Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Word from God

I am not a metaphysical person. I don't buy into the whole "God told me to..." movement. I try, in fact, to avoid such speech! I diligently seek to be clear in my speech about the "impressions of the Holy Spirit" and am not a big fan of experiential episodes as the "proof" that something must be normal.

So it will take you by surprise perhaps that I share this anecdote. It has never happened this way before. As I was reading Joshua 6 in preparation for the sermon that I was going to preach, I had a very clear, very articulated statement enter my mind. Again, I never have that happen, I usually work really hard at defining my propositions. And so I wrote it down. Again, I don't proclaim myself as the new prophet, but I definitely feel that this was a key statement so I wrote it down. It is the thought that has been rattling around in my brain ever since.

"Faith is repeated obedience without evidence of impact or effect."

Send me a note about how you have had to apply this concept recently or how this statement starts to rattle around in your head. I hope that it encourages you like it did/does me.

So keep walking around those walls; keep following after God's divine plan; get ready to shout in victory! Roo-ah!

Joshua's Stonehenge

In the course of the summer, even an associate pastor gets to preach. This is a huge blessing and contains no dread for me whatsoever. I have become even more convinced that, quite simply, I love to preach. This love most definitely grows out of an appreciation of good Bible study.

For the past two weeks, I preached through 3 chapters in 3 1/2 sermons. Here are the residual take-homes for me.

"These Stones Cry Out" Joshua 4:1-24
The stones were probably erected in standing stone fashion and may have been assembled in a stonehenge-like circle. These stones were both a sign and a memorial to the greatness of God. Consider building your own rockpile. Note: Lamoka Baptist Camp has begun to follow this technique at the close of camp each year.

"Emergency Surgery at the Wilderness M*A*S*H" Joshua 5:1-12
This sermon was graphic reminder of the build-up of disobedience and the passing on of wrong attitudes to my kids. We also need to circumcise our hearts of the junk before we try to move forward. We must get ready for the next unknown steps by taking care of the known preparation steps. Your kids' spiritual health depends on it!

"Spiritual Victory: Pulling Down the Fortresses" Joshua 6:1-21
Spiritual victory begins with a close encounter with the Lord of Hosts, means following an unconventional divine battle plan, and are won as the result of an obedient, silent march. I must have and demonstrate full acceptance of God's timing and full assurance that God is still on track to victory (bringing Himself glory).

"and the Lord was with _______" Joshua 4:14, 6:27; others
When studying out the phrase, "and the LORD was with" someone, I found that this expression communicated a deep intimate relationship with God. This was more than knowing the theology of presence of God. When God is with you, things go well for you and God can use you for mighty things. 2 Chron 17:3 formed the applicational section of the message drawing out the reasons why the LORD is with me.

The last sermon was a shortened one at one of our series of "Fire n Fellowships" (an outdoor service followed by a hot dog roast and fellowship picnic at a host home). Thus the 1/2 sermon. All in all I was energized myself by the messages that I was able to preached and felt challenged personally first; this makes for the best sermons!

If any of these abstracts catch you attention, I would love to discuss them some more in detail. Until then, keep growing in the Word and sharing your faith 'til Jesus comes to get us.

Monday, July 16, 2007

My Life's Spiritual Honor and Duty

Oswald Chambers gave a pretty good challenge yesterday (He being dead yet speaketh! :) ). I, of course, read it this morning as I was previously engaged in regular WyBC ministry happenings yesterday. Nonetheless, this stuff prints/preaches any day of the week/year.

"[in reference to Romans 1:14] Paul was overwhelmed with the sense of his indebtedness to Jesus Christ, and he spent his life to express it. ... Every tiny bit of my life that has value I owe to the redemption of Jesus Christ. ... Quit praying about yourself and spend your life for the sake of others as the bondservant of Jesus. That is the true meaning of being broken bread and poured-out wine."

Again, Oz has some pretty amazing insights or thoughts about how this whole thing called "the Christian Life" ought to unfold. His strong grasp of the total depravity of man has some really great applicational thoughts; it's not about me, it's all about Him! I must decrease, but He must increase. Selfless service for the love of my Lord -- the Mary principle in action.

