We Need to Learn Faith Before Wisdom

A few weeks ago I was reading Mark 6:7-13 (from the Moravian Daily Texts), where Jesus sends his disciples out on a ministry trip, saying “Take nothing for the journey but a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts…” He sends them out in complete dependence on the provision of God expressed through the kindness of strangers.

Dependence comes before stewardship. It’s much like the first step in disciple-making where the disciple is dependent on their teacher or leader because they don’t even know what they don’t know. Jesus wants us to trust Him like a child trusts the parent first…because He is TRUSTworthy! It is His best plan for us to learn in innocence rather than suffer the effects of prideful INdependence.

It’s interesting that later, when he is about to be arrested and crucified, Jesus reminds them of this (“When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” – “Nothing,” they answered), and then tells them the exact opposite (“But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one”).

In that our dependence and trust in what God says is directly related to how trustworthy we believe He is. We will only trust what someone says to us if we believe their character is such that they have our best interests at heart. But it is definitely one of the first things we learn as God’s children.

First he says don’t pack any provisions, just trust God. Later he says get a bag and pack some provisions, be wise. First you learn dependence and faith, then you learn wisdom and stewardship. It seems like learning them in that order is important.

For example, consider the journey of the Israelites after they came out of slavery in Egypt. The way that God provides for them is an expression of daily bread for daily need: every morning there’s enough manna on the ground to feed your family for the day. You go to bed with nothing, trusting that God will provide another day’s food tomorrow. They are learning raw faith, utter dependence.

However, after they enter the promised land, the manna stops. Now it’s time for them to learn to cultivate the ground and be wise stewards of the land they’ve been given. They are provided for in a more “indirect” way through the food that the land will produce, but they will need to exercise sound judgment and work in the fields to see the harvest come. Early on they learned raw dependence. Later they learned wise stewardship.

I was also reminded of Jesus telling his disciples to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” It’s probably pretty important to learn to be as innocent as doves before learning to be shrewd as snakes. If we learn shrewdness first it may be difficult to learn innocence later.

It seems that when you walk with Jesus in the kingdom, first you learn to live by faith, then you learn wisdom. If we try to walk in wise stewardship before we walk by faith, we will walk in fear and call it “wisdom.” We will behave faithlessly and call it “responsibility.” We’ll also be unable to discern true faith from arrogance or recklessness. You can’t learn true wisdom and stewardship until you’ve learned faith and dependence.

Think about the rich young ruler, too: the first discipleship task was to give all his wealth away and follow Jesus. Perhaps later Jesus would have taught him how to invest his wealth for the good of the poor or something, but first he had to learn simple faith. Sadly, though, he turned down the greatest internship opportunity ever because he couldn’t bring himself to engage in the first lesson.

This bears out in my own life as well. It seems that faith is always the first lesson, because it’s so easy for faithlessness to look like wisdom to our untrained hearts. Early on I was driven by faith and did take steps of faith with remarkable results, but as those steps of faith grew larger, I enquired of my church leaders for wisdom & counsel (as I was taught to do). As they were a lot older than me they gave me ‘wisdom’ that put doubt in my heart in regards to my ‘faith steps’. The consequence being I followed my church leaders’ council rather than the still small whisper of the Father’s voice. Clear & simple enough I sadly now realize it was disobedience on my part in not following the Father’s voice that has led to serious difficulties that in hindsight would not have happened had I followed Him first & foremost.

Have you noticed this pattern in your own life?

*Resource: Ben Sternke, Barry Johnston & Thabiti Anyabwile

If You Want Peace, Prepare For War

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12

I have a Latin adage posted in my pray closet – SI VIS PACEM PARA BELLUM.

It means, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” I’ve thought long and hard about that statement. If a country desires peace they must have an army, armed and prepared, to protect its citizens from those who desire to overtake it.

