Friday, January 31, 2014

(40 Days of Focus) Day 27: "Nothing More. Nothing Less"

Read: “She did what she could. She came to pour perfume on my body before it is placed in a tomb” (Mark 14:8, GW).
Think About It: “This is what I can do.” A few miles past her prime, she spoke with sincerity, with clarity, and with passion. “There was a time when I was the roadrunner of life, going everywhere and doing everything. I just can’t maintain that pace any more. I’ve been there and I’ve done that, and now I’m ready to do this.” Of all the opportunities in her church to get involved in that might offer more apparent life-changing opportunities, she chose to volunteer in an office. Sorting, filing, answering phones, and enduring the awful taste of the back of the lip of envelopes, her heart’s desire was to belong, to connect, and to make a difference. Absent of the glamor and the bells and whistles, she was convinced that this juncture provided her with an opportunity to show to herself and to others that anyone can be used of God. She knew that she had something to offer. It’s what she could do. She gave it as unto the Lord. She was blessed to be a part of something she believed was changing lives. Others were blessed because of her faithfulness, humility, and willingness to serve.

Going Deeper: “She did what she could.” These were the words that were spoken by Jesus as a simple, yet earth quaking response to those who questioned both the sincerity and validity of this woman’s gift of costly perfume from a jar of alabaster. She had silenced the voices in her head and those around her from quenching the passion she had to honor Christ with what she had. It was costly. It was beautiful. It was misunderstood. It’s what she had. She gave it willingly and she gave it all. That’s all that God ever asks from anyone. Do you what you can, but give it your all. Everyone is created equal in the eyes of God, but not everyone is created the same. There is no one else on the face of this planet you call home who is the same as you. God created you uniquely. You are a one-of-a-kind original. What He has given you to do is on purpose and is for a purpose that is far greater than you. Surrender what you have. Do what you can. Watch what God will do.

Next Step: Don’t look now, but you are breathing. With every breath that God has designed for you to inhale, there is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives others as you exhale. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting time comparing what you have to offer with what you see others already doing. Do what you can do. Don’t hold back what God has equipped you with so that you can contribute to the overall mission of showing God’s love to the world. If you’re in a church, God placed you there. Do what you can do. Whether it is seen or unseen, paid or unpaid, on-stage or back-stage, it is all part of the same plan and purpose to showcase the extravagant love of Jesus to those who need it just the same as you. What has God given you? Do what you can do. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

(40 Days of Focus) Day 26: "An Honor to Serve"

Read: “I became a servant of this Good News through God's kindness freely given to me when his power worked {in me}. I am the least of all God's people. Yet, God showed me his kindness by allowing me to spread the Good News of the immeasurable wealth of Christ to people who are not Jewish” (Ephesians 3:7-8, GW).
Think About It: “When I look in the mirror, I don’t really like what I see.” With tears streaming down his face, this young adult was internally plagued by the shame of his prior mistakes. His inability to see his purpose beyond his past was a blow that had potentially devastating effects on the promise of one so loved and treasured by God. As days turned on, much like the fast-flipping pages of a best-selling novel, the smile of one so forlorn was returned and beamed as though it were used to brighten a darkened world. Undeterred by who he had been and more focused on who he knew he could be, a United States Marine was in the making. In letters he would write home, it was more than obvious that a true sense of purpose had overwhelmed the shadows of past regrets, failures, and mishaps. He knew who he was. He served a purpose greater than himself. Life was too short to focus on something so small. There was aim that was higher than his own ambitions. It was about courage. It was about service. It was about honor. 

Going Deeper: In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul recognized that, in and of himself, he was nothing special. He understood the mistakes he had made and the deplorable actions he had taken against those who had dared to stand for the cause of Christ. Now he was one of them. He was fully transformed by the awe-inspiring knowledge that the love and grace of Jesus had looked past who he had been and saw with absolute clarity who he could be. His response would be nothing less than total devotion to Jesus and matched with a surrendered determination to reach as many as possible with the “Good News” of Jesus. So simple is the giving into the temptation of seeing “serving others” or “serving in church” as an obligatory requirement that ranks up there with manipulation or cruel and unusual punishment! The love of God knows no bounds in reaching in, rescuing a heart that was hand-formed by the God who spoke creation into being, and using it for His greater purpose. You are one of those of hearts. His desire is to use you to show others the guiding light of His love in a world overshadowed with the darkness of yesterday’s mistakes.

Next Step: More than an obligation or a “job to do or to be manipulated into doing,” see the purpose of God using you as an honor to be lived out. Have you thought about what God has brought you through lately? Take an index card or fold a sheet of paper so that it’s small enough to fit in the binding of your Bible or in your wallet. Answer these questions: “What have I seen God do in my life?” “How has my life been impacted or changed by His love?” Next, ask God to open your eyes to see the honor of how what He’s done in you, could be used in the lives of those around you. Let God use you. Remember, it is an honor to serve.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

(40 Days of Focus) Day 25: "Lead the Dream"

Read: "When leaders lead in Israel, When the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the LORD!” (Judges 5:2, NKJV).
Think About It: “I want to make a difference.” This was more than a statement and much more than a pipe-dream. It was a passion birthed out of a desire to see men rise up amidst the challenges and pressures of this world, and be the men of courageous honor God had created them to be. His qualifications were simple. He was a military veteran, a retired businessman, and had a passion for men to know the same redemptive love of Jesus that had completely transformed his own life many years ago. He longed to see a place where men felt as though they belonged, had something to offer, and could lead as God had called them to lead. He started with a passion and dream that evolved into a team who had been captured by that same drive and determination. Each week he could be seen shaking hands, encouraging men to connect, inviting them to Bible studies, breakfasts, conversation over coffee, and speaking a word of challenge or inspiration for the week ahead. The results were also simple, yet deeply profound. Men stepped up, stood with, and set out on the trail that had been blazed. What had began as a dream has grown into a destiny. When leaders lead and people offer themselves, “Praise the Lord!”

Going Deeper: When leaders lead and people willingly give of themselves to serve…PRAISE THE LORD!  The people of Israel were off to battle. There was a purpose that had united them. There was a goal that was to be achieved. There was a functionality to the faith they had in God to see them on to victory. They had to work together. Leaders had to lead. People had to be willing to stand alongside in passion and purpose and pursue that which had become the common goal. They willingly gave of themselves. The victory was never about the accolades of one person’s achievement, but about the best that God had for a people who worshipped Him above all else, and who were committed to living out a life that pointed back to Him. They saw God as the answer to their questions, the solution to their problems, and the destination of their journey. Leaders have to be willing to lead. All have to be willing to link up, stand arm in arm, see the goal in the distance, and trust God for the favor and the victory. As they determine to seek the face of God together, they will see the plan of God and the blessings of God become the reality for those who yield to God.

Next Step: John C. Maxwell, Christian author and expert on leadership, has defined leadership in a simple phrase: “Influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.” The idea of “leadership” is frightening and intimidating for many. Don’t be sucked into the fear. You are an influencer. You are a leader. Seek God for the dream that’s bigger than you. What’s on your heart that you want to see God do that will make an impact and leave an imprint that’s bigger than you? Write it down. Trust God for the determination to look beyond the obstacles that stand in your way. Follow God in HIS direction as He leads you in the dream He wants to give you.