Saturday, December 24, 2011
Most people like the idea of Jesus as savior, teacher, healer, provider, counselor, etc. However, when Jesus is proclaimed King, Sovereign Lord over our lives, many react just as violently as Herod and Pilot.
Jesus is not a King in the line of Herod, ruthlessly guarding His throne. He is not a governor in the line of Pilot, indifferent and easily swayed. He is not a king in the line of Caesar, disengaged and indulgent. Jesus is a King filled with confidence, courage, compassion, generosity, grace, mercy, wisdom, truth and life. He is a King who will accomplish His will not by force or manipulation, but by self-sacrifice, love and justice. He is not a King to be suspicious of; but one to be submitted to.
Is Jesus your King?
Thursday, December 22, 2011
How many times have you been asked this question recently? It seems like the question of the season. When asked, typically my mind turns to preparations and presents. I rarely have my Christmas cards out, my presents purchased or my home decked out. In the past I've longed for a few extra days to prepare.
This year however my heart is yearning for Christmas. I have disciplined myself to read for Advent and celebrate through carols and hymns. This Christmas I am ready. The cards, presents and decorations are still unfinished but my heart is ready to celebrate the coming of my Savior.
What have you done to prepare for His arrival?
Friday, September 16, 2011
“Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name."
What does it mean that God is "zealous" for His name? Another translation says that He is "jealous" for His name. What does this mean?
In the context of Ezekiel, God is saying that He will prove to Israel and the nations exactly who He is. In His omnipotence He will act. In His justice He will divide. In His wrath He will punish the wicked. In His mercy He will gather what was scattered. In His compassion He will bind up the wounded. In His wisdom He will establish His people. In His omnipresence He will guard His holy mountain. In His grace He will proclaim His way. In His goodness He will bless. In His love He will discipline. In His generosity He will pour out His Holy Spirit. In His sovereignty He will secure His own. In His Glory He will restore what was lost.
God is not silent. He does act and His actions are proclamations of His character. To say that God is good does not describe His actions or His attribute but His very nature. God is not good because of what He does. What God does is good because He is the definition of good. And He is passionate about the proclamation of His nature, His character, His name. All that He does is so that He, in all His glory, might be known and renowned.
So what would it look like if I was jealous and zealous for the name of the Lord? How would my actions, words and thoughts change if my goal in life was to bring glory to the One who is truly glorious and worthy of glory? What would it look like to remove me from the spotlight of my life and turn my efforts toward shining a light on God?
Lord - teach me to be zealous for Your name. Amen.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”
While I know this passage is truly about the regeneration and restoration of Israel, I was challenged by a question that came to me while applying it to my life.
What are the dry bones in my life? What are the things that I've given up on, believing that even God could not fix or restore them?
Are there people that I've given up on? Are there dreams I've abandoned? Are there habits or devotions that I've let lie?
To Ezekiel God says, "prophesy." Through Ezekiel the Lord commands, "Hear the Word of the Lord."
The dry bones in my life also need to hear the Word of the Lord. I need to be bold enough to open my mouth and speak truth into desperate situations. Yet, first I need to believe the truth of God's Word and the Gospel message of reconciliation. I need to believe that God is able and willing to restore what is according to His will yet dry and lifeless. What I see as hopeless is not.
Am I willing to believe this and speak God's Truth into my life's situations?
Father guard me against hopelessness and make be believe that you can breathe new life into the dry bones of my life. Make be bold to prophesy and speak these Words of Life to those I've given up on, to what I've walked away from and to what I've let lie. Bring new life that all may know that You are the Lord. Amen
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you.
30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.
31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices."
What beautiful words!
I sat for a long time just meditating on these words this morning.
If I was to outline this in a sermon I might say...
Here, progressively, God says to His people:
I will redeem you.
I will regenerate you.
I will recreate you.
I will reside in you.
I will proclaim you.
I will protect you.
I will provide for you.
I will promote you.
I am especially touched by verses 26 and 27,
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
The sign of a soft and tender heart is obedience. Many may raise their hands in worship, weep in prayer, nod to Scripture and even give generously. But a tender heart, filled with the Spirit of God will be moved to obedience in every way.
Is my heart tender toward God? There is only one test for this... obedience.
In this regard, there are many spots within my heart that are tender toward God, soft to His touch and ready to be moved. Yet, there are far too many hard areas where I do not let the Lord move me, where I am hard and stony. That's where the Spirit of God plays the largest role in my life. There, as He resides in my heart, He begins to identify those stony areas and pick at them with conviction of what must change in me and reminders of what I used to be. There, in the quiet of my heart, God promotes in me a desire to change... or at least a desire to not stay the same.
The key to responding to the Spirit's work is to sit still long enough each day to feel the pick, to hear His voice, to sense His touch. This is why I sit daily with the Word of God.
Lord, soften my heart. Make me tender to recognize your touch and ready to be moved by you. Remove the stony areas from within me and replace them with a tender heart. Move me to obedience that I might live a fruitful life that proclaims Your faithfulness to all those around me. Amen.
Monday, September 12, 2011
I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
This is the promise of God to Israel.
As I consider these words and the person of Jesus Christ I cannot help but call to mind His words.
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."
Jesus was not shy about proclaiming His identity. He was not cryptic in his proclamation. He was even bold in living into this identity as the Good Shepherd; seeking the lost, healing the sick & wounded, defending the poor and marginalized. He was and is the divine, Davidic shepherd of Ezekiel 34.
As an under-shepherd, under the authority of the Good Shepherd, I am called to follow in His steps, to reflect the model He has provided, to care for His sheep as He would.
