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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Forgiveness Comes from the Heart

Most of us have seen "The Christmas Story." We watch the movie each year knowing that Ralphie will finally get the "Red Rider BB Gun with a compass in the stock." Christmas Day comes, Ralphie passes out all the presents and opens all that he can see are his. His dad asks if Ralphie has gotten all that he wanted. Of course, he hasn't but tries to make the best of it. This is when his dad points out one more gift. There is the bb gun that Ralphie has hoped for.

I suppose that has been my own experience this morning as I read the scriptures and reflected on my own misgivings. I realized that for all my desire to forgive others that I held a serious grudge against someone. I remembered the pain he had and has caused me. I wished that his life was as painful as mine has been because of the hurt.

I know that I am supposed to forgive. I know that my relationship with God is hindered by my own forgiveness. Yes, I know it but this didn't stop me from feeling what I did this morning. So, I did what I so often do when I need an answer for the problem: I went to the scriptures.

I read Matthew 18:21-35. Peter asks if he should forgive his brother as many as seven times. Jesus told him that forgiveness should be much more than that. I don't actually think Jesus was giving a strict number. Some translations say the number is seventy-seven others say it is seventy times seven. It doesn't matter; I have tried to forgive this particular sin that many times and more.

The problem isn't that I have forgiven it that many times. The problem is that I haven't really forgiven it at all. I realized that this lack of forgiveness was coming out in my life in my own estimation of myself as well. I have been condemning  myself for many of the things I have done. I haven't just confessed them but I have lacked forgiveness for these things. I have failed to realize the forgiveness that I should have had.

In other words, though I had never connected the two before, I did not know the forgiveness I should have received while I was not granting the forgiveness for something which had been done against me a very long time ago. I needed to pay close attention here. I cannot say, "I forgive," without actually forgiving. The lack of forgiveness results in a lack of forgiveness.

Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV) 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

I wasn't truly forgiving. I was going through the motions. I was covering up the hatred that I felt rather than truly ridding myself of it.

I thought that I had opened all the presents that God has for me when it comes to forgiveness. I realized the payment of the cross for all sins. I had failed to notice the forgiveness that I really needed to give. I wanted relief and noticed Matthew 18:35.

Matthew 18:35 (ESV) 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

The problem (and the gift) was right in front of me. I had not forgiven "from my heart." I had tried to forgive with my intellect. I tried to forgive because I knew it was the right thing to do. I tried to forgive so that I could say that I had forgiven.

The problem was not in my head but in my heart. Do you think that is where all our sins reside?

I discovered that I could not forgive certain sins any more than I could clean up my own sins. I didn't need the intellectual knowledge of Jesus' forgiveness I needed His heart of forgiveness. I was never going to be rid of my feelings of hatred and revenge as long as I lacked His forgiveness.

So, I am admitting: I have tried and I just simply can't do it. I can't forgive some of the sins against me because I just don't have the heart for it. But Jesus does and if He truly resides in my heart as I say He does, then I will know that forgiveness by His own forgiveness for sin. He has forgiven and He continues to forgive through me.

Now, I know the forgiveness for my own sin. That, too, is in my heart.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Cares of This World

Matthew 13:22 (ESV) 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

People are busy. Extremely busy. They are more active than any other people ever in time and yet getting less done. They are not better parents though they are constantly taking their children from sports events to fine arts all week long. They are more connected to information through the internet than anyone before them yet many of them can't name the vice-president of the United States. They go to church but remain the same people year after year with no appreciable difference.

In fact, most of the people at church do not bring their Bibles to church nor do they read their Bibles even one time during the week. If I asked them why, I believe they would tell me that they simply don't have enough time in their day.

Who or what is telling people that they must fill up each moment of their days?

The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out the most important things in their lives. They are deceived into believing that having more than others have, whether it is smarter, more athletic children, a larger house, a nicer car or a bigger retirement account, will result in a meaningful life. They have no thought that they are squandering their eternity for the very short time they will exist on this earth.

They must step back from what they are doing and get a grip on their lives if they are ever to come to their senses. That is very hard. How do you simply stop the hectic lifestyle and reflect on what you need to be doing? How do you realize that doing less just might gain a whole lot more than the overly busy lifestyle you have chosen to this point?

Maybe you have to hit bottom? Maybe people have already hit bottom and don't know it because they are so busy chasing the next big thing in their lives. They are so distracted that they can't remain in God's word, why should they suddenly wake up and find they have been running in circles?

