Friday, February 25, 2011

For His Name

In reading Joshua's request to God in Joshua 7:9, I was drawn to the question that Joshua asked God. He said, "what will you do for your great name?" Joshua recognized that what was at stake was more than just entering the Promised Land, but the reputation and character of God in keeping his promises.

An Addendum...

Let me add something. It's not that systems, procedures, structures, programs are evil. But, when they become the priority over and against the kingdom (when they become the kingdom we want to expand), they have ceased to function in the manner they ought to function, that is, in support of the mission of the kingdom of God.

So, there you go before somebody tries to throw me under the bus.

Oh, the Conflicts we Experience - some ramblings

It continues to amaze me that many of the things that seem to be at the center of conflict in many churches today are not found anywhere in the story of the New Testament church. The things that many fuss and argue about and leave churches over today aren't even mentioned in the New Testament--anywhere. The conflicts we experience because of these "things", I believe, could be avoided, to some degree, if these "things" did not even exist, if we just did away with them. Sure, there would still be conflict because we are imperfect people living life together. But, oh, the simplicity of the early church in the book of Acts without the formal systems and structures and operating procedures and programs that are present in many of our churches today.

I can hear some people now, "but, what about...". Yes, and even in my own mind, I hear myself saying, "but..." I don't have all the answers as to what that would look like in the 21st century. But, I have my suspicion that more ministry might be getting done.

The simplicity of being the people of God who meet together on a regular basis for mutual edification as a sent people with a heart for God's mission has somehow become clouded. The complexities of many churches' operating procedures and the maintenance of those systems have replaced the primary calling that ought to be driving our ministries. Often times, the systems & structures & programs we have in place drive the ministry instead of the mission driving the systems, structures, & programs. That seems backwards to me in light of Jesus' words in Matthew 6:33.

The kingdom of God in the mission of the church ought to be in the driver's seat of all decision-making processes and systems of operation. As we prioritize the kingdom of God, we have a supernatural focus point for our identity and our purpose.

What do you think?

Stewardship, part 6 - Our Emotions

We humans are emotional people. As we read the scriptures and take a look at normal human experience, we discover the gamut of human emotions being expressed-- happiness, excitement, sadness, fear, depression, grief, compassion, jealousy, anger, frustration, disappointment, and others.

Emotions are part of our make-up as human beings. They are part of our souls, that immaterial of who we are as humans. Therefore, our expression of emotions is a stewardship opportunity; how can we express our emotions to the glory of God?

In diving into this subject, we must understand something about emotions. Since they are part of our natural make-up as human beings, emotions do not happen to us, they are produced from within us. To be sure, something outside of us (i.e. circumstances, words of someone else, actions of someone else, a difficult situation) may trigger an emotion, but the emotion comes from and has its origin within us. The intensity of the emotion that rises up within us is related to our degree of connectedness to the trigger of that emotion and the condition of our heart at the time of the trigger.

We have probably all heard someone say, “You made me angry” or some variation of that statement. Well, if emotions are produced from within us, then we are responsible for that emotion and the expression of that emotion, not the other person or the circumstances that triggered the emotion’s expression.

Another example is the emotion of frustration. Sometimes, I get “frustrated” with our third child. He is somewhat rambunctious at times (yes, understatement of the year, I know, but hang with me), and I get frustrated with his behavior. Now, who is responsible for “my” frustration? It’s not Carter, it’s me. He might be the trigger of it, but I’m responsible for my response to his behavior. He is responsible for himself, but he is not responsible for me.

A godly response to the rising up of frustration (or any other emotion) will be determined to the degree that I am walking in the Spirit and being controlled by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:16-26 and Ephesians 5:18).
Emotions can be sensitive issue in our culture today because they can be so strong in our lives. It is worthy of our time, energy, and effort to cultivate a lifestyle of walking in the Spirit so that we can be faithful stewards of our emotions so that we might express them in a manner that is worthy of the gospel and to the glory of God.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stewardship, part 5

One of the areas of stewardship that does not get much attention is the stewardship of our minds, our thinking. Jesus said in the Great Commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Jesus’ use of these words demonstrates the totality of the commitment Jesus is calling us to—that we are to love God with everything ounce of our total being. And, that includes our mind.

