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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Song Series: No Better Place

No Better Place
Living here today as if we're gone tomorrow

Read: 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal
– 2 Corinthians 4:18

I haven’t known many heavenly minded people.

Frankly, most of the Christians I’ve met over the years are a lot like me. We believe in God the Father and His Son, Jesus. We believe in the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives. We believe in heaven and hell, and we even believe that prayer changes, sometimes. We’re considered good citizens and most people would like to have us as neighbors. We’re not unreasonably pious or prejudice and we’re quick to give a hand up, as well as, a hand out. All in all, I’d say we’re not that bad, really. Of course, we’re not that Christ-like, really, either.

From what I can tell, and I readily affirm that I could be way off base here, most of us like the thought of being Christian more than the action. It’s almost as if we think that our wanting to live with Jesus counts as actually living with Him. I think part of the problem is we’re so connected to the stuff around us that it makes it really hard to see past the temporal to the eternal.

Paul reminds us that God is a living personal presence. Get this; He is personally present with the guy or gal who’s eyes have been opened by Him to believe in His Son, Jesus (John 6:44) (2 Cor. 3: 16-18). Therefore, the believer actually lives in His presence every moment of every day. I think we just kind of forget this fact after a while of living here on earth. It’s like the eternal slowly gets overshadowed by the temporal. May-be one good way to regain a heavenly frame of mind is to practice walking with Jesus in the little things that make up the mundain moments of our day.

I like to read a little book from time to time called, “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. It’s an old classic, but this guy seemed to have the whole “walking with Jesus daily” thing down. If it is indeed a true account of Lawrence’s life, I’ve never met anyone like him (ever). He was so “in the moment” with Christ that something simple like peeling potatoes took on a whole new perspective!

I believe, like the Chapman song says, that “there’s no better place on earth than the road that leads to heaven”. I guess I just need help from time to time remembering that being heavenly minded means living here on earth as if I’m already there.

Here’s a link to the book “The Practice of the Presence of God”

Here’s a link to the song “No Better Place” by Steven Curtis Chapman

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Song Series: O Come All Ye Faithful, Come Let Us Adore Him

Come Let Us Adore Him
"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." - Exodus 3:5

The word “adore” does not appear in scripture, but it is felt within the heart of several texts.

Adore: to worship; to express reverence and homage.

Adoration is the glow of revival fire.

What are some ways we can express reverence for the LORD? Well, one way early worshippers would pay homage to God is by removing their shoes (Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15) Another practical way worshippers showed deference was to lay prostrate on the ground ( Genesis 17:3 ; Psalms 95:6 ; Isaiah 44:15 Isaiah 44:17 Isaiah 44:19 ; 46:6 ).

We don’t practice this much today, but I have been in worship service where people have taken off their shoes or laid prostrate at the altar. It didn’t seem to be done in a “look at me” kind of way. The congregants just seemed genuinely humbled and vulnerable before the LORD.

I marvel sometimes at the indifference I often see from the platform. Not that I’m remembering any specific church. It’s more like a conglomeration of the times that I’ve lead worshippers who were anything but.

I wonder, what would happen if we began to humble ourselves before the LORD and ask, no beg Him to help us adore Him. Would people think us weird or out of touch with reality? Would we be labeled freaks? Or, may-be, just may-be, we could become the spark of revival that so many fellowships need.

LORD, bring revival, and begin with me!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quiet Time: Ambition

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:8-10

Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men. – Proverbs 22:29

am•bi•tion [am-bish-uh n] noun:an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction

I love that scene in the movie “Facing the Giants” where one kid carries another kid on his back the entire length of the football field after thinking he could only go fifty yards, at best. I think they call it the “death crawl”. The coach was trying to show that when we give our absolute best we can accomplish much more than we ever thought possible. Very inspiring! But, it got me to thinking about what the bible says about ambition. I think it’s a bit different from the corporate industrialized version many Christians have come to believe.

Here’s a little exercise that may help. Replace the word “ambition” with “earnest desire to distinguish ourselves” in these next few verses and you’ll see what I mean.

2 Corinthians 5:9
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

1 Thessalonians 4:11
and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,

So, here are a couple of practical prayers I plan to pray since I know I can’t accomplish anything godly on my own:

“Help me to work quietly for Christ; not myself.”
“Keep me from doing anything that does not please Jesus.”