Unfortunately, ministers are not immune to this busy-ness even though we should know better. Sometimes the activities at church are overwhelming and we get caught up in the activity. We fail to realize that we are not getting much bang for our buck. We are trying to make everyone in the church happy- that is, everyone but God.

And God is amazingly patient. He waits for us to come to our senses.

O, I still have work that must be done but I will take that time which is not committed to meditate on His word. I'll reflect on my day. I'll confess my sins. I'll make a new commitment to God. I'll praise my Savior. I'll come to grips.

I'll let the Living Word live in me.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fear of the Things of This World Verses Faith- Which Is Winning?

Do you think the news media realizes that it sells fear?

Each night I see disaster. There are tornadoes in Texas, bombers in Boston and despots in D.C. The media rushes to each disaster and conveys the danger in driving, flying, walking and riding a bike. It warns of the jobs that could be lost, the bubble the economy could be creating and the future of a country steeped in debt. It tells of good neighborhoods with bad crimes, preachers and teachers who have committed unspeakable acts and the corruption of the elected officials. The only negative item of news the media fails to report is how poor some of the news reporting actually is.

These reports bring fear into the hearts of many people. They are afraid to go out of their own homes. It is no wonder that gun sales are out the roof. People have been made to believe they must protect themselves from a world that is out to get them.

Fear sells like nothing else. It surpasses sex as a means of motivating people. People rushed to churches right after 9/11 because they wanted a means of protection. The government failed to protect the thousands of people who died that day. How could they expect their great protector, the government, to protect them?

Motivation by fear doesn't last. The crisis eases and people will return to their normal schedules with their regular concerns unless a new crisis brings new fear. Thus, they watch the media each night, getting filled with new fears. They ask, "Will I be able to retire? Who should I vote for who will assure that I don't lose my job? What are the new diseases I need to avoid? How can I know the my car is safe, my airline flight is safe and my children are safe?"

And people are willing to give up anything in order to be safe. They will give up civil rights, the constitution and their faith in order to be safe.

Yes, I said they will give up their faith for they will not do what God directs them to do for fear of the future. They will not take the job that pays less for the sake of a ministry for the Lord even though God has called them into that ministry. They will fail to tithe because they are afraid that they won't have enough at the end of the month. They don't walk where God wants them to walk because of the perceived dangers ahead.

Fear of the things of this world and faith are always at odds with one another.

Will we continue to listen to fearful reports and fail to do what God has called us to do or will be faithful and walk in what God has called us to do?

God's plans for us are never intended to harm us. Do you believe this or are you afraid of His plans?

Joshua 14:8 (ESV) 8 But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Our Minds Need a Reset

Matthew 16:23 (ESV) 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

The will of God is not spoken in the language of this world.

Peter did not understand God's will for Jesus to go to the Cross because he was thinking like the world. The world says that life should be as easy as possible. The world says that God will work to make the lives of believers easier. The world says that you have to act in your own self interest. The world does not understand a God who sends His Son to the Cross. God's will is spoken to those who set their minds on Him.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Romans 8:5 (ESV) 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

The will of God is found in the Spirit. The Spirit speaks God's language. The Spirit is God and therefore knows God's will. The Spirit reveals that will to us.

1 Corinthians 2:12 (ESV) 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

God's will comes through the Spirit. Thus, the believer must speak God's language by setting his mind on the things of the Spirit. The alternative is to set the mind on the things of the flesh. Of course, speaking the language of the world will result in doing the things of the world.

Romans 8:5 (ESV) 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Believers often seek the will of God without setting their minds on the Spirit. They, therefore, are listening to the things of the world. That is why preaching which appeals to the flesh is so popular among believers. This is the language which is so familiar. It speaks of how the believer can have more in this world. As one of these "flesh appealing" preachers has said, "I don't care if the streets of heaven are paved with gold. I want my gold now!" Many believers are drawn in. They admit that they want their gold now, too.

Our problem is that we live in this world and are compelled to be conformed to it. We do have a flesh which demands satisfaction. We have learned the language of this world. It is the language which the world speaks to us every day. We hear it on every tv program, every news casts and too often on Sundays from pulpits. This language shapes us into its mold so that we want what the rest of the world wants.

So, it takes an effort to transformed from the language of the world. It takes an effort to learn this new language of God which comes to us as we set our minds on the Spirit. We reset our minds and know the will of God.

I have an atomic watch so that I don't have to set its time. Each night the watch makes contact with the radio waves sent out from the atomic clock in Colorado. Thus, the clock is reset daily.

