“An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.” – A.W. Tozer
Category Archives: The Church
Joseph kept his faith, though I’m sure he was a bit confused as to why God would had given him his dreams. Joseph, now a slave, put his whole self into his work. He was living Colossians 3:23. Because of his extraordinary work, Joseph climbed the ladder and was promoted to head servant. Now he was starting to get somewhere. Yeah, he was still a slave, but he was in charge! Along comes Potiphar’s wife.
Betrayed by a liar! If I’d been Joseph I would have been so angry with God. “I was wronged!” How is it that evil doers seem to win and those, in the right, get punished? This was the case for Joseph. Faced with temptation, he made the moral choice – the right choice. (He didn’t buy into the lie that “he deserved this.”) Still he was sentenced to prison. Lower than ever before and even farther from his dreams, Joseph kept believing that God would use him. “And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.”
Of course we all know the rest of the story; Joseph interprets a dream for the cup-bearer, who in-turn forgets his promise to mention Josephs plight to the Pharaoh. Two years pass by. The cup-bearer finally remembers Joseph. Joseph interprets the Pharaohs dreams and is put in charge of Egypt! (That was when Egyptians still liked their leaders.) Joseph was in charge of the whole country! Finally! He made it! He’d “arrived.” “His ship had come in.”
We look at Joseph’s story and see how Joseph took 2 steps forward and 11 steps back. God used some very frustrating circumstances in Joseph’s life before realizing Joseph’s dreams. But the final step in Joseph’s journey is not the only point to his life. Joseph made a big difference EVERYWHERE he was placed. When a slave, he worked as if he was working for the Lord. God used this to make a difference in Potiphar who, “Realized that the Lord was with Joseph.” In the prison “the Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.” God also made Himself real to the Pharaoh who “gave Joseph a new name Zaphenath-paneah” which means “God speaks and lives.” All around Joseph’s shattered dreams, people witnessed the hope of God because Joseph honored and believed God.
Every day you live, you can Make A Difference. Each day holds new opportunities to do good. Opportunities which are different for each of us and have specifically been designed for us. In fact, you and I have appointments today with people whose names we do not yet know. And those appointments will call for us to “do good.” You’re skeptical, I can tell. If you don’t believe me read this… Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planed for us long ago.”
- We can hold it over their head. – Somehow we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that withholding forgiveness gives us power over the person who hurt us. That is a Lie! An unforgiving heart is not empowered, It’s imprisoned!
- Withholding forgiveness legitimizes my hurt. – No. It doesn’t. It only lengthens your hurt.
- They should suffer for what they did to me. – Ummm, I don’t know how to tell you this, but… They probably haven’t given it another thought. How much time have you wasted meditating on their crime and your pain?
Finally, when I got up to sing the song of response, I let it go, laid the rock down at the alter. I’d held it long enough that I could describe it in detail. I could go back later and among all the rocks, I could tell you which one was mine. The thought came to me after the final song to go back and pick it up. THAT would have been a mistake. I would not have wanted to answer the question later.
“What’cha doin’ with that rock?”
I would have answered honestly. “It is a reminder to me of the bad things people have done to me. And how I need to forgiven them.”
“Well, if you’ve forgiven them, then why do you want to be reminded about what they’ve done?”
Father, help me to forgive as you did. The same death you died on the cross for me is given to the ones who have hurt me. I have no room to stand and judge anyone. Thank you for forgiving me. I celebrate your forgiveness and pass it on to those whom I need to forgive.
Where do you stand on the subject of forgiveness? Have you been restored after a broken relationship?
When they awoke that morning, the victims of the 9/11 attack had no idea that their life would end that day. Everything probably seemed routine as they started their day by going to work or the airport. Travelers expected to arrive safely to their destination. Employees anticipated the supper they would later share with their loved ones. As we all discovered later, those assumed plans would never come to pass for the 2,977 victims of the terror.
Sunday will be the 10th anniversary of that horrible day; a helpless day, as all of us who watched the news casts, stood there, sat there with the realization that there was nothing we could do but pray and mourn. We were helpless, we were anxious, afraid. We spent the following weeks and months cautious, watching the world around us with a closer eye. The media warned us that there were other terrorists out to get us. Anything could happen to any of us, anytime, anywhere. Our leaders were doing everything in their power to stop the terrorists, but we had to be assertive, watchful, and report anything suspicious.
