Thursday, April 30, 2015

Building a House of Honor

Over the years I've enjoyed teaching a class on the Family that has focused on the principle of HONOR, which is necessary in order to build healthy, Christ-like relationships.  Honor is the same principle that we build healthy families, church staffs and healthy congregations.  I would like to share a few ideas about the character of honor.

HONOR always places others in a position of priority and seeks to esteem them.   Paul tells believers to, "Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10).  This is not a natural posture to take in life but it was the posture of our Lord Jesus Christ when He sought our benefit on the cross.  This is so much more than just peacefully existing but it is actively and intentionally looking for ways to lift others up.

HONOR always does more than what is expected.  It does not look for the bare minimum that we can get by with in our relationships.  Honor seeks to excel and heap mounds of love on top of others.  The author of Hebrews says, "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Hebrews 13:16).  God is delighted by how we look for ways to show Christ-likeness towards others and it is considered as an act of sacrifice that God is pleased with.

HONOR believes the best of others even when we are tempted to question their motives.  This is Biblical love that we are challenged to have in 1 Corinthians 13.  Honor guards against anger because anger gives a stronghold to Satan to divide and destroy relationships (Ephesians 4:26-27).  Anger also quenches the Holy Spirit because it goes against the very unity that He brings to believers (Ephesians 4:30).

HONOR chooses to "walk in a spirit of forgiveness" because we have been freely forgiven by Jesus Christ.  He is our example to measure our lives against.  Because we choose to honor others they do not need to crawl to us seeking for forgiveness although there are times when forgiveness should be sought.  Honor does not hold back forgiveness or hold others in bondage.  Honor seeks to give forgiveness freely and allows others to move on and to try again.  This is the 70 X 7 principle that Christ spoke to Peter about (Matthew 18:22).

HONOR does things with the right attitude.  It has been said, "What Christians need is not more truth but the ability and strength to practice the truth that they already know."  Many Christians make themselves the exceptions when it comes to having a lousy attitude because they feel justified in the way they are feeling or are acting.  God's idea is that believers, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation" (Philippians 2:14-15).

HONOR, everyone wants it but not all choose to give it.  Let's choose to build a household of honor for HIS GLORY!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trust Without Borders

I would like to share with you a special blog that one of our young people at the church shared.  There is such great insight and wisdom to be gleaned from this well written blog.  I'm so proud of them!!!  Praise God!!!!

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders."

That line is from a song, Oceans, by Hillsong United. It's one of my favorite lines, and at the beginning of 2014 I decided that it would be one of my goals/prayers for this year. (By the way, if you haven't heard it before, stop reading this and go listen to it!! I'll even give you the link to it on youtube:  The song is beautiful, the lyrics are wonderful and convicting and encouraging, and it's one of my favorite songs. Then come back and finish reading this. :) Seriously though, listen to it!) 

I had no idea that praying that would bring me to where I am now. When you ask God to stretch you and bring you outside of your comfort zone, which in essence is what that lyric is saying, He is going to answer that prayer! 
If you were to ask me what one of the biggest things God has been teaching me (and is still teaching me) over the past two years, my answer would be this: Trust.  
Trust is a big one. It's hard, and I don't think it comes very naturally. I know it doesn't come easily to me, at least. 
I honestly didn't really think much about the changes in my life that might happen once I started praying this prayer. I knew that I needed my trust to keep growing, and I still do... There will always be room for growth. I just knew that I wanted to start trusting more, and then I heard that line from Oceans and it really registered with me. 
So I made that line a goal for 2014, as well as a prayer. It's probably a good thing that I didn't know all the changes that would be coming, all the ups and downs, all the scary moments, and all the exciting times, otherwise maybe I wouldn't have been brave enough to start praying that. Because I'll be honest, I'm not a brave person. I fear, I worry, and I stress. I like things neat and orderly, but life definitely is not like that! Thankfully we serve a God who is greater than any circumstance, and Who is always in control. 
Since beginning to pray that prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to take me where my trust wouldn't have borders, He has done just that! I can truthfully say that at the beginning of the New Year I wouldn't have pictured myself where I'm at now. 
Trust Without Borders. I just love that phrase! It really resonates with me. I do trust God, but I think so often I trust Him in a small, minimal way. My trust has limitations, and it has an end. God is slowly and patiently teaching me to let go, and to let HIM lead me into a trust that has no borders. 
It's terrifying. It's exciting. It's confusing. It's rewarding. And I wouldn't want it any other way. 
Praying that prayer, and making it into a goal for myself, has changed my life. It's led me to say yes to a few things that terrified me (but that were definitely good for me!). Looking back, I can see now that it contributed to a huge decision/change in my life that I made (taking me to very new territory and a new season in my life). It's helping me to become less fearful and more courageous as the Spirit leads me to new things. 
I still have a hard time trusting, but I know that my God is trustworthy and He is GOOD. Because of that, I know that I can trust Him to lead me down a path that is for my good, not harm. (Read Psalm 23 if you ever doubt that God is leading you and taking care of you). I know that I still choose not to trust on a daily basis. It's a hard habit to break, it really is. However, I'm striving to keep learning and to keep choosing to walk in trust as I go through each day. 
Trust is a choice, and it is one that must be made day by day, moment by moment. I want to keep growing in my trust in the Lord, so that I say yes to whatever and wherever He leads.
"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders." That is my prayer! 
My question for you is this: Will you pray it as well?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Walking Prepared for Battle

As many of you know I really enjoy skeet shooting.  In fact, I really, really, enjoy skeet shooting.  Walking around on the skeet field with the other shooters brings about a certain joy and comfort to the sport.  I even enjoy breaking down my gun and cleaning it so that it looks and operates great.  I suppose you could say that preparing to go shooting is a good part of the fun.  As with any sport the more you begin to understand the intricacies of it the more you appreciate it.  I used to wonder how one friend could watch NASCAR races when the cars just went round and round the track. When he took me to one race and we got to hear the pit crew in action I began to see just how complicated this sport really was.  Racers want every edge because that is what it takes to be the victor.

