Monday, April 30, 2012

What does God want you to do?

"But Amos stood up to Amaziah: 'I never set up to be a preacher, never had plans to be a preacher.  I raised cattle and I pruned trees.'  Then God took me off the farm and said, 'Go preach to my people Israel.'"
Amos 7:14-15 MSG.

When we read the Bible, we really read a lot of what we hear about in church and miss so much more in the more unknown books.  I must say that I have learned a lot from these more obscure books of the Bible.  These "lesser" prophets, as they are sometimes referred, actually did some of the best work for God.  Case in point, Amos.  I had never touched the book of Amos until this past week, and I have pulled some very applicable life verses out his ministry.

Amos was a simple man who was given a very tough minstry:  go out and tell the lands of Israel, and their kings, what God has prepared for them if they don't stop what they are doing and turn back to God. As you can see, he was a farmer, not a preacher.  He was a simple man who lived a simple life and God called him into something so complicated, all he could do was listen to God and do as he was instructed.

What does this tell us about listening and doing?  Amos says so precisely as he is talking to Amaziah, the chief priest at the Bethel temple, that he is not a preacher, but a farmer.  Basically he is saying, "Look, I am a farmer dude. Do you really think I am smart enough to come up with some elaborate plan to get rid of the king?"  All Amos did was nurture a special relationship with God, listen intently for what God had planned for him, executed that plan, and left the results up to God. 

What did I learn from Amos?  Shut up, listen for God, and do what he asks.  The rest is up to God. 

Amos has become one of my Biblical heroes. A simple life, morphed into a complex ministry, which ultimately served God.  Done.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Exit Stage Right

"A leper came to him, begging on his knees, 'If you want to, you can cleanse me.'.......Jesus dismissed him with strict orders: 'Say nothing to anyone........'"  Mark 1:40-44 MSG

Center Stage, the Spotlight, the Limelight, Focal Point, the Headliner, Front and Center.  These are all names for the position where everyone focuses their attention, whether it be during a show, a concert, or some other event.  But what happens when this becomes our focus and drive, versus making sure people hear the message of Jesus Christ?

The focus turns from God and we try to put it on us.  When things start going wrong, our focus turns to how we can honor ourselves and make "ME" look better, instead of ensuring God looks better.  When Jesus was healing the sick and telling them not to let others know about it, he really had 2 purposes:  number one, He wanted to ensure his Father received the glory for these deeds and not him (ehhhem, in other words, not seeking the spotlight), and number two, he was not ready for his ministry to takeoff.  He was calculating the precise time he would have to face off with the pharisees in order to fulfill his ministry here on earth and the will of the Father.

I struggle with this sometimes in the ministries I work with.  I play drums, and really enjoy playing music at church and other functions.  But what is my motivation when playing?  Is it to get my name out there and SHOW others that I am honoring God with my talents, or am I doing it strictly out of service to God? How easily we can gray the lines between the two.  When I speak and teach, am I doing it to teach someone about God and his awesome power, or am I looking for approval from others that I did a good job and really "brought the message?"

Think about your motivations before you enter into ministry or service for God.  Then ensure your focus is God, and not you.  I have to often.  Do you?


Monday, April 23, 2012

A Yearning for Church

"Then they entered Capernaum.  When the Sabbath arrived, Jesus lost no time in getting to the meeting place.  He spent the day there teaching."  Mark 1:21 MSG

Sunday mornings have been difficult lately.  Sometimes the kids are sick, other times we are sick.  It was a long week trying to bring home money as a pilot, even to the point of working all day Saturday and just wanting a day off.......from everything.  Maybe the hardest thing is the fact that we just don't feel like one of those cool puzzle pieces with the pretty flowers on it at our church.  We just feel as though we don't fit in well.  I truly believe it is what we make of it, and not what our church family makes of it. 

I have to look deep inside with this passage today.  Look at the example Jesus set when he gathered his disciples and headed out for his ministry.  When the Sabbath came, "...he lost no time in getting to the meeting place....."  In other words, he was excited to get to where the lost were so that he could teach.  He even spent the whole day there!  What an example he set.  This is the attitude we should have wherever we attend of absolute pleasure and giddyness to attend and spend time with our fellow Christ followers and with our God and Savior.

If we are not joyful and excited about getting to church on Sundays, we need to check our attitude.  Look, I will be the first one to admit that there are times when it feels like an absolute drag to get out of bed and get the kids ready, throw on something presentable, and then drive 45 minutes, one way to get to church.  But I should feel honored to live in a country where I can do this in the open;  honored to be serving and worshiping an awesome God (not just on Sundays I might add); honored to be in fellowship with other struggling Christ followers. HONORED and EXCITED!

In other words, losing no time in "getting to the meeting place."


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Coming Home

" 'Yet even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.' "  Joel 2:12-13 ESV

In life, there are many times we leave friends and family for long periods of time, only to return home with open arms and hugs to those who truly love and care for us.  As humans, we leave the love of our family and friends behind for any number of reasons, both good and bad: business trips, military deployments, college, job offers, and unfortunately sometimes affairs.  But one truth is certain, when we are loved, when we are truly loved, it is so sweet when we return home (literally or emotionally) and are accepted into open arms, no matter how good or bad the circumstances are.