Is my identify as obvious? Is my proclamation as bold? Are my passion and compassion as deep? Is my sacrifice as ready? Obviously not... but am I striving in this direction?
Lord - make me a shepherd in Your likeness. Teach me to faithfully shepherd Your flock. Strengthen me to sacrifice, to protect, to provide, to proclaim. Amen.
Friday, September 9, 2011
"But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.’
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood."
Are we so different from the son of man, Ezekiel, the prophet? We have the Lord's warning, the word of truth, the trumpet of salvation. If we fail to sound the trumpet, to speak the word, to issue the warning, we too will give account when we meet the Lord. I'm not sure what that means or what accountability will look like... but I'm convinced that I don't want to find out first hand.
Lord - make me more bold to share your Word, to speak the Truth. Break my heart and create in me a heart that breaks. Make me compassionate toward the lost and keep me vigilant for opportunities to share the Gospel. Let no blood be upon me. Amen.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
"Thus says the Lord GOD: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall dwell in their own land that I gave to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God."
I'm intrigued by the ESV translation of this passage; particularly two phrases. To Israel God said He would "manifest (His) holiness in them" and then bring them back to the land and prosperity. Secondly, God declares that, "then they will know that I am the LORD their God."
I believe there are some important progressive truths brought out in this passage. We must first acknowledge God's presence and sovereignty IN us before we can acknowledge His provision and power around us. His Holiness must be manifest IN us before His hand of blessing is manifest around us. Too often we expect God to manifest His blessings around us before we allow His holiness to be manifest in us. We expect provision, protection and prosperity before personal holiness. This is not the way that God works.
Secondly, God will not provide the tangible, external confirmation of His favor until we produce an internal holiness that confirms our faith. In other words, true faith produces holiness which produces the favor of God.
Finally, God wants to manifest His Holiness "in the sight of the nations." That means that He is primarily concerned with revealing His presence though us, then his provision around us. His desire for my holiness is primarily for the sake of His name and secondarily for my blessing. I am first a means of blessing and then a recipient of it.
So how is my faith? Have I allowed God to manifest His Holiness in me? Am I willing to be a means of blessing through personal holiness? Am I proclaiming God's presence and power "in the sight of the nations" and trusting His provision to follow in His time?
Lord - teach me to be holy. Give me the right heart and mind to understand and reveal Your Holy Presence in me before I expect it around me. Make me a testimony, a light in the sight of the nations. Amen.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
"Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them."
Have you ever heard the argument that there is nothing secular or common but that all things are sacred? I hear it in regard to the Sabbath sometimes. "Aren't all days important to God?... Should we really honor Him more or less on any given day?... Should we honor God every day?" I've heard it regarding the Bible. "It's just paper, pages and cover... like any other book. It's the meaning behind the words that matters. To treasure the paper would be to make it an idol." I've heard this argument regarding the church. "It's just a building. Should we act any less reverent outside the church? Should we act any more reverent simply because of the label we place on this building or that?" Or regarding the church as a gathering of believers, "Am I more connected to God because I'm with others at church? Can't I connect with God at home, on a walk, on the golf course too? Is my connection to God less real based on where I am or who I am (or am not) around?" It's obvious in how many approach the sacraments as well; the elements are "just" bread and juice and the celebration of baptism is "just" symbolic. I've even heard this creep into our idea of marriage as couples compromise their covenant in reckless divorce; forgetting that their covenant was more so with a Holy God than a sinful spouse.
The truth is... God has ordained certain things Holy. His church, His people, His Word, Marriage, His Sabbath... these are Holy; set apart for those under His Holy Covenant. The priests of Israel lost sight of this. High places were erected outside of Jerusalem, offerings were compromised and ceremony lost the strength of its imagery.
Are we guilty of the same sin in our churches today? Have we communicated that there is nothing Holy by communicating that nothing is common/secular? Have we watered down the imagery and ceremony God has ordained so much that people have lost sight of what is Holy?
How can we regain a sense of holiness in our churches today? How can we regain a sense of holiness in our own hearts, homes and habits?
Lord - teach me what is Holy. Teach me to treasure what is Holy. Teach me to teach what is Holy. Amen.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
"You will know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name’s sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt practices, O house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.’”
The phrase "for the sake of my name" or "for my name's sake" is used four times in Ezekiel 20. In each instance, God is showing mercy, not for the sake of the one receiving mercy but for His name's sake.
So here's my question... is God's mercy and grace not a matter of righteousness but of reputation? Do we receive mercy and grace not because of our own behavior but because of the constant revelation of His character through His name?
If God is so cautious with His name and reputation, so too must I be. Do I bear His name well? Do others think more highly of Jesus Christ because of my words, decisions, habits and demeanor? Do I consider His name before I speak... act... decide? If His name is worth setting aside His wrath, anger and justice then it must be worth setting aside my opinion, selfish indulgences, self-righteous excuses and self-centered agenda. It's not about my name, but His.
Lord - teach me to honor and revere Your name. May Your reputation and it's revelation drive me to conform to the image and nature of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
"Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! "
How often do we call unjust the justice of God? How often do we blame God for the consequences of our own behavior? How often do we accuse God of being unloving, unfair or unreasonable while living in rebellion?
Ezekiel 18 is all about the consequences of sin and each person's ownership of their own. We do not stand on the merit of our parents, a proper pedigree or an inherited faith. Each person, created in the image of God, will stand before the Creator and be judged for what is done in this life; whether righteous or unrighteous. Each individual will own his or her own sin and consequences.
