Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's Wrong with You?

How many of you have encountered someone who acts as if you're misguided, brainwashed or just downright gullible for believing in our Lord? One of my seminary textbooks on Evangelism (Evangelism Is...) shares some troubling numbers that jive with what Pastor Bob at Eagle Brook Church recently said: "We as Christians are like the last of the Mohicans."

We're outnumbered with everyone from civil rights leaders to college professors telling the world we're not only wrong, but offensive for having and sharing our faith.

As many of you know, I'm going on a Mission Trip in October and as part of the pre-trip training, we're studying a book called Prepare Your Heart. One of the lessons has us study Philippians 2:1-8 which says:

Philippians 2:1 -8

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like‑minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!

To me, that says we should exemplify the love Christ has for us by extending that same love to everyone we encounter and do so with a humble, serving heart.

Sounds terrible doesn't it?

What a horrible idea. To treat others humbly and with love. What's wrong with us?

While the rest of the world might think we're off track and headed for the wrong side of political correctness, I think we should all try our best to live out Philippians 2:1-8 daily as we all know actions speak louder than words.

When the day is done, talk is cheap and love wins. Trust me on that, I've read the entire book, I know how it all ends.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Amazement of True Service

I had the pleasure of traveling down to the Miracle Lodge yesterday with a load of great people from Eagle Brook Church. Three others from my October Mission Trip to Louisiana were part of the group, which is how I landed the invite. I’d heard about the Lodge briefly before heading down, but had no idea of the amazing spectacle that awaited me. The place is well named, to say the least.

The Lodge, located in Ironwood Springs, is a Christian retreat sitting on 160 acres just south of Rochester, MN. It was built entirely by Christian volunteers from Churches, clubs and other Godly organizations. When I heard about it, I simply pictured Fry Lake, the place we’d hoped to work last summer. However, when we arrived at Miracle Lodge, I saw firsthand what true serving hearts can do when led by the Lord and guided by solid Christian leadership.

The lodge itself is massive and breathtakingly beautiful. To walk into it and realize that the building and everything in it was donated and assembled by Godly people, really brings with it a sense of peace and wonder you don’t get when you’re out in the secular world.

The owner, Bob Bardwell invited us into the dining hall in an adjacent building for a nourishing breakfast (which I passed on due to a stop under the Golden Arches on the way down) and gave a quick greeting before thanking us for coming to help.

The Eagle Brook team headed out to an old barn over by the stables, where Bob split us up into smaller groups. I was blessed enough to work with some wonderful men doing carpentry on an extension of the barn. We framed in one wall, sheathed in two, sided one and installed two windows.

Halfway through the day, Bob invited us back into the lodge for a nice lunch, prayer and fellowship before we headed back to work.

There’s definitely something powerful about working with your hands for God. It really brings a sense of accomplishment that far exceeds anything you gain from achieving worldly goals.

When the day was over, I was exhausted, my right arm hurt from swinging a hammer all day for the first time in 20 years and sweat and sawdust covered me from head to toe. While my body wanted nothing more than to shower, eat and sleep, my soul was singing.

If you haven’t done any service work lately, I’d like to encourage you to do so immediately. You might perform one small task that adds to a grand picture, like Mairacle Lodge, or Feed My Starving Children or Bridging or any number of other endeavors that have a Godly impact on a broken world.

Selfish motives never lead to self fulfillment.

Selfless accomplishments always lead to self enrichment.

Enrich your soul today.

Mark 10:45 - For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Useless Faith

Ever notice how much further this world goes towards the “if I can’t see it, hear it or touch it, it doesn’t exist” mindset each and every day. From current scientific theories to modern cultural mindsets, faith is under attack on every level every moment of every day. If you don’t believe me, try telling a co-worker or acquaintance who doesn’t go to church that Jesus walked out of his tomb, the mortal wound that ended his life still gaping in his side, and lived once more. Odds are, they’ll either laugh at you, or simply avoid you for being some “religious nutjob”. And, the evil one laughs…

1 Corinthians 15
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

The very idea that anyone we’ve lived with, who has since died could rise up from the grave and walk among us is pretty crazy by today’s standards. Imagine a family member you lost, alive once more. A friend who left this world long ago, restored to the flesh. Maybe even a spouse or child, walking among us as if death held no sway in their lives. Sounds pretty impossible, doesn’t it?

13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

Useless faith? Well, for me at least, that’s unacceptable. The world tells us resurrection is impossible and we’re mentally defective for even believing it happened once. Surely, no intelligent, modern person, cable of advanced cognitive thought and filled with modern sensibilities could possibly believe a dead person can come back to life.

16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

Futile faith? Still lost in our sin? Personally, I’ll take the derision of worldy thinkers any day over the alternative, which is a useless, futile faith that leaves us immersed in the condemnation of our own sin.

18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

This last verse is the real kicker. Think about it for a minute. What if the hope we have in Christ is only for this life, this world, this sad, broken world. How depressing! And, what if all those we’ve known and loved, who are now “asleep in Christ” waiting for the awakening in rapture are lost forever. What a truly morose notion.