But for the 2,977 victims of 9/11, all we could do was remember. And we still remember. We remember the horror of people hanging out of open windows a hundred stories up, helpless to rescue themselves. We remember the heroism of great men and women who charged up the stairs of those buildings to save anyone, everyone they could, full with the knowledge that they themselves would not make the return trip down those same stairs.
Is anyone ever really ready to die? Ten years ago we took for granted that tomorrow would be their for us. Then the towers fell. Suddenly we realized again or for the first time that life is precious. Our life was a gift. We held our family closer, prayed to our creator more fervently, more humbly. How much of that feeling has now faded away from us? Do we demonstrate the same sense of urgency about telling our loved ones that we… love them? Or have we returned to the illusion that tomorrow will be just like today, and the next day, and the next.
What if we discovered, today, that we only had 30 days to live? What would we change? Where and with whom would we choose to spend our time? Would we give God more thanks, more praise, more service? Would we listen more closely for His voice? Would we be quicker to follow His lead? Would our family and friends get more of our energy? Would we have kinder words to say? Would we keep hanging on to our grudges or would we seek forgiveness and give the gift of forgiveness more freely? Would we answer the cell phone when a loved one is calling or click off the ringer, thinking that we can call back later but we are too busy right now?
These are the questions we seek to ask and the questions we pray to answer right now at our church.
- Me to self: I want to compliment this person. They’ve really been doing a great job!
- Sarcastic self says to me: Great idea, I’ll take it from here
- Me: Thanks for wiping down those tables. It make such a nice impression on people and shows that we care.
- Sarcastic self: You’re really good at that, ever consider a career as a bus boy?
- Sarcasm – We really want to say something nice, but our pride talks us out of it. Somehow we think that building others up will lower our worth in their eyes. Our desire to “build others up” gets polluted by our “tear others down so we look smarter” strategy. So Pride sends Sarcasm to the front line and allows us to safely give a compliment (sort of) and at the same time protect our “I’m better than you” falsely inflated ego that we can’t seem to live without.
- The Backhanded Compliment. Another detour from a real heartfelt compliment is the “backhanded compliment.” It’s a loophole in the “if you can’t say anything nice” strategy. It goes something like this; If you must say something rude at least disguise it as a compliment. Here are a few examples; “You really sound good when you just sing” “You look so pretty today, I almost didn’t recognize you.” “You clean up nice.” “You know, you’re pretty smart for a liberal arts major.”
I’ll say upfront that I’m much better than I used to be. There was a time when I felt guilty when taking a vacation. If I sat down to read a fiction novel I would get a pain in my gut because I wasn’t using my time to study. It was difficult for me to enjoy my time with my kids, though I loved them very much. During this time I poured myself into my job and wrongfully looked for approval from the church I served only to be disappointed over and over again.
I hid my disappointments from my wife and glued a fake smile on my face for my kids. This robbed Mel of the calling God had given her – supporting a husband in ministry. Being robbed of the opportunity to fulfill one of her callings was discouraging to her and made our marriage strain. My kids, I’m sure saw me more as worship pastor than as dad, and that is a mistake I can never undo.
My upside-down paradigm of leadership (work harder, longer – neglect family and self) also lead to professional frustration. I’m sure that most of my failings came not from lack of work, but rather from a lack of balance. It is not possible to be successful in ministry following a set of rules that are out of balance with God’s grace.
No one on their death bed ever says “I wish I would have made more money.” or “I wish I would have spent more hours at work and less with family.” On the contrary, more regret spending so little time with family or regret the selfishness of their lives. Ty Cobb, who achieved wealth and fame said this at the end of his life; “I wish I had more friends.” only 3 baseball players attended his funeral in 1961.
God has, more than once, brought it to my attention that, most of the time, I’m not the father, husband or Christ follower that I should be. Jesus died so that my life would be more than this. Why have I allowed status quo? Why have I bought into the “do more/try harder” nomenclature?
Father, help me stand secure in your grace. It is enough. My pride and insecurity lead me down a path of guilt. I feel guilty when I don’t produce the result I think I should, but you have simply called me to be faithful. I trust you for results that fit your plans. I will be faithful. I become defensive when I look to satisfy my insecurity with achievement or adulation from others. Help me to find all the security I need at the foot of your cross. It is enough. Help me to be humble enough to forgive others and courageous enough to seek forgiveness.
What does it mean to you do “Live Like You Were Dying?” In what ways do you want to see more of Jesus in the way you live? Please leave comments below.