The part of this passage that strikes me most is that God boldly declares, "I take no pleasure in the death of anyone." I would imagine that God is pleased with justice being executed yet the loss of even the most wicked soul does not bring God any pleasure. (This alone blows my mind.) In fact, the opposite may be understood from how the verse is delivered; God is grieved when a life is lost. God's grief over a life lost is so great that here in this passage he pleads with Israel to repent (turn around) and live! His grief over the consequences of sin is so great that He took on flesh and paid sin's penalty. He tied righteousness to His Son and sent Him to the cross so that it might be as simple as faith. No longer is righteousness and life a matter of law but of grace.
There is no accusation of injustice, no label of unloving, no reasonable argument against such a God. When we stand before our Righteous Creator we will be left speechless, defenseless, naked and vulnerable. Each person will stand alone... unless He stand with Jesus Christ.
Lord grant me your heart, that I might take no pleasure in the suffering of the wicked. Bend my heart and teach me compassion. Drive me to deeper ministry. Discipline me to sacrifice. Direct me to those who most need to repent, that they might live. Use me Lord that you might take pleasure in life granted. Amen.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD.’”
Ezekiel 16 is all about Israel's infidelity to their creator, redeemer, provider and protector. They were rescued, restored, refined and renowned by God and yet they played the harlot with foreign gods and foreign nations. Yet, when all is done, God does not respond as one would expect. His final judgment is not based on their infidelities but on His everlasting covenant (v. 60). The path that He takes to restoration is not through their offerings of atonement, but His. Catch that phrase in verse 63, "when I make atonement for you...." Even here in the Old Testament, in prophesies revealed long ago, God's plan was to make atonement for humanity through His Son Jesus Christ. This atonement sets Christianity apart from every other religion. In Christ along has God made atonement for sin. Human acts of atonement are incomplete and ineffective because they are offered through unclean hands and sinful people. Yet Christ in His divinity and perfect holiness was able to offer a complete and effective atonement for not only Israel, but also the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2). How great an atonement!!
God does not expect us to clean ourselves up and atone for our own sin. He has done every work of redemption and only asks us to receive it. What have you done with the lavish love of God that He would redeem you at His expense, that He would pay for your atonement?
Father - Thank you for your great love and atonement. I am so unworthy... yet I am so grateful. Amen.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
"Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies, when I had brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives, therefore you will no longer see false visions or practice divination. I will save my people from your hands. And then you will know that I am the LORD.’”
The false prophets of Ezekiel's day reversed their role; encouraging the wicked and disheartening the righteous. Have I ever done this?
Have I ever valued my reputation or relationship with man so much that I glossed over sin and even encouraged the wicked in their wickedness? Have I ever oppressed the righteous because I lacked the fervor or zeal that they demonstrated? Have I ever given license to sin by my own sinfulness or discouraged obedience by my own disobedience? Have I ever chosen to remain silent so as not to rock the boat or spoken up so as to be accepted?
God guard your ministry from me. Save Your people from my hand if I ever stray or prevent anyone from knowing that You are the LORD. Amen
Friday, June 17, 2011
"Son of man, what is this proverb that you have about the land of Israel, saying, 'The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing'? Tell them therefore, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: I will put an end to this proverb, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel.' But say to them, The days are near, and the fulfillment of every vision."
Israel took for granted the Lord's patience and grew dull to His warnings. The prophesies of Ezekiel and others were simply threats to them that they believed would never come to be. Consequently, the Lord's patience ran out and His warning became reality.
The people of the New Testament church had a similar problem while waiting for the return of Jesus. In 2 Peter 3:9 we are reminded, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
I find that many believers today also misinterpret the Lord's patience and mercy. Somehow they have lost sight of the gravity of sin, the urgency of the Gospel, the immanence of Christ's return and the certainty of His promises.
Have I failed to fully understand the weight and consequences of my sin? Have I ignored the great commission and passed up opportunities to share the Good News of God's love? Have I grown dull with the Truth of Christ's return, living my life for me rather than him? Have I failed to take advantage of His promises, to lean into His Truth, to be strengthened by His Word? Have I grown accustomed to God's Word, His presence and His ways?
Father - recapture my heart. Hold me closer to You that I might not grow accustomed to that which is so profound, so wonderful, so Holy and so perfectly applied to me. Amen.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.'
While visiting Israel I spent some time at the Western Wall of the Temple mount, also known as the Wailing Wall. This is the most sacred site for the Jews because at this time, it is the closest that they can get to where the presence of the Lord dwelt, where rests the fundamental stone upon which the Temple was built and the Holy of Holies sat. There at the Western Wall, religious Jews gathered for prayer and celebration believing that God's presence and blessing were tied to that geographical location.
As I walked through the courtyard watching the people weep and wail and pray, my heart broke for them. I recalled all of the passages and stories from the Old Testament where God demonstrated that His presence and His blessing were not tied to land or stone or city. He is the God who created all of this and He is not bound by boarders, walls or Temples.
Here in Ezekiel 11 He reminds them of the truth and reveals to them that though they go into captivity, He goes with them. He is their sanctuary, not a tent, Tabernacle or Temple.
This is significant because when God is our Sanctuary and we find our rest in Him, the result is far greater than what a physical Temple or sanctuary would provide. In verses 19-20 we read, "And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God."
Do I take for granted the sanctuary of God? Do I take lightly His presence? Is my heart soft and moldable or hard and brittle? Is my relationship with God tied to certain places and times or am I found always in Him, my Sanctuary?
Father - let me know Your presence and find my rest always in You. Let my heart be always soft and moldable. You are my God and I am Yours. Amen.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Then the glory of the LORD went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the LORD, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.
