Friday, March 04, 2011

God's Compassion

Give generously to [the poor] and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. Deut 15:10-11.

This stood out to me in my quiet time this morning. Jesus talked often about taking care of orphans and widows. We have a very compassionate God. But usually, he shows his compassion through His people. Maybe he wants to show compassion through you . . . or me today.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Dirty, Cussing Fishermen

I was asked recently what I thought about non-Christians and Christians openly living in sin serving in a leadership capacity in church. Well, here are some of my thought from that.

First, let me say that the the central principle here is "come as you are, but don't stay that way." If we look at the teachings to the Israelites when they were coming out of Egypt and heading toward the promised land, we could come up with some pretty harsh rules that would get most of us struck by lightning. When we look at these passages though, we have to realize the audience and the purpose of the commands. The nation of Israel is not the church and we cannot expect the regulations or the blessings to automatically apply to the church. We do however see principles that help us understand God's expectations for man. For example, King David's sin would have gotten him stoned during the time of Moses. Adultery was still sin, but for some reason, God showed a different kind of grace during David's life and ultimately used David, for His glory.

Moving to the New Testament, there are 3 things to consider. There is the teaching to pastors in 1 Timothy, the general teaching to the church in Paul's letters, and the way that Jesus led his followers. For some positions in the church you could argue that the requirements in 1 Timothy should apply. This would certainly be the case for positions of spiritual leadership whether you are a paid pastor with a title or not. Positions, such as Worship leader, Youth and Children's leaders, head's of men's and women's ministries and just about anyone whom you might refer to as pastor. Most other places of service in the church would simply be following the teachings to the church such as those found in Ephesians chapters 4 and 5.

But what about unbelievers and Christians openly living in sin? Should we reject them completely from church service? There are a number of passages we could look at and some of them could probably be used for both leniency as well as hard line stances on the issue. I think Jesus own ministry example might be the best approach. He took in sinners, warts and all (sorry of you've got a wart or 2). He accepted a bunch of rowdy, cussing fisherman, tax cheats, and even a prostitute or two. He clearly used them to serve in various capacities in his ministry from very early days. But, you will also notice that he never sent them out as ministers until about 2 years later.

Jesus, reached out to those 'sinners' and gave them the love and acceptance they needed to become who he knew they could be. When you read through the gospels, you can see Jesus trusting them with a growing level of responsibility, until he felt they were ready to be ministers themselves. I think that this has got to be the best approach to using unbelievers in the church. You give them a place to belong, loving relationships, and a purpose in life as they begin to understand who Jesus is and respond to Him. But, Jesus spent years preparing them, before he allowed them to represent Him.

The same is probably also true for believers living openly in sin. They too need the loving relationship, and purpose in life to return to a deeper relationship with Jesus. But we cannot allow them to represent Jesus or his body, when they are openly living in sin. If anything, Jesus was harder on this group. If the church hopes to lead people out of sin so common in our messy, addicted culture, we cannot very well allow those openly living in sin to be the examples and teachers. It would send out a mixed message that we condone things, yet teach against them.

It is hard to know exactly where to draw the line as to what areas of service are acceptable for these 2 groups and what areas are not. But if we put someone whose life is not acceptable in a place where others see their appointment to certain roles as condoning their lifestyle, then we are torpedoing our own efforts to bring them to Jesus to experience real life change. On the other hand one of the best ways to draw people to Jesus is to find them a place to serve along side of people who have experienced radical life change themselves.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Searching in the Darkness

The best way to know God is to talk to him and listen to him speak to you (through prayer and Bible reading) daily. Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." That's why I made a resolution to read the Bible through this year. It has been difficult at times, but two months in and I am still on track. I know what this consistent time with God does for me. When I consistently start my day with God's word it is much easier to make good decision throughout my day. The longer I do it, the easier it gets.

But what happens when you're not in that place? What happens when the circumstances of life draw you away from God over and over until you haven't spent time in prayer or the Bible in a long time? What happens when life seems dark and the light at the end of the tunnel is probably a train?

In Deuteronomy 4, God says to obey his laws and decrees so that you may live and may go in and take the land (or receive God's promises). Then later in the chapter he talks about what will happen if you worship idols. But, in verse 26, he says, "But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all of your heart and all of your soul."

It is hard to find anything in the dark, but God promises that when you're in that dark place, if you will seek him with all of your heart, you will find him. I know. I have been there. And those stories of our lives rescued from the darkness are the catalyst for life change in others.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Start the New Year Right

Well the old year has slipped into the record books and the New Year has replaced it with new opportunities, challenges, and adventures that we don't yet see.

I don't know about you, but I think that many people experienced a year that somehow was not all that they hoped it might be. I know that's how my year was. I am ready to put 2009 behind me and move forward with 2010. But I also know that I must reflect on the tough year behind in order to learn from it. Most truly successful people experience failure in their life but they they learn from their experiences and learn to fail forward. Most millionaires lost everything after they became a millionaire and then made it back again. When life throws us off the horse we must get back on the horse or we may become afraid of horses.