I was reading this passage from Joel the other day and this sentiment rang so true with me:  God, my Savior and Creator, has been calling me back into relationship with Him.  This relationship is like no other I can have on earth.  There is an unconditional love in this relationship that I will never find with any human, no matter how much my wife, parents, kids or friends love me.  There is a bond I have had with God to which He also yearns and calls to me for.  God wants to be in my life and love me, no matter how far I run from Him in the good times and bad, or no matter how much I deny Him as his disciple Peter once did.  I must say that I miss Him too.  I miss the connection I once had with God. 

I must caution anyone reading this that I am not looking for the mountain top experience, the rush of love and acceptance once felt by two people who love each other.  What I am looking for is something far greater than that.  This is what my relationship with Christ looks like:

Its ugly, and not because of my God, but because of me.  Its ugly because I sit here and fight and bloody up this relationship through my constant yearnings that are not those of God.  Its a bond where I struggle to get over my own selfish desires and truly listen for the promptings and teachings of the one who saved me.  Its a knock down drag out fight some days because I feel as though I should zig, and God is gently pushing me to zag. Its a conversation where he firmly, yet lovingly tells me where I am falling short for him, yet I can question Him on why I think he is falling short for me.  Funny thing is, he never falls short for me- I fall short for me when I leave him..........and then I come open arms.

God loves you and he loves me.  When will we come home?


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kneel to Down to Stand Up

"Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet." James 4:10 MSG

Ever wonder this: "Why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?"  The words seem out of place in context with one another.  But in their intended use, everything works out. 

This passage from James is the same.  So that we can stand on our feet as Christ followers, we have to get on our knees and pray.  That means spending time with God, which is exactly what He wants.  Spending time with someone implies getting into relationship with them. You cannot talk to anyone without having some sort of relationship, whether good or bad.  In short, all God wants is our attention (prayer) and to be in relationship with him (be authentic).

It's a lesson I learn all the time and must remind myself of: my God wants my attention and authenticity.  Being human means I won't always get it right, but I must re-align my priorities and remind myself of what's most important. 


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Our Faith Day

".....He's been raised up; he's no longer here......." Mark 16:6 MSG

Today is the day we celebrate the most important day of our Christian faith.  Today we celebrate the restoration of life through Jesus Christ.  Our faith is nothing without what today symbolizes.  It is meaningless.  We are then just Jewish ourselves, or another religion that doesn't mean much to the world.  But we are a part of something awesome!

Through the events of this day, our sin is covered if we just believe. The old convenant is smashed and the new one established; one that requires only our belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of Man, the confession of our sin, and the new creation of a loving heart within us.  God will live in us just as he lived in His Son on this day over 2000 years ago. 

Believe, Seek, Live. 


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lead or Follow

"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls....."  Heb 13:17 ESV

.......But please, please don't just sit there and complain.  Leaders don't complain, they serve.  Followers don't complain but do as they are asked respectfully.  Complainers only live to serve themselves and get THEIR way.  They have no intention of leading with their words and actions and they have no intention of "standing idly by"  while someone else takes THEIR glory away.  Its all about them and not the team or direction of the team.

I am not here to brag about my leadership abilities, but I want to tell you a story about leadership from my time in Air Force.  Its was a hot day in the AZ desert.  The technicians were out slaving away on the A-10s assigned to our unit as myself and another young officer sat in the nice air conditioned office discussing a problem we were having with a certain maintenance action.  The techs were not following the proper procedures and we were having problems with something (I can't quite remember).  I was about to go outside and begin to work through the procedure with some of the techs to see where the deficiency was in either the process, or how they were performing the action.  Out of left field, I am told that I don't need to go through that to understand what it takes to do this procedure.  What?  This just did not compute with me since I had been doing engine changes, gun changes, parts swaps and the like for over a year now to try and understand the intricate life of a maintenance technician in the field.  I was one of their leaders and superior officers, but I was far from superior in my understanding of what needed to be done to make flying happen everyday.  In the end I let my temper get the best of me as this other officer and I went at it in fine verbal fashion for over a half an hour.  His side: we only need to know how it's done to lead them.  My side: get your butt out of the AC, onto the flightline, and get into their life to understand better what it really takes to lead them. 

What I'm saying is this:  Leaders are servants more than their followers, and followers are leaders by their ability to listen, understand, and follow the direction and vision of their leaders.  Too many times in the church, there are people trying to be the chief, and not enough people to be the indians.  Some want to serve with their words, yet not move their feet to action.  Some want to watch from a distance and shout orders while others do the dirty work and get into the nastiness that is our lives today.

It's not enough just talk............actions speak louder than words.........but words can be like nails down a chalkboard when there is nothing but hot air behind them. 

#5:  Lead or follow, but don't complain.