Friday, March 29, 2019

Faith under fire

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets. Luke 6:26

When we choose to follow Jesus not everyone will speak well of us. This comes with the territory of commitment to Christ. It should not alarm us, since this is how Jesus was treated. The crowds praised Him for His authoritative teaching, but there always seemed to be a jealous group lurking about. His authentic life condemned their hypocrisy. His clear teaching made the teaching of the religious leaders look complex and controlling.

Not being well spoken of is part of the cup we must drink as a disciple of Christ. If we try to please everyone we run the risk of pleasing no one. People intimidated into pleasing people become anxious, fearful and exhausted. Pleasing all the people all the time is not possible—it is futile. You cannot do enough to satisfy some people.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered” (Matthew 20:22).

Why are some people chronic complainers? Their insecurity craves attention, their pride demands attention and their pain requires attention. Their hurt has caused them to lose perspective and unfortunately, you may become the object of their frustration. But by God’s grace you can love them through this unsettling time. You know better.

You can give them what they have denied you. Your patience and forgiveness will go a long way in loving them to Jesus. It is your life that validates your words during times of duress. Do not be surprised when others do not speak well of you. They may not have a context to understand, because they may not have Christ.

What does matter is what God thinks about you. Fortunately by faith, He accepts you in Christ. However, your ongoing maturity in the faith is a concern of His. He does expect you to trust Him more and fear man less. He desires for you a love relationship with Him that is intimate, interesting and instructive. His affection is your affirmation.

When the Lord affirms your place in life, you can rest assured. Do not waffle when the conflicting opinions of others urge you their way. Your stability is in God. He is your rock and refuge. His validation matters most, so rest in Him and do not react to the unrealistic expectations of others. Only you, led by the Holy Spirit, can define God’s expectations.

There is a good chance someone will not understand your faith walk and give you grief. Doing the right thing may cost you a relationship or financial remuneration. Your obedience to Christ may draw out the firestorm of criticism from some, or it may be their subtle rejection that stings. Either way, pray for and love them regardless of their unfounded words. God knows, that’s all that really matters. Listen for His well-spoken words instead!

“He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17).

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Go get yours

God has given each of us over 5,000 promises in Scripture. But He’s not going to force anyone to live in the victory of His fulfilled promises. You have to go get them. Joshua who had been promised that He would be given any piece of land where his foot walked (Joshua 1:3), had to go get it. He couldn’t stand where he was and simply claim victory over all of his enemies.  After you speak it, you have put application to what you speak.  In other words just don't talk about it, be about it. There are four key principles to going and getting the promises God has made. 
1. Leave the Past Behind. Learn from yesterday; don’t live in it. As Joshua set out to take the Israelites on a military conquest across enormous geographical areas, he had to let go of Moses as the leader and commander. As we see in Joshua 1:1-2, Moses had died. The miracles Moses had performed for the Israelite people existed now in the past. God would use a new man and a new plan to secure their victories moving forward. Embracing that truth was critical for their progress.
2. Seize Your Spiritual Inheritance. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Joshua had to take steps of faith in order to secure the promises made by God. God gave a condition to the receiving of his victories. He had to place the sole of his foot where he may normally be afraid to do so. He had to do that in faith. Sitting around and waiting for God to simply dump your spiritual promises on you is not how God operates. You have to go get it!
3. Focus on God and Not People. Joshua 1:5 says, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” No doubt Joshua faced oversized, overpowering enemies as he sought to gain military victories and conquer the land. But God assured him of his victory. Had Joshua focused on the people in his way, he might have cowered in fear. Likewise, when you direct your focus to God and His assuring Word, you can reduce fear and doubt in your own life. Keep your eyes on your Source, and only your Source. 
4. Stay Tethered to God’s Word. Lastly, a critical element to Joshua’s conquests was his consistency in staying tied to God’s Word. We read in Joshua 1:7, “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” God’s Word gives wisdom about what to do, when to do it and how to gain spiritual victories in the midst of physical limitations or obstacles. As you move forward in life, meditate on and apply the truth of Scripture, you will gain insight into how to accomplish all God has in store for you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Serve your boo thang

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. John 13:14-16

Out-serve your spouse. This is not natural to our selfish selves, but out-serve your spouse, and start to see positive differences in both of you. Service makes them feel cared for and makes you feel fulfilled; service makes them feel loved and makes you feel rewarded; service makes them feel respected and makes you feel significant. Of course, unappreciated service can wear you down over time, but trust God. Allow Him to supply the strength for your service. If the Lord is not empowering your service, you will eventually burn out and possibly become resentful. Bitter service does not last, but joyful service does.

