Archive | December 2013

Keep Him in your goals

There are many things I hope to accomplish in this coming year. I have goals I hope to achieve in my home, at my place of work, at my church and even personal  goals I want to accomplish. I think these things are important. I find when I have a goal it is much easier to keep moving forward.  A goal keeps me focused. It helps remind me of what I need to do and how I need to do it. Without a goal I tend to stagnate.

As important as our short term goals are they must never become more important than or take the place of God’s long term goal for us. In fact we may have to tweak our short term goals on occasion when the Lord reveals to us that it is in the way of something He has planned for us. We must learn to be flexible with our goals, always being sensitive to the Spirit of God’s leading. After all, His ways are better than our ways! He knows the beginning and the end! We form our goals with short term vision. He doesn’t.

With that in mind, there is one long term goal He has for all of us. This goal must never change! This goal can be found in the book of Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 

Any goals we set, any plans we make must include “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  Even our own personal goals must not impede the ultimate goal of running the race God has marked out for us. A race that will ultimately result in hearing the words, “Well done though good and faithful servant!”   Anything we plan that pulls us away from Christ is not a plan that He will bless or flourish but as we submit ourselves to His will for us and plans for our future, we can be assured that He will guide us as we go. He will also nudge us when we get off track.

Why not join me in 2014 and ask God to direct every goal and plan for the future?

Lord we pray that in this coming year You will guide our steps, You will give us vision for the future and You will keep us close to You. We know that anything done without You is done in vain. We ask for Your hand in all we do, no matter how small the plan or goal. If we begin to wander off the track You have planned for us, help us to be sensitive and obedient to the nudging of Your precious Spirit and get back on track.  We ask this in the name of our beautiful Savior and King, Jesus.

Amen

What’s the Plan for 2014? De-Clutter!

Now that Christmas day is over, it is time to form my new New Years resolution. I’m not a big fan of them but do think that it is a good idea to give ourselves goals for the coming year. I’ve decided this year, after a realization of just how much stuff we have accumulated, that I am going to simplify life. There are so many extra things in my life and many of them never get used or touched! This year I want to get rid of a lot of junk. Physically and spiritually. When things begin to pile up in my house, they take up much needed space. Our home isn’t very big and pretty much every nook and cranny is filled with stuff. Much of this stuff is never used. It is just wasting good space with clutter. Jesus’s words ring true in Luke 12:15 NIV15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  More is not better  as we read in Matthew 6:19-21 NIV 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The same can be said for the things I allow in my personal life.  Things that are taking up my time and abilities that are not really being used for God’s purposes. For example watching tv. I don’t watch a lot of tv but I find myself in the winter months gravitating to it more. Instead of spending my free time watching tv, I want to replace some of that time clearing clutter from my home. The less clutter I have to work around, the easier it is to find the things I need.  I also want to spend more time reading some of the great books of faith I have been waiting to read. I want to be more available to help others this year. I want to be available for all my church responsibilities.   In order to do these things without causing chaos in my home life, I need to have things in better order. Though it’s impossible to have everything in order, I have much room for improvement!

Though I enjoy my time online, I do plan on reducing it in 2014.  There are times when I use it as a distraction from doing things I know I need to get done.  With smart phones and laptops we are now available to others pretty much 24/7.  This coming year I plan on turning both off  more often.  I want to spend more time alone with the Lord. It’s through this precious time that I am being equipped to be the person He has called me to be and to do the things He has created me to do.  Paul reminded us that our time is valuable and that we are not to waste it in Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

I have found clutter really does impede my ability to function effectively, in my home and in my spiritual life. At times, it leaves me feeling confused.  So in 2014, I am asking the Lord to guide me through the necessary steps to de-clutter both. I want to be ready for whatever He brings my way, inside and outside my home!

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”~Francis Chan

Don’t make an idol of your peeps!

It wasn’t too long ago since I realized I had been making an idol out of some of the people in my life. This may sound extreme but believe me it isn’t that unusual. I see it done all the time. When we choose to put others before our relationship with Christ we are really making an idol of them. We have been called to follow Christ in love and in obedience. He longs for our heart. He longs for us to seek Him daily and to be sensitive to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit.  Too often we put the needs and desires of others before His and we in turn tune Him out.

When we put Him first we are allowing Him to work in us and through us in the most effective way possible, enabling us to love better, make wiser decisions and to walk out a life that will be much more fulfilling. We must make a daily choice to do this. It will not just happen. When we do, our family and friends will also benefit. We will be the person God has called us to be and be able to bring His love and wisdom into many of their circumstances. When we put them first, we lack both and we operate  in the flesh. We also become dependent on them for our happiness and satisfaction. No person is capable of giving us true happiness or satisfaction but Christ.

We are called to love our family and friends. We are called to serve them and others outside our circle but we are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. (Matthew 22:37 )  When we keep Him first in our lives, He will guide us in how to love others. Not in a self serving, suffocating love but in a love that has their best interests at heart. When we reverse this and put other people first we lose our abiding love for Jesus and others become our focal point. They become our source of joy and will inevitably let us down from time to time. Jesus never will. He will equip us to love others in the healthiest way possible!

If you are allowing anyone or anything to come between you and your intimacy with Christ, I challenge you today to ask  for His forgiveness. Tell Him you want Him to be first in your life and ask for a renewed love for Him and His Word. He delights in answering such prayers. Don’t waste another day. Put Him first this Christmas season and see Him move through you to reach others in the most effective way possible!

Forgiveness opens the door for change!

 I was  sad to hear of the passing of Nelson Mandela yesterday. Over the years I have admired his decision to forgive and live out that forgiveness in his actions. He was a man that stood out because he didn’t respond to prejudism with hatred and bitterness. He had the wisdom to realize that real change in South Africa, would only come with forgiveness and reconciliation. Hatred would just prolong the fighting and nothing good would ever be accomplished.

