Spirit and Truth: The Art of Losing Myself: "One of my favorite worship songs has a line in the second verse that always makes me sing a little louder with more passion, my eyes closed,..."
Today, I dug into Chapter 1 and came across a very familiar passage but God has opened my eyes to see these words as I never have before. Most teachers believe that Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter to the Believers at Philippi. In jail! For preaching about Jesus! And he's not wallowing in self-pity, he is still mentoring / pastoring a church a great distance away. His prayer is not that he would be released from prison, but that the Believers' love would grow and be abundant! I fear that I would not be so unselfish!
He goes on to talk about how the things he had suffered and was still going through were actually a benefit to the Gospel. Here's what caught my attention: he said that because of his current trouble, other Believers were becoming more bold in their preaching about Jesus. Some were doing so with questionable motives and others were preaching in goodwill, but then he wrote something most curious to me. He said, regardless of their motives, "What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice."
Now I've spent considerable time in churches that I dare say would take self-righteous issues with Paul's statement. I immediately recall preachers talking down about other churches or other denominations or other groups that didn't measure up to their standards for such organizations. I've heard some say that they pray for these other groups to close down so they would stop "leading people astray". Paul didn't say that sound doctrine doesn't matter, but he did say that no matter what other criticism can be aimed at others, the single most important thing is that Jesus is preached! I hear local Pastors talk down televangelists and mega-churches but never acknowledge that, at the very least, they are spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have even done this myself. Today, I repented and received a new way to look at those who do things within the Kingdom of God a little differently than I do.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those "everything goes" kind of guys, but I think it is far better to acknowledge the good that others are doing for Jesus rather than focus so much energy, time and emotion, gossip and slander on what their "doing wrong".
You see, I think we focus on differences between Believers' practices because of Satan's influence in our way of thinking. Others are wrong and I'm right. We become very self-centered and the self-centered life is no longer Christ-centered. That simple migration of thought is what Satan wants. Anything that takes our eyes off Jesus impedes the spreading of the Gospel.
But then, Paul goes a lot further by saying that what has happened to him will turn out for his deliverance. No matter how his life turns out, whether he is freed from prison or is put to death, Jesus will be exalted! Then he wrote those famous words, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." While this verse has inspired countless great sermons, this mindset is extremely difficult to grasp.
Paul is saying that he is not going to think about his suffering or any other trouble that may come his way. The only thing that matters is Jesus!!! Life or Death; Riches or Poverty; Sickness or Health; Blessing or Begging; Freedom or Imprisonment; Pain or Pleasure; Life or Death - NONE OF THESE THINGS MATTER!!! Telling the story of Jesus and the Salvation that comes with Him is the single, most important thing to Paul.
So, the big take away for me is to get over myself! My role in the Kingdom of God is not to judge or belittle or be 'right' but to Love and encourage others who are preaching Jesus, and to preach Him in my everyday life so that others my come to know Him as their Lord and Savior.
Holy Spirit, help me to live this mindset daily.
One day a mother was teaching her daughter how to cook and it just happened to be Christmas so they were preparing to make a Christmas ham. Now the mother got out the roaster pan and all the ingredients to put in with the ham. She started the oven to get it to the proper temperature. Then she took the ham out of the refrigerator and began to prepare it for cooking. She unwrapped it and washed it and then she did a most curious thing. She took out a sharp knife and cut about an inch off each end of the ham and threw the ends away! The mother then proceeded to put the ham into the roaster pan and finish seasoning or basting or whatever else the recipe called for.
But at that time, the daughter asked her mother, "Why did you cut those pieces off the end of the ham?" The mother thought for a few minutes and said, "Well, I don't really know, I've never thought much about it because that's the way my mother taught me to do it." Then the daughter asked, "Why do you think Grandma does it that way?" Mother thought about it some more, "I don't think I know, but now I am curious, so let's call her and ask."
So the two of them called Grandma and asked the same question, "Grandma, why do you cut the ends off a ham before putting it in the oven?" Grandma thought intensely for a while then said, "You know, I've done it that way so long that I can't remember why. But I am certain that is the way my mother taught me to prepare a ham. Maybe when we pick her up and bring her to Christmas dinner tonight we can ask her."
The day went on and guests arrived for dinner, among them was Great-Grandmother. So now Great-Grandmother, Grandma, Mother and Daughter were all together in a room and the daughter recounted the day's curiosity about preparing the ham. Then the big finale, "Great-Grandmother, what's the purpose of cutting the ends off the ham before putting it into the oven?"
Now, Great-Grandmother pondered this with a thoughtful look and finally said, "Well, I don't know why you girls do it, but when I was younger, I had a small oven and only one roaster pan that would fit into it so to make the ham fit into the pan, I had to trim the ends a bit. But later on, I got a new cook stove with a larger oven, like the ones you all have. I bought a larger pan and there was no need to trim the ham anymore.
At that, they all shared a laugh and enjoyed a great Christmas dinner (now knowing the secret of the shortened ham).