The Glory of the Lord dwelt in the Holy of Holies within the inner court of the Temple in Jerusalem. From there God would speak to His people, protect them, provide for them, preserve them and forgive them. Yet the people continued in sin and rebellion against the Lord and His presence, His Glory could no longer dwell with them. As the Lord's Glory left the Temple, so did his provision, protection, forgiveness and instruction. While they would always be His people, they would not always enjoy His presence. And as His Glory left, slowly, in steps, pausing along the way God gave the people every chance to repent and be forgiven. He did not leave in a whirlwind or a flash, but slowly and visibly so as to provide every chance for reconciliation.
The same holds true in our life. God's Glory cannot be found in the life of a sinful and rebellious believer. His presence, provision, protection and preservation along with His Glory don't just disappear, they slowly fade, calling the sinner to repentance through graduated experiences of absence. First we lose our peace. Understanding and wisdom follow peace. Blessings and provision erode into resentment and doubt. Doubt gives way to despair and desperation. All along this path, God is calling the wayward believer to repentance, longing to return to His Temple.
Have I noticed God's Glory slowly eroding from my life? Have I lacked peace or understanding lately? This is the first sign that I am caught in willful, habitual sin. This should drive me to repentance and call me back to the presence of God.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit."
Amen. - (Psa. 51:10-12)
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his waist. 4And the LORD said to him, "Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it." 5And to the others he said in my hearing, "Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were before the house. 7Then he said to them, "Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out." So they went out and struck in the city.
The Spirit of the Lord sought for those who's hearts broke over sin, for those who had deep sorrow for their city and people trapped in rebellion. Psalm 51:17 says, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." These individuals were spared God's wrath, not because of their perfection, but because of their brokenness. They demonstrated the heart of God through their sorrow.
Would I be worthy of such a mark? Do I demonstrate the heart of God through a brokenness over sin? Am I grieved by rebellion, disobedience, hard-heartednes?
Lord - break my heart for what breaks Your's. Amen.
Monday, June 6, 2011
"Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am the LORD—that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them."
This is not a list of God's more favorable attributes but it does remind us that God is both moral and just. His demand for obedience and holiness does not come from anything outside of Himself. There is no cosmic law for Him to satisfy or a universal moral balance to keep. According to Ezekiel 5:13, the only moral authority to satisfy is Himself. He is the Law, He is the Truth, He is Holy, He answers to no one and nothing. God alone defines our world. His character, His nature, His attributes are displayed in us and to us. When we sin, we are not simply breaking a law but denying the very nature of God, offending our very Creator and Sustainer, defiling His nature in which we were created. To God, our sin is a personal offense as well as a moral offense.
I cannot dilute this truth by considering my sin as anything less than rebellion against God.
Father - forgive me for my rebellion. Remind me that my sin is personal as well as moral offense. Create in me a desire for purity and holiness and let my life honor You. Amen.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Ezekiel 3:18-19 (ESV)
"If I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul."
Ezekiel was given a charge to relay God's Word and warning to Israel. He was both responsible and accountable to God to deliver His message. For the most part, I feel responsible to relay God's message, the Gospel, to people who have not yet received it. However, I rarely consider that I will also be held accountable for each time that I refused to pass on the saving knowledge that I have been entrusted with.
Matthew 12:36 says, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak." I discipline myself to avoid careless words; words that wound, words that mislead, words that offend. Yet, do I also discipline myself to speak careful words; words that heal, words of Truth, words that encourage, words that save?
I would be wise to remind myself regularly of this word from God to Ezekiel, that I am both responsible and accountable to speak His Word.
Lord - fill me with courage to speak, the words to speak and wisdom to speak Your Word in love. Sharpen my sight that I may see those who are seeking. Sharpen my hearing that I may recognize opportunities. Fill me to overflowing with Your Holy Spirit that Your Truth flows from everything I say and do. I want to stand before you fully spent for the sake of the Gospel. Amen.
Monday, May 23, 2011
"But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you." And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
Ezekiel was commanded to not simple read but eat a scroll of lamentation, mourning and woe. Far too often I read the Word of God and allow the words to remain on the page. God would rather that I consume His Word, take it in, taste the bitterness of rebuke, feel the weight of woe, experience the fullness of holiness. It is this type of consumption that enable one to truly experience the fullness of God's truth and empowers one to boldly live into that truth.
God, fill me with Your Word. Enable me to experience it's fullness and empower me to live fully into it. Amen.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
"And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.' - - - -
And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs."
When we are faithful to "go" and "proclaim," He is faithful to "work" and to "confirm."
How is God working and confirming in, around and through me as I proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ? If I don't see the powerful, transforming work of Christ and the confirmation of that transforming message through miracles and answered prayer I must ask myself if I have faithfully pursued the lost and proclaimed the Gospel. I must ask myself if I have boldly proclaimed and courageously trusted in the promises of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. I must ask myself if I have chosen to live a safe, socially acceptable, quiet life so that I don't offend my neighbor, friend or family member.
If I am going to see the powerful, transforming work of Jesus Christ in the lives of those around me and experience His miraculous confirmation, I must live my life boldly so that the only possible resolution is His intervention; whether by transformation or intervention, by conversion or by confirmation.
Jesus, I want to live my life so boldly for You that my only option is to trust You to confirm Your Truth through me. I want to see lives changed, miracles performed, relationships restored and Your Truth confirmed through powerful signs. Strengthen me to live boldly that Your Gospel might be confirmed through me. Amen.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
What would it mean for me to be "looking for the kingdom of God?"
