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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Nexus, 11: Slow Down.

"Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.  So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves" (Romans 14:20‭-‬22, NIV).

You know that feeling, right? The one where you know that you are right, the other person is slightly off, or maybe they are completely off. If they would just listen to one more point of reason they would get where you are coming from. Have you ever thought that, only to find that the one more point only led to more "one more points" that became the gateway into an argument that became defensive and divisive? Working too hard to prove a point can become a nexus breaker of gigantic proportion. 

Such was Paul's point in regards to those who had a conviction not to eat food that had been considered unclean, yet others felt free to do so through what Christ had accomplished and had God had spoken to Peter. Jesus had fulfilled the Law, but some were not yet there in their faith or understanding. Others chose to continue to oberseve certain aspects of the Law out of their own conviction. The temptation to turn personal conviction into a fight to prove a point is opposite of who Jesus is and what He came to do. 

Where the Bible is as clear as crystal, let there be no doubt. WHere the Bible is as clear as crystal through YOUR INTERPRETATION and PERSONAL CONVICTION, slow down. Study and understand what the Bible is saying. Listen to those you are in connection with and try to understand what they are saying. You'll never earn the right to be heard if you never take the time to listen. Making your point at the cost of destroying relationship isn not why He came. If you want to prove a point, be sure not to cancel it out with a wrong attitude, with harsh words, or a motivation that is more about you than it is about Jesus or others. The devil is out to destroy nexus, and he specializes in using those who are inside the connection to do it. Resist the temptation to prove your own point and you deny him the pleasure of his sinister plot. Take time to listen to others and you will find time to be heard.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Nexus, 10: Unity Takes Effort.

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Romans 14:19, NIV).

Doing "what leads to peace" has nothing to do with comfort or convenience, yet everything having to do with calling and conviction. You cannot truly hear or pursue with integrity your calling to do anything if you are neglecting and rejecting the call to "make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification." Mutual edification is a phrase that should remind you that as much as you need or desire to be encouraged and valued in what it is you do, and more importantly, who it is that you are, so do those around you. 

Think about it. God has placed you right where you are so that you can be a catalyst of change in bringing His voice of purpose and value to the ears and lives of those around you. Choosing to be more of a megaphone for the faults and elements of another that you don't like can have a deep and destructive impact in the nexus God has designed. Ask God to show you who people really are, beyond the impressions and feelings you have in regards to them. Personality differences will always exist. The likeability factor is real, but at the same time irrelevant when it comes to speaking value and purpose in the lives of others. 

If you want people to see the value in you, then ask God to open your  eyes so that you may see it in them. Satan came to destroy the purpose in others by attacking their sense of personal value. Think before you speak. Refuse to let him use you in fulfilling that goal. There is a time to address the conflicts and choices that contradict God's truth, but there is a way to do it that doesn't point the finger back at you. Deal with people, not just problems. Seek to protect the connection, so that hell doesn't have a reason to get excited when division takes another strike at unity. Let God's love for you be the motivation for loving others. Unity takes effort, but the reward for it far surpasses the results when no effort is taken.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Nexus, 9: Keep "Little Things" Little.

"Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval" (Romans 14:16‭-‬18, NIV).

Have you ever heard stories of churches that have split over the choice of carpet colors, whether or not to switch from pews to chairs (and then what color), or what kind of music to play or songs to sing? Sounds silly, huh. What about marriage. How many divorces have listed "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for final seperation? Or, friendships and connections that have ended because of this text, that facebook posts, didn't get invited to that event, or any number of instances that often times get blown too far from reason or rationale?

Focusing on what seperates us will keep us from seeing JESUS. If you identify as a believer in Jesus, keep your focus on Him. That doesn't mean you don't have feelings or that you're not hurt when your opinions seem disregarded. But keep in mind that it is Satan who came to bring division and destruction to what God created. He created Adam and Eve, not just for reproduction, but for reflection. What they had together was a reflection of the unity God had with Adam and what was experienced in the Trinitarian relationship of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). 