I think this story is funny and we may all have similar stories of traditions passed from generation to generation. Many of those practices, over time, lose their meaning because we teach the "what" but not the "why". And it only takes one teaching generation to lose the "why" and all future generations have forever lost the understanding.
Our kids are watching and learning from us daily and if we don't take the time to teach them properly, we may transfer practices but not the reasoning. I think in most cases, the reasoning or meaning behind the practice is more important than the practice itself.
Kids don't just learn from us, they are conditioned to think certain ways by their teachers. They are trained to desire specific things by commercials and their friends. Behaviors are influenced by characters on TV. I guess you could say this learning is not limited to kids even as adults we often find our behaviors changing in reaction to our surroundings, experiences, friends, etc.
I have to wonder, if we know that people are shaped by the things they see in others or on TV or from any number of sources, why don't we let our kids see us praying, reading the Bible, serving others in need, or doing things that draw us closer to God? I mean, really, we think nothing of letting our kids see us get angry or play a game. Sometimes we don't consider the content of movies or shows we let our kids watch. What about the times we are talking negatively about someone else and our kids are in the next room hearing every word we say?
What are we teaching our kids? What are we conditioning others to do by our actions? Are we living the love of Jesus? Are we teaching the importance of having a personal relationship with Him? Are we being an example to those around us? What legacies are we passing on to our kids? Must we wait for a curious generation to ask us why we do what we do before we rediscover the meanings behind our actions?
After such an amazing year, I am now faced with the delima of what to expect from 2010. I know our family is becoming very busy with the existing commitments we have. Don't get me wrong, we are not trying to do "everything the Jones' are". But, with home schooling 3 kids and keeping a 2 year old occupied, plus one lovely daughter cheerleading and her twin brother and our oldest daughter playing basketball time is a precious thing. To recap: school, cheer leading practice and games, basketball practice and games, church, family time, household duties and an innumerable list of other stuff...whew! Not much time to sleep or relax or anything else.
On the other hand, we have a huge desire to serve God, love on people who need the love only God can give, to live in the Presence of the Holy Spirit and see the Fruit of the Spirit abound in our life.
So as we start this year with Fasting and Praying, I am seeking direction for me, my family, our area of service, and a whole host of other things. Certainly, the lost and healing are on my prayer list as well.
God, we need You in 2010! Be near us Lord!
Speaking for myself, I've allowed my weekly schedule to become so full (with work, church, family activities, sleep, etc.) that it is tough to make time to pray. Without being ready for prayer, sometimes my prayers are rushed and / or incomplete with few noticable results.
Now, I know that God hears our prayers and He is always in control of the circumstances surrounding us. So even when I don't have time for it or don't feel like it will accomplish much, my challenge is to just keep praying!
To help refocus on the need and benefits of regular prayer time I remind myself of the times God has answered my prayers in mighty ways. I review my journal entries about His miracles I've been allowed to experience.
There was the time when the doctor told me that one or both of our premie twins might not survive being born at 26 weeks and that my wife's life was also in danger. I prayed a broken prayer of repentence and petition. The twins are healthy 7 years old now and my wife is fine (in every way). Then there was the time when my Mother passed away and I didn't know how I would survive without her in my life. While I still miss her after 8 years, like only God can, He put the pieces of my heart together and helped me heal. I know l'll see her again some day! God held my hand while my Dad went through cancer treatments. It's been 7 years now. Dad is 75 and still riding his motorcycle and doing pretty much anything he wants to. I held on to God's promises when my wife experienced massive complications with our last pregnancy. By all doctor accounts, she should have (at best) been severely brain damaged due to lack of oxygen and suffered fatal liver damage. This was one of those "but then God..." events. Less then 36 hours after the doctor told me he didn't think she would survive long enough to get a transplant, the Healer showed up and my wife walked out of the hospital in perfect health. Our baby survived being born 2 months early and double collapsed lungs to become the poster child for the terrible two's. Recently, we formed a charity aimed at showing God's love by caring for families in crisis (Food, Clothes, Utilities, etc.). In troubled economic times like 2009, when businesses are failing, we received thousands of donated items and quadrupled our expected financial budget! While the world struggled, God provided abundance for our team and the families we serve! Finally, after working to increase our giving, we reached a milestone percentage and the very next week received some very good news about our financial future! Once again, against all odds, God brings the increase! Praise Him and Just Keep PRAYING!!!
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Then there was the time when my Mother passed away and I didn't know how I would survive without her in my life. While I still miss her after 8 years, like only God can, He put the pieces of my heart together and helped me heal. I know l'll see her again some day!
God held my hand while my Dad went through cancer treatments. It's been 7 years now. Dad is 75 and still riding his motorcycle and doing pretty much anything he wants to.
