Jan 22, 2014

BEAUTIFUL FEET!

Recently, I was taking part in a conversation about the need for more young people to hear and respond to the call of God on their lives and this call is not only to be a believer in whatever vocation they choose. But, in particular, to respond to a call upon their lives into full time Christian service.

As I grew up, it was not uncommon for pastors and even missionaries to spend time in our home.  My dad, being the local pastor, was often entertaining with my mom those who came to speak at our church. This gave me many opportunities to listen and learn about the process of being called by God into ministry.

Today, things have changed as I see it. No longer is there an emphasis in our churches upon challenging young men and women to consider God's specific call into ministry.  No longer are we praying that God would raise another Billy Graham.  We are content to simply ask people to trust God and serve him in any way that they want to go.

This discussion raises a very fundamental question for all of us who want to see the Kingdom of God grow. Do we believe that God is still in the business of calling young men and women to serve him in specific ways?  And, if we do, what has happened or is not happening in the world of the church to to take young men and women away from believing this too?

When's the last time you heard a pastor or leader in the church challenging young people to consider a call into the pastoral ministry or to serve the Lord on a foreign land?  For me, it's been way too long.  Now is the time for us to rethink our strategy when it comes to thinking about what someone will do when they grow up.

The apostle Paul strikes me as someone who unashamedly spoke of his calling to serve the Lord and was eager to exhort others to do the same.  To his young apostolic delegate Timothy he wrote these powerful words:

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began..." (2 Timothy 1:8-9).

To the believers in Ephesus Paul declared, "I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called..." (Ephesians 4:1).

This, of course, was for all believers in Ephesus, but it is also true for anyone hearing and responding to a call of full time christian service.  People who believe that God is calling them into this type of ministry can be certain that it is the highest of callings.  Somehow, we have come to believe that this specific call is not that important.  We have been told or it has been implied that we can serve God more effectively by being in the marketplace somewhere else.  The truth is that we can serve God in any arena but nothing higher than to be called to be one who proclaims the gospel as a lifestyle.

Sadly, in the church, we have become satisfied to become participants only and mistakenly thinking that there will always be those who are called to preach.  But, is that true?  It seems that God has always been in the habit of raising up people to serve him but he has also used others to make that distinctive call for him.  Without the preachers of today challenging others to consider the call of God to do the same, will the well soon run dry?

Perhaps this is what Paul was alluding to when he gave the following message to the Christians in Rome, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news! (Romans 10:14-15).

If we don't get this answer right, there are dark days ahead.  However, I for one, believe that God is still calling people to preach and to share the good news as missionaries.  I also believe that everyone else is to live our their callings in a worthy manner as well.  The really important question is this, are you?


Sep 12, 2013

Well, I Declare!

I love to tell stories about days gone by.  There have been times in my life and sometimes regularly that I have set around with friends and talked about the good ole days.  I know what you're thinking.  Those kind of stories seem to get better or should I say bigger, every time the stories are told.

For the most part, these stories are harmless.  It is a lot of fun to reflect on "Do you remember when?" Today, I have been reflecting on the many wonderful acts of God historically that are quite significant and worth remembering, especially when we think about where God might be leading us.

King David also felt this way. Hear the words of the Lord (Psalm 145:1-4):

I will extol you, my God and King, 
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever
and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, 
and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another, 
and shall declare your mighty acts.

Notice how David is committed to declaring  the goodness of the Lord to the next generation. Specifically, he wanted to tell the next generation all about not only the goodness of the Lord but do so by talking about specific  acts.

God has been so good to me and my family, my church and every other aspect of my life. I want to be faithful in sharing this with anyone that I am in relationship with on a daily basis.

Over the years many of my friends have often greeted my by asking"What's the good word?" Well, that's easy, it's the good word about the goodness and acts of the Lord. May it be said of all of us that which was stated by David at the conclusion of this Psalm (Psalm 145:21):

My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever!"

How about you? Can you remember all of the ways in which God has been good to you? Think about it and then share it with someone.  I know this will bless the Lord

Aug 28, 2013

Day and night, really?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between the Word of God and the way we live our lives on a daily basis.  As a result of this line of thinking I was drawn to Psalms 1:2 and the surrounding verses.

This verse is simple, yet profound.  David makes a bold statement about his connection to the Word of God.  He declares that the Word of God is a priority in his life.  In fact, he says that he spends an enormous amount of time (day and night) meditating on God's Word.

Perhaps it would be good to clarify what David is saying and not saying.  He IS NOT saying that as he sat out on a rock watching his sheep that he had a literal bible (pick your favorite version) spread out on his lap so he could do his Bible study.  He did not have a written Bible available.  To mess with your mind a little bit, consider the fact that what he writes here is to become the Bible, the very words that we are talking about in this post.