It was Jesus who came to HEAL US & to UNITE US. Let Him start it in you. Major on what is non-negotiable, but keep that list to a minimum. Be careful not to allow emotions to morph something that should be minor into something major. Your feelings should be disqualified from making that decision. Use more than just your heart. Use God's heart. Let Him guide you through the feelings and restore the connections that He has purposed for you.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Nexus, 8: Let Love Lead.

"If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died" (Romans 14:15, NIV).

When you believe that God has brought you to a certain place or "level" in your relationship with Him, you want others to come and know Him in that same way. Here's a word of advice. STOP. Let God continue to work in you. Unless you know that you know that you know, don't try to start working the same thing in someone else that God is working in you. Let HIM do it if that's what He wants to do. You are NOT called to change others. You are called to LOVE others. The Holy Spirit will work that change in the lives of others through the love that you show and live.

The change God works in those around you may NOT look just like what He's working in you. Don't judge. Don't intimidate. Don't manipulate. Love. Trying to get someone to change and become more like you, especially when it is the "gray areas" of personal conviction and not absolute truth, does more to lead them to push back than to press on.  Love them where they are and let God meet them there. Most of us are never pushed closer to God. We are drawn closer. Showing love will keep the conversation going and the relationship between you and the other growing. Let love lead you in your nexus with others, rather than your disappointment in where you expect them to be in their relationship with God.

Love leads you to care more about where someone IS than where YOU want them to be. Love them there & let God work. As God is not finished working in you, He's not finished working through you or in the lives of those around you. When it's black and white, love them enough to point it out, show them love, and help them to work it through. If it's not black and white in the Scripture, even though it feels black and white, full color, high definition, and three dimensional to you, slow down, back off, show love, and let God work. Or, acknowledge that where God has them may be different than where God has you. Don't allow judgment or jealousy to have a foothold. Keep loving and growing stronger in your connection with God and with one another.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Nexus, 7: What Arguing Does.

"I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean" (Romans 14:14, NIV).

Plain and simple, not everyone is going to agree with how you see the Bible. Yes, there are many things that are clear cut and black an white. There are other areas where the Bible is a bit vague, and requires you to be dependent on the Holy Spirit to know what God is saying to you about a particular situation. If God has given you a peace and a freedom about something and it does not contradict His word, then hold on to it. If God has given you a "hold on, wait a minute" in an area, hold on to it. But in never use what God has shown you as an equivalent with His unchanging truth for other people.

Many relationships and connections are stressed and damaged because of arguing about what the Bible says, what it means, and how it should be applied. Don't ARGUE what the Bible says. KNOW it. LIVE it. Let others SEE it. TEACH it. Then let Holy Spirit CONFIRM it. Arguing about the truth of God will keep you focused on what what divides and destroys and not on living it out with honor and integrity. Jesus spoke it, lived it, and let others see it in Him. The best argument for the Word of God is letting others see the irrefutable evidence of change in YOUR LIFE.

Arguing is generally began as a discussion with a pure intention. You want to share with another of a differing view what you believe in why. Of course, you feel that if they would just listen to all of your well thought out points of reason, they would abandon what they had previously held onto and adapt to your logical manner of thinking. And when that doesn't happen, emotions begin to ramp up little by little until the argument is no longer about WHAT is right, but WHO is right. When you are no longer able to reason with someone, let it go, at least for the time. Arguing will not lead you closer to truth, only closer to a more divided atmosphere. It's not about truth, but about who's in control. Let God be in control and let Him heal you when you feel like you're losing control. Hold on to what is true, but be careful not to hold others to see or value all that you hold to the same regard. Aside from absolute truth, God may be dealing with them in different areas and in different ways. Let the arguement cool and let the nexus heal.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Nexus, 6: Confronting Hurt with Honesty.

"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister" (Romans 14:13, NIV).