Soldiers rigorously train for battles they may never face, in order to keep their country secure and safe. But what happens to a country when its army is ill-equipped, poorly trained and undisciplined? It is left vulnerable to attack. In order for peace to be achieved a country has to be ready for war in every way.

During my 9-week Army Basic Training my drill sergeants wanted our platoon to be the very best at everything we did. That meant that every man had to be excellent. If one member fell behind, they all would pay the price. My platoon would drill 8-9 hours straight in order to achieve best platoon in drilling. They were right on track for taking first place for top platoon overall but when they got to the rifle range something happened – our shooting was off and we finished in second place. Their drill sergeant lined them up in their barracks and began to scream and yell at  us for taking second place. He was so mad that he took our second place trophy and threw it out the window! Literally! And then he said,

There is no second place in war! You are either first or you’re dead!”

As followers of Christ, we are in a war! We have an enemy that hungers for our souls and preys on our weaknesses. He seems to find all the places that we are vulnerable, or ill equipped. One of his best tactics is to get Christians to think they are at peace when they really are at war, to catch them unprepared and untrained for battle.

We need to be prepared for the battle. We cannot let down our guard, we must be strong and alert! But what does that look like in our life as a follower of Christ? We must train just like a soldier does – we need to learn God’s Word and be ready to use it. Jesus used Scripture in defeating Satan when he was tempted. We need to not just read it but apply it to our lives. God’s word needs to be an integral part of our everyday life!

We must develop our relationship with God. We need to know who He is so that we can place our trust in Him even when we don’t understand what’s happening or can’t see the way. The Bible calls us to walk by faith. Notice that in the first part of those verses it says that we are to be strong in the Lord and that we are to draw our strength from Him. We cannot do it on our own – we need His power, His strength and His might.

If you want peace in your life as a Christian, you must prepare for the battle.

Father, My strength is in You alone. When I am tempted to believe that I can handle this on my own, gently remind me that the battle is Yours. Help me to faithfully study Your word so that I can know You better. Amen

Are you aware and ready to fight spiritual battles in your life?

*Resource(s)/Photo:  Kristi Huseby

What’s the Greatest Killer of Motivation?

Did you catch it?

What’s the greatest killer of motivation?

You thought it was a lack of vision, didn’t you? But, you can have the greatest vision ever and still see motivation dwindle and momentum die. The fact is, we have an amazing ability to get bored with good things over tyme. It doesn’t matter how much we love something, tyme can cause us to lose interest. All of us can think of something we once loved, but now it’s old news. We have a the sad ability of tiring of wonderful things.

Buy a child a toy at Christmas and they love it…it’s the best Christmas ever…but a few weeks later…they probably aren’t as excited about it anymore. They are ready for some new toys.

Marketers know they have to keep changing things to keep us buying. We get bored easily. That’s why Apple’s stock is through the roof. They keep introducing new products because we get bored with the old ones.

If we aren’t careful, we’ll do that in our relationships too. One of the biggest obstacle in many marriages is boredom. We quit dating…we quit courting…we quit surprising each other… Over tyme, we get bored in the relationship.

That feeling of boredom comes into the church also. Greeting at the front door was great at first. We met lots of new people and genuinely felt we were making a difference. Now we know everyone and the job has become old. I’m bored. Tyme killed my motivation.

Going to small group? Working with students? Playing in the band? Fun at first, but tyme has made me bored.

Perhaps you understand by now. Maybe you’re bored with this post. It was great when it started, but tyme has taken away your enthusiasm. Let me get to some help. It’s tyme.

If tyme is a killer of motivation, what’s the solution?

Keep retelling the vision – Remind yourself and others of why you are doing what you are doing. If your mission is to reach people for Christ, then get excited about that again. Renew your passion for others.

Keep practicing the vision – Sometymes we get busy with doing that we don’t really do what we were called to do. I know, that doesn’t make sense…but perhaps it makes too much sense. I’m not sure what I’m saying, but I know this. If you want to restore your motivation, do the things you’re motivated to do. If reaching broken, hurting people for Christ was the original passion God called you to do, then step away from the routines and busyness of life to start winning a few broken, hurting people for Christ again. Drop the mundane and follow the heart. Renew your personal passion.

