Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Platform shoes to fill

But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. Genesis 13:6-7
Over the years I have watched people struggle with success. One family in particular handled success well. After selling their business they increased their giving, not their standard of living. They live in the same house, drive the same cars, attend the same church and have the same friends. This successful family is still very intentional about investing in their marriage and in people who are hurting and in need. Wisely, this couple continues to practice the humility and integrity that gave them success. Success is a platform of influence to be used for God’s plan.
Two family members, Abram and Lot, did not manage success very well. They kept all their possessions and divided, instead of letting go of some stuff and uniting. They could have given away some of their possessions and made room for life together. But because they both kept it all, one eventually lost it all. They could have been better together, but when they split up, they were conquered. We suffer from success if we selfishly demand our way and miss accountability.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
Has success changed you for the better or for the worse? Has your accountability increased or decreased? One good success indicator is continuing to cultivate a generous heart. Generosity is the best remedy for greed. Perhaps you seek an accountability partner/s or take a crown financial class to refresh your spirit around biblical teaching on money management. You might define a financial finish line and give away everything over that amount. Also, pray for ways your things can be used to grow relationships not divide them. Leverage your assets as tools for God’s work not toys for yourself.
Moreover, as our Lord's grateful children, we give Him credit for any successes in life. God gave us the gift of His son Jesus, so by faith we have His Spirit living within us to guide our decision-making. Because of the Lord’s leadership and promptings of the Spirit in our lives, we are able to live abundant lives. Anything good we have comes from God. He gives our minds wisdom to think clearly. He gives our hearts humility to act graciously. He gives our souls salvation to live gratefully. So, we give God glory for our success. Without Him we fail, with Him we succeed.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Recalculating route

David inquired of the LORD, and he answered, Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. 2 Samuel 5:23
Beloved, plans are made to be adjusted, as the Lord is in the business of leading and guiding us through the planning process of discovery. It is imperative that we remain nimble, flexible, and open to His leadership. What worked yesterday, may not work today, or tomorrow. Prayerfully seeking the wisdom of God is the GPS (Global Positioning System) needed to define His process and locate His destination.
Do not be afraid to scrap the old plan/way and script a new one. God delights in leading you through the informal back door, and not necessarily the formal front door. What your friend experienced may be just the opposite of your experience. This is why it is wise to follow Christ’s path through the prompting of His Spirit. The path of Jesus may seem perilous, but you can be guaranteed His presence is in the middle of your planned adjustments, as He will never leave us nor forsake us.
If you remain bound by your plan, you may miss the success of His. Man sets the plan, but the Lord extracts it from his heart, though it may not seem logical at the moment. Yes, it is somewhat embarrassing to change course for the umpteenth time, however it is better to make a midcourse correction and suffer a little shame, than to wait too long and be humiliated by stubbornness. God’s best, often, is not a direct linear path. He is most creative in leading us on a trail of trust, as this walk with God is based on faith and the working of our faith which is displayed in our obedience to His word and the promptings of His Spirit.
The plan of God requires ongoing prayer that asks Him to purify your motives and to clarify His plan to you. Ask Christ to confirm your coordinates to His destination. Whatever path you are blazing, He has been there before. It is typically harder to discern God’s best when you are encountering someone or something for the very first time. There are many unknowns and so many opportunities to pursue.
So over-apply due diligence by not rushing into first-time experiences with blind optimism. If you do, you might regret it. Trying to rush God’s will is frustrating and will cause you to fret. God’s will, reflected upon and clarified, is encouraging and will cause you to rest. It is okay to change today if He has amended what you thought He told you yesterday. Just make sure the Holy Spirit is guiding your steps.
Lastly, it is not unusual to discover His best over a period of time. If you make His minor adjustments daily, your course correction does not seem as radical. If you refuse to discern His plan daily, then one day you will wake up in need of a revolutionary reaction. So much so, perhaps, that you scare people away.
So, be wise to let God lead you down what may be the unconventional road of His will. Inform others along the way so they are not surprised by any sudden change. Humility is willing to allow the Lord to lead you in a different direction. Wisdom is being able to get it done while leading others to do the same. Expect your plans to need adjustment, and trust God with the outcome. Adjustable plans are the best laid plans. Hold your plan with an open hand, which rests in the hand of the Lord.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A growing faith