Each morning I must reset my mind. It will get out of sync with the will of God slightly each day if it is not reset. That isn't the only time I have to reset it. I often have to reset it when someone is rude to me and I especially have to reset it when I am driving. But when I do, the things I am going through and the will of God become clear. I may not be richer, healthier or smarter but I am at peace with the things going on. I am fulfilled.

Romans 12:2 (ESV) 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Like Cleaning Up and Putting on New Clothes

This past summer I ordered fourteen cubic yards of cedar mulch which I placed around my house in flower beds and around shrubs. The company I ordered it from came emptied their dump truck on my driveway. The pile looked like Mt. Everest. (At least it looked like it to me!) I got my wheel barrow, shovel and rake and started spreading the mulch. You can't imagine how sweaty and dirty I got. My jeans and shirt weighed several pounds heavier before I was finished. My white tennis shoes turned brown. After finishing I removed my clothes and took a long hot shower.

Afterwards I put on clean clothes. They felt so good! I never thought of putting the dirty clothes back on.  I did think of burning them. I wondered if anything would ever get them clean again.

Isn't it strange that people who have been cleansed by rebirth would return to their old way of living before becoming a Christian? Doesn't that sound like putting your dirty clothes back on after you have been washed clean?

Yet, many Christians do so. They find themselves in an extremely uncomfortable position. It is like putting on dirty clothes over a clean body. Either they will long to throw off these clothes or they have never been cleansed in the first place. The Holy Spirit who renews them will work from the inside to change them. They can't continue wearing the old clothing and walk forward in Christian maturity. They can't walk in the spirit and the flesh at the same time.

Jesus saves us so that we will be washed in our rebirth and renewed by the Holy Spirit. Salvation does not contain one of these without the other. You can't be washed in rebirth without being renewed by the Holy Spirit. He works on us as part of our salvation to become like Christ.

Of course, this does not mean that we suddenly become perfect. The pattern of this world is always pulling us back toward the flesh. It is the continual work of the Holy Spirit which empowers us to leave the flesh for the spirit. It is His work which enables us to live according to the spirit. The change in our lives toward Christ is the maturing work of the Spirit upon us. We understand spiritual things. We know the mind of God because we have the Holy Spirit living within us. Our minds are renewed, our hearts are devoted and our actions reflect Christ who lives in us.

Often Christians completely misunderstand salvation. They have been told that they cannot earn their salvation. No amount of righteous works will ever gain them salvation. This is absolutely true. However, they, therefore think that no amount of works of righteousness should be necessary in salvation. This is absolutely false. Salvation should reveal a life changing be the renewal of the Holy Spirit. The life that has never changed has no evidence of salvation.

I have made the mistake of telling people that they did not have to go to church, read their Bibles or do anything whatsoever after they were saved. I wanted them to know that they could not earn their salvation before or after making a commitment to Christ. While my motives were right my words were not. I should have said that these acts of righteousness will not earn your salvation but the believer cannot give evidence of being renewed by the Holy Spirit by refusing to do these things.

Theologians have argued that salvation does not need to include the lordship of Jesus Christ. I, personally, cannot see salvation without the lordship of Christ. What is the person doing when he or she commits to Christ for salvation if it isn't a lordship decision? Surely it isn't merely a mental assent to His existence. Agreeing that the United States is a nice place to live does not make the Taliban into Americans. A turning from a former lifestyle and allegiance to the new country is necessary. Why would we think it is different in becoming a Christian?

Becoming a Christian is not simply being cleansed. It is putting on new clean clothes. It is walking a new way. It is an admission that you are not yet what God intends you to be but that you are also not what you were. It is taking each day as a step toward becoming like Christ.

Today, I take another step.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Knowing Jesus Is a Game Changer

John 15:21-23 (ESV) 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also.

The central event in anyone's life is whether or not Jesus is known. Note that this is "known" rather than "known about" for nearly everyone knows about Jesus but relatively few truly know Him.

This relationship changes what people believe, what they accept and who they will identify with. Thus, you have people who vehemently hate believers when we proclaim Jesus as the only way to heaven. They revile us for making statements of morality which do not match the immoralities of this present age. Some of them have taken to public media to express their vitriolic hatred. They call on more and more people to ridicule us. They seek laws which will keep us from sharing the faith. They want our language to be categorized as  "hate speech" as their desire to do so come from their own hatred.