Memorial day gives us a chance to remember. Did you remember yesterday? Did you thank a veteran? I spent a lot of time contemplating the cost of the freedoms I still get to enjoy. For men and women who took the stand for what they believed and for the many who paid the ultimate price for freedom.
I wondered what I would be willing to stand up for? I thought about how over the last couple decades we have seen certain freedoms taken away from us. I thought about how our founding fathers sought to set up a government of the people, for the people andbythe people and yet today, we see our government acting as if the people are here to support government rather than the other way around.
I considered how many freedoms I truly have because I am “In Christ.” He paid the ultimate price for my freedom and yours.
8Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,a2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,b God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.c And so he condemned sin in sinful man,d4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
So, we are no longer condemned because of what Christ has done. However, we are still persecuted. There are so many to whom the message of Christ and the Cross is foolishness.
1 Corinthians 1:18
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
What does this have to do with us? Though we seek to carry this message into a world that thinks us to be foolish, it’s Christ they’re rejecting and not us. So why should it matter to us?
How often do we temper our boldness because of the fear of rejection? How many times does our confidence wane when we face criticism?
See, that’s what I mean when I ask myself – What would I be willing to take a stand for? – What would I be willing to die for?
I am grateful for the veterans who have served and remember, with tears in my eyes, those who gave their lives for the freedom I currently enjoy. At the same time I’m reminded that this freedom is temporary. You can quote me on this – The United States of America will not last forever. In the historical scope of things we are a young nation. In our arrogance, however, we sometimes believe and act like this country will always be around and will always be free. Let’s not deceive ourselves. We know too well that some, or should we say, many of our freedoms are already gone.
In direct contrast, the freedom we have “in Christ” is eternal. In fact, it was established for the specific purpose of eternity. If the temporal freedoms of an earthly nation are worth standing up for, worth laying down ones life for then how much more is Christ and His cross worth standing up for? How much more is Christ worth laying down my life for?
Would you join me in these thoughts? I’m not seeking to devalue the sacrifice for country. I’m proud of our veterans! Could you die for Christ? Could you stand up for the church, for Christ and His cross in the face of persecution – in the face of death? I’d love to read your thoughts.
So many shows on television right now are built around the story of the main character/characters having some kind of super power. Chuck has downloaded a super spy database into his brain and can call upon special kung fu abilities he never learned, only downloaded. The Powell family gained their special powers from a plane crash, when a power giving serum was released into the air they breathed it in. Not long ago we were presented a show with the title Heroes.
Asa kid and even still, I love a good hero story. This summer we’ll see released at the box office, Thor, X-Men; First Class, Transformers; the Dark Side of the Moon, Green Lantern, Captain America, Kung Fu Panda 2, Cowboys and Aliens, Conan the Barbarian, the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie titled On Stranger Tides, and of course Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2.
So maybe I’m not the only one who loves a good story about a hero with extra special, supernatural abilities. But wouldn’t the worst story be one about a hero with super abilities that refused to use them. He/she was embarrassed and afraid people wouldn’t like them anymore or would talk bad about them. Perhaps they are proud and want to prove that they can do it all by themselves without their special powers. This is starting to sound familiar.
Don’t you and I live out this story everyday? When we try to do things on our own, when our heavenly Father is listening, waiting for us to call upon his name.
Romans 8:11 “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you! And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.“
There is power in the name of Jesus! There is healing in the name of Jesus! There is hope and life and deliverance in the name of Jesus! There is freedom, blessing, shelter, and peace in the name of Jesus!
Don’t forget it, don’t doubt it, don’t deny it, don’t suppress it.
Never be ashamed or embarrassed by His dwelling IN you.
Reject the notion that you have something to prove when you try and do it all by yourself. This is a foolish lie of our enemy, for he knows that where Jesus is at work (in YOU daily) that there Jesus will also be glorified. Our enemy is not interested in Jesus glory. When we do it all by ourselves, even when we succeed aren’t we glorifying ourselves? What’s the point of that?
Let’s glorify the One and only true Hero, the Savior, the Son of God, Christ Jesus, by letting Him live His life out through us. Let us embrace His indwelling Spirit that He might do all that He wills with our lives. Let’s put an end to this daydream of making ourselves the potter and get down to the business of being the clay.
(Is it just me or did that get too preachy?)
What do you think of this? Are you a hero fan too? Is Christ your ultimate Hero, worthy of the glory He earned by saving your life at the cross? Does He save you from something silly or serious everyday?