Archive for June, 2010

22
Jun
10

I’ve Been Thinkin’…

 

It seems that the direction that the Lord has been leading in in recent days has been one of contemplation…of reflection and examination and of quietly listening for and to His voice.  As a consequence, I have of course been praying, but my prayers have been more meditative and a product of listening rather than speaking and my thoughts have been filled by His beckoning voice…I”ve been less transmittor and more reciever.  I thought I might share a few of what I’ve been “thinkin’ ’bout:”

  • Calling.  Specifically in the Greek, the word, “klesis” which is found in Ephesians 4:1.  It seems “calling” is the one word which is central to my own personal calling and ministry and the focus of Foremost Ministries.  In short, every follower of Christ has a calling….what is it…how is it applied to our lives…and what are we doing to (in Paul’s words) live lives “worthy” of that call.
  • Knowing.  In Philippians 3, Paul discusses his willingness, desire and even passion to dispose of everything in his life that once was of value to him in order to “know” Christ.  He uses some terms in describing those past things.  Eugene Peterson’s translation in the Message comes closest calling them “dog dung.”  The original Greek is a little more colorful (slang) and would probably get us thrown out of most traditonal churches for expressing it that way.  I’ve been wondering if my own desire to “know” Jesus more intimately extends as far as Paul’s in that he seems eager to even share in Christ’s sufferings in order to establish a more intimate relationship…. to know Him more deeply and intimatley.   We want to enjoy the benefits of knowing Christ…what about the “taking up” of the Cross…drinking from the “cup” that He begged the Father to remove from Him?
  • Prayer.  Specifically Matthew 7:7-11.  Most study Bibles and commentaries I read say that in this passage Jesus is talking specifically about how to pray effectively.  It has occured to me that perhaps even more importantly, He is describing what mutual communication looks like in a healthy parent/child relationship.
  • Trials.  I am wondering how often we might mistake areas of discomfort and trial, ascribing these as attacks of the Adversary rather than discipline and correction from our Advocate.  Example:  Spurgeon was a reknowned depressive.  He came to understand his darkest days and most melancholic times as being prophetic precursors for an inevitable outpouring of blessing and great joy from God on his ministry for God’s greater glory.
  • Humility.  Ironic, how if some one tells you how humble they are, chances are they ain’t!  For me it seems increasingly apparent that humility is not something that we achieve, so much as we recieve.  We seem much more likely to be humble after we are confronted with circumstances for which we have been humbled.  And yet it is this very model in Christ which Paul calls us to immitate in our Lord (Philippians 2:1-11).

These are just examples of what I’m thinking about these days and what I am confident God is teaching me through the contemplation of them.  So…..what’s on your mind?

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15
Jun
10

Drive!

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. 

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. – Philippians 3:7-11 (The Message)

I was once a pastor.  There was a time in my life that ministry was my profession…the way I earned a living.  Some folks prefer to call it “vocational ministry.”  It was not, however, the financial benefits that drove me to succeed, nor was it even a remote consideration in responding originally to enter pastoral ministry.  The calling from God, in the beginning was clear and it was authentic.  It was what existed within me long before I accepted the call and then after I began pastoring that became my primary motivation and tragically led to my ultimate demise.

It was my own need and desire for the approval and affirmation of people that drove me to succeed in ministry.  My faulty sense of self-worth drove me to receive from others what I should have and could have only received from the One who called me into the ministry to begin with.  People began to tell me how good I was, how talented I was, how smart I was, how valuable I was, and I needed so badly to hear them say those things.  Problem was that I was none of those things apart from Christ’s empowerment and keeping.  My hunger to be embraced by people surpassed my need and desire to embrace and be embraced by the Lord Jesus.  My ministry was self driven rather than Spirit driven.  It was driven more by who I started to think I was and who people told me I was than by who the Lord said I was, and Who’s I was.

Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Philippians, that everything he once was or thought he ever could be was “dog dung” compared to simply knowing in the most personal and intimate way, the Lord Jesus Christ.  None of his accomplishments…none of his credentials…none of his education…none of his pedigree was worth holding onto once he met the Risen Lord on that Damascus Road.  It was his passionate desire to  “know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself,” that drove Paul to serve and minister, plant churches and finally to author, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, 2/3 of the New Testament.  He wanted increasingly to “know” Christ, and because he wanted that so badly, he wanted others to know Him too!  That desire drove him!