For Joseph it meant bold courage to act against his association with the Jewish Council and in cooperation with Pilate to preserve the body of Jesus. For Joseph, it meant divorcing himself from what he thought he knew and even who he thought he was for the possibility of understanding just a little more about Jesus. For Joseph, it meant the costly purchase of a linen shroud and the costly sacrifice of his own garden tomb.
What would it mean for me to look for the kingdom of God as Joseph did?
What bold courageous act might I be called to?
What association or identity do I need to divorce myself from?
What sacrifice do I need to make in order to discover a little more about Jesus and His kingdom?
Father, teach me to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness. Help me to trust You to strengthen me, guide me, guard me and reveal Yourself to me. Amen.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."
The act and sacrifice of this sinful woman so powerfully pointed to Christ and His sacrifice for the world that it echoed throughout all of time along with the Gospel. To her it was a simple sacrifice. To Jesus, it was a bold and true proclamation of the world's need and His sufficiency. To her it was a worthwhile sacrifice. To Jesus it was priceless sacrifice that pointed to a great sacrifice. To her it was a humble sacrifice. To Jesus it was a "beautiful" sacrifice.
Is my life marked with such simple, worthy and humble sacrifices that others are p0inted to the Truth of the Gospel? When people close to me hear again of the sacrifice Jesus has made on our behalf, does my life come to mind as a powerful example of one effected by and demonstrating that sacrifice? Do I pursue simple, selfless acts each day for the benefit of the Gospel? Do I set myself aside for the sake of lifting up Jesus? Does my life testify of His?
Jesus, teach me to sacrifice. Teach me to recognize little opportunities to give myself away daily. Teach me to humble bend my knee and break my flask. Let me give of my whole self, holding nothing back, that You may be glorified and Your Gospel proclaimed through me. Amen.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
If I am to be hate by all for His name's sake, I must live my life for His name's sake.
To walk with Jesus, to follow Him, to take up my cross will lead to difficultly in this life.
If I lack difficultly, if I lack opposition, am I really walking with Him, in His step?
Am I willing to take a stand, issue a warning, buck the system, go against conventional wisdom and speak words of controversial Truth? Am I willing to live sacrificially, to leverage the wealth of this world for the work of His kingdom? Am I willing to live so wholly for His name's sake that the world around me is offended by my actions, standards, words and wishes?
If I am to be hate by all for His name's sake, I must live my life for His name's sake.
Lord, teach me what it means to live for Your name's sake and strengthen me for the task. Amen.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
And they (Scribes & Elders) were seeking to arrest him (Jesus) but feared the people, for they (Scribes & Elders) perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
The truth hurts.
The Scribes and Elders there in Jerusalem perceived that Jesus told the parable of the violent tenants against them. Ironically, they sought to arrest Him and, in doing so, would inadvertently fulfill the parable. But at the core of their anger was a truth that truly hurt. They were supposed to be stewards of the vineyard, the kingdom of God, but instead they were abusing their privilege and the people were beginning to figure it out. Yet, rather than accept the truth, they chose to fight, distort it and destroy it. And again, confirmed this truth (as well as the parable) rather than concealed it.
Have I ever felt the painful sting of truth and chose to resist it rather than receive it? My resistance only served to confirm my state of wickedness and perpetuate my state of desperation. I need my eyes opened by a Holy Teacher. I need my heart softened by the Holy Spirit. I need my mind transformed by His holy truth. I need my flesh humbled by a holy rebuke.
Father, humble me and soften me that I may receive Your truth and Your rebuke. Amen.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."
How often has forgiveness (Mt. 6:14), or the lack of it, stood in the way of my prayers? Have I ever prayed for physical healing yet harbored hatred in my heart? Have I ever prayed for unity and refused fellowship with a brother or sister? Have I ever prayed for provision and yet horded my blessings? How often has my sin or unwillingness to extent forgiveness for another's sin stood in the way of God's desire for my life?
If I truly understand the forgiveness extended to me at the cross I cannot possible withhold forgiveness from a brother or sister who is covered by the same blood of forgiveness as I. And if I truly understand the sinful state of rebellion against God from which I was called, I cannot withhold compassion and even sorrow for someone at odds with me.
Who do I need to forgive?
Father - give me Your heart of forgiveness and help me to also ask for forgiveness. Let my prays of confession and forgiveness be lifted up and answered first, before my prayers of provision and supplication. Teach me to respond to others as You have responded to me. Amen.
Friday, May 6, 2011
Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
In this passage Jesus defended children, called them, took them up in His arms, touched them and blessed them. I can identify each of the five love languages in these actions (service, words of affirmation, quality time, intentional touch and tangible gifts). First, Jesus serves these children by defending them; doing for them what they could not do for themselves. Second, Jesus uses his words to affirm them, calling them to him while brushing back the crowds and even His disciples. Third, Jesus takes the children up into His lap. I like to thing this is quality time. He didn't just call them to be near Him but truly with Him. Fourth, Jesus touches them. This intentional touch conveyed not only Jesus blessing but also His desire to meet what we know today is one of a child's deepest needs - to be touched. Finally, Jesus blessed them. I like to think this is a tangible blessing, not simply a quaint benediction that we might put on a wall plaque or deliver at the end of a funeral or wedding. I believe this blessing opened these children uniquely to the treasures of heaven and to the favor of God the Father.
So as a youth pastor, as a father, as a man, how do I bless the children God puts in my life?
Monday, May 2, 2011
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
I would guess that Jesus' response to Peter left him surprised and confused. Peter's words were probably motivated by good intentions, love for the Master and a desire to see Jesus ministry continue but they were not guided by truth. Whatever is not guided by Truth is a lie and therefor comes from Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44). Jesus wasn't rejecting Peter but the lies that he professed.