Keep sharing the impact of the vision with others – Most likely there are still some people motivated for the vision. Surround yourself with them. Share their stories. Let their enthusiasm rub off on you and others. Live out the vision with others who believe in it as much as you do. It will motivate you as you share the vision with others again.

*RESOURCE/PHOTO: Ron Edmondson & Paul Delashaw

Freedom & Forgiveness Are Never Free!

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.          Philippians 3:20

July 4th is a special holiday for Americans. Independence Day reminds us that freedom is precious and we are greatly blessed to possess the freedoms offered in this country. The smell of burgers and hotdogs sizzling on the grill outside and the bursting of fireworks in the sky become familiar on July 4th. We eat, maybe the Star Spangled Banner is played or the National Anthem, and then everyone watches fireworks and goes home. It’s become rather commonplace, another day for big sales events and flying an American flag.

While all the revelry abounds, many forget the history which led to the birth of our great nation. Beginning with the Pilgrims, who were originally members of John Helwys’ church in northern Europe, who came to this part of the world seeking the chance to worship God as they chose; later, the founding Fathers, in a desire to have a place where they could worship and live without pressure from tyrannical governments, fought for and formed the United States.

What makes this nation so unique? It is the freedoms we enjoy. The founding fathers, led by their faith and dependence on the Bible, wanted us all to have the freedom to worship or not worship, however we choose. This freedom came at a great cost, though. It was not easily won. During the Revolutionary War, 217,000 lost their lives and 6,188 suffered nonfatal injuries. That does not include the deaths of those from other countries or any Native American deaths. What a cost in lives for the freedom we enjoy today! From the Revolutionary War through Afghanistan War, 42,893,216 people have lost their lives. Over 42 million people have died, not including wars or battles since the Afghanistan War, defending the freedoms we enjoy today.

As U.S. citizens celebrate this Independence Day, let’s remember that cost that has been paid to purchase freedom — not just for a nation, but for all people! There was a war for all the human race in which freedom for all people was purchased. This freedom was purchased at great cost as well. The symbol of that cost is not a hillside of white crosses or the Tomb of the Unknown or a black wall of names. As precious as these symbols are to those who know them and the people they represent, they do not compare to the symbol of the Empty Tomb. This symbol transcends ethnic and national boundaries.

The Empty Tomb is the symbol of the cost of true freedom for all people — the cost of Jesus leaving the security and power of heaven and becoming earthbound and mortal (Philippians 2:5-11). It is the symbol of the degradation of crucifixion before a jeering and mocking mob. It is the symbol of an agonizing death on a cross when he had the power to prevent it. It is also the symbol of three days in the ground — Jesus literally lay his body down. But the words to this tune are different. “Find the cost of freedom, no longer in the ground.”

You see, the Empty Tomb is the sign of ultimate freedom. It is the reminder that we no longer have to fear death. All of our mortal fears are conquered. As the apostle Paul says:

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?
(1 Corinthians 15:54-55 NLT).

For the Christian, Independence Day doesn’t come once a year. No, for Jesus’ followers, Independence day comes every Sunday! The early Christians met on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10), Sunday, to take of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). This is their Independence Day. By the end of the first century, Sunday had become the Lord’s Day. On this day they remembered the Lord’s death and anticipated his return because freedom from death had been won. Independence Day is the day of the Empty Tomb! So as each Sunday approaches, let’s remember the cost of our freedom and give thanks!

Since the children have flesh and blood, he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Independence Day is the day of the Empty Tomb!

Though some of America’s “founding fathers” who delivered to us the national freedom we all enjoy were actually deists-like Jefferson and Franklin, it is interesting to review the following thoughts by them about our dependence on a sovereign Creator :

George Washington 1st U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” -The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343.

John Adams – 2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.” -Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.