You were created for nexus, for connection. You need it. You long for it. It may look different than the way someone else looks for it, but everyone searches to belong in one form or another. Some find that connection with a tv screen or a movie, some in an office, on the golf-course, in the community, or at a bar. Others find it in a community of faith. One of the biggest roadblocks to nexus is when one person begins to misinterpret the actions or inactions of another. When one feels they are trying to connect and assumes another is not. Rather than engaging with honesty, they turn inward and judge.

Hurt is a powerful obstacle to overcome. Hurt doesn't need to be real or intended, but only perceived. Hurt will lead you to think in a direction that reality never traveled, but will allow you to "feel" it as real as though it did. You begin to make decisions based on that perception. You share the pain of your perception with others. You begin to withdrawl and remove yourself from being further subjected to such treatment. The break in nexus, or connection, that could have been confronted in healthy and open communication, has now become the stumbling block for you and for those from whom you seperated.

Relationships, friendships, and connections must be discipled. They go through a process. Don't stumble on your emotions nor allow your reactions to your emotions to become a stumbling block for others. Choose to be a part of the solution to every relational problem you encounter. Choosing to react to your emotions without calmly considering all sides is more destructive than it is in getting your point across. Be willing to discple others, to work with others, in helping them see who you are, how you feel, and how to continue in a way that honors each other, honors God, and honors the purpose in which HE crossed your paths. Be a discipler, not a destroyer. Stop misjudging and start joining together. Judgment blocks. Joining together breaks through.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Nexus, 5: When Self-Focus is OK.

"You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ”   So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God"  (Romans, 14:10‭-‬12 NIV).

Before you get too far into this, let's be clear. When the Bible says "Judge not...," it doesn't mean what it is many times misinterpreted to mean. "Your're judging me" is generally a statement used by someone who knows they're wrong and just doesn't like that it is being pointed out. The Bible does call us to observe, evaluate, and to assess a situation so that we can respond in a manner that honors God.

With that being said, "Stop judging people!" Huh?? I can only imagine the confusion at this point. No worries. Let's simplify. One big reason people sometimes do feel judged or overly analyzed, is because the amount of attention that you might be placing on them seems misplaced to them. "If you spent half as much time on dealing with you as you spend focused on me, we might get out of this conflict a lot sooner." When your fingers are more concentrated on pointing out the faults in another person, are you really able to see what God is trying to reveal in you? Or, is focusing on the faults of another a way of coping and avoiding dealing with the responsibility of your own?

Spend more time allowing Holy Spirit to reveal your faults to work through rather than pointing out the faults of others. Yes, this does mean releasing the conflict to God and not being in control of how it goes. As long as you hold onto it, God will not resolve it. Resolution cannot be accomplished without surrender. Focus on letting God work IN YOU. Let the Holy Spirit speak to others by how they see HIS change through you. You will become more of who He has designed you to be and you will be more of what others need you to be. True nexus is strong when we focus on Jesus as the answer than trying to insert ourselves as the answer. Let Him focus His truth and grace in you.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Nexus, 4: Let God Be the "Why."

"Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living" (Romans 14:6‭-‬9, NIV).

I have a tattoo. For most who don't know me, you could probably care less. Others might be turned off as to why or how I could possibly violate God's Holy Word in Leviticus, "You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD" (19:28). Understanding this verse in its proper context that it was in regards to idol worship and the like, will never satsify some. I have sinned. It is easy to look at people's bodies and rush to judgment as to why people do what they do, but the question could be asked easily of the one rushing to judgement. "Why are you quick to assume?" 

In everything you do, the Bible calls you to do it for the Lord. Let God be the "why." Yes, my tattoo represents that very passion. I decided once upon a time to have my wedding ring tattooed to my finger. Most people will never see the ink. I wear my ring on top of it. I got the tattoo to remind myself of the permancence of the covenant I have made with my wife and God. I didn't get it to bring attention. I did it to direct attention from me to God. Why say it here and now? It is a reminder to me and to all that in everything we do, do it for the right reason. God has not called you to live life going through the motions. One who gets a tattoo for the wrong reasons of directing attention to themselves is no different from the one who takes Holy Communion with no regard for who or why it celebrates, but mindlessly goes through the motions. 