The Word of God teaches us this same principle. We are to live a life that demonstrates forgiveness. Our own forgiveness is conditional upon us forgiving others as we read in Luke 6:37 NIV 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Nelson Mandela was able to bring about amazing change in South Africa that eventually spread to other parts of the globe because he implemented this principle.  I can’t help but think about the awesome opportunity for change each and every one of us that follow Christ have. In our families, in our churches, in our neighborhoods and in our world, we can all make a difference when we love like Jesus loves, when we refuse to judge and condemn and when we forgive.

Christ does not want us to spend our time fighting battles of bitterness and unforgiveness. He wants us to use our time to love Him and serve others. My prayer is that we will not waste any more time walking in  unforgiveness but will do as Paul says in Colossians 3:12-14 NIV 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

If we start each day with this scripture in mind, we too will make an amazing difference in our world.

Help yes! Enable NO!

It is a wonderful thing to be part of the family of God. We have the opportunity to share our burdens, difficulties, prayer requests and answers to prayer! God links us through His Spirit and creates such a love for one another when we walk with Him.  It is important that as a family we help one another when we can. We need to pray for one another regularly. We need to help each other out tangibly with things when the need arises. One thing we have to be careful to balance however, is that though we should help others when they really need it, we mustn’t enable them to become lazy or idle. Tolerating either is not helping. It is causing others to become dependent on us for things they should be  working towards themselves and leaning on God for. I’m not talking about legitimate needs. If a brother or sister has no family to help them or through some difficult unforeseen circumstance finds themselves in a bind and needing occasional help that is different than relying on others to take care of things they should be doing for themselves. If they  are able bodied and find themselves relying on others on a regular basis, it’s time to change their circumstances. Perhaps cut out things in their life that they can’t afford. They may need to take on a second job. Cut back on expenses that are not necessary.  Go back to school and get an education. Seek out  free financial counselling offered by community service programs.

Apostle Paul was clear on this when he penned 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14 NIV 6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.14 Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.

This was not said to shame people with legitimate needs that needed help! This is to remind each and every one of us that we have an obligation to work in whatever way we can to support ourselves and not be totally dependent on others for our food and shelter. If we are able bodied, we need to be working to support ourselves and to help others who are not able to.  Ultimately, when we look to others for help it is to help us get on our feet so we can support ourselves and be a blessing to others, not so we can stay dependent on other people’s charity.

If you are in a place where you find yourself temporarily  needing help, accept it, but don’t forget to actively seek ways that you can become self sufficient. Give to others in ways you can give and take steps towards supporting yourself and/or your family. Don’t give up and become  idle depending on others to keep you afloat.

In my life, there have been many times my family has had to cut back on things we enjoyed because of financial restraints. We had years without vacations. We didn’t have all the toys many of those around us had.  We drove very old cars. We made sacrifices to be able to get our kids dental work done, clothes for school etc.. Never once did God forsake us or not meet our needs, but He did allow us to forgo greeds for many seasons! I am grateful for all the ways He met our needs over the years! I am grateful for times when others have blessed us with help in one way or another! I am also grateful that He has never made it so easy for us that we didn’t have to work hard for what we now have. Ultimately, God wants each of us to carry our weight, in our families and in our church family. Each bringing what he or she can to be a blessing to others!

Christianity is not a spectator sport!

I’m not sure who the original author of this quote is but I love it nonetheless, “Christianity is not a spectator sport.” These are true words regardless of who first penned them! If our following Christ just involves attending church and not doing anything for Christ then we fail miserably as His followers. Jesus meets us where we are but He doesn’t leave us there. He cleans us up and prepares us for service. It may take a bit of time before we are ready to serve but that day will come, unless we choose to remain a spectator.

Our walk, as followers of Christ, involves abiding in Him and through His love and Holy Spirit, we are lead into ministry. Our ministry will involve our home church and may also  involve our neighborhood, outside our neighborhood or even outside our own country. There are so many wonderful ways God is able to put our giftings to use. If you are sitting on yours it’s time to change!

James 2:14-24 NIV 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

The Word of God has lots to say about being involved in serving Christ. As followers we must follow and that involves continuing the work He has laid out for us to do. Workers are  needed everywhere. It is up to us to seek God and see where we will be the most fruitful but we can’t neglect to begin in our home church. All of us have a roll to play in our home church.

1 Corinthians 12:24-31 NIV But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Outside our church home, there are so many ways we can demonstrate our love for Christ. We can be a source of encouragement to others, meet legitimate needs, and love on them as Christ would do. We are not to gloat on the fact that we have been saved but to recognize the high price Christ paid for each and every one of us and to remember that as we extend His love and good news to others.

Phillipians 2:2-8 NIV Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!

If you find yourself comfortably watching the gospel played out in your church, it’s time to get on your knees and ask God to prepare your heart and mind for service. If you see needs in your neighborhood and walk by or ignore them it’s time you ask God to show you what you can do to make a difference. If your heart breaks for people in distant lands then seek God for a way you can become involved in being part of the solution. If you are disabled and unable to be actively involved in outward service you can be a prayer warrior, tearing down strongholds and opening doors for Christ to move!   We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, and if we are sitting idle and not using either we are not being followers of Christ, we are being spectators.

Lord I pray that each and everyone of us will seek you for wisdom and guidance in how best we may serve You today and in the days ahead! Cause  us to repent for any spiritual laziness that may have  set in. We want to hear Your words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant,” when we see you face to face!

“It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But, it is absolutely vital to grasp that he didn’t call you there so you could settle in and live your life in comfort and superficial peace.” ~Francis Chan