Thomas Jefferson – 3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

 “I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.”
-The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385.

William Blount Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Unites States Constitution, Governor of the Southwest Territory, appointed by President George Washington & first Democratic-Republican Senator of Tennessee.

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”       -Famous American Statesmen, p. 126.

Benjamin Franklin – Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Unites States Constitution

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see;  -Benjamin Franklin wrote this in a letter to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale University on March 9, 1790.

William Penn – Founder of Pennsylvania

“I do declare to the whole world that we believe the Scriptures to contain a declaration of the mind and will of God in and to those ages in which they were written; being given forth by the Holy Ghost moving in the hearts of holy men of God; that they ought also to be read, believed, and fulfilled in our day; being used for reproof and instruction, that the man of God may be perfect. They are a declaration and testimony of heavenly things themselves, and, as such, we carry a high respect for them. We accept them as the words of God Himself.”  -Treatise of the Religion of the Quakers, p. 355.

*Resuoces/Photos: Phil Ware, Source of casualty numbers: “America’s Wars: U.S. Casualties and Veterans.” InfoPlease.com., & Signers of the Constitution: Historic Places Commemorating the Signing of the Constitution

HELP! Where are the MEN in the Church?

In the last couple of weeks I have been reading on “Why Men Don’t Go to Church Today”! And Ironically I this past Friday and this morning I was on a Men Conference Call & listened to a National Christian Radio talk show dealing on the same subject. Once again God will keep knocking on your door until you answer! I wrote the following post a few weeks back. But have been debating on to post it? Well God this is me answering the door.

Our culture and communities desperately need men of character and integrity. Men that will lead and influence society according to the values and lifestyle of Jesus Christ, who modeled what a, “Real Man,” is.  The same Jesus that wept, flipped tables over as a warrior zealous for God!  Throughout biblical tymes and the history of the church, men have been used by God to play an important part in God’s sovereign eternal plan for His people. Many tymes throughout the history of His people, God has been pictured as seeking men to fulfill the roles He has designed for them:

The LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, 1 Samuel 13:14. Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it Jeremiah 5:1.

And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none Ezekiel 22:30.

Those verses and many other similar ones indicate that it is not an overstatement to say that the welfare of God’s people rises and falls on the men among them. And as the last verse indicates, the unfortunate absence of men who “stand in the gap” is all too common. Today’s churches will rise to the standards of their Lord only if they have men who are loving leaders, effective teachers, and godly examples.

There are more women in church than men because women are looking in churches for what they can’t find at home – which is a Pastor/Leader/Sheppard/their Covering! As a husband, God has given man the authority to pastor to his family. Paul said “I’m going to preach the gospel as God has given it to me, and not just to please man: 1 Thess 2:4. We are to live to please God and that includes how a man runs his home. You are entrusted to the word of God as the head of the home as Jesus is head of the church. Ephesians 5:25, Ephesians 6:4, Hebrews 10:25. This is a task that should not be left up to Rev. So and So or Dr. Whatyamacallhim.

Unfortunately too many brothers leave the pasturing to their wife and children to another man only and then have the nerve to complain about what he is teaching them. If you are truly concerned about what the pastor is teaching, you will be in church to monitor, and use what the man of God is teaching as a spring board to help you in YOUR studying. Remember! You’re just like your pastor, you need to Study to show yourself approved to God! 2 Timothy 2:15. But you can only monitor him when you have developed a personal relationship with God’s intimate word. Then and only then can you lead your wife and children properly according to His word.

If a pastor is in a church running amok he is doing so because there aren’t any strong men in that church, who are intimate with God’s word; men in the church who are disciples of God’s word. See the church isn’t the building, or a bunch or traditions or even the pastor; the church according to Matthew 16:18 is the profession that the rock upon which the church is built on is that “Jesus is Christ and the Son of the living God.” What this means is as a man you follow God and His word. How do you know that you are following His word if you are not studying His word? I attend church, tithe my tyme, talent and treasures and love the teachings of my pastor, but at my house I serve as the pastor because I study God’s word. I do not rely on man.