Do what you do as unto the LORD, not as unto religious obligation or public self-righteousness. Grow closer to Jesus. THAT is the call God has placed within you. Don't allow yourself to get caught up in the distractions that take you off track from pursuing Jesus. Before assuming why someone does what they do, ask yourself this question. 'Why do you care so much?" Let your REACTIONS be worshipful to God as you observe and question worship-nature of someone else's actions. If you can answer that is the "why" for all that you do, don't be quick to assume differently for others who also identify with Jesus. If it is a matter of real sin, bring it up. If it is a matter of difference of opinion, go ahead and put it down. Focus on what brings you closer to Jesus. Let Him be the "why" for what YOU do. Leave the rest to Him.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Nexus, 3: Don't Get Stuck in the Gray.

"One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind" (Romans 14:5, NIV).

What matters to you matters to you. And it SHOULD matter to you. Understand WHY it matters to you. As you grow in your relationship with God, there will be things that He will show you that will be paramount in your spiritual growth. Learn what God is showing you, but know the difference between His direction for you and His truth. Direction is specific and may not apply to everyone. Truth is absolute and does not change.

In Romans 14, Paul addresses those who have begun arguing about invidual convictions they were passing off as absolute truths. What was important to them caused them to become offended when others didn't share their level of importance. When people don't see important what you hold as valuable and sacred, it is easy to feel invalidated. It is possible for people to understand for you, but not agree for themselves. There are those who feel it is a sin to go out to eat on a Sunday, while others see it as a time to share and build relationships in the name of Jesus. One might judge the other, but should be cautioned to keep their eyes on Jesus and what He has spoken to them.

Some things aren't a matter of morality and absolute truth, but of personal direction and conviction. Hold fast to what is important to you withoutt passing judgement on others for holding on to theirs. Continue to seek truth from the Word of God. When it's black it's black and where it's white it's white. Don't get stuck in the gray areas, and don't attempt to darken or lighten the gray areas in your own interpretation. After all, when judgement or cycnism creeps in and begins to take over your attitude, you have slipped from gray into the black and white. Focus on where Scripture is clear and trust God to guide you where it seems a bit gray.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Nexus, 2: Judge NOT.

"Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand" (Romans 14:4, NIV).

"Go in to all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." These words of Jesus have been dubbed "The Great Commission." They've been spoken, quoted, preached, and by many, misunderstood as to what this means, how it should be applied and how misapplied, it does more damage than good. Jesus said to make disciples. He never said to reproduce your interpretation or point of view. A disciple is one who learns, but they must be able to learn truth from their perspective. This doesn't change truth, but it might change the pace they learn it or the angle from which they appoach it. Trying too hard to get someone to agree with your point of view puts the focus on you more than the focus being placed on God. Know when to release.

Be paitent when people do not see things the same way you do. It is ok. It doesn't mean they are on the fast track to hell. It doesn't mean you have to use every ounce of spiritual muscle or mouth muscle you have to push, poke, prod, or press them into your way of thinking. You are not the judge. You will be judged on your part, so do your part, but only do your part. Present truth in the love of which truth origniates. Be bold and confident, but also be gentle, kind, and patient. Humility will be the key to you being hearable and believable. Arrogance and force will get you switched off quick and in a hurry. After you've presented truth, leave it alone and let the Holy Spirit of God do HIS work. If they choose to hear or not, is between them and God. In the meantime, it allows the Holy Spirit to work in you. Isn't it possible that you didn't have it all exactly right either?

When in relationship with others, when you have a different view, opinion, or reason, share it, but let it go. Why be argumentative? Trying to be the judge in the lives of those around you will eliminate you from having any real influence as a friend. They already have a judge. Don't worry about proving yourself right in their eyes. Focus on being right in the eyes of God. Don't forget. HE's your judge.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Nexus, 1: Love Doesn't Condescend

"Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person's faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them" (Romans 14:1-3, NIV).