He IS saying that God has spoken to him and through others (prophets, teachers, etc.) his Word and these are the things that David is aligning his life with in order to please God.  God's law (literally his instruction) is the standard of behavior for this shepherd/to be King servant of God.

David writes that he meditates on it day and night.  Does he literally mean 24 hours a day or does he mean that when he arises or goes to sleep his mind is on the things of God.  I would suggest to you that the latter is more likely.

In the surrounding verses David makes clear those things that he sees as the benefit of living his life in accordance with God's Word.  It brings delight into his life.  There is joy in the morning and peace at night when David follows God's Word.  He is confident and strong in all that he does.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in season (v 3).  He is so bold as to say, "In all that he does, he prospers" (v3b).

In the beginning of this book (one) and chapter 1, David makes it perfectly clear that he understands the difference between the one who puts his trust in the advice of the world versus the one who completely trusts God.  David longs to be that type of person.  You and I should long to do the same.

If we believe that what David says is true we must all ask a very important and invasive question.  We must ask about where we get our advice.  In whom do we put our trust and where do we get our advice for living life? If we believe in the written Word of God and believe that in it we find the answers to life and direction for living our lives, we should ask about how closely they are in alignment.  When God tells us to do something or act in a certain way through his Word or the instruction of the Holy Spirit, do we do it? Do we think about this both day and night?

It just seems to me that if we take God's Word for what it claims to be (God's Word) then we must do everything we can to make sure that we do what it says.  How are you doing?  How am I doing?  These seem to be very good and appropriate questions for anyone wanting to live the life David writes about in Psalm 1.  No wonder he writes "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he mediates day and night" (Psalm 1:1).

Jul 25, 2013

I DO BELIEVE THE BIBLE OR DO I?

I can still remember singing a particular song as I grew up, both in church and at church camp.  It had to do with the Bible.  It went something like this, " I do believe the Bible, the blessed Word of God, for life unto it's promises I cling..." Hopefully those are the beginning words of this song, but I am more interested in what comes next.  I am concerned about how I cling to those promises found in the Bible and what I must do to make sure that I align my life with the truth of the Scriptures.

I am quite certain that each of us could sit down and come up with a list of biblical teachings, truths, or promises that are important to us. Anyone who has been a believer for a significant amount of time and made a good effort at studying the Word of God could articulate those things which they believe are worth believing and living out in their lives.

This is where the rub and the challenge comes.  When we say that we believe this or that, it means minimally that these things, whatever they are, should show up somewhere in how we live our lives.  For example, if we say that God is worthy of worship, we should know what worship looks like and we should be found participating in whatever worship has been determined to be.  The bottom line question for me at this point would be, do I worship the God whom I say is worthy of worship.

This topic has been at the forefront of my thinking for sometime now.  That's why I have spent some time thinking about what I really believe in the Bible.  Note, this does not mean that there are things in the Bible that I don't believe, just that there are many things in the Bible that I believe and think that they should show up in my life and in the life of all believers.

The list that I have been working on are those things that relate to my personal life and my life as a believer participating in the church.  Perhaps you have a list too. Sometime in the future I hope to do some writing on this matter but that will have to come later.

Here's what I would like to put before us right now.  I would like to have us really think about what we do believe and whether or not the implications of these believed truths are showing up somehow in the way we live our lives?  I would love to hear from you and get to know what you are thinking on this very important subject.


Jun 9, 2013

WHERE HAVE ALL THE LEADERS GONE?

Sometimes I think we make life more difficult than it has to be.  I also think we do this in ministry too!  These days we hear a boatload of talk about leaders, leadership and even leadership development. There are books too many to number about this subject today, and a conference that promises to make you a better leader every time you turn around.  But, where are the leaders?

Every time I sit down with a church staff, whether we are dealing with conflict resolution, strategic planning or something else, the subject of leadership often rears its head. It's in times like these that I wish I could conjure up a few leaders for the situation at hand, but I can't. So I wonder, where are the leaders?

The apostle Paul wrote some enlightening words regarding this subject to the church in Rome many years ago that can be of help to us today when we talk about leadership. In a passage where he is speaking about the church body (in this case, the local church of believers in Rome) and how it is made up of many members he writes the following words:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them; in prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:6-8).

It's clear from Paul's words that not everyone has been given the gift of leadership.  Leadership development is first and foremost the development of those who have this gift.  They are encouraged to use this gift with zeal. They are to eagerly use this gift for the advancement of God's kingdom.  What this means is that we do not have a shortage of leaders or potential leaders.  God has in fact supplied the church with leaders that are to be encouraged to serve with zeal.