Serve your spouse out of gratitude to God for giving them to you. Serve them in the routines of life and when they least expect it. Serve them where they want to be served, not just where you want to serve them. It may be unloading the dishwasher, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, maintaining the house, or taking care of the cars. Their service may include an organized family, dinner at home, being on time, keeping a calendar, or planning a trip. If you are unsure, ask them how they like to be served.

Furthermore, carry this attitude of out-serving into your occupation. Be one who serves in the work place, especially if you are a leader or manager. Quietly and clandestinely clean up the break room, even wipe out the gooey microwave with its burst of flavors matted on the inside. Service from a sincere heart values and respects others.

Our Savior modeled service. He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His very own life as the ultimate act of service. When we enlist in the service of God’s Kingdom, we become His full-time servants. Service for our Savior is a thread that runs through the life of everyone who is led by the Lord. If Jesus is your model for leadership and living life, serve.

He served the least and the greatest; He served the sinners and the saints; He served the rich and the poor; He served singles and He served families; He served mad and He served glad; He served when He was tired and He served when He was rested. You could not out-serve Jesus because His service was motivated and fueled by His heavenly Father. Intimacy with the Almighty compels you to serve.

Ironically, Jesus served others even at the point of His greatest need. When engulfed in His own personal crisis, He chose to serve others instead of being served. The night before facing imminent death, He served by washing feet. Use this same selfless strategy of service, and watch the world run to Jesus. In the middle of your own Last Supper experience, serve. When you are rejected, serve instead of retaliating. When you are forgotten, serve instead of feeling sorry for yourself. When you are hurt, serve instead of allowing your heart to harden. Furthermore, serve for Jesus’ sake, not your own. Make it a lifetime goal to out-serve all you come in contact with, especially those closest to you.

To out-serve yields an outstanding outcome. An out-serve attitude is other-centered and Christ-focused. You can’t out-serve Christ, but you can be a conduit of service on His behalf. Seek to out-serve others for your Savior.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Power over possessions

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross and follow me. Mark 10:21

In many ways, the rich young ruler was a model of faithfulness. He was sexually pure, honest and trustworthy with his words and money, respected his parents, and studied the Bible (see Mark 10:18-20). If he had grown up in my church, he would have been on the fast track to Christian leadership. And yet, the only reason we know anything about this man is because of his inability to follow Jesus in every area of his life.

We are told that Jesus looked on this man and loved him deeply. I believe the hard words that Jesus shared with this man were in fact born out of that deep love. Jesus isn’t trying to create a situation in which the man is set up to fail. He doesn't find delight in our trials or misfortunes. Likewise, I think Jesus was truly moved by this man’s faithful devotion to God. He didn’t ignore it or take it lightly. However, more than a list of rules to follow that guarantee perfect behavior, Jesus wanted this man’s heart to be free. He desires the same for you.

Our possessions wield a remarkable power over us. They give us a false sense of security and an inflated sense of worth. They promise freedom yet only enslave. They say they will broaden our horizons only to shrink and cloud our vision. This was true in the ancient world and it remains true today. Yet in every time and every place Jesus is also at work, ruthlessly rooting out everything that stands between him and the one he loves.

Jesus wants nothing less than the whole of who you are. While in your specific situation finances may not have a grip on your heart, likely there still remains one thing that keeps you from experiencing the freedom that Jesus offers. Perhaps it is an addiction or an unhealthy relationship. You find yourself paralyzed by fear and insecurity. And perhaps like the rich young ruler, you fear what might happen if you truly let go and walk away.

Jesus loves you too much to leave you just as you are. He longs for you to know the freedom that comes from following him and walking in the light. Pray today for the courage to take a step forward in faith, resting in his unshakable and unchanging love.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Commissioned church