Thankfully, Jesus saves us from that. He fought the battle on our behalf and won. He came, lived, died and rose again, so that our faith was not rendered useless, but perfect in His plan. How awesome is that!

Father God,
While this world may find your ways unfathomable, we know you have a plan for everything, a perfect plan at that.

Thank you for saving us from ourselves, our sin, our destructive nature.

Please remind us daily of how short we fall on our own and how far we can go if we rely on you.

Whisper to us, instruct us in Your will, so that we may become the light in this world you designed us to be.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Serpent's Tooth

As many of you know, I receive daily devotionals from Pastor Bayless Conley. While they're almost always relevant, some days they seem like something all the world should hear. yesterday's was one of those.

Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth

In yesterday's devotional we began looking at different conditions of the heart—conditions that are necessary in order to experience the richer blessings of God. Today we will continue looking at those conditions.

· A grateful heart. Deuteronomy 28:45-47 (Amplified) says,

All these curses shall come upon you and shall pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. They shall be upon you for a sign [of warning to other nations] and for a wonder, and upon your descendants forever. Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness of [mind and] heart [in gratitude] for the abundance of all [with which He had blessed you].

William Shakespeare said, "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child." Do you express gratitude to God for all the things He has blessed you with, or do you take His blessings for granted?

Many years ago, when I was serving in a small church, one of my duties was to take groceries to families in need. I was shocked at the ingratitude of some that received the gift of food delivered to their homes. While some were truly grateful, others acted as if it was somehow owed to them—even complaining because their favorite foods were not included!

Hopefully you have taken time recently to thank God for the blessings He has bestowed on your life. If not, take time today to express your gratitude to Him who is the source of every good thing you enjoy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Small Group Digizine

The fine folks at Smallgroups.com are offering a free digital magazine for anyone interested. It's packed full of great information for small group leaders and participants.

Click here to check it out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Prayer share

Imagine how awesome it would be to have a thread filled with prayers for everyone to read? I'll toss one out and you can feel free to add your own, or simply pray silently in your heart.

Father God,
It's amazing that you created nebulas and flowers, supernovae and kittens, volcanoes and love. Things I've never even dreamed of, you created. As a creative soul, I'm eternally in awe of your creative prowess.

I'm having trouble staying focused today, Father. Please forgive me and help me to hone in on what I need to do, despite exhaustion, a headache and a thousand distractions.

Please bless my wife and son, our church family, our friends and relatives today in ways that suit Your will for their lives, Father.

In addition, please guide us to mature into the people you designed us to be so that Your will can reach fruition in our lives.

In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pray for prayer

I spoke with a good friend today about the need for prayer in our world. He and I both agreed that all too often we're too busy to pray, which is ridiculous (especially for someone who owns and loves Bill Hybels' book Too Busy Not to Pray). So, we've made a pact to email each other a prayer daily in order to remind one another to pray several times a day.

Odds are, you aren't praying enough either. And, I'd like you to join us.

During the conversation, I tossed this out:

"Funny how we can talk to God, tap into our divine birthright (His power) and use it to do great things, yet so many of us allow the evil one to shame us into believing we don't have time, don't have the ability or that God simply doesn't care what we have to say... :("

So, if you're reading and not praying enough, or you're reading and want to encourage us (and other readers) to pray and pray often, please post your thoughts and prayers here.

Prayer is our birthright and we should never, ever let the world or the evil one steal it away from us.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Never Run on Empty

It's easy to see how cars can't run on an empty tank. It's a little harder, but just as true to note how we are physically and mentally less effective on an empty stomach. Where the real danger lies, however is running on an empty spiritual tank.

If you are to pour into others, just as we're called to do, then you need to make sure you keep your tank as full as possible at all times. I learned that the hard way about a year and a half ago and I've been reminded of it recently.

So, how do you keep the tank full? And, what do you fill it with? Just like everything else, the answer is Jesus. But, we need more details than that, more specifics.

Here's a few things I've found to be indispensable.

1) Read the word daily. Even if it's only one verse in Proverbs. I went so far as to go purchase a study bible that I try to read bits of every morning to compliment my One Year Bible reading each day.

2) Subscribe to a daily devotional email service, or find a daily devotional book that speaks to you and read it every day.

3) Spend time alone in prayer with just you and Him.

4) Surround yourself with edifying Christ followers. While the first three are absolutely tremendous helps and totally necessary to keep your tank topped off, this one has a few caveats to it. Make sure these people are honoring God with their lives, walking with Him and able and willing to pour into your life. Just as some people in your life can motivate you and overflow your tank, we all have others who drain it, siphoning our spirit away. Your tank is precious, don't let anyone siphon it.

In the realm of edification, I want to congratulate my beautiful wife for taking her spiritual life by the leash and guiding it towards God, intentionally, more so than she ever has before. If you know her, you might wonder where she needed any improvement since she is purely spectacular in most areas. But, (and don't tell her I said this) we all need to improve at times, even her. So, I'm really overjoyed and proud to see what she's done. You can find out for yourself by going here:

Angie's blog.

Drop in. Say hi. Edify!

And keep your tank full.