Satan's greatest goal is not the individual acts of evil that you see, read about, or hear about. Every evil act is a result of something even more diabolical that began even before the beginning of time. His greatest goal is division. He came to seperate. He seperated from, became disconnected from, broke the "nexus" he had with God. He then set his sights on the first two physical creations that God placed His very breath within, to bring seperation between them and God and each other.

Look around. Seperation and division can be seen in the everyday as close to home as those around you. It's not wrong to disagree. God created you with a mind that dreams, thinks, comprehends in ways that are different than those around you. The purpose was never for division, but for diversity and creativity, so that you would know how incomplete you are alone, but complimented by those that think in ways that you don't. Sometimes, the disagreements will be such that you might never see it the same way as another. That is OK. You CAN agree to disagree without being condescending. Proving someone WRONG in an UNLOVING way isn't showing them Jesus. It only serves the further the goal the devil lives to achieve.

Agreeing to disagree isn't to compromise truth. It is to LIVE TRUTH and let the Holy Spirit of God work that truth through you. Becoming condescending only serves to contradict the love of Jesus and the truth of God you say you believe. Rely on the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to prove His love more than your point.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Intimidator is Not Your Focus.

"Say to them, 'This is what the Lord says: When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return? Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit, they refuse to return. I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, "What have I done?" Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle'" (Jeremiah 8:4-6, NIV).

Leadership isn’t meant to be intimidating nor is it effective when easily intimidated. Leadership is only as effective as is the leader who knows who they are, where their authority is founded, and is willing to back up their decision and follow through with their directives. Having worked with many parents over the years as a pastor, youth pastor, and kids pastor, and of course as a parent, myself, I have seen much when it comes to those who parent their kids either by intimidating them, or being intimidated by them. Intimidation is nothing of what or why Jesus came from Heaven to earth. It is an abuse of power and a perversion of authority that demands its own way and seeks to tear down more than it builds up. It is “leadership” that looks for power to fulfill an insecurity by forcing others into following by lording over others with titles, position, and rank. 

On the other side, as ineffectiveness is always found in the extremes, is the intimidated leader who makes decisions based on a desire to please and appease. They have seen a conflict blow up out of proportion or have encountered their own authority being threatened, challenged, or delegitimized. They begin to question their decisions, second-guess their directives, and lose sight of the vision to which they have a passion to lead. They want to avoid being the intimidating leader to such an extent that their own pendulum swings from one far side to the other. They lose their edge on dreaming the big dreams for where God has called them to lead, as they have allowed them to be replaced by the one who intimidates. What the intimidated leader (the parent, the volunteer, the pastor, the boss, the director, etc) must understand, is that to be who God wants them to be, they must be willing to do and say as He directs, not as the potential responses of the intimidator may dictate. 

Jeremiah was a leader who spoke what needed to be said even though he knew it would not be well-like or well-received. He was a prophet of God during a time when the people of the nation he loved were blind to the truth of God and were more focused on fulfilling the passions and lusts of their own desires. They sought to intimidate with the vitality of their own passionate stubbornness. Jeremiah, however, was a leader who was secure in who he was, because he knew of whom he served and would answer to. Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet.” He was unafraid or unashamed to show his emotions. He loved his nation. He tried to get the message of repentance across, though he was rebuffed and rejected at every turn. Even when they dropped him in the cistern or had him locked up and held captive, he continued to lead in the strength and courage of God. It has been said that a leader who leads with no one following is not really leading, as they are only taking a walk. The challenge to this logic is simple. Legacy. Jeremiah may not have seen those follow him or his lead in that time, but many have been the benefactor in the generations following. He was a leader who was determined to be God’s mouthpiece at a time when making friends would have been more attractive.

