Thursday, October 28, 2010

Misery Loves

I am reading in Job this morning and I am in the middle of the dialogue between Job and his friends. It is interesting how they try to give him a different perspective (not always accurately) and how he refutes everything that they say. What his friends say is not always encouraging, but they are trying to help. It is his position of refusal that allows him to keep wallowing in his pitiful emotions-at least until God answers him and gives him the right perspective.

I know that the key when we are struggling is to turn to God as He is the only one that can actually provide comfort. It was Job's example that showed me that most of the time when we are miserable, we become content with staying in that trap. It isn't so much that misery loves company. I've found that far too often (at least in my own life) that misery just loves misery. It causes us to stay in self-destructive patterns of depression, to lash out at those that are closest to us, and to become vindictive in thoughts and speech towards those that we feel have wounded us. When we don't allow God to intervene, this becomes a life-long characteristic that leads to an embittered existence that sucks the energy from other people.

The truth is that God desires more than that for us and is prepared to guide us out of that imprisonment. Can we show people the need to let Him be the solution?

"The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full." John 10:10

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Off Script

As someone who has always enjoyed the theater and was a theater major in college for a bit, I have seen and performed in numerous plays and musicals. I love to immerse myself in a role or a show and enjoy all that the characters have to offer. One of the keys to a successful dramatic production is to make sure that everyone knows their lines-it helps you to get into your character and provides a seamless and realistic experience for those that are watching. When the other actors improvise in this area it throws off timing and can cause uncertainty among the principal players.

When we make a commitment to Christ we are asking Him to step into our lives-our own dramatic production if you will. We talk about wanting to give Him control and asking Him to lead us, but when He starts improvising off the script that we had written for our lives we get upset.

You can't have it both ways. Either you want an entertaining god (intentionally lower case) to play along with your ambitions or you want the real God to set you towards the plan and purpose He has for you-regardless of how uncomfortable it might make you.

It's not easy to cede control, but it's necessary for something that is real.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Response Time

In the book of Daniel, in chapter 4 is the story of King Nebuchadnezzar who was the king of  Babylon during the Jewish exile. The king has a dream and he turns to Daniel for interpretation. The vision from God tells Nebuchadnezzar that he is destined to have his kingdom removed from him and that he will live as a wild beast for a period of time before his kingdom is restored to him. The point of the vision is that the only reason that he is in power is that God has allowed it. Nebuchadnezzar is affected by this news I am sure, but does nothing with it as time goes by until a year has passed. At this point he is boasting about how great he is and all of his power when God fulfills His promise and takes it away.

The king missed the point of what God was telling him. He was given a chance to make a change and a whole year to do it and either chickened out or he was too prideful to change and figured that God really wouldn't follow through. God has always proven to be faithful to His Word though-even when we are not faithful to ours.

I wonder how often we hear something from God and either ignore it or conveniently forget about it. Not only are we disobedient when we choose this path we also miss out on what God has for us next. I'm firmly convinced that ignoring these God messages is what holds us back as followers, spiritual leaders and His church.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Enemy Within Us

David Platt in his book, Radical, writes this statement: "Part of our sinful nature instinctively chooses to see what we want to see and to ignore what we want to ignore."

We can own up to the "typical" sins that are so commonly shared (lust & pride as men) without letting the Holy Spirit actually reveal to us the true nature of all the sin that has a grip on us. It's in ignoring those "other" sins that we are only fooling ourselves.

We miss how talking about other people is gossip as we think it is "Christian concern." Complaints about methodology and structure in the church are "voices of reason" instead of recognizing them as dissension and divisiveness. Talking suggestively in person (or online) with someone of the opposite sex is seen as harmless flirting when it is adultery and harmful to both people and their families. Crude jokes and comments made between friends is painted as simply having fun when it is destroying a level of purity within our hearts. Having a few drinks too many is "not that big a deal" when God specifically tells us not to overindulge in any area of our life. A small lie that is told to cover over a small trangression isn't a big deal since nobody is really hurt even if God's Word tells us to let "your yes be yes and your no be no."

Hiding this sin from other people seems second nature since we don't want others to know what we struggle with, but the true danger comes when we hide it from ourselves. Honestly, I believe that we hide them because we are afraid it is too hard to let God work on them. The process of the Holy Spirit making us aware of this is not without pain, but it is necessary for us to be holy as God is holy.

We can only truly be free when we ask God to reveal all of the sin that has a stranglehold on us-those that we see and even those we try not to notice.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Not Too Much

I am reading Jerry Bridges book The Pursuit of Holiness, and he is writing about the need for us to get rid of sin in our lives if we want to be holy. Part of the problem with removing sin from our lives is in our attitude towards it.