Allow me to preference this statement: I work extensively with men; my own personal men military, men in ours & other churches, men in the military, institutions of higher learning and prison institutions (I worked with murderers) – so I maintain an intimate relationship with men at large. With this said it pisses me off with some of the B.S. that I hear spewed by brothers. Now don’t get me wrong I understand whole heartedly: things unexpected come up, as men we are to be providers & the need of OT OverTyme, work schedules conflicts, and even the occasional Burn Out Day. But these should not be 3 out 4 Sundays a month! And let’s be honest! A lot of men are home watching the game, golfing, or maintaining the lawn, car etc…

If you don’t want to do church be a man and say I don’t do church. Cool, that’s keeping it real. The bible says be Hot or Cold and not Luke warm Rev 3:16. I understand some of the nonsense that goes on in God’s house. But the B.S. you spew is ridiculous. See, if you go to a restaurant and the service is bad and the food is bad and you feel like you got ripped off you don’t stop eating; you just no longer spend your money at that establishment. You then find another place to eat where you will get good service and excellent food or at the very least, you go home and get a home cooked meal that you trust.

Well go home and get filled on His nourishing word. When you do, you’ll know when a pastor is out of order and because you are in order your wife will be right by your side. It also pisses me off that brothers attempt to walk with swag and speak with such a high level of intellect only to sway when they are needed to step up and make change for the better in churches, in communities – help in their homes.

Dudes it tyme to STEP UP (72% of today’s children are born out-of-wedlock living primarily with single mothers; and the sisters their behavior isn’t excused in this situation b/c they are truly apart of this problem. Additionally, our communities are going to hell because our presence is absent! We aren’t just missing from the church; we are MIA in a whole lot of places where we are needed.

How about ceasing the B.S. It’s so much better to be the KING that we were made to be. “Let us make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness, and let them rule. In four words, the man is to lead, labor, listen and love. The man is to take leadership in both the home and the church. But, sad to say, sometymes he is not willing to do it.

Some wives and ladies have shared that they are pushed into many important decisions because the men who are supposed to do them have taken a back-seat. That is unhealthy and unbiblical. We need to take responsibility and dare to learn to lead; and pray and trust God to lead us first. But men are to be humble and self-effacing leaders, and loving and gentle in our leadership. We are to show gentle care and concern for those under our care, be it our children or the BS, SS, fellowship or the shepherding of the flock of God 1 Peter 5:13. We are to be instructors (e.g., in relationships), as well as doers of God’s work and Word James 1:22.

Men are also to labor in that we are to provide for our families and, in some sense, support the ministry of the Church with responsible stewardship of our substance. The man cannot be indolent or ill-equipped. He is to be learned and be ready for any good work. He is to be the prime mover in the Church in all its ministries.

My suggestion to the Pastors out who have more excuses given to then a little bit! Have a special service just for those men! But it’s GREAT for all missing members! I call it a:

NO EXCUSE SUNDAY: DEDICATED TO MISSING CHURCH ATTENDEES!
To make it possible for everyone to attend church this Sunday, we are going to have a special “No Excuse Sunday“: Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, “Sunday is my only day to sleep in.” There will be a special section with lounge chairs for those who feel that our pews are too hard. Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching TV late Saturday night. We will have steel helmets for those who say, “The roof would cave in if I ever came to church.”
 
Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold, and fans for those who say it is too hot. Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present. Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can’t go to church and cook dinner, too. We will distribute “Stamp Out Stewardship” buttons for those that feel the church is always asking for money. One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature. Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday. The sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas Poinsettia and Easter lilies for those who never have seen the church without them. We will provide hearing aids for those who can’t hear the preacher and cotton wool for those who think he’s too loud! Hope to see you there! 
 
*Resources/Photos:  Benny Perez, Ann Brock & The Mother of All Excuses