I have learned some lessons this past year that will shape my life for the future and hopefully make a better life for my family. I have learned some practices that I can follow that make my life better. I have learned that making tough decisions is much easier than dealing with the results of avoiding tough decisions.

I have learned not to question the passions God has put in my heart just because the timing doesn't seem to fit. I was reminded so many times this past year of the patience required of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David.

But now it's time to look forward, set goals, and somehow live a more full life in 2010. I will be putting some goals and resolutions to pen and paper in the coming days and even developing some core values in my life that I want to guide everything I do.

I challenge everyone, even if you don't do resolutions, to write out your core values and look back at them often. Let these values guide your life in 2010 to be all that God has called you to be.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Now or Later

I'm thinking more this morning about the struggle to go to the well of God to quench our thirst without stopping along the way and settling for with false substitutes.

Men lust for many reasons but the unfulfilled desire in them will never be fulfilled with sex, or any woman, or pictures of women. These things will only leave them wanting more. An alcoholic, or drug addict, or workaholic will never be fulfilled by any of their addictions. A depressed person will never be fulfilled by adding to their lives something they feel they can't live without. In all of these scenarios there is a misplaced focus. The desire in us was created by God for God. And, only God can fill the emptiness and quench our thirst.

Why is it that so few people, even Christians, choose to ignore the distractions and find God to fulfill their desires? Our entire western culture lives with a "Me Now" attitude. We want our desires fulfilled now. We don't want to wait for anything.

I don't claim to have the answer for all of this. I choose wrong every day. I would love to make it through and entire day without any sin or thinking that is not focused on God. Heb 12:1 points out that we must not only avoid sin but also the things that easily entangle us. These are the things that take our eyes off Jesus.

I love Hebrews chapter 11. It contains a summary of all of the biblical heroes and how they were commended for their faith and perseverance. The entire chapter talks about remaining faithful under tremendous odds.

A few days ago I wrote about how I wanted my life to count for something even if I didn't see the results in my lifetime. And here it is in verse 13. It says they were still living by faith when they died and they did not receive all of the things promised (before they died). This is the kind of Faith we need to make it to the well to quench our thirst with the living water.

I think I need to read this chapter regularly to challenge my faith.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Drinking From the Well

Watched the sunrise this morning across the horizon of the ocean. Very peaceful and quiet. Good God time. You just cannot look at the vast horizon and not see God. I'm reading a book called Desire (not a romance novel) this morning. It's really connecting with some of the things already on my mind.

We are born with an innate sense of desire or longing. It is what ultimately draws us to God. In order to find God we must first realize that there is something more out there . . . that our mere existence is not all there is. But that desire is not hard-wired to God. It seems elusive to most people; even Christians. True peace and contentment comes from drinking deeply from the well of God. Most people are not even at the well. Some know where it is but they pass it by again and again. To drink from the deep well takes thought, and work, and patience. We are thirsty. We know that we are thirsty. We know that we must quench our thirst. Some of us even know that what we really need is to drink deeply from the well of God. So we start out on a trek to the well. But somewhere along the way we find ways to temporarily satisfy our thirst and kill our desire to make it to the well.

In today's culture we are all very imitative people. We learn language by imitation. In fact we learn just about everything in life that way. There is a never ending number of prominent people whose live look pleasing to lead us to temporary and counterfeit solutions to quench our thirst. But the thirst is never quenched. Where are all of the mentors and icons who have drank from the well.

When that thirst is never quenched there is something in us that makes us feel hurt or angry that life did not work out for us the way we planned. We feel we will never get to live out our dreams, especially the ones shaped by watching the lives of others. So we end up depressed or addicted or both. Is it any wonder that in a world full of people with a God shaped whole and no end to cheap substitutes, that most people suffer from some sort of depression or addiction? Everyone is obsessed with something.

Temporary pleasure is not enough though. What we need is real life. Not life as we know it, but new life. The life that Jesus came to offer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I want my life to count for something.

As I sit here on the beach looking out over the ocean's horizon, I realize how small my life is. I think most people function better in life when we view it from 30,000 feet. Our lives are so small and finite, but when we focus on ourselves we miss out on so much of life. We may actually miss where God is working if the only thing we see is our own little world is ourselves.

I don't want my life to be insignificant. When I look out at the vast ocean, I think of how big this world is and I want to impact all of it . . . not just a tiny section that is easy for me. I know that I might not be able to, or might not be called to, but I want to dream and plan big. I don't want to just be a good person, or minister, or church planter, I want to have an impact on an entire culture or generation or country. I don't know how to do that but I do know that it is about so much more than me, my fame, my comfort, my success.

A cause that has that kind of impact is a cause worth dying for. But more importantly, it is a cause worth living for. Most of us don't really live for the things we say we would die for. It must be worth committing my life too even if the fruits are not realized in my life time. Many of the greatest figures in history, did not know of their impact before their death.

What is worth all that?

I confess that my mind is usually preoccupied with the here and now; with self gratification. But these preoccupations are meaningless. I want my life to count for something.