We have the responsibility of identifying those who are leaders and encourage them to serve the Lord with zeal.  We must give them opportunities to develop those God-given skills.  If, however, they are not gifted in this way, we also need to tell them so.  There's not much worse in the church or in any organization, than those who are in positions to lead, but cannot because they are in fact not leaders.

In my denomination, we are providing opportunities for potential leaders to emerge.  Whether they are part of a Lead Team where other pastors, pastor's wives or women in ministry can affirm these gifts in them or serving as interns in an AIMS site where a mature mentor can help them grow in their giftedness and become more effective as leaders, leadership development is happening.

Books, conferences, and other resources for being equipped as a leader are readily available but nothing can replace the understanding that you have the gift and the zeal to serve.  Leaders first and foremost get their direction from the Lord.  They stand out even as they blend in with those they lead. 

I would agree that we are in need of those who will take up the role of being leaders.  The church needs them!  Families need them! Denominations need them! Our country needs them!  Leaders are needed everywhere. Perhaps we shouldn't be asking the question "Where have all the leaders gone?" Instead,  we should be proclaiming loud and clear that leaders everywhere should stand up and serve with zeal!  God has gifted you to lead and there are plenty of resources available along the way to help you be a better leaders.  The bottom line is this: if God has gifted you to lead and you know it, lead!

May 1, 2013

ENOUGH TALKING, ALREADY!

I am finally at that point where I've had enough.  How about you?  What am I talking about?  Well, let me tell you.  I am tired of just talking about things. Tired of dreaming or planning and nothing every happening.  I am ready for some action!

I think it's high time we moved on beyond mere talking and do something.  Phrases are part of our existence.  You can see them on billboards, in magazines and even framed on the walls of your local church.  But, I must ask, "does it work and are you actually doing it?"

It's one thing to spend the time and energy to come up with what we believe God wants us to do but it's quite another thing to take those thoughts and convictions and turn them into tangible action. Hugh Halter and Matt Smay applied this to the church when they wrote the book, "The Tangible Kingdom."  In this book, they raised the question of what the church would look like if it was tangible, and could be seen by others.

In order to become tangible the church is going to have to change.  Some of these changes will cause us to squirm.  It will necessitate that we venture into a world that for a long time we have avoided. We must believe that God wants us to go there (Mt. 28:16-20) and that he will protect and guide us along the way.

I don't know about you but I have heard enough sermons to last a lifetime.  I have sat in enough bible studies and Sunday School classes to be among the most equipped.  The real question for me and perhaps for you is to ask whether or not these things that you and I have absorbed have caused us to move toward those who need Christ or not.

It's time for the church and that means, me to make a decision.  Are we going to be satisfied for another year to talk about being a disciple or are we going to say enough is enough and begin to put feet to our beliefs and convictions.  I recently heard someone say that following Christ may start in our head and then move to our heart but it must in the end move to our feet and hands.  WOW, that's what I want, do you?

Let me know what you think?  Can you join me and say, "Enough already!" If so, I would love to hear from you.

Apr 3, 2013

WIll you do the Write thing?

Every year I receive a box of books (about 24 in all) that I agreed to read and critique for a Christian  book judging organization.  I love to read so this is not a big deal.  For some it would be as I have to read them in about three months time.

I actually look forward to reading the books but I must admit that most of the books really aren't that good.  At times, I wonder just how the book was ever published. I say this knowing that I am not the best writer in the world either but I am being asked to give my opinion of what an author has written.

In the end, one author in each category (and there are many) is dubbed the winner.  They receive some prizes and significant recognition at the annul conference/banquet for that very purpose.  I even think that the banquet is in Hollywood.

I must admit that that would be quite an honor, but more importantly, for me it's all about the content of the book.  Writing is an amazing vehicle for communication and yet in many circles, little of it is done or at least done well.  Some will tell you that we are moving away from the written page (on paper) and before too long we will do everything digitally.  I don't know about that, but it seems to me that there is still plenty of room and time for actually writing books about significant issues, regardless of how the end product looks and feels.

I have noticed or at least made an observation that I want to share with anyone who might read this blog post.  This observation is in particular a thought about my own denomination. We do have books that have been written over our history. Much of what has been written has been more about our history or our theological beliefs.  Little has been written by our own authors about life issues or ministry matters that would be helpful and encouraging for all to read, especially young pastors and leaders coming up in the ministry.

I have often wondered, why?  I know plenty of people who are experienced and bright. Why don't they write and use their gift to bless the life and ministry of others?  Or more to the point, I want them to write and be used or God to make a difference for the advancement of the kingdom of God.  I am not the greatest writer but I am committed to writing and by God's grace he will use my thoughts and experience to bless, encourage and equip others to do the same.

Tell me what you think.  I would love to hear it!