You are a leader. God has breathed divine influence into your life. Don’t allow intimidation from others cause you to stand down or to forfeit that influence. Yes, listen to the thoughts, opinions, and ideas of others. Consider them, but never accept that listening to the input of others requires you to always defer the ideas that are inside of YOU. Be willing to lead. Be willing to confront what needs to be confronted. Trust God to give you the wisdom to identify those things that are wrong, not right, or need to be tweaked. Don’t allow the enemy to work anxious thoughts in your mind of what might happen if you challenge something. Pray it through. Seek the wisdom of God. Act on that wisdom in the right heart. If you heart’s desire is to follow God, He will lead you. Trust God to give you the strength to carry out that wisdom. It might mean making a decision you know will be unpopular. Follow through. Don’t assume that the motivation of the one you see as an intimidator is to intimidate. The devil is a master manipulator and works wildly in the thoughts and imaginations of those who aren’t watching. 

All in all, be the leader, the influencer, that God has designed you to be. Be it with humility and grace, but be it with boldness and confidence. The Bible is full of many leaders who led despite the intimidators that lined their paths. They kept their focus on God. When your eyes are on your liberator, you will not succumb to the power of your intimidator. Seek the face of God. Let Him pour his wisdom and counsel in you. Stay humble before those you lead. Let them know you value them. Lead with integrity. Lead with grace. Lead.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Upheld.

"Here is my servant, who I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations" (Isaiah, 42:1, NIV).

Imagine the scene. It is a Friday evening at a local mid-scale restaurant. You are out with friends and associates celebrating a recent achievement. It may not be the fanciest establishment, but the entrees and appetizers on the menu certainly appear to add up and guarantee the server a decent tip for the night. The place is somewhat packed with a steady stream of patrons coming in and filling the waiting area. The food and drinks are ordered and you and your party are enjoying the appetizers and friendly conversation when it happens. The meals are brought to the table by the server who has been great so far. She’s been friendly, attentive, and has seasoned the time with the right amount of conversation. As she places the plates in front of each one, she has no clue what is about to happen. It’s the one guy in the party who cuts into the steak and doesn’t find it to his liking. 

Rather than mentioning it to the server so that she can return it to the kitchen, he becomes frustrated with the server and makes a point in front of the rest of the party. “This is NOT how I wanted this prepared. I’m not eating this and I’m not paying for this. Please go and get done right.” And with that, he dismisses her as though her personal value has been tainted by what has been perceived as her own personal failure. She takes the steak and returns to the kitchen. Though she had nothing to do with how the meal was prepared, she took the criticism on the chin and continued to serve with humility, grace, and determination. 

Everyone wants to be identified as a servant until they feel they are being treated as one, or at least, mistreated as one. Even in the Bible times, servants were often seen as in a class lower than others. The very word “servant” is the word translated from bondservant or slave. In many cases it was more of an arrangement than a forced situation, it was still one in submission to the other. Servanthood does in fact call one into a life of submission. The work is not about the server, but about those being served. Their purpose is to ensure order in the midst of chaos and carry out the will of the one in charge.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God speaks of Jesus, but in a manner that can be applied to everyone that would identify with Jesus. “Here is my servant, who I uphold…” As in the case of the server in the restaurant, it doesn’t take much for someone to use your servanthood against you, to entice you to feel less than who you really are, or to lift themselves up at the expense of stepping on and over you. God says of His servant, “…I uphold…” The word used is one that means to grasp, to clasp the grip of His hand around that which is the object of His hold. It means to hold up, to retain, to sustain, and to see it remain. This is God’s eye and heart on those who choose to serve. When you feel as though you are taken advantage of, stepped on, not valued, and overlooked, keep your eyes on the God who loves you and has called you according to HIS purpose for you. He will uphold you. He will sustain you. Your value is not in those you serve, but in the ONE who called you to serve. Let everything you do be done in service to HIM who has called you.