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

The Great Commission is the mission of the church. Christ commands us to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel and calling the lost to trust in and receive the crucified and risen Savior for salvation. We also are to mark disciples of Christ through water baptism which is the baptism of repentence in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then we mature disciples in the faith in Christ by teaching them to obey all the Lord commands of us. This commission to make disciples of all the nations is the life, work, and aim of the Lord's church. Faithful believers make disciples. Faithful pastors make disciples. Faithful members make disciples. Faithful churches make disciples.
 Here are ten commitments of a Great Commission church…
Christ-exalting worship. Jesus declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). This is a claim, not a commission. Yet this audacious claim is essential to the Great Commission. If verse 18 is not true, verses 19-20 are meaningless. The Great Commission is a fool’s errand if seek to make disciples without divine authority. We must be on mission with confidence that Christ reigns over all places and all peoples. Therefore, disciple-making churches are worshiping churches. The sovereignty authority of Christ is our spiritual power for ministry. Before we go out, we must look up in reverent, submissive, and joyful worship of the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Personal Evangelism. There is only one imperative in the Great Commission. Jesus commands us to make disciples. This is the singular mission of the church. The disciple-making process begins with evangelism. Disciples are made through saving-faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Saving-faith comes in response to gospel witness. Evangelism and discipleship are not rivals. We do not choose one over the other. A disciple-making church is a soul-winning church. Sheep-stealing, saint-swapping, and membership-transfers do not accomplish the mission of the church. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). As ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20-21), we must get the gospel right and get the gospel out.
World Missions. The Great Commission is a call to evangelism. But this evangelistic mandate is not limited to our relatives, friends, coworkers, and associates. Jesus commands us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). This mission is as small as your neighborhood and as large as the more than seven billion people on planet earth. Your community needs the gospel. So does every community in the world. The one who has all authority deserves and demands to be worship by all nations. Great Commission churches pray, give, go to reach the unreached people groups of the world with the saving message of Jesus Christ. They are going churches for a coming Christ!
Ethnic Harmony. The command to make disciples of all nations is not just a call to world missions. It is also a call to ethnic harmony. You cannot be a Great Commission church without respecting the dignity of all peoples. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. And all who trust Christ for salvation become our brothers and sisters, regardless of gender, status, or ethnicity (Galatians 3:27-28). Racial reconciliation is embedded in gospel mission. By his death on the cross, Christ has redeemed a people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9-10). A church that is committed to the Great Commission will seek to reflect the multi-ethnic redemption of Christ in its worship, work, and witness.
Biblical Ordinances. Many churches are consumed with new and novel strategies for making disciples. But the Great Commission keeps the process simple. We make disciples by baptizing and teaching. Baptism is not man-made tradition the disciple may reject as his own discretion. Jesus commands the church to mark disciples by water baptism in the name of the holy Trinity. Baptism is a Christian act of civil disobedience. In baptism, we pledge our allegiance to Christ and the church. Baptist does not save. But it is the first act of obedience Christ commands of those who are saved. The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are symbols of salvation the church practices as silence lessons about what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
The Local Church. A commitment to the Great Commission requires a high view of the church. We make disciples, by leading lost people to trust the finished work of Christ for salvation. Once we bring them to Jesus, we are to bring them to the church. Disciples publicly declare their faith in Jesus through baptism. Water baptism identifies the believer with Christ and the church. Disciple are not to baptize themselves. It is an act of the church that affirms the profession of faith of the new believer. Likewise, disciples are not to teach themselves. Of course, personal Bible intake is essential for spiritual growth. But disciples are to submit to other disciples to teach them to observe all that Christ commands. This happens through the local church.
Biblical Teaching. New disciples are to be baptized to identify them with Christ and the church. This is a one-time rite of initiation. But this event is not the end of the disciple-making process. It is only the beginning of a lifelong process that involves teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded us. Man-centered worship services, a therapeutic preaching emphasis, and pragmatic ministry philosophies may draw large crowds, but will not make disciples. A disciple-making church is a teaching church. We are to teach all that Christ has commanded. This requires that a church that is sound, faithful, courageous, balanced, and systematic. The goal of our teaching must be transformation, not merely information. We are to teach disciples to observe, practice, and obey all that commands of Christ (James 1:22).
Lordship Salvation. Sinners are saved by grace through faith in Christ, plus or minus nothing. But the proof of faith is obedience. “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,” Jesus asks, “and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) It is a misunderstanding of the gospel to think that one may trust Christ for salvation without submitting to Christ as Lord. Paul writes, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). You can come to Jesus for forgiveness of sin and decide later if you will submit to his authority. The one who saves is Lord! You do not get a vote on that. A Great Commission church teaches disciples to submit to the Lordship of Christ.
Christian Fellowship. A commitment to the Great Commission requires a commitment to Christ and to one another. It necessitates Christ-centered, gospel-driven fellowship. Jesus issued the commission to a group, not an individual. In a real sense, they were to go together. Baptism declares one’s commitment to Christ and his blood-bought people. And the teaching process is about more than learning a subject matter. The disciple-making process is life-upon-life. Disciples are to teach other disciples to live in obedience to Christ. Jesus did not teach his disciples in a classroom setting. He taught them as they did life together. A church that makes Christian disciples is a church that prioritizes Christian fellowship.
Spirit-Infilling. Jesus asserts, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The omnipotent one of verse 18 is the omnipresent one of verse 20. But this is more than an affirmation that Christ is everywhere. It is a person and perpetual promise of Christ’s presence with us. This is possible through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were commanded to witness for Christ after they received power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). By the indwelling presence and power of the Spirit, these frightened disciples became bold witnesses. Likewise, we cannot fulfill the Great Commission in our own wisdom, strength, and resources. The human spirit fails unless the Holy Spirit fills (Ephesians 5:18).