1 John 2:1 says, "I write this to you so that you will not sin." John was clearly communicating that we have God's Word to help us set the goal of not sinning. We struggle because we have shifted that goal to trying not to sin too much. That certainly isn't the level of holiness that God is calling us to and may have a lot to do with why we battle so much with those sinful habits. Instead of trying to limit the sin in our lives, we should be striving to eliminate it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Influence: My Best Friend

At the end of this blog series on influences in my life, it has to be concluded by talking about my wife. She and I met in the fall of 1991, started dating February 14, 1992, I proposed on February 14, 1993 and we were married in December of 1994. It has been a difficult and yet rewarding journey, but I wouldn't have made it where I am today without her. It's interesting to see how much we have changed through the years, and how we have become so much closer as a result of life together blessed by God.

I couldn't possibly fit into one blog entry all of the ways she has influenced me, but I'll try:
  • She showed me toughness right away as she dealt with breast cancer and then became an advocate for early screening and detection for young women
  • She has this great family that has helped to shape my work ethic and desire to provide for my own family
  • She got me to go back to church and was the spiritual leader in our house when I wasn't man enough to do it
  • She prayed for me and held things together while I spent the majority of my time focused on my career in athletic training
  • She believes in me and is my biggest fan and supporter
  • She has become so passionate about studying God's Word and is definitely a better Biblical scholar than I am
  • She loves our children so much and is an incredible mother to them
  • She is one of the most intelligent people I know and I value her input in so many ways
  • She doesn't just accept something because "that's the way it's always been done" and pushes me to think about how things come together
  • She has dedicated herself to running and has pushed me to be in better condition for our family's sake and my own
  • She has shown a commitment to God's plan for our family and is willing to go wherever He leads us.
I could go on and make this the world's longest blog, but it is sufficient to say that I am blessed to be married to my best friend, my confidant, my lover and the woman who pushes me to be a better man.

Thank you babe for loving me and helping me to be who God wants me to be.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hard Habit to Break

There is always a battle with sin in our lives. If you have declared that you are a Christian, that battle has been won and yet we still struggle with sin in our lives. Sin doesn't have dominion over you yet it is still a constant struggle between our spiritual and physical natures. This reinforces the premise that sin is a habit for us. Even though we have been made free through Christ we tend to fall back on the habits that we are most familiar with.

An illustration that I read this morning equated it to the slaves that were freed by President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. The author stated that those slaves most likely did not immediately think and act like freed people just because they had been released. They still tended to act as slaves because they had developed habit patterns of slavery and had to work to overcome them to see the change in their lives.

Isn't this true of us? We have been freed, but still think and act like slaves of sin. It is a continual renewing and transforming of our minds that will eventually replace those habits with the ones that God truly wants to be ingrained in us.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Do I Know You?

One of the dangers of today's social networking life is that we spend most of our time discovering other people through their Facebook page. While this can be a positive way to reconnect with old friends and even make acquaintances via friend connections, it does tend to be a bit shallow in terms of knowing people well. It creates a dangerous situation where you may feel that you know someone better than they actually know you. You have looked through their pictures and seen their online observations, but it doesn't tell you the whole story of who they are. In some instances you may even approach them in public and ask about the birthday party they went to last week without them being very clear on who you actually are.

In 1 Corinthians 8:3 it says, "But the man who loves God is known by God." As I read that this morning it caused me to pause and wonder how many people think that they know God because they have grown up in a church or because they attend whenever the doors are open.

Church attendance, Christian t-shirts and the latest Tomlin or Hillsong CD don't get us membership into the God club. It is a love of God that is evidenced by the way that we live. It is a life marked by holiness as we seek to care for others and do what we can to bring them into God's Kingdom. When this is who we striving to be, there won't be that awkward moment when we think that we know God well only to find out He doesn't have a clue who we are.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Personal

There would be no ministry, no repentance and no revival without the Holy Spirit. I feel confident saying that and believing in the power that God provides to change lives. I have seen it at work in my own life and in countless stories of transformation in other people.

There is another factor to this supernatural occurrence however. It is the need for personal responsibility. I have no doubt that God could choose to heal a marriage, take away cancer, remove an addiction or cause Pentecost to happen all over again. I also see that we must be willing to take those steps to seek out the supernatural. We must choose to be actively engaged in worship. We have to decide that holiness is something we want to pursue. We must stand up for our children and their future. We have to stand in the gap for those that are unwilling to stand on their own. We must decide to do something with the messages that God gives to us each week instead of only being motivated on a Sunday morning.

It is our choosing to follow God and all that it entails that will make a difference in our lives here and in the life to come. It's that personal involvement combined with the power of the Holy Spirit that brings about a change that is noticeable to the rest of the world.