The mind can be defined as the element of our soul with the capacity to think, to reason, to contemplate, to meditate, and to decide with that process being conditioned upon the direction and disposition and affections of one’s heart.

To love the Lord our God with our minds means at least the following three things:
  1. To have a worldview that is shaped by scripture
  2.  To guard against wrong ways of thinking
  3. To think about God deeply, particularly as he is revealed in the gospel

Many times, we hear teaching or hold on to traditions without thinking through the implications of those things or the source of those teachings or traditions. We just kind of go with the flow without evaluating what we hear or believe through the lens of scripture. To do so, I believe, is not being a faithful steward of the mind that God gave us to think with for His glory. Certainly, our minds were affected by sin’s entrance into the world, but we have been given a new heart with new desires and a new direction. As the Holy Spirit transforms and renews (Romans 12:1-2) our minds through His Word, we can cultivate biblically informed and Christian thinking in a world that is full of deceitful philosophies (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 and Colossians 2:8).

Here are five ways that we can cultivate a “mind for God” for faithful stewardship:
1.            Know, love, read, hear, memorize, examine, analyze, study, meditate on God’s Word
         Be willing to be stretched and challenged in our thinking and our theology
3.            Be willing to interact with those who think differently than we do
4.            Read books that challenge our mind and deepen our understanding
5.            Prayer – resting in God’s grace/relying on the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16:13)

In a culture that is full of vain philosophies and false teaching, we need a thinking faith with spiritual discernment—the vitality and growth of our spiritual life is at stake.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stewardship, part 4

Every Christian has been given a spiritual gift at the moment of conversion that he/she has the privilege of exercising within the body of Christ for the building up of the church. This, too, is a matter of stewardship.

1 Peter 4:7-11 tells us, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Serving one another by the exercising of our spiritual gifts is one of the ways that we love one another and build up the church for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom. The exercising of our spiritual gifts is not for us to call attention to ourselves, but to call attention to Jesus’ grace by which we have the privilege to serve others.

This is a good quote: “Different Christians will have different functions in the body, or course, but it is the duty of every Christian to serve every other Christian in love and humility. Let us then work, and work hard, and work together, not to advance ourselves or our denominations or our paltry kingdoms, but to advance Christ’s upside down kingdom…”

That upside down kingdom is one of servanthood. Our spiritual gifts are gifts to be stewarded for the sake of His kingdom and not ours. So, how can we steward them faithfully?

There are at five least ways to faithfully steward our spiritual gifts within the body of Christ:
1)    With diligence
2)    With the ability God supplies
3)    With humility
4)    In their proper place in the body
5)    In love

How’s your exercising today—spiritually speaking, of course?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stewardship, part 3

A very popular song by Jim Croce is entitled “Time in a Bottle”. The basic theme of the song is the inevitability of the passing of time and the irretrievable nature of time itself; once it’s gone, it’s gone. There’s no turning back the clock.

Therefore, in his book Investing Time, John Goestsch declares and questions us: “In life there is nothing more consistent than the passing of time. We attempt to slow it down and even at times make it stand still, but it is undeterred, steadily marching onward. Benjamin Franklin said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.” Time is irretrievable. You cannot repeat it or relive it. In life, there is no such thing as instant replay. The minutes that travel with us each day have eternity wrapped up inside them. How are you using yours?”

The wise or foolish use of our time is a matter of stewardship, isn’t it? We are all given 24 hours a day to use wisely or to squander. So, how can we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and body with respect to our time?

James 4:14 instructs us, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

The Psalmist prays in 90:12, ““Teach us (instruct) to number our days, that we gain a heart of wisdom”.

Faithful stewardship of the time we’ve been given is reflected in the following principles from Ephesians 5:15-18:
1)    Be careful how you live – intentionality; prioritizing the kingdom of God
2)    Redeem the time – seizing the opportunities that God presents
3)    Know the will of the Lord – love relationship with the Father in obedience to him
4)    Be filled with the Spirit – under the control of; walking in the Spirit

The conclusion we can draw from these principles to guide us in the faithful stewardship of our time is this:
Faithful stewardship in life is about living from a God-glorifying, Jesus-loving, and Holy Spirit-filled orientation to life and exercising a God-glorifying, Jesus-loving, Holy Spirit-directed intentionality in the investing of our time for God-glorifying, Jesus-loving, Holy Spirit-directed purposes and pursuits.