All of this would change if they came to Christ. Believers do not return hatred for the world. They become like Jesus. Jesus died for the world because He loves them. Believers die to themselves to be like Christ. Believers also die for the world to be saved.

Or course, I am not speaking of believers becoming little saviors. Believers cannot seek devotion from others. Believers point to the Cross rather than to themselves. Believers point out who lives in them rather than bringing personal attention to who they are.


Because people who know the Lord have their whole lives changed. This relationship changes who they are because it changes who and what they love. It changes their morality and purpose in life. It changes their lifestyle.

Those who do not know the Son do not know the Father. This is foreign to those who do not know God. They know about God and believe that faith is merely an external attempt to get people to comply with a moral system. They believe that those who "hear" from God are on the same level as those who believe they are receiving messages from outer space aliens.

Thus, why not live and let live. Anything goes as long as someone doesn't hurt someone else. But people are being hurt in this moral system. The fabric of the society is being torn apart. Abortion has made life worth so much less. The society considers euthanasia as a reasonable to end to life as well. Sexual promiscuity destroys the special relationship of marriages. It makes the home insecure for the parents and the children. Situational and relative morality allows for any atrocity to be committed under certain circumstances. Thus, even the most egregious of sins become accepted.

All this changes when a person becomes a true believer in Christ. (I say true believer because there are many within the church who do not know Christ. They have the right words of salvation but do not possess it.) A true believer seeks to know Him more. A true believer seeks to follow Him.

The gap is widening between those who know God and those who do not.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Cross Theory

1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (ESV) 6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

I am fascinated with physics. I am especially enamored with "String Theory." Physicists are seeking to explain the nature of the universe in one all-encompassing theory. I hope they are able to do so in my lifetime on earth. I would love to hear it all explained.

Yet, I wonder if Christians realize that God's whole message to us can be explained through the Cross. I don't think so because Christians continue to flock to messages which speak the language of this world. The preachers of the worldly language continue to preach messages which touch on the superficial and immature nature of the faith. They only speak of a God who provides, heals and directs while on the earth. They speak of heaven as the reward of knowing Christ but do not put the whole thing together. It appears to the casual observer that there are many unrelated messages rather than just one that holds all the messages together.

Jesus did not only come to reveal a God who  provides, heals and leads. All of this is true but we must break out of elementary level of faith to understand that Jesus came to make us whole. As long as we believe that He came to provide, heal and lead alone we will only come to Him when we need provision, healing and leading. Our faith in Christ will be a add-on which helps us live this life on earth. Thus, our lives will continue to be centered around this earth.

Centering your life around the things on this earth will result in holding back. It will become unnecessary to live inconvenient Christian lives if Jesus came to enhance this life. In fact, sacrifice makes no sense if this is the case. Tithing makes no sense. Going to be a missionary makes no sense. Giving up a lucrative job to enter the ministry makes no sense. If Jesus came to better this life we ought to live this life as "better" as we can.

The message of the Cross doesn't negate that people have to live in this world. It merely makes this world a transitory state of being. It reveals that the comforts and recognized accomplishments given by this world will matter very little in eternity if they matter at all. The Cross illumines the brevity of this world. It provides true meaning in a life which has died to self to live for Christ. It does not grasp for more of this world but longs for the life which comes.

The one explanation of the life of faith is found in the Cross. Everything ties to it. The way we live, the reason we sacrifice and the hope we long for is found in the Cross.

It is the Theory of Everything.

"For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."
I Corinthians 2:2

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Persecution IN the Church

John 15:20 (ESV) 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

I love the pastors I have sat under. I am amazed at their preaching. Each one has been unique. Each one has had different spiritual gifts. It comes out in their preaching. I have not known each of them personally but I have been changed by their lives.

My attitude toward my pastors made me naïve to those in the churches who criticized their every move. I didn't hear it but I know it must have happened.

My own attitude toward my pastors made me think that everyone felt the same as I. Thus, I was surprised when people criticized me. They made up things I never did. They rebelled against the Word of God by finding scriptures which allowed them to excuse sinfulness. They created nefarious reasons for much of what I was doing.

I didn't understand. I knew I wanted to see people changed by the Word of God. I found that many of them resisted any change even if it came from God's Word. I found that they were making themselves saints as they acted like the devil.

I have watched many churches treat their pastors maliciously in my more than thirty years of full-time church ministry. I have seen godly ministers fired, castigated and treated with such contempt that they were left with deep psychological scars.

Why does this happen? Why is it so common in churches?