By the way, there are a couple of ways to know when we’re moving away from "The Way":

James 3:14 &16
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

And, here are a couple of practical questions I’m going to ask myself while moving along this journey:

Is it all about me and what I receive?
Is there disorder or any hint of evil?

If the answer to either of these questions is, “Yes”, then it’s time to drop back and pray (see above).

Everyone likes to be appreciated and acknowledged for a job well done. The bible even seems to teach that when we’re really good at what we do we’ll be honored among men (Proverbs 22:29). However, if our goal is to be honored among men and not pleasing to Him we can know that we stand in direct opposition to God’s goal for our lives. And that’s not good.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quiet Time: Choose the Long View

Choose the Long View
Read Hebrews 11:23-29

choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin – Hebrews 11:25

Our local power company used to own a rust colored rickety old eye-sore of a power-plant near the city. We half jokingly said that it was held together by duct tape and water-bond (a type of epoxy for patching holes in pipes). The long view of the plant was that it would eventually be removed and replaced by a newer more efficient one; so, there was a lot of patching going on. Sometimes the patches would fail and very costly emergency repairs became necessary.

Like water-bond, we sometimes try to relieve personal pains with quick fix solutions that only compound the issues, not because we have a long view of how life will be, but because we simply want relief for the moment. If we’re not careful, this can lead to a deep melancholy called depression.

Now, don’t freak out. The fact is that everyone deals with depression.

No, really, from time to time, we all struggle with the symptoms of depression due to external circumstances like the death of a loved one or a prolonged illness. Sometimes we get depressed in a very sneaky way through repressed anger. The good news is that most of us work through it eventually overcoming the gloomy funk. However, there are times that we choose short term fixes (alcohol, drugs, or extramarital affairs) to life’s pains, effectively compounding the problem and prolonging the misery. Point in fact, Doctors Minirth and Meier say, “A common precipitating cause of depression in many Christians is a wrong perspective.” We live as if all that is, is all there is; and, that’s just foolish.

Moses is a good example of a great life perspective. Although, he was at a point in his career where everything was coming together; he turned his back on all that this world had to offer (riches, extravagance, and power). The scripture says that he actually chose pain over passing pleasures because he had a long view that caused him to want God’s best for his life and the life of his people. Now, this isn’t to say that Moses didn’t suffer from a melancholy spirit at times. Just read about his leading the children of Israel through the desert and you’ll see that he was fully human and struggled mightily.

Perhaps we need to guard against “short-range perspectives that lead to short-range behavior patterns” [MM] since they only increase the potential for more pain and distress.

Here’s my long term perspective:
I want to walk where I am as if I’m where I’ll be; face to face with Jesus.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quiet Time: The Green Eyed Monster

The Green Eyed Monster
Read: Galatians 5

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5:25-26

I have a confession to make: sometimes I envy the mega churches in my area.

Every once in a while I’ll go to see one of their wonderful and impecably produced musicals or worship services and I’m just blown away. Everything comes off without a hitch. Crystaline sound reinforcements, immersive stage lighting with atmospheric enhancements, and flawless instrumental and vocal talent all come together for a seemingly effortless worship experience.  Now, I understand that I don’t really know all of the ends and outs of such a large ministry, but that doesn’t keep me from wishing that most of the churches with which I’ve  served had the resources both monitarily and talent wise that the mega churches accumulate; they are truly a sight to behold! Then I get a little befuddled as I wonder why they don’t feel the need to share some of their pools of under utilized talent with many of the great yet scantly resourced churches in their area.

Frankly, I’ve come to realize that this befuddlment, although it sounds right and prudent,  is part and partial to my envy. I want what they have; plain and simple. And, that, my friends, is wrong.

 Paul tells me that if I “live by the Spirit,” if what I believe is more than just an ideal, then I must “walk by the Spirit.” I must infuse the Spirit into every aspect of my life. His fruits should be evident at work, play, what I do, and what I say. Paul goes on to instruct me to not “boast, challenge, or envy”  other believers. Christians are saved individually to live individual lives. Comparing myself to other Christians is fruitless and harmful to further growth and does nothing to strengthen who I am in Christ.

So, now I’ve confessed to the world the fact that God is still working on me. I’ve got a long way to go toward maturity in Christ. Candidly, I still plan to build myself and any ministry God gives me to serve, to the top most level. This is right, for God wants our best not our better than. But, by God’s grace I will build with the Spirit, not inspite of. How about you?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quiet Time: No Limits?

