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‪reck·less /rekləs/ adj. without thinking about the consequences. rash, heedless, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, audacious, madcap‬

Category: Christ-follower (page 1 of 6)

Wisdom

  

It’s 8:30 on a Friday night and I’m on I-75 in the middle of South Georgia. Why?
I’m heading to north Georgia with two of my independent living youth. We are headed for the culmination of a mentoring program they started on the spring. It feels a little odd to be wrapping up the mentoring program I wasn’t really a part of. But tha s kind of how it goes. 

I have mixed feelings about being away from home this weekend. Without letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot going on back in Orlando. Ronda and I are in the midst of praying through a big situation for us. On one hand, I want to be there with her. One the other hand, I’m looking forward to the space and clarity that comes with spending a weekend in the woods. 

I suppose that means this weekend has a twofold purpose for me. To capstone the mentoring program and solidify my place in the lives of these youth as a mentor. And to allow God to speak to and mentor me this weekend. I have high hopes for this weekend. I’m trusting God won’t let me down. He doesn’t usually. 

The Celldweller song ‘The Last Firstborn’ is playing. That song always make me think of the Apostle Paul. He claimed his apostleship cake as one untimely born. I feel that way. Not that I’m an apostle, but that I often wonder about God’s choice to love me and use me to fulfill his purposes. But he does. And I believe this weekend he is going to teach me as much as he teaches these dudes with me. 

In some ways, I really need to hear God speak to me this weekend. I need it more than I have in quite some time. We started a new sermon series at church last week on the book of James. I’ve been reading it this week. In chapter 1, James says any who lacks wisdom should ask God in faith that he give generously to the obedient. That’s where j find myself. Asking for wisdom. Asking for God’s spirit of be upon me and inform my decision-making. I want to be a spirit-filled wise leader of the family and ministry God has trusted me with. 

This seems like a good place to close… God grant me your spirit of wisdom to be a wise leader of the people you have given to me. 

Dark Darkness

  

Yesterday, I was asked ‘what do you do when life takes just a little more faith than what you have?’ This is an intriguing question. I was taken a little aback by the question… I hadn’t had coffee yet!

As I thought through my life experiences and how I handled life when the darkness and shadows seemed to overpower the light. This happens to us, doesn’t it? No matter how strong our faith is, there inevitably will come a time when we feel as though the weight is too much. Too overpowering, too overwhelming.

How do we respond? How do we overcome that which is overcoming to us? When I was asked this question, I thought for a minute or two and came up with a couple strategies I have used when the darkness has felt overwhelming. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but a couple strategies that have worked for me in the past.

  1. Remember the outcome of the past – More times than I care to recount, I have felt overwhelmed. I have felt out of control. I have felt crushed by the weight of my circumstances. However, I have survived. Things may not have always worked out the way I hoped they would, but I have made it through. I have come through the darkness and come out on the other side. What has helped me is to remember I made it through, is realizing I have survived. I have been beaten, but not broken. I have been pressed, but not crushed. Keeping this in mind has assisted me in keep perspective and remember this darkness shall too pass.
  2. Remember I am not alone – In everything we face, we are not alone. Not only are there others around us who have faced the same struggles, God himself has entered into his creation and walks alongside me in difficult times. Good has sent me his Holy Spirit to dwell within me. Scriptures refer to the Holy Spirit as the paraclete, or ‘one who comes alongside’ to assist me and carry me and help me through the tough times. The light is always more powerful than the darkness, after all darkness runs from the light. Not only this, Jesus when he walked the earth he felt and experienced all the same things we do here on earth. He felt loss and depression. He felt betrayed. He felt angry. He felt hurt. He experienced the same range of emotions we experience in the same way we do.

There are, no doubt, many others strategies I’ve used to make it through the dark times, but these are the two which stand out most prevalent to me. Hopefully, these will be of assistance to you as well. I recall from the movie ‘the Crow’, a line – “it can’t rain all the time” and this is true. At some point the rain will stop, the sky will clear and the sun will shine. Life comes at us in seasons, some lasting longer than others, and they too shall pass.

The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.

Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isnt said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

Never-Ending Shopping List

Give me this, I want that, bless me Lord I pray. 