Am I ever guilty of choosing good intentions, good will or a gracious response at the expense of truth? If so, my intentions, will and grace are not good, they are wicked lies and leave my hearers worse off in the end. Am I more mindful of the temporary or of the eternal, of this world or His kingdom? Am I seeing the world through the selfless, sacrificial eyes of Jesus or my own. Am I willing to deny myself, take up His cross and follow Jesus Christ in truth?
Jesus - give me eyes to see Your plan, ears to hear Your will, a mind to perceive Your truth and a heart strong enough to deny myself, take up Your cross and follow You. Amen.
Friday, April 22, 2011
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
When Jesus Christ touches someone's life and they come to know Him as Savior and Lord, there are two natural next steps; to enter the community of faith to be ministered to (grow) and re-entering the world to do ministry (go). While these do not have to be exclusive (after all, to follow Jesus would have been to follow Him into ministry), in this case, Jesus clearly chooses "go" for the man who was previously Demon possessed. I bet this is a surprise for most Christians today.
For the most part, the church waits for a newer believer to grow in knowledge, conduct and even reputation before bestowing upon them a ministry or role within the church. Most churches would discourage re-entry into the life and society from which one was saved. Some believers have become convinced that before going into ministry or out on the mission field they must be mature in faith and well equipped for the task. While this may be true for pastors (1 Tim. 3:6), Jesus decision here contradicts these modern understanding of ministry. Furthermore, so does the result of the formerly possessed man's ministry; "all the people were amazed."
So, is "going" more important than "growing?" I don't thing this is the case. In fact I have to believe that when a believer chooses ministry the naturally choose growth as well. We can't follow in the footsteps of Jesus without becoming more like him. Conversely, to choose growing rather than going may actually impede growth. We'll never experience His power through us, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, His provision and protection or the real-life spiritual battle that is all around us. Ultimately, when we choose to go, we choose to grow. We should never let a lack of spiritual knowledge or a track record of the past prevent us stepping out in faith and sharing what Christ has done for us.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
"But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
Jesus says that good soil receives the seed and yields a crop that springs up, increases and produces fruit. For the first time I noticed that the sign of healthy soil is the health, produce and product of the crops they yield. In other words, if I truly receive the seed of God's Word and allow it to grow in me, I will produce fruit and that fruit will also produce fruit. That fruit will be marked by strength (springing up), growth (increase) and multiplication (producing fruit).
It is not enough to produce fruit. I must produce fruit that will seed and produce more fruit. I must tend to those crops and nurture them until they produce fruit as well. This is the process of discipleship. Discipleship is planting a seed, nurturing that seed, growing that seed, helping that seed produce fruit and then guiding that seed to plant more seed.
Do these habits mark my ministry? Am I seeing a seed through to the end? Am I content to simply produce growth or fruit? Do I passionately pursue multiplication and seed planting in the next generations? Am I intentional or accidental in the way that I approach my seed scattering? Am I a nurturer of seeds or ignorant of my seeds? There are so many questions to ask.
Lord - teach me to plant seeds that also plant seeds. Amen
Monday, April 18, 2011
"When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”"
To clarify, what Jesus was saying here is that He came not for the self-righteous, but for sinners. In this passage we find three kinds of sinners. Mark mentions tax collectors. These were people who had compromised their ethnic and national identity by working for the Romans at the expense of their own people. These were equivalent to the white-collar criminals of today, swindling money out of the vulnerable through unethical and shady business practices. They tried to look clean on the outside as if everything was kosher but Jewish society wouldn't let them forget that they were not welcomed in their religious clubs.
The second category of sinner is simply called "sinners." These are the run-of-the-mill individuals who did little to cover up their sins and didn't particularly care about the label. Their sin was openly visible and their reputation preceded them. They may have tried to make things right through ritual and sacrifice however the Jewish community wouldn't let them forget that their behavior, whether spiritual or carnal, didn't change their identity, they were sinners. They knew this.
The final category of sinner is those who didn't accept the fact that they were sinners, self-righteous religious people who looked down on those who couldn't escape their sins and the reputation that came with it. These sinners were the ones who made the rules in Judaism and determined who would be in and who would be out. These were the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes and teachers of the Law who's sin was the most subtle but the most toxic of all; pride, arrogance, ignorance and self-righteousness. Their sin was most toxic because it prevented them from seeing and accepting their true condition; sinner.
The label "sinner" actually has no hierarchy. Sin is sin. And there is only one type of sin that God is tolerant of; repented sin. No self-righteous person could possibly receive the forgiveness of sins sins the first step in forgiveness is recognition of sin followed by repentance.
I suppose, in light of this understanding, there really are only two types of sinners in this world; ignorant and repentant. Which one am I?
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Immediately the Spirit drove Him (Jesus) into the wilderness.
And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
These two verses are so packed with truth and wonder for me.
First, Jesus, the Son of God, was driven by the Spirit. Jesus didn't act of His own will and wisdom but depended upon and obeyed the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Jesus' demonstration of obedience to both the Father's agenda and the Spirit's moving reveal profound humanity and humility in Jesus.
Second, the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness where he would face substantial emotional, spiritual and physical danger. Most of us have a theology that prompts us to believe that the Holy Spirit only guides us toward blessing, away from danger and around such temptation and trial. This is not so. At times, the Spirit leads us directly into harms way, that God might intervene and minister to us by His holy angels, His Holy Spirit and/or His Holy Word.
Third, the fact that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted and tried tells me that Jesus was growing in knowledge, wisdom and strength for His mission and ministry. He didn't show up on the scene fully equipped and prepared to sprint to the cross. He stopped to grow, to pray, to rest, to develop compassion, to celebrate, to ask questions, to gather a group of friends, to be strengthened, to live among us. It was this experience in trusting the Holy Spirit even though He led Him into harms way that empowered Jesus to trust the Holy Spirit later when He would be led to the cross.