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.     2 Peter 1:8
The life of the believer is not designed for maintenance or meant for maintaining. The believer who is vibrant and alive is a maturing disciple. As a growing believer in Christ, you are in the process of adding to and developing your character. Your faith is not static; rather, it is dynamic and nimble. You are building a life of character that can stand against the winds of adversity and enjoy the blessings of prosperity in Christ.
As a character builder, you are to possess these qualities of Christ in an ever-increasing measure: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” (See 2 Peter 1:5-7)
Your process of character development is a conscious effort. It starts with faith and ends with love. These are the bookends of God’s expectations for your character. He may start with faith because it is the doorway to Him. Faith is how you approach God and how you appropriate His virtue into your life. Faith allows you to find your Heavenly Father and learn from Him. Faith gives you ears to hear and a heart for change. Love, on the other hand, deals with motive. Everything you do needs to be inspired by love for God and people. The greatest from the trilogy of faith, hope, and love, is love. 
Start by asking God to increase your faith. An expanded capacity for faith and trust opens the door to other opportunities for life transformation. Faith is first base; so do not run past it. Faith taken for granted is not faith; so do not disguise shallow or flippant religious-speak as faith. Faith is focused on God, and there is a relentless resolve to understand Him and His word.
The Bible is a treasure of truth that leads to understanding the character of God; faith is bolstered through the Bible. The Scripture ignites your faith. That faith becomes radically robust as you feast and learn of God through his Holy Word. Do not underestimate the potential of increasing your measure of faith by knowing and applying God’s Word daily.
Lastly, use love as warm oil to massage truth into your life and into the life of others. Like a sore muscle, life needs the soothing effect of love. Love understands honoring a relationship over being right. Love motivates faith and is motivated by faith. Your love gives you admission into the life of a person, to influence their life. If they know they are loved, then your influence is trusted. Let love lace your life like garlic flavors a delicious Italian meal. You can smell its appetizing aroma that precedes its amazing taste.
With an ever-increasing measure the aromatic effect of your love will precede your presence. People want what you have when they are unconditionally loved. So, make sure what you are offering them is authentic. Be a love doctor, who graciously administers the love of God. Do not settle for the maturation of your past character. Seek Him even more humbly and aggressively now to increase your measure of character. Keep adding His character to yours; this is effective and productive. Keep your life book between the bookends of God’s character. Your life then becomes an attractive read.

Friday, January 5, 2018

His peace my life.

My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. Isaiah 32:18 (NRSV)
Everyone longs to see peace in the world and in their lives. We long for safety and security, to know that everything will be alright. And yet, at every level of society, from intimate family relationships to complex political and economic systems, we live in a chronically anxious world. Rarely do we engage the world around us with the courage and security that comes from our place within the Kingdom of God. Instead, we have allowed this chronic fear and anxiety to live and flourish within our hearts and lives in countless ways affecting our ability to live a Kingdom lifestyle of peace.
When I think of the life of Jesus, I think often of his remarkable ability to maintain a state of peace, even in the midst of extreme chaos, fear, and uncertainty. From the vulnerability of the stable, to the raging storm at sea, all the way to the pain and suffering of the cross, we see the Lord embody perfect peace in every situation.
In "The Imitation of Christ", Thomas Kempis offers this prayer for peace that says, “Grant me, above all else, to rest in You, that my heart may find its peace in You alone; for You are the heart's true peace, its sole abiding place, and outside Yourself all is hard and restless. In this true peace that is in You, the sole, supreme, and eternal Good, I will dwell and take my rest.” Thomas reminds us that our hope for secure dwellings and quiet resting places is when we place our desire for peace in Christ alone and being known by Him.
Just as Jesus found His peace in His intimacy with the Father (see John 14), so too are we able to find peace in any trial when we find our life and rest in Him alone. Though we search far and wide, anything other than Christ will leave us restless and unable to navigate the storms of life that come our way. In His earthly ministry, Jesus lived a life of peace in times of trial, a life of security in times of great uncertainty, and a life of rest in a restless world. As we find our life in Him we are able to do just like our Lord.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The giving principle