Jesus said it would happen. He said that those who accepted His word would accept His word when others preached it. He said that those who persecuted Him because of who He is and what He stands for would also persecute those who held Him up.

We wrongly assume that all  those who come to church, join the church and serve are believers. They are not. Many times a church accepts people as members who have no true defining evidence of faith. Churches accept them into membership simply because they can answer a couple of questions correctly: "Have you accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior? Have you been baptized?" Everyone knows that the correct answer is "yes" and "yes/"

But an affirmative answer does not mean that the person is living an affirming life. Faith is so much more than magic words and holding your breath. It is living a life that proves that it exists.

Some churches have allowed a significant portion of their membership to be those "trouble makers" who thwart every action of faith. It is consistent with their character. They act without faith because they have none. They reject the scripture because it makes no sense. They oppose the leadership because it requires them to examine their lives and determine that they lack faith.

Many true believers have left church because they thought that the actions in a former church represented all churches. They wonder how Christians can act like these people acted. They don't realize that these people aren't Christians. They will reject the words of Jesus from those who say them because they have ultimately rejected Jesus and have substituted repeating a prayer of salvation and being dunked in a pool for true faith.

I serve in a wonderful church at this moment. The people give me an amazing amount of grace. I do things wrong but they understand my feet of clay. They look for God's word and I am challenged to deliver it each week. I praise God and am deeply grateful for this church.

Yet, I see those around me who are not so fortunate. I see people in their churches causing such discord that these pastors are put in hospitals from the stress. This attitude is so bad that some churches would further the cause of Christ better if they shut their doors.

There is a good side for these pastors. They should know that their faithfulness has not gone unnoticed by their Savior. They should know that they are experiencing what He has experienced. In fact, they should know that His presence in what they are doing means that He is experiencing it with them.

People just might crucify you if you truly become the image of Christ.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The World Does Not Love Us

John 15:18-19 (ESV) 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

The Church laments its current status. There are many people who remember when the church was considered sacred in the world. They remember that schools, sports teams, civic leagues and other organizations would not consider holding meetings, practices or games at traditional church event times. They remember when the church determined what was considered moral. They remember when certain words were not said on television or even on stage. They remember when the church could "bully" any business, political organization or media. They remember when solid church attendance was good for business. They remember when bosses looked at church attendance as a sign of good moral fiber.

Those days are gone. The Church is not pointing its finger at its leaders with an accusation that they did not preach the gospel well enough. Many are pointing at the lethargy of church members and proclaiming that this is now how it used to be. They point at the participation in the past's programs. People are glorifying the past with the hope of repeating it.

I read an article recently which blamed all of these as the reasons the Church is experiencing decline. A church growing more from the non-churched than the already connected-to-church is extremely rare. Growing churches get most of their growth from membership transfers from other churches and the baptism of their own children. Even those who baptize high numbers are often having their baptism numbers boosted by people transferring from churches which do not traditionally immerse when baptizing.

So, while everyone is pointing fingers I would like to propose a different premise. I would like to point out that the world hates us because it hates Jesus. I would like to point out that this never changed because we are not of the world. The world hated us even as they were complying with the morality of the church. The world hated us even when it begrudgingly came to church because it was good for business. The world hated us even when it was forced to keep the smut off the airways.

Nothing has changed nor will change without an awakening or revival. Pointing out the past will not change the people of today. Lamenting over the present condition alone will not cause people to make a difference in the world. There is a reason that Jesus told His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit.

The love the church thought it had when people were making their way to church every Sunday was never real. Hatred was veiled behind it. The world waited until it could respond with all the things which had been suppressed. That time has come. That is why so much is changing so rapidly. That is why homosexuality is considered a lifestyle rather than a sin. That is why there is very little thought to abortion. That is why the church no longer deals with unmarried couples living together, having children together or even swapping partners every once in a while.

The Church wants the world to love her. It will change the gospel and appeal to love when excusing sinfulness. It will overuse the story of the woman caught in adultery to overlook anything going on within the church. The Church acts like the mistress who has been replaced by a younger, prettier woman. She will do anything to get her lover back.

The world will never love the Church.

The Church must cry out to God like God's people have done so many times in the past. We, the Church, must ask Him to send the Holy Spirit into the Church. We must ask without holding anything back. We must remember the story of the Rich, Young Ruler and determine that his fate is not to be ours.

My cry is not to change the status of the Church to be like it was in a past when people were pretending to love her. My prayer is for a revival. My prayer is for believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. My prayer is for the saved to crave holiness. My prayer is for "the presence of God" to be more than a phrase said in every church.