When you know who upholds you, you can respond from the grace that He gives rather than from the wounds that have been inflicted. When Jesus came from Heaven to earth, He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. He didn’t always receive the honor that He was due. He was overlooked, underestimated, attacked, betrayed, mocked, spit upon, lied upon, shamefully paraded with the intention to humiliate, and was ultimately executed. Yet all in all, He responded, not out of His pain, but out of His purpose. He loved. Even on the cross, He spoke life and restoration to the thief beside Him, grace to the disciple who left Him, and forgiveness to all who had forsaken Him. In His darkest moments, Jesus still served. So, don’t let the emotions and humiliation drag you down a road of quick responses. Those who mistreat you and cannot change what they did not create. Your value is divinely authored. Respond out of who you are, not out of how you feel. Even in your darkest moments, know that you are called to serve, you are divinely valued, and you are upheld.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Nothing Wasted, 13: Control Problems

“Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15, NIV).

In a world of digital planners, apps that schedule everything, strategy sessions, and the constant pressure to live with long-term goals, it is not always easy to let go of control. There are many tempting and inspiring philosophies that compete for the attention of the above-average go-getter. “Seize the Day!” “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.” “It’s time to take the bull by the horns,” or even, “…sometimes you just gotta honk your own horn, or else ain’t nobody gonna know you’re coming!” Although there is a truth and a determination that can teach great lessons from each of these mantras, it can easily feed into a desire within each of us to control every situation. If you are in control of every decision you make, what place does that leave God?

James addresses those who seem to have it all planned and all together, yet God has not been included in the process. He speaks to those who already know and have prepared for what they will do “tomorrow.” In a season of great division, rampant persecution, and an early Church that was living to thrive beyond survival, God could NOT be relegated to an after-thought. James countered that each believer should live with a life’s theme of “God’s will.” God had given them all ideas. They were created by the Creator to embody creativity. But their creativity and ability to design, devise, and design was never intended to render God ineffective or irrelevant in their lives. James challenged them to have a “Christ-centered” mindset in everything they were about. “If it is the Lord’s will…” The word “Lord” is one that defines mastery, authority, one who is chief, supreme, in charge, and in control. It was a reminder for who they were, who they were intended to be, who they were NOT, and who God would always be. 

I am not in charge. This is something I live to remind myself on a regular basis. I may have a position of authority, but my authority should always be lived in reflection of His authority. Life is not about me. It is not about my will, my agenda, my dreams, or even about my destiny. My life is about living out HIS will, HIS purpose, and HIS destiny for my life. I have been designed with great strategy and intention. I will not live the every day of my life as though God is an after-thought or a convenience. I will live intentionally to pursue His will for my life in both the short-term and the long-term. I will plan and strategize as I look forward to the future, but will pray for His will and His guidance before and always. If God is not in what I want to do, then I don’t want to do it. I know that there is no plan I could ever create in my limitations that is greater than what God has already crafted in the limitlessness of His divinity. 

Living in the reminder that God is in control will be a constant release in my life from fear, anxiety, stress, and disappointment. These are elements in life that I inevitably have to face, but was never intended by God to live in their control or by their influence. I begin this day by releasing this day to Jesus. THIS is the day that HE has made. I release it. I rejoice in it. I submit myself to His leading in the every second of this day. As Paul reminded us, I will “pray without ceasing” as a means of living in the constant reminder of who is really in control. When I live with that confidence that HE is in control, I will not slip into the fallacy that attempts to convince me that I’m in control. If God is not it, I’m convinced that I don’t want it. I surrender all of the “wasted” moments of my being in control where I have been left more empty that satisfied. It is in THAT surrender that I know that nothing is really wasted. 

Lord Jesus, I pray that You would remind me that every time I call You “Lord,” that I think about and understand what I’m saying and why. You are not just Lord by title, but You are Lord by definition. You are the chief and supreme authority in my life. I live today in renewed submission and surrender to You, Your will, and Your plan for my life as a whole, but also my life as of TODAY. I need Your wisdom for today. I need Your direction in living according to YOUR will and divine strategy for my life. Lord, I don’t want to live chasing plans and goals that are not in the process of the equation You have already perfected for my life. I need You. I want You. I need Your strength. I recognize once again, today, that You are God, You are in charge, and that You are in control. I thank You for Your faithfulness and Your love. It’s in Your Name that I pray and live this out today. Amen.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Nothing Wasted, 12: Pride Problems

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, NIV).