Finally, I'm encouraged by the last line; "angels ministered to Him." When I read this verse I imagine a boxer, collapsed in his corner after rounds of brutal but victorious combat, being tended to by his trainer and coach, with water and wet towels and soothing rubs. Obedience to the Father's agenda, trusting the Spirit's prompting is no easy road but in the end, it is good. There is victory and comfort and rest. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, a ribbon at the finish line, a crown for the victor and a reunion of saints that is only possible through such complete and reckless obedience.
Do I trust the Holy Spirit in this way? Am I dependent upon His promptings and obedient to His direction? Am I willing to be led into danger and temptation and trial; to be prepared for a greater ministry for me and to me in the end? Do I trust that there is rest for the weary and comfort for the conflicted?
Father - sharpen my hearing that I might know and follow the prompting of Your Holy Spirit. Strengthen my resolve that I might obey his directions and fight the good fight You have laid before me. Prepare me daily for a greater ministry that I might honor You in all that I do and say. Amen.
Monday, April 11, 2011
You, O LORD, remain forever;
Your throne from generation to generation.
Why do You forget us forever,
And forsake us for so long a time?
Turn us back to You, O LORD, and we will be restored;
Renew our days as of old,
Unless You have utterly rejected us,
And are very angry with us!
The Lord is Lord over all generations and from generation to generation He is true. He keeps His promises and reveals Himself to His people. He is in control and His sovereign will is accomplished day by day.
I find it interesting that Jeremiah laments that the Lord has forsaken His people. The reality is that the Lord never forgets His people however they often do forget Him to the point of gross disobedience and stubborn refusal to repent. This is why, as Jeremiah rightly laments, the Lord must "turn us back" to him. We are desperately in need of the Lord's intervention. It is only through His intervention that we are restored to our position of obedience and blessing.
No greater intervention has been accomplished than that of Jesus Christ on the cross. Were it not for such a substitution and sacrifice, we would still be forgetting God; from generation to generation. Yet, He intervenes.
How amazing it is that God intervenes in the affairs of men.
How gracious it is that God would interrupt my life to get my attention.
How merciful it is that God would reach out His hand to me.
How wonderful it is that God would send His Son to be the Savior of the world.
How unfathomable it is that God would take on flesh and dwell with us.
How precious it is that God would join us in our suffering.
How good it is that we should meditate on such intervention.
Jesus - thank you for breaking into my world, my life, my heart. Amen.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22 Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “ The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“ Therefore I hope in Him!”
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear
The yoke in his youth.
To hope in the Lord is good.
Hope in the Lord is not good because it brings about good or leads to good (though ultimately this is true) but because the hope itself is sufficient enough in any circumstance to bring contentment. Jeremiah was comforted by this hope because his hope was in the Lord. The Lord was his portion, all he had to hold onto; and it was enough... it was good. This hope in the Lord empowered him to focus on the character of God rather than his circumstances; to remember that the Lord's mercies are new every morning, His compassion does not fail and His faithfulness is truly great. These truths are the constant product of hope rather than the temporary good or relief we so often seek.
So where is my hope? Is my hope in my own ability? my own intelligence? even the promises of God rather than the Lord Himself? Am I waiting on a blessing, changes in my circumstances, justice or vengeance?... or am I waiting on the Lord alone? Hope is good. Hope in the Lord is sufficient. It is good that I should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Lord - teach me to wait on You alone. Strengthen my hope in You. Amen.
Monday, April 4, 2011
The LORD has done what He purposed;
He has fulfilled His word
Which He commanded in days of old.
He has thrown down and has not pitied,
And He has caused an enemy to rejoice over you;
He has exalted the horn of your adversaries.
God's wrath, punishment and discipline should never surprise us. He has clearly shown us what is required of us. I'm reminded of the words of Deuteronomy 11:26-28, "Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known."
Yet the discipline of God is always such a surprise. (Blessing however is a different story. These should never cease to surprise.) For some reason we have grown accustomed to His mercy and come to expect his patience. We have taken for granted the longsuffering of God. Yet, such an allowance is not good. It causes us to grow calloused toward our sin and bitter toward our Heavenly Father. When the Father disciplines those He calls sons and daughters, (Heb. 12:6) it is a sign of favor and preservation. We should never be surprised by such faithfulness from our Heavenly Father. He is simply doing what He has promised and fulfilling the role He has already declared to us - one of loving Father. So when I sin and rebel, I can (and should) expect correction... with gratitude.
Lord - correct me and guide me. Discipline me and refine me. Remove sin and rebellion from my life and let my words, deeds and intentions honor You. Amen.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
He has made the earth by His power;
He has established the world by His wisdom,
And stretched out the heaven by His understanding.
When He utters His voice—
There is a multitude of waters in the heavens:
“He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
He makes lightnings for the rain;
He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”
In the midst of Jeremiah's pronouncement of doom on Babylon we find these two verses, a beautiful reminder of God's power and sovereignty. The purpose of God's intervention in our world, whether blessing or cursing, is all about revealing His character and nature. However, when we get caught up in the details of life's circumstances and fail to look past our own pain or pleasure, we also fail to see God. We miss seeing our God of comfort, peace, power, provision, protection, justice, holiness, wrath, mercy, grace, love, truth, wisdom, life, etc.
The secret to life and faith is to slow down enough to look past the present and discover the presence of God. This is an intentional decision that we must make every day.