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Love is a radical giver, intentionally and indiscriminately. Love gives. It gives individually and corporately. Love gives. It gives bountifully and without bias. Love gives because generosity is its nature. A soldier who gives for love of country, or a mother who gives for love of her child, reveals their character. A husband who loves his wife gives her emotional attention. A wife who loves her husband gives him affection. Love gives as a matter of course. It’s natural.
God’s love is the gold standard. His banner of love is raised high above the most hideous criminal to the most innocent child. God gave the ultimate gift of His son Jesus, because He loved all of us; each one of us. Just as rays of sunlight warm all of us and each of us, so the love of the Lord is for the world, and each one. We are individually loved by Jesus. Since God is love, His love is effortless. His loving offer of forgiveness comes to us by belief in Jesus.
How can we intentionally love the Lord, people, and ourselves? Love begins by being loved by the One who is love. Once we receive Christ into our life by faith, His very nature of love resides within us. The deeper we fall in love with the Lover of our souls, the greater our capacity to love and give. His love gives us peace, so we are able to offer calm in the middle of conflict. His love gives us patience, so we are able to extend a compassionate ear to a fearful foe. His love gives us forgiveness, so we are able to offer total forgiveness to others. Love gives.
How can we love ourselves by giving to ourselves? We love when we give ourselves the gift of margin. Margin is time for prayer, exercise, thinking, reading, hobbies and being creative. We can love ourselves by having more or less time with people. Nonetheless, we love ourselves, so we are better prepared to love God and others. An unloved self is a loveless self. Not narcissism of course, but a healthy love of self, like Jesus loves us. Our soul care, emotional fitness, mental refreshment, spiritual nurture and physical rest all contribute to a loving life. Love gives. So, receive God’s love in Christ and from an overflowing heart of love, love generously.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
Have you ever had a friend or known an acquaintance who walked away from God? Have you been blown away and thought, “They were so strong in their faith, and now they are going down a dangerous path. How could this happen?”
I don’t claim to know every reason why someone would walk away from Christ, but I recently noticed something in Scripture which provides clarity on how this can happen (see 1 Timothy 1:19) 
After I read this verse, I couldn’t help but think of a married couple. Imagine a wife makes the choice to maintain a close friendship with another man. Even though her conscience is telling her that she is in dangerous territory, she forges ahead. What’s the result? Her relationship with her husband suffers. Even if a full-blown love affair never develops with this man, her love for her husband is weakened because she violated her conscience and is not walking in the light (see 1 John 1:7)
A similar thing can happen in our relationship with the Lord. Our consciences act as a guide and protector to keep us close to Jesus. When we do what we know we shouldn’t do, when we violate what our conscience is telling us, “Don’t go there” “Don’t make that call” “Don’t say that” our commitment to Christ suffers. With the smallest disobedience, someone’s love affair with Him may not be as strong as it could be. With the largest disobedience, their faith may be entirely shipwrecked and they may walk away from Him. So, Paul instructs us to keep our conscience clear.
The love we have for Christ is strengthened one obedient act at a time. Stay close to Jesus today and pay attention to those little nudges the Lord gives you. They are His way of showing you that He loves you, that He wants to keep you safe and close to Him.
Our prayer: Lord, we praise you that you are with us every day, guiding us by Your Spirit. Always help us to pay attention and to quickly act in obedience Amen.