Grant me what i think I need to make it through the day.
Make me healthy, keep me wealthy, fill in what I miss
On my never-ending shopping list.
I will forever remember this song, I don’t know who wrote or even sang it first. I remember a good friend of the family singing this song somewhere along the way at a church sometime. This what prayer can feel like sometimes, right? 
A never-ending shopping list of things we want, things we feel we are owed or at the very least deserve. Jesus is not Santa Claus. Never has been, and I suspect he never will be. A few years ago, my boys made Christmas humorous for us as a family when they confessed they had prayed to Jesus to work with Santa to bring us a white Christmas. Coincidently, if we were to ever have a white Christmas at our house it would take a monumental miracle that could only come about if Jesus and Santa collaborated. I told them, living in Florida, a white Christmas is likely something we will never see.
I suppose it is possible your prayer time and prayer requests are holier than mine. Could be. But I bet even at times you miss the point of prayer too. We all do. Three reasons: we are human which leads to reason two, we are selfish which is caused by reason three, we are sinners. And we mess everything up… when left to ourselves. It’s kinda what we as humans do.
I’m not setting out here to give you a dissertation on prayer or specifically recite the various appropriate ways Scripture guides us to pray, for what and when and how and why. I simply want to confess to you, I suppose more than anything, I often don’t take full advantage of prayer in a way I should.
I have come to realize I pray way too small. 
I pray in such a way that doesn’t show I trust in a God much bigger than myself. I pray in such a way that doesn’t illustrate I believe God when he tells me to ask and I will receive. 
I don’t know this is terribly a big deal. I mean I have faith in God and trust him in and with my life. I live each day in service to him… so even if I don’t pray the biggest, most bold prayers I still am a follower of his. But it is a big deal because I have three young men God has entrusted to me to teach about him and to teach them how to trust him, to teach them how to be men after his heart. I owe it to them to pray bigger and to pray in a way that demonstrates I believe the almighty creator of the universe is listening to my prayers. Because he is!
Maybe the beginning is to spend more time in prayer myself. To spend more time getting to know my God. Maybe the first steps are to not treat prayer like a shopping list, but instead a relationship built on trust and love. I never want to hear Jesus say to me what he said to the church in Ephesus: ‘you have lost your first love.’ How heartbreaking it would be to hear Jesus say such a thing to you? I can’t imagine the ache inside my heart.
I never want to lose sight of my savior.
I never want to lose my first love.



Leadership lessons from Paul

Paul wrote a couple letters to the church in Corinth instructing them on the ins and outs of their faith. Paul came under heavy criticisms from this church, a church he labored long and hard with. Paul was attacked by false leaders who had come into the church after he planted and began to fill the heads of the Christ-followers there with misguided thoughts and beliefs. Paul was attacked by false leaders. Leaders who came to the church with less than reputable purposes. Paul’s ministry was attacked by these false leaders. They attempted to lead the Corinthian believers astray and discredit Paul in the process.

The false leaders attacked his character, his influence, his calling and his humility, claiming he was not called to lead. They claimed he was inadequate. They claimed he was not worthy of the task to lead the church he had planted. They called into question his integrity.

Paul countered with several arguments, the first of which was he compared being in ministry to a celebration ceremony of a king who has defeated his enemies. He connected the idea of the king who celebrates his victory with his life being used as a vessel to spread the Gospel message. As a king enters in celebration he has aromatic incense spread before him signifying life to those who have been victorious and death to those who were defeated. Paul says we are like the urn that spreads the incense. It is the message of life or death to those that hear it. Furthermore, as the urn we are not worthy to be in the celebration because we did nothing to celebrate except be the vessel that spreads good smells. None in reality are worthy to partake in the celebration and triumph. I think this leads us to an important piece of being a good leader. A good leaders needs to be  implicitly aware of their own insufficiency, being aware of their need for the grace of God.
Paul also responded by not abdicating his leadership. He didn’t back down from his assertion he was a leader. He realized people are fickle and sway easily when they hear lies from others about their leaders. He wasn’t willing to walk away from all his hard work and the people he built into for years. A little bit of hardship and difficulty weren’t going to be enough to sway him from his ministry to the Corinthians.
The critics asked for letters of recommendation, he claimed his credentials for leadership were the lives of the Corinthians. A leader’s influence is measured by the impact they have on the lives of those around them. Paul in effect said, I don’t need letters of recommendation because you know me. You have seen me, my life. You have seen the changes made in the life of the people around you because of the message of Christ they heard from me. Paul appealed to the changed lives and the impact he had on those around him as his letters of recommendation.
Paul was very sure about his calling. He never vacillated. Those who are unsure of their own vocation cannot possibly be effective leaders. Nothing is more debilitating than a leader who has self-doubt. When we question and doubt where God has placed us and the work he has set before. When we are certain of the mission and purpose God has set before us, we will view everything we do as a privilege and a part of accomplishing the purpose God has set before us. We have to have absolute confidence in what we are doing or else every trial, every hardship will threaten to derail you. I have been there before. I have lacked vision and clarity on where I was and what I was doing and every speed bump became a mountain.
We must have confidence in our calling, but at the same time understand there is nothing about us that makes us intrinsically adequate for the task God has called us to. Realizing our weaknesses and shortcomings allows us to rely on God for strength. God calls us to work for him not because of something we have a value for him, but he calls us for the work that he can do in us and through us. God makes us worthy of the calling he puts on our lives.

Photo by: John P. Nordin

Photo by: John P. Nordin

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