No Limits?

Read: Galatians 5

On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won't take anything for granted.
- Ecclesiastes 7:14 (The Message)

Limits are laced with disappointment.
Last December the ESPN/Red Bull "New Year. No Limits" event at which snowmobiler Levi LaVallee planned to break a world record by jumping over 301.5 feet of water was canceled after LaVallee crashed during practice. Fortunately, during testing, LaVallee did jump an astounding 361 feet, eclipsing the existing record by 60 feet. This jump was submitted for world record certification. [LaunchinLevi] So, I guess it’s safe to say that the new “No Limits” limit for snow mobile jumping is 361 feet and that Levi painfully experienced the disappointment of limits.

We all understand that life itself is limited. So, it comes as no shock that without self-control we often suffer the consequences of going over the limit; and that’s the rub. We don’t like limits because limits tell us that we can’t do whatever we want to do.

I’ve sat down with six figure corporate leaders, salt of the earth common folk, and wired for sound college students. All had adequate means to balance their budgets yet, practiced little self-control when it came to living within their limits. All ended up experiencing a monetary crisis. Often, as friends or family members, our first inclination is to bail them out or at least help them out in some way to get past the crisis. However, the plain and simple fact is that we will only postpone the inevitable (Proverbs 19:19). You see, no-one can experience the pain and disappointment of being limited for the one being limited just as one plant cannot grow for another plant.

OK, here’s the point: We are limited creatures who serve a limitless God. This limitless God has given each of us exactly what He wants us to have for the moment; a limited amount of time, talents, and treasures. When we live within the parameters of His principles we experience a sense of peace, contentment, and knowledge that we are indeed walking with Him as He leads (1 Corinthians 3:17).

Walking with God will limit where we go, as well as, how we get there. On the journey, we will undoubtedly be disappointed because we can’t do what we want to do when we want to do it. But, if we determine to be content with His presence the pain will soon give way to peace (1 Corinthians 15:58). We may even discover that living within limits is a privilege not a pain.

Live the life that’s in front of you
But don’t always do what you want to do
Learn from the ant which saved more than she spent
And had plenty the whole winter through – (Proverbs 6:6-8)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Quiet Time: Dream It - Do It

Dream it – Do it

It will be as when a hungry man dreams— And behold, he is eating; But when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied, Or as when a thirsty man dreams— And behold, he is drinking, But when he awakens, behold, he is faint And his thirst is not quenched. Thus the multitude of all the nations will be who wage war against Mount Zion. – Isaiah 29:8

My wife and I recently visited Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Frankly, I usually try and avoid theme parks but Disney offered a deal to Florida residents that was hard refuse. I think one would be hard pressed after about an hour of walking around the picturesque avenues and shops not to see a prevalent quote displayed throughout the park by the founder, Walt Disney, “If you can dream it you can do it.”

That just sounds good doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t that exactly what we want to hear? After all, from the time we were old enough to comprehend ambition’s siren call we’ve been told, “You can do anything you put your mind to” and “There’s nothing you can’t do if you’ll just apply yourself.” And, of course there’s the spiritual version, “Name it, claim it, believe it; insert christianeze verb here ____, and you can have it!” But what if I name it and claim it, then apply myself, and finally put my whole heart and mind into something only to discover that I get exactly what I want, and in the getting I lose my grip on the cloak of Christ (Matthew 9:19-21)? Worse yet, what if I begin to treat my walk with antipathy rather than avidity in Christ?

I remember hearing another quote that really got my attention; “Satan will give you whatever it takes to keep you from following Jesus.” This does appear to a valid view in light of Christ and Satan’s conversation during the wilderness temptation (Luke 4:5-8). So how do I strive to be my best without becoming overly connected to, or ambitions for, the things of this world (1 John 2:15-17)?
How do I guard against covetousness without becoming complacent? Here’s my personal and I’m sure over simplified prescription:

1. Seek Christ first and foremost (2 Corinthians 5:15)
2. Reject selfish ambition (Philippians 2:2-4)
3. Be my best for Jesus (Colossians 3:23-24)

(Proverbs 22:29) seems to speak to the benefits of being our best in whatever God gives us to do without losing our spiritual integrity.

Dream it – do it…all for Jesus.