I held on to God's promises when my wife experienced massive complications with our last pregnancy. By all doctor accounts, she should have (at best) been severely brain damaged due to lack of oxygen and suffered fatal liver damage. This was one of those "but then God..." events. Less then 36 hours after the doctor told me he didn't think she would survive long enough to get a transplant, the Healer showed up and my wife walked out of the hospital in perfect health. Our baby survived being born 2 months early and double collapsed lungs to become the poster child for the terrible two's.
Recently, we formed a charity aimed at showing God's love by caring for families in crisis (Food, Clothes, Utilities, etc.). In troubled economic times like 2009, when businesses are failing, we received thousands of donated items and quadrupled our expected financial budget! While the world struggled, God provided abundance for our team and the families we serve!
Finally, after working to increase our giving, we reached a milestone percentage and the very next week received some very good news about our financial future! Once again, against all odds, God brings the increase!
Praise Him and Just Keep PRAYING!!!
What amazes me (lately) is His willingness to bless us. He continues to give us things we take for granted (air to breathe, sunshine to warm us, family to love, etc.) even when many of us give Him very little in return. He pours out Grace when we turn our back's on Him. He uses us, ordinary people, to do extraordinary things in the lives of others. We can make someone's day just by smiling at them (and we may not even realize we smiled)! We can feed families on the coins we find in the cushions of our furniture when we combine our efforts!
Lastly, what overwhelms me the most is that He allows me to be a part of His plan to reach those who are lost with the Good News of Jesus, with food for their souls (and their bellies), with healing for their sicknesses, and compassion for their broken hearts. Me? Broken, imperfect, often lazy, ME!?!? And you...and you...and you, too!
Have a blessed day in His Presence!
Some examples include: living to the schedule of the public school system, regular church attendance, etc.
While this is not an advertisement for homeschooling, we have noticed some very disturbing problems with the public school system, but equally frustrating was the annoyance that we must get up at specified time and do certain things in order for our kids to be there 'on time'. We were allowing someone other than God to direct our paths. While this may seem petty to some, it (combined with the increase in violence, drug presence, child pregnancy, immoral teaching aka 'alternate life choices', etc.) became a major family issue for us. Our solution: homeschooling! We now homeschool the three school age kids and will start Savanna when she is ready.
Again, church attendance is not a bad thing, but when it becomes the dominating factor in one's life, I have to question whether my relationship with Christ is the driver behind my life or is it simply showing up at a specific place 3 times a week (i.e. going through the motions of the 'Christian lifestyle')? It is increasingly frustrating to see Satan use churches / church activities for his purpose and steal time away from our relationship with Jesus. Let me try to explain this a little more. If you are a new Believer, you should surround yourself with other Believers. The intent is that you will learn from them and grow spiritually. However, if you are immediately caught up in the busy-ness of doing church (teaching Sunday School?, singing in the choir, cleaning, working in the nursery, playing in the band, mowing the grass, visitation, etc.) is there really time for learning? Is there time for development? Growth? While I agree that service is integral to God's plan for each Believer, shouldn't there be some teaching along with serving? If 'doing church things' comes with the price of not learning or being burned out, then what is its eternal value? I'm not sure there is any.
Some Believers may balance the development with the work and attendance, but allow a Doctrinal Statement to become so important that we forget to do what the Doctrines teach. I've seen heated arguements erupt over doctrinal points to the point that both sides stop showing love for each other. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and the second was to love others. Is God really honored in a doctrinal fight? Can we really love each other while we are red-faced, experiencing high blood pressure, and foaming at the mouth while defending a piece of paper with some doctrinal statements written by men? Maybe, but man it's hard to recognize the love sometimes... Could it be that sometimes our Doctrinal stances, or more likely, being 'right' about them has become more important to us than living the truths taught by them? More important than living in the Spirit? More important than loving others? Than reaching others with God's love? Reaching others with the Gospel of Jesus? Could it be that Doctrinal Statements have, for some, become gods?
On the other side, I and my family now run the risk of allowing our freedom in Christ to become over-dominant (predominant) in our life. We have become quite mobile (I like to call it 'portable'). We can teach our kids anywhere. We can worship anywhere. We can also become lazy anywhere. We must remember to guard against allowing our mobility to become more important than our Faith Journey and our relationship with Jesus.
Pray for us that we 'have no other gods before' Him!!!
When we couple this with Romans 8:37 (we are more than conquerors). We shouldn't merely survive life, we should triumph over it. We may endure rough times, but we can and will prevail!!! God is on our side and we already know that we are on the winning side of this spiritual battle. We know the Bible is full of His promises for blessings that are available right now (in the physical battles too)! We CAN do all things through Jesus Christ our Lord who strengthens us. He promised us power after the Holy Spirit has come upon us. If we feel powerless, then maybe we need a fresh outpouring of the Spirit.
Wow!!! Three simple verses that should give us a fresh, uplifted attitude. We can do all things through Jesus. We are victorious (more than conquerors). We have the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us when our physical strength comes up short!!!
So, don't be afraid, whatever it is that God is leading you to do, lift your head up, look to the Source of our power. Get recharged, get your thinking in line with the Word, then go "do all things"!!!
I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13