Father - give me eyes to see Your presence, a mind to understand Your will, a heart to receive Your plan for my life and faith to look past my own temporary circumstances to Your eternal desire for me. Amen.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Their Redeemer is strong;
The LORD of hosts is His name.
He will thoroughly plead their case,
That He may give rest to the land,
And disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.
Our Redeemer is strong.
This doesn't describe physical strength, mental toughness or the quality of His heart where we might ask, "Is He strong enough?" When the Lord thoroughly pleads the case for Israel, we understand that His strength is of inexhaustible resource and endless pursuit. The strength of the Lord is thorough and sufficient for the redemption of His people. He is all we need.
Have you come to the place where the strength of the Lord is all you need? Paul did in 2 Corinthians 12:9 when he received this word from the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul's strength was in the Lord and it was all he needed to endure the thorn in his flesh. Has the truth and comfort of the Lord's strength become a reality of faith and living in your life?
Father - teach me to know Your strength. Teach me to lean into You in times of trial and confusion. Teach me to boast in Your strength, sufficient for my weakness. Amen.
Friday, March 25, 2011
"Do not fear, O Jacob My servant,” says the LORD,
“For I am with you;
For I will make a complete end of all the nations
To which I have driven you,
But I will not make a complete end of you.
I will rightly correct you,
For I will not leave you wholly unpunished.”
For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,And scourges every son whom He receives.”
I think too often we consider the negative consequences of our sin to be natural rather than paternal. Why do we tend to remove from our Heavenly Father the blessing of discipline? Why is it more palatable to think of negative results of sin as consequential rather than corrective, circumstantial rather than intentional? Our Heavenly Father loves us enough to bless and punish. He stands firm on His Word and expectation for His children. He is not like weak willed men who would rather his children like him than follow in his footsteps. He is not persuaded by corrupt flesh but persuades it to conform to His Spirit. This is a sign of God's deep love for us; yet we tend to avoid such a theology.
If I am still alive and able to receive correction, this is a sign of mercy and love. I will not reason my way around my pain but willingly accept it and let it do it's work of sanctification in my life.
Father - thank you for loving me enough to correct me. Amen.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
30 Things I wish someone told me before going into ministry
1. Be authentic. Nobody expects you to be perfect, to have all the answers or to be available all the time. Be willing to say things like, “I can’t,” “I don’t know,” and “I’m sorry.”
2. Learn to love God’s Word. MEMORIZE IT.
3. Know-it-alls make lousy pastors. “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up” – 1 Cor. 8:1
4. There are no “youth pastors” in the Bible… just pastors. Pastor the whole church, not just your target, friends, people of influence or those who are easy.
5. Teaching is not for the smart, eloquent or educated… but for the humble, authentic and pure. (James 3:1)
6. You’re never as smart or clever as you think you are. God’s word doesn’t need a new twist, a silly video, a pop song or a hip translation – just someone with the guts to teach it, live it and get out of the way.
7. Work hard, pray harder.
8. The devil hates you. Expect spiritual opposition, oppression and obstacles. This is a spiritual battle, not an intellectual, social, political or physical one.
9. Your family is your first ministry. Great husbands and fathers make great pastors; great pastors don’t always make great husbands or fathers. This is one of the top qualifications for pastoral ministry, (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
10. Take a day off and don’t let anyone rob you of your Sabbath. Even God took a break. If you fail to get this straight, you’ll be miserable, unfruitful and short-term.
11. Don’t get bogged down in administration, technology or politics. These are subtle time wasters. Lean on the strengths of others to do what you don’t have to. Focus on the three “P’s,” People, Prayer & Preaching.
12. You can’t make everyone happy – don’t even try. If you ever find that everyone in your ministry is happy, you’ve done something seriously wrong.
13. Ministry (like life) is messy. Don’t cover it up or clean it up.
14. Jesus is our model for life and ministry, not Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Doug Fields or anybody else with a cool ministry, book or seminar.
15. Criticism is good meat… even bad criticism: don’t refuse it, chew on it, swallow what is good and don’t let anyone see you spit the fat out into your napkin.
16. Don’t compare ministries. Keep your eyes on your own field. The grass isn’t greener in any other field… if it is, there’s a reason – fertilizer. Be grateful for your own crap.
17. Ask for help as often as you can. Always ask the “4-P’s” - parents, pastors, professors and professionals.
19. Give people the benefit of the doubt… don’t assume the worst.
20. Set your bar high for leadership. Willingness and availability are NOT core characteristics of a good volunteer. Few saints in Scripture were actually willing when God called.
21. God will never ask you to do something you can do. If you feel up for the challenge, say no. Go sell cars, insurance or something else.
22. Never preach something you don’t practice. If you can’t learn to practice what you know you ought to preach… don’t preach.
23. Keep it simple. Things always take twice as much time, money and effort and will rob you of real opportunities with real people.
24. Leave room for interruptions and crisis. If you don’t need the time… pray.
25. Work hard to know the names of the people you serve. Pray by name.
26. Never point out a problem without providing a solution. If you don’t have a solution, shut up and pray.
27. Speak the truth in love. The wounds of a friend can be trusted but even friends need to be gentle.
28. Leave room for the work of the Holy Spirit. Know when to shut up, walk away and pray.
29. Pay extra attention to the quiet people. Contentment is a sign of spiritual maturity.
30. Be passionate about your own purity. Find a good accountability partner who is willing to go toe-to-toe and force you to do what’s right. Don’t lie to him or her… EVER.
(This isn't complete. I'm still learning... and relearning. Most of these are not from me, but to me from wiser men than me. Thank you to all the wise-guys in my life.)