, and robust relationships result from rest. Your best and most creative ideas emerge from relaxed meditation on your Master. Wisdom resides in rest.

Our prayer:  Lord reveal to me the times when I am doing too much, and missing my rest time with you.  When I find rest let me find peace, comfort, joy, grace, and love in you Amen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trust Him while you wait on Him

But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”   Genesis 15:8
You know by first knowing God. He does not leave you in the dark to grope around in unbelief. He wants you to go to Him for discernment and understanding. If assurance of knowing what God was saying came easily, you would be tempted to take the credit for your accomplishments with the Lord. He wants you to know what to do, but on His terms. Many times, knowing what to do follows belief, obedience, and trust. Take God at His word today and be faithful to His instruction. It may mean extending kindness to a nemesis at work or praying more for your children and saying less. Indeed, “how to know” follows “how to be.” Be patient, and allow God to work in spite of your self-imposed deadlines. Trust Him as you wait on Him.
Furthermore, do not let your drive for possessions paralyze you from trusting and obeying. When you are ready, God will allow you to understand how you can have something. He trusts those who show themselves trustworthy. Be faithful with your finances; they protect you from bypassing God’s best. Personal debt can short-circuit God’s work, so rely on Christ, not credit. Reliance on credit can easily take the place of reliance on God’s provision.
So, take a financial reality check and start by paying off the credit card with the lowest balance. Money can draw you closer to your Master or drive you further away. You can know you are positioned to buy something if you have the cash for the purchase. Cash collaborates with the future, but debt presumes on the future. Paying as you go helps you to know the Lord’s leading. So, follow the Lord by faith. You will know all you need to know, as you get to know Him. Knowing Him is your passage to knowing what to do.
The Lord loves you too much to leave you in the lurch. He constantly communicates with His children through Holy Scripture. He may speak to you in a dream. He may be shouting at you through friends and foes. Circumstances may be squeezing you toward specific outcomes. Be aware of all that is converging around you, for Christ does not work in a vacuum.
God is working all around you. Engage with Him in your crisis of belief. He will let you know what to do next. Trust God with this one thing, and ask Him for discernment on the next steps. Validate your idea with those who know you best and who hold you accountable. Be faithful with these small steps, and He will position and promote you to experience larger roles and responsibilities in His timing.
Resist the temptation to rush to the next big thing. There are a lot of little miracles yet to be encountered. The lion’s share of your vision may happen after you are gone. The continued execution of “how to know” may follow you into eternity. So set the table now for those who will feast on the results of your faith after your exit. You know by knowing Him.

Prayer:  Father we put our trust in you.  Make us sensitive to your leading Spirit, that we might be able to apply your principles to our lives and be obedient to your instructions.  In Jesus name Amen.