I don't like being hated but I do not want to comply with the world in an effort to obtain the world's love either.

Isn't it strange that we so often pay more attention to the world who doesn't love us rather than Jesus who has never stopped loving us?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Essentials of a Godly Leader

Joshua 1:5-9 (ESV) 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The Hebrew people were about to take their Promised Land. Moses had just died. Joshua was the new Commander in Chief. He knew that he wasn't Moses. He must have thought that he might not be able to do what God wanted him to do. But he was appointed to do what God had given him. God gives us tasks bigger than our abilities so that we will do them in His strength. So, God reassures Joshua with the qualities which will make a godly leader successful.

1. The Presence of God. A godly leader should know he or she has the presence of God. This comes from seeking Him. This comes from His grace. This comes because the leader is obedient. All the other qualities depend upon God's presence and God's presence depends upon all the other qualities. You can't separate these qualities.

2. Strength and Courage. Naturally our first tendency is to claim that we do not have strength and courage but these are decisions that must be made. It takes more than knowing what God wants. His grace to do what He wants comes as we have taken the step to do it. We come to know Christ because we make a decision to identify fully with Jesus. The grace to do so comes as we make this commitment. The grace for Peter to speak at Pentecost came as Peter opened his mouth. The grace for Gideon to lead his people against oppression came as he tore down his own family's altars to false gods. Strength and courage are needed to start the step. This is why so many leaders fail. They want the grace to do something before they take the action to do it.

3. Complete Obedience to God. This seems like a given but many leaders do not give complete obedience. They disobey what God has already given to them. They fail in God's commandments. they fail in their full commitment to God with their money. They fail in fulfilling God's vision for themselves in selfishness. They think that the things unseen by others are just as if they have never been committed. They believe that people will assume they are doing what God wants if they have no other evidence.

4. Living in God's Word. Most leaders think this is the foremost of characteristics of a godly leader but God places it further down the list when He speaks to Joshua. There are so many leaders in churches who have advanced degrees from respected institutions who can parse ever verb and know ever nuance of meaning in the scriptures but are not godly leaders. They write books and sell out stadiums but their Christianity is no more than a marketing tool. They turn phrases but they have really done very little for the cause of Christ. Living in His Word is more than knowing it. It does not depart in all your decisions. It defines the day. It brings the believer in a closer walk with His Lord. It makes the believer.

5. Prosperity. That cannot be defined by mankind. I thought it interesting that it said, "you will make your way prosperous." It didn't say that God would do it. Many seem to think they can fail in all these other areas and still be prosperous but God indicates that this will not happen. While I would never want to take the credit for what God is doing I know that I must participate with Him or I will never be prosperous in what I do.

God says that by doing these things you will have success. Isn't that what the godly leader seeks?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

In Faith, We Leap (Believe) Before We Can See

While in college I marveled at the people who dove off  diving platforms. I wondered if I could dive from the seven or ten meter platforms. I watched others climb the stairs to these platforms, look down at the water and walk back down. I had never been to the top before. I was afraid that I would back out if I climbed those stairs like so many others.

Finally, I decided that I would always wonder what it was like until I "took the plunge." I climbed the stairs until I reached the platform, took off running and dove before I got to the end. I couldn’t see the water but I was already committed to the dive. I admit, it did seem like a long way down as I got my first glimpse of where I would land. Entry was not very pretty. I did make a splash though I didn’t get hurt. I came up and said, "I can do better than that." I have made uncounted dives from the diving platform since.

Our faith with God may be like this for you. You have seen so many others take the plunge with their faith. Their efforts may not look so pretty. You may have seen many others get very close but back down. They have looked at it so intently that they have convinced themselves that they just can’t do it.

Most people never make a true commitment. They climb back down the stairs and say that they have had the experience of standing on the platform. They fail to tell you that they never really "made the plunge." They are like people who buy football jerseys but have never played football. There is no such thing as a vicarious faith in Christ but many people are carrying this very type of pseudo-faith.

Faith is a leap when we can’t see place we will land. It is a commitment to Someone we do not yet know. It is a hope in something that we will find after we have promised our obedience.

I can’t tell you exactly what God has in store for you. This is a dive you have to take on your own. I can tell you that you have to commit to the dive before you will receive the reward. I can tell you that a true commitment is thrilling.

God wants you to walk with Him in faith. The only question is whether you will jump or walk back down the stairs.

Hebrews 11:8 (ESV) 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.