In our Christian lives the race is often run with very little understanding of why or how we should be running.  Many Christians run within their own power and are incapable to handle obstacles that come their way.  God wants to equip us for the run of a lifetime through the empowerment of His Word.  Part of running the race or entering the battle field for Christ is understanding our enemy.  That understanding happens by spending time in God's strategy Book--His Word.  The more we know God's desires and His truths, the more we can run to victory and avoid defeat.  There is a battle for our minds, and God tells us that we are to continue to renew our minds, and that occurs by studying His Word (Romans 12:1-2).  Life transformation and victory over Satan is possible when we walk with the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) in hand.  Jesus Christ needed to know God's Word as it was the very tool that allowed Him to defeat Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4).  In moments of weakness, Satan works to help us rationalize God's Word and question the authority of God.  Our greatest offense against the enemy is the Word of God that has proven the test of time.  Satan's desire is to keep us too busy and ignorant of truth--just live a good life.  But, that is not good enough!

I want to be a warrior for Christ, and I desire to intimidate Satan by my walk in Christ.  When we enter Satan's domain in the world around us, may we be equipped for battle.  It is not necessary to run to church and to hide out at home after work in order to avoid the enemy because "greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).  We can be a threat to the evil one by being prepared for battle!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Church: A No Bully Zone!

                  Thom Rainer, has served as a pastor and is currently president and research director for LifeWay Publishing.  He wrote a great article more recently that we can all learn from:  Nine Traits of Church Bullies.

Church bullies are common in many churches. They wreak havoc and create dissension. They typically must have an “enemy” in the church, because they aren’t happy unless they are fighting a battle. They tend to maneuver to get an official leadership position in the church, such as chairman of the elders or deacons or treasurer. But they may have bully power without any official position.  Church bullies have always been around. But they seem to be doing their work more furiously today than in recent history. Perhaps this look at nine traits of church bullies can help us recognize them before they do too much damage.

1.     They do not recognize themselves as bullies. To the contrary, they see themselves as necessary heroes sent to save the church from her own self.
2.     They have personal and self-serving agendas. They have determined what “their” church should look like. Any person or ministry or program that is contrary to their perceived ideal church must be eliminated.
3.     They seek to form power alliances with weak members in the church. They will pester and convince groups, committees, and persons to be their allies in their cause. Weaker church staff members and church members will succumb to their forceful personalities.
4.     They tend to have intense and emotional personalities. These bullies use the intensity of their personalities to get their way.
5.     They are famous for saying “people are saying.” They love to gather tidbits of information and shape it to their own agendas. See my previous post on this one item.
6.     They find their greatest opportunities in low expectation churches. Many of the church members have an entitlement view of church membership. They seek to get their own needs and preferences fulfilled. They, therefore, won’t trouble themselves to confront and deal with church bullies. That leads to the next issue, which is a consequence of this point
7.     They are allowed to bully because church members will not stand up to them. I have spoken with pastors and church staff who have been attacked by church bullies. While the bully brings them great pain, they have even greater hurt because most of the church members stood silent and let it happen.
8.     They create chaos and wreak havoc. A church bully always has his next mission. While he or she may take a brief break from one bullying mission to the next, they are not content unless they are exerting the full force of their manipulative behavior.
9.     They often move to other churches after they have done their damage. Whether they are forced out or simply get bored, they will move to other churches with the same bullying mission. Some bullies have wreaked havoc in three or more churches.

Church bullying is epidemic in many of our congregations. They must be stopped. In my article on Wednesday, I deal with the topic of preventing church bullying. In the meantime, let me hear from you.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

An Intense Moment at Golgotha

Luke 23:32-39 says, “Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’  And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’”

This was a very tense moment in the life of Jesus and Satan knew the time was opportune.  Satan had watched from the corners of the upper room and waited in the shadows of Gethsemane.  He witnessed the betrayals, the trials, the mockings, and the beatings.  He knew the soul of Christ had never been more ripe or more within in his reach.  Satan comes one more time and causes the ones that Christ came to save to question His ability and His authority.  As Jesus hung on the cross in agony He understood His mission and purpose, which was to glorify the Father and to become the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world.  

Christ was beaten and abused as He carried our cross to Golgotha.  As he stretched out His body across the crossbeams others continued shouting cruel words and sneered at Him.  Watching the soldiers drive those long spikes in His hands and feet and dropping the cross into that deep hole in the ground, Christ says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.  Of all the cruel words these soldier’s calloused ears must have heard they have never heard anything like this before (forgiveness for them).  Not only does Jesus ask His Father to forgive them, He offers a kind word in their behalf, explaining their behavior.

      Satan uses many onlookers as his mouthpiece to question Christ’s love and authority.  The religious leaders, feeling victory, shout out, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen one.”  Not a whisper was said that Christ did not hear.  Even the soldiers challenged Christ as they made their rounds, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”  Since Satan could not appeal to Christ through the religious leaders or the Roman soldiers, he tries to work on Christ through the robbers.  They asked, “Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”

Jesus does not save Himself and He doesn’t even save His dignity. Christ offered no defense to His accusers and He made no reply.  The cold reality is that despite how much pain He was in and in spite of how tired and weak He was, He chose to save us and not Himself.  See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)