Today, the Lord is preparing me to return to some form of ministry.  But this time He is continually asking me, “Why?”  First of all, why would He want me to respond again to His call (What worth does He see in me)?  Secondly, and more relevantly important, what motivates me….what drives me to obey His call again?  Can I be perfectly honest with you when I say that He and I are still working out that together?  But, here is what I can tell you for certain…over the last ten years, I have seen first hand what all of my accomplishments…all of my successes…all of my skills and talents…and all of what people say or think about me apart from knowing what God says, adds up to…… “DOG DUNG!”

Whether or not I ever get paid one dime….whether or not people think I’m a deeply spiritual and good man….whether or not I succeed or fail by worldly standards….I know Him better now than I have ever known Him before, and that knowledge of how wonderfully gracious and merciful and patient and loving my Savior truly is drives me to help others know Him too.  I am a driven man!

10
Jun
10

a lesson in pest control!

 

“and do not give the devil a foothold.” – Ephesians 4:27 (NIV)

My mom is 82.  She still stays in her own place each day, but comes to stay with us in our home each night.  Last weekend she stayed with us from Thursday night until Sunday morning, when as usual I took her home to get ready to attend her church.  It only took a moment after entering her house to realize something was terribly wrong.  I felt something on my legs and when I looked down….FLEAS!  Now, I’m not talking about a couple of fleas, but hundreds of them and the further I moved into the house the worse their invasion of my bare legs became.  Needless to say, we beat a hasty retreat, forced out by the sheer strength of the pest’s numbers.

I returned, about an hour later, armed with multiple insecticide bombs.  I hurriedly entered the infested dwelling, set off the fogging bombs and once again, retreated.  I came back later that afternoon and to my joy…no fleas.  I vacuumed all of the carpets thoroughly and left, satisfied that I been victorious.  WRONG!  The next morning, we again entered the house and again, there were thousands of ravenous fleas.  Determined that we would not be evicted from our house by such a tiny enemy, I once again repeated the same application of flea bombs and once again it seemed to work, until 24 hours later.  To make a tedious story less so, it is now 4 days later and the battle is still joined with an ever-increasing ferocity.  But, with the help of pest experts and no small amount of expenditure, I finally seem to have the upper hand on the little critters.

The invasion of my mother’s home was subtle and practically unnoticed.  We did not realize that her dog Sandy even had one flea, and the fleas were content to confine themselves to the comfort of his body and fur.  But when we removed him from the house for 36 hours or so, the foothold they had already gained expanded and they proliferated at an incredible rate and sought to satisfy their insatiable appetite for blood.

Here’s the practical lesson learned this week regarding household pests like fleas.  The best way to fight them is to be vigilant and prevent them from getting a foothold, thus getting out of control.  The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, ” is very accurate when dealing with fleas.  I have also discovered a paralleling spiritual lesson as relates to my recent fight.  That is that we do not allow our enemy the Devil and his demonic minions to gain any kind of foothold in our lives either.  He has no place in our homes, in our families, in our church, in our workplace, or in any area of our lives as believers in Christ.  We must watch closely and be on guard for any incursion no matter how seemingly insignificant.

Peter describes Satan as a predatory beast looking for an easy meal when he says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV)  He is often portrayed in Scripture as a serpent, slithering quietly and subtly looking for an opportunity to strike at the believer.  I never walk in the woods in Summer without being on the alert for snakes of any kind!  From what I have seen of household pests this week, the Devil is very like an invading bug, looking to take over the very place where we dwell and undermine our security.  That’s why Paul is clear about the best way to deal with our Adversary.  He tells us not to let him gain even the slightest inch of firm ground on which to stand.  Prevent him from finding any point of entry to begin with.  Like a roach, or a house fly or a spider or even a flea he’s always looking and will get in through the very slightest crack in our dwelling, which in the case of the follower of Christ is also the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  There is no room for him in the dwelling place of God. 

You can believe this….from now on, I am on the alert and will remain vigilant regarding any further intrusion of fleas, because I don’t want to repeat the battle of the past four days again.  Now that I am in control of the house, I will not allow the nasty little suckers to gain another foothold.  Similarly, I am checking all points of entry for any weak areas that old lifesucker Satan can get in as well.  The key word for demonic fleas and demonic spirits is….vigilance!

01
Jun
10

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

I saw a bumper sticker this morning, on which was written a rhetorical question: “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”  Of course the implied answer is, “no one.”  Really?  The Jesus the Bible describes in the Book of Revelation won’t need bombs.  But, He apparently is not going to be timid about waging war on evil and He will wage it to win it!  The Faithful and True…The King of kings and Lord of lords isn’t going to stop or even pause to consider the political correctness of His cause.  He’s just going to get the job done!       

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war.  His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself.  He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God.  The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses.  From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress.  On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” – Revelation 19:11-16 (NLT)