Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Looking through His lens

I recently had a friend of mine bring up something to share with me about my leadership skills that I could work on. While there was a quick moment of the flesh trying to get defensive, I quickly realized how all of this is done out of love. You see, my friend, a dear brother, truly is seeking to build me up. This issue that was highlighted was in no way discussed with any other purpose than to strengthen me, my walk, and my skills and abilities as a leader. We are supposed to sharpen each other, but not in accountability through judgement, but rather accountability through love. I am so thankful that Christ has brought individuals like this into my life; what a blessing.

I was reminded of this today when I read this passage:
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV)
It reminded me of how I should respond when I am sharpened; after all, you can't truly sharpen a blade without some friction, force, and sometimes even some serious heat. Grief is what happened when I was in that moment; I was grieved when I heard something critical about me. I could either choose to respond in a worldly way (get defensive and shut down) or respond in a godly way (change with eagerness). I walked away from that conversation not feeling deathly, but alive and ready to try and work on those areas the next chance I got.

I did, and it felt awesome to see how much more it blessed not only me, but others around me!

A few days later, I didn't do so well! However I recognize it, and while it's easy to let the enemy get in and make me condemn myself, it's a process. I am going to be a better leader because He is helping me do that and He is using people like my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I'm not defeated, I'm energized! May I continue to be grieved; but yet in a godly way, not in a worldly way letting the enemy get a foothold and destroy my growth.

Energized and Changing for Him! Not because I have to, but because I want to!

Looking at my growth through His lens, not the worlds'

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Empty Me

I want to lead a life that is not consisting of a few relationships, but is rather defined by relationship. I think however that all too often I try to figure out what discipleship looks like to me, rather than what discipleship looks like to others that relate to me. Paul writes:
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.
(1 Corinthians 9:19 ESV)
May my walk with the Lord help me to understand how to live out a life of discipleship by servitude. I want to be a friend that when others see me they see Christ. Not from my works of course, but from a heart that reflects Christ's servitude. May I continue to learn how to die to self, of which holds me back from a full life that He wants for me. Oh the joy that I could experience by being a tool used by Christ to find a lost sheep and lead them to His cross!
I am reminded of the lyrics:
Empty me
Of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition 
And the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me
So i can be
Filled with you
(Chris Sligh, Empty Me)

Lord, help me to die to self; I am not my own, but Yours bought by a price I can never earn. Thank You for Grace!


Reading Scripture for Me

Paul wrote in an earlier letter to the church in Corinth to be careful and not associate with sinful individuals, and become unequally yoked with them. However he clarified in another letter that he was speaking not of everyone, but rather those in the church that called themselves a brother yet hung on to some sins; especially those sins that pull you and others away from the Cross. It was a critical time for the church as foundations were being laid, and if those foundations were not in Christ the church itself would quickly be pulled away from the Gospel that Christ preached and turn itself into a cultural club. The church needed to remain pure and recognize sin. He wrote:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
(1 Corinthians 5:9-11 ESV)
What was convicting to me however was that as I read through this passage my mind started drifting towards others, and how it applied to them; but not me. I needed to stop thinking about whom I shouldn't associate with, but instead start thinking about my walk. Should others not associate with me because of the path I am choosing? It was a powerful reminder to me that I need to continually abide in Him to continue my ongoing sanctification. The minute I take my eyes off my walk, and concern myself with others, I am risking a lot.

Loving Christ and feeling renewed daily!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Amazing Gifts

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
(1 Corinthians 2:10-12 ESV)

I think that the Holy Spirit is the most difficult One of the Holy Trinity to fully grasp. To me it's not very difficult to see a Creator (the Father for discussion purposes) with all that is around us by using both science and logic. Christ to me takes a bit more of a step of faith as although we have historical accounts of His works and even Resurrection (or 'unexplained magic' by some early non-believing scholars) and life changing testimonies, it's perhaps more difficult for some to grasp. However when we get to the Spirit it begins to get far less tangible. Yes we have some visual and physical documented events such as Pentecost, but for the most part, the Holy Spirit is seen in personal testimonies and life changing events from believers.

If the Father doesn't exist we don't have a Creator, and if Christ doesn't exist we don't have a Savior, however if the Spirit doesn't exist we wouldn't even be able to commune with God and even have a chance at understanding His Will for us. Prayer would be pointless, and His will for me would be lost in my own battle of self-love.

Christ didn't die "For me."
Christ died "For me ... to go and serve, worship, bring Him glory and find His lost sheep and lead them to the cross."

May I not love the Father, Serve His son, but forget to treasure and 'use' this amazing gift of His Spirit.

Father, I thank you for sending your son to not only die for my sins, justly punishable by death, but for sending Your Spirit to guide me, teach me, convict me, and allow me to communicate with You. I deserve nothing, yet I am full of joy! Reveal to me the path You have planned for me so that You can use me to reach Your lost sheep.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Playing a Game of Semantics with God

So we're at the dinner table and my 8 year old son is talking to my 4 year old daughter and having a fun conversation. However, often it turns from having a fun conversation to chaos quite quickly! I don't care about talking at the dinner table, but it’s not a time to get out of your seat, chase another, scream, and play games.

I'm sure I'm the only one who deals with this right?!

So then I have to settle things down. "Sit down, no talking until you finish eating!"

So now my son sits down and stops talking, but the chaos doesn't always stop. Dad said 'no talking' so that means that making silly faces until my sister is laughing hysterically is ok right? Making other more creative sounds with my mouth other than talking is ok right?