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A life of integrity

Living a life of integrity includes all areas of your life. Your public integrity is what other people see in the workplace or in your home and church. Your private integrity exists between you and God—that involves those things you allow yourself to do when no one else will find out. Keeping your integrity levels high is God’s standard for you as a follower of Christ. Blessings will come as a result of your personal integrity, just like Daniel experienced protection from the lions when thrown into the den. Let me give you five ways to cultivate integrity.
1. Don’t wait around. Don’t look to your boss or your spouse or your environment to get better before you make a move. Integrity has to do with who you are on the inside regardless of what is happening on the outside. Don’t blame others if your level of integrity isn’t what it should be.
2. Set your standards in advance. Decide on the things you won’t compromise on before you find yourself in the middle of a problem. You and I cannot become Christians of integrity on the spot. We cannot wait until the action gets hot and heavy to make our decisions about integrity. Establish your guidelines in advance.
3. Develop a recurring devotional life throughout your day. Make spending time with God the rule, not the exception. As we see in the case of Daniel, cultivating your walk with God throughout the day will do as much or more than anything else to help you to become a person of integrity.
4. Find some friends who will hold you accountable for living up to your standards. Find the friends who will ask you the hard questions about what you’re doing and not doing. Be authentic. Allow room to share failures. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Stay in contact, and reach out when you need a reminder to stay strong.
5. Major on God and not your circumstances. If Daniel had majored on his circumstances he never would have maintained his integrity. He would have become just like everybody else. He would no longer have been extraordinary. God did not save you so you could become like everybody else. God saved you to be extraordinary.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

True nature of wisdom

For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Have you heard the story of the town fool? There once was a poor man who sat in the street begging for money. People would daily offer him a choice between a penny or a nickel, and without fail, every single day he would choose the penny over the nickel. The villagers would laugh, call him a fool, and repeat the process day after day. One day, a foreigner was passing through the town and observing this unfortunate scene, decided to confront the man and show him the error of his ways. He said, “Poor man, do you not know that a nickel is worth more than a penny?” The town fool looked him in the eye and said, “Of course I know- I’m no fool. Yet if I take the nickel, people will stop giving me their pennies.”

This simple fable reminds us that so often there is more going on in the world than meets the eye. There are moments of great wisdom and insight that on the surface appear to be reckless and foolish. In an ancient city like Corinth, known for its passionate culture of debate and intellectual rigor, Paul’s message of the cross was seen as complete and total nonsense.

The cross was intended to be an explicit display of power. For those who were bold enough to oppose the Roman authorities and seek to usurp their rule, crucifixion was a public display of cruelty, showing others the fate that awaited them if they chose to do the same. In willingly accepting death upon the cross, Jesus directly confronted the power and authority of his day. Yet rather than confronting these authorities with an equal display of force, he freely and willingly gave himself up for the life of the world. In so doing, Jesus revealed the true nature of wisdom and power, a way of being that confronts our assumptions and reorients our lives to an entirely new way of living and seeing the world.

St. Paul said that Jesus “became for us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). To understand what is truly wise, you and I must consistently and faithfully return to Jesus. As we do, Christ shines his light on our own assumptions of power, authority, and wisdom, inviting us afresh to believe and live in the upside down nature of his coming Kingdom.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Freely give

Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils:  freely ye have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

What is your motivation for giving? Is it to freely give or to give expecting something in return? This is an ongoing tension for the generous giver. We give our time, our expertise, our money, our friendship, our commitment; we give our very life, with what expectation in mind? Disappointment follows gifts with strings attached, but gifts given freely lead to fulfillment. Can we be hilariously generous and still trust Christ?

You may ask, “What about my stewardship in giving gifts responsibly?” Wise givers give prayerfully and responsibly, but not to the exclusion of the Spirit’s leading. If the Lord is leading you to invest time and money in a person, ministry, or church, then obey and trust Him with the outcome. Everything we have is His; so He is ultimately responsible for the fruit from generosity. He blesses His work, done His way.

Because Christ’s gifts are not conditional, our gifts are not conditional. For example, at your conversion God freely gave you His Spirit for comfort, conviction, and direction. The Bible says, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

So, even when we grieve the Spirit with our disobedience, He still remains. The gift of the Holy Spirit does not come and go from our life; He is here to stay. His resolve to reside in our soul is reassurance that we are not alone. In the same way, when people you trust are in turmoil, stay with them through the rough ride until things smooth out. Anyone can give in the good times; so be there to give when they need you the most.

Faithfulness freely gives, not to gain, but to do good deeds. The Lord’s freedom to extend goodness to you compels you to freely give back goodness. Grace is a gift to be received gratefully and given liberally. Give freely, and observe how much more is freely given to you. Your heavenly Father gave you His Son because He loves and forgives you freely.