Which Mary? you may ask. Whichever one that you want! Which principle? Each Mary exhibited total surrender of their lives and assets to the worship and celebration of Jesus. These women demonstrated their love for Christ by their honor and duty.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, referred to herself as the Lord's handmaiden, willing to give her womb and her reputation to the Father to be used for His plan. She pondered these things in her heart and meditated on this babe, not her morning sickness or the public ridicule or the pain of childbirth.

Mary Magdalene, the one in whom there were seven demons, poured out a valuable perfume and cried on Jesus in worship. She knew that there was no way that she even gets close to being a duaghter of God except for Jesus is about to do for her. She prepares His body for death/burial/resurrection. Her debt is no larger though than mine!

Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, sat at Jesus feet and listened intently to the words of truth that were setting her free. She focused her attention and time on being with Jesus even with the price tag of ridicule by her sister, Martha. Jesus called her brokenness and humility the better thing choice. She intentionally allowed her time to be absorbed in becoming more like Jesus.

He means so much to me, how can I remain silent about Him? O God, Give me courage to infect those around me with contagious Christianity again today. I pray that I will focus my attention on the praise, honor, and glory that You are so worthy of. You paid much too high a price for me! Yet You did it voluntarily, so I simply respond with a breathed out whisper, "thank-you for the cross" and "there is a redeemer"!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines

"Christian discipline can be of three types: enforced or external discipline, such as we use with children and immature people; self-discipline, which primarily consists of adult attitudes and decisions; and Christlike discipline, based on spiritual surrender. ...
All Christian leaders must come to the place at which they take responsibility for personal discipline rather than always needing the encouragement and push of other people."

Coaching Ministry Teams, p.29

Creativity in Leadership

I was suppposed to get my van's oil changed at the local muffler shop. I had a 9:00 appointment and expected to be in and out with no problems. But I grabbed a book just in case I was delayed. Needless to say, when I got to the waiting area and found that there were no seats, I was worried. But the book that I had grabbed was Kenn Gangel's, Coaching Ministry Teams: Leadership and Management in Christian Organizations. I read portions of it while on internship and figured that it was appropriate for me right now as I wait for a ministry trip to Lamoka in August.

Here are some of the nuggets that I found (or maybe re-found):

"Creative people bring about something unusual... Creative people are dreamers, dissatisfied with the way things have been because there's always the hope they can be better. ... Like leadership, creativity is learned; it often comes down to a restructuring and reforming of

Coaching Ministry Teams, p.26

That quote is where I am in my leadership journey. I am so dissatisfied with the status quo that I can barely keep it harnessed. I have a dream, a vision of where the church leadership team could be if we would lift up our eyes and see the harvest fields. If we could catch a glimpse of what it would be like if we got busy about personal spiritual growth, holiness and responsibility, we would all be straining at the reins. And then Gangel did it; he crossed the line.

"Joshua's years of preparation allowed him to enter his leadership role with the important quality of patience, a treasured companion of creativity in leadership." (emphasis by Gangel)
Coaching Ministry Teams, p.26

Oh yeah, patience. It has now officially become my most hated word. It makes my little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I cringe as people use it. I know I should exercise it; but I despise its overuse and the resulting excuse for inactivity. So once agin in the school of pastoral leadership, I am forced to acknowledge my weaknesses. As much as I would like to hitch my wagon to the whirlwind thoroughbreads named Creativity and Zeal, I must keep them attached to the wagon with the riggings of Patience and Timing.

So once again I have to pray,
Help me to wait upon the Lord to renew my strength, to mount up with wings like eagles and then to run and not be weary, to walk after your ways and not faint in them. Help me to balance the zeal and desire to be passionate about everything I do with the discipline of self-control. Keep me from rejecting and discarding those caught in apapthy. Make me a voice for positive, sensible, Biblical change. Keep me growing personally. Allow me to follow You, as I attempt to lead these dear people that you have entrusted to me today. May my consuming zeal be contagious and attractive inside the fire ring of the Spirit's control and filling. Don't let me be a dangerous uncontrolled wildfire.
Keep me burning til the break of day,