Again, I'm sure I'm the only one who deals with this right?!

He's playing a game of semantics with my instruction. I don't do that right?

Unfortunately that's not the case with me. Too often I find myself in prayer telling God that I will work on something, when later I seem to find loopholes in my promise. "Well, I didn't say I would tackle that

Why did I come to God in the first place? For help in making me more like His Son. However I can hardly be made into the image of Christ when I keep finding loopholes around the very things I want to fix and came to Him with in the first place!

I need to stop playing semantics with God ... it only hurts me, and slows down my journey. It's not a matter of being better, it's a matter of knowing and loving Him more and all the joy and blessings that come from that relationship.

Abiding in Him,

Does the tree know how beautiful it is? No.

In the world there are "the works of the flesh," in the Church, "the fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:9). What does fruit mean in this context? There are many works of the flesh, but only one fruit of the Spirit. Works are done by human hands, fruit thrusts upward and grows all unbeknown to the tree which bears it. Works are dead, fruit is alive, and bears the seed which will bring forth more fruit. Works can subsist on their own, fruit cannot exist apart from the tree. Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only he can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of him on whom their life depends. There is no room for boasting here, but only for an ever more intimate union with him. The saints are unconscious of the fruit they bear. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

This insight from Dietrich was very powerful to me. It tied back to his earlier point of truly having your left hand unaware what your right is doing.

"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Matthew 6:3 ESV)

You can't hide your faith, and in fact, as I already shared, it's impossible. A city on a hill can not be hidden; not shouldn't, it can't. If we have the light of Christ in us it should be beaming. However so often we want to take our own reigns, even in the guise of good works, and thus we quench the Spirit.

If I choose to do a good work, so be it, but it's not fruit. I need to trust that the more I remain in Him I am bearing good fruit. Only others around me can see it, and I will not go in search of a spiritual mirror to check my fruit status as that's not the point. Besides, all of my good works together combine to something as filthy of menstrual rags compared to God. Why compare? Works don't stack up ...

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
 (Isaiah 64:6 ESV)

Abide. All I must concern myself with is that I am abiding in Him.

Abiding in Him,

I can do it all by myself!

In John 17, which I believe is Jesus' longest prayer, He was about to face the biggest trial of His human existence; what everything was leading up to. Though His disciples didn't know it, He certainly did. So His response in preparation before this? He submitted and laid Himself at the feet of His father and His will.

I wonder when a trial is coming in my life, if I focus on getting things in order from a worldly perspective, or if I do what I can, and they lay my life down at His feet and say "Father, do with me as You will."

May I learn to face trials more like Christ.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

There is no "I" in Selfless (or me either)

I think the word 'selfless' needs some serious resurrecting in our culture today.

"If the world despises one of the brethren, the Christian will love and serve him. If the world does him violence, the Christian will succour and comfort him. If the world dishonours and insults him, the Christian will sacrifice his own honour to cover his brother's shame. Where the world seeks gain, the Christian will renounce it. Where the world exploits, he will dispossess himself, and where the world oppress, he will stoop down and raise up the oppressed. If the world refuses justice, the Christian will pursue mercy, and if the world takes refuge in lies, he will open his mouth for the dumb, and bear testimony to the truth." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Dicipleship

I wish that paragraph represented me; how humble and amazing a life would be lived like that. To truly live with selfless nature, to truly think of your brother before you are concerned about yourself, is just so ... different ... from what we've been taught.

Often when I go spend any decent amount of time at my family's cottage I come back to the city and am just amazed at how noisy the world is. Not just with audible noise, though that is certainly an issue too, but just the noise of being so busy. So much noise and I find myself wrapped up in it days after I return. So quickly the world tries to teach me that it's all about me and my agenda all over again; God is secondary (at the best) in our culture today.

"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice." (James 3:16 ESV)

I want to be that brother mentioned above by Dietrich. However I will be honest, it scares me. Serving God is one thing, but serving others is another isn't it? I can much more easily serve my Lord than I can serve my brother. I suppose in a world where tangibility is thriving, that serving a brother may be easier in some ways, but when it comes to putting someone first in a difficult situation, we often want to protect ourselves first.

It's not completely foreign however. There are even professions such as the secret service (and military for that matter) that will voluntarily take a bullet (literally) for another out of duty. Imagine if we all were attempting to take the bullet for another one of God's children; what a different world it would be.

I learned about being a team as a kid ... imagine if it went beyond the game.


Taking Credit

There have been times either at work, in my personal life, or other areas where I have felt that my efforts were ignored; or worse yet, someone took credit for them. I'm sure we have all been there at one point or another. You put all this effort in to a project or task, only to be left hearing others either directly or indirectly take credit for your work. It's unnerving, and at times leaves me feeling bitter and frustrated.

I would never do that to someone else, especially God right?

"Any honours that come our way are only stolen from him to whom alone they really belong, the Lord who sent us." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Dicipleship

This quote from the book I'm reading really hit me hard. Not because of the how I see others do it, but because of how true it is for me. Reminds me of the song I sing worshiping Him as the words come out of my mouth "every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise". Really Matt?

I wonder how many times I've accepted praises for a job well done and have ignored the One who helped me?

Don't read this thinking I feel burdened with guilt, because I don't. If anything I feel released from the chains that have been holding me down. The more I see Him working in my life, the more amazed I feel; but I do want to change.

What's amazing is that we steal His credit so often, yet He continues to love us and yearns to embrace us regardless.

"And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. " (Luke 15:20 ESV)

Aren't hugs great? Especially from the Almighty God!? :)

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