There is no doubt about it. The Apostle Paul was a man who had been undeniably changed and lived a passionate and shameless love for Jesus. Writing a great portion of the New Testament and being responsible for much of Church and Christian theology, it would be easy to see Paul as almost perfect. And yet, Paul was human, imperfect, flawed, and struggled through much of the same emotions and circumstances as those to whom he was writing. Paul was honest about himself and about the issues that were within him that he continued to face off with, even while on the journey of his own faith and ministry. Verse 7 shows that Paul was inflicted with some variety of pain. Scholars continue to debate whether it was physical, situational, or emotional. But what is more important than the ‘what’ he faced, is the ‘why’ he faced it. “So that I may not become conceited…” Paul recognized that in his own life, the life of a missionary, preacher, apostle, and early church father, there were areas where pride still attempted to lurk and live. Rather than a repeal of the circumstance, Jesus replaced the potential fear with a perpetual grace. Paul responded to that grace in delight. 

Grace is a reminder that no matter what you face, you do not face it alone, nor do you face it unequipped. Grace is a continued reminder of the life you have in Christ even when it feels as though the very life is being extracted from your being. It was the grace of God that gave Paul the confidence that he was not alone, that he could continue in the call in which Jesus had placed on his life. He knew that with every pain of weakness in himself, there was the grace and strength of Jesus to carry him through. Paul’s pride was a potential roadblock to the destiny calling to which Paul was called. God used the “Nothing Wasted” moments of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and the pride that tried to hide within him, to showcase the life-power of His grace.

As I look through the pages of my own life, even pages found much closer to the present, I can relate to Paul’s prayer and plea for God to change certain things. There are prayers that I have prayed for provision that have not been answered in the way that I have preferred or expected. There are breakthroughs in my family that I have not seen come to pass in the timing that well serve the cries of my comfort. There are inward struggles that I have cried out for God to eradicate or change miraculously that still exist. But what I have received, and am reminded by this window into Paul’s world, is the grace of God to lead me where my pride would rather distract me. God knows me better than I know myself. It is why he has placed the people in my life, even those that seem to delight in rubbing me the wrong way. I thank God for them. It is them that God uses to challenge and confront the pride that hides and lurks inside of me. I may not see it, but I know that Jesus does. 

The love of Jesus for me is so great that He allows moments that I would rather pray away to remain and to do a work under His close supervision. He will use what Satan has crafted to be the tool of my destruction in order to repeal the pride and replace it with a greater knowledge and awareness of His grace. I will continue to pray for miracles and breakthroughs, but I will continue to look to Him for the grace and strength to continue even when I don’t see or receive the answers I thought I had wanted. What I want more than anything is His grace to be revealed in me and through my life. I know that there is nothing wasted in Him. His grace IS sufficient for me. His strength IS made perfect in and through every weakness, failure, disappointment, discouragement, and missed expectation. 

Lord, I thank You that there is NOTHING that is too big for You. I am still forever convinced that You are the God that hears prayers, answers prayers, and performs miracles. I also recognize that You are the Sovereign God. You hear what I don’t hear, see what I don’t see, and know what I don’t know. I thank You that You are above both my understanding and the limitations of my understanding. I continue to call out to You and to trust You. Thank You for Your divine and timely grace. Lord, I know that I can trust in You in all things. There are times when what I pray to see is not what You choose to let me see. But in all things, my greatest desire is to see You. My flesh prefers to see You in the miracles, but I know Your desire is for me to also see You in the mess. I know that You are with me. I will choose to trust and rely on You in every circumstance regardless of how I see or interpret Your answers to my prayers. You are my strength. Your grace IS my confidence and my life. I thank You, Jesus. In Your Name, AMEN.