Essential Church

I recently asked a question on Facebook “Do you consider the local church to be essential?” I realize that most of the responses were from people that would call themselves Christians and follow Jesus. The response was positive, but I also sensed a bit of confusion or frustration with the church.

I have been in full time ministry for 18 years. I understand that my perspective may be a bit different than someone that does not work for a church. However, I also was a church attender, volunteer, small group leader while working full time for several years before I went into full time ministry. I also grew frustrated and confused about church and stopped going for a period of time. God nudged me back to His church and completely transformed my life.

I see the value of the church, and have experienced it first hand and walked with hundreds of people that have been transformed through the local church. By local church I am talking about any church that believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and that is involved in a local community, whether small town or big city. A local church is a group of people that gather regularly to worship, pray, encourage each other, care for each other and love & serve other people.

The church is God’s instrument to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel to the world, and to usher in the kingdom of God. Jesus said in Mathew16:18 talking to Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

The church belongs to Jesus, He is the head of the church and established the church. His plan was that through the gathering of believers that many lives would be transformed through the good news about what He did for us on the Cross and through His resurrection. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:10 “His (Jesus’) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”

The most essential thing in life is knowing God and believing in Jesus Christ. That is the most essential thing because we are all going to live forever somewhere, either in heaven with God, or separated from God in hell. The church was designed by God to spread the gospel about Jesus and what He did for every person still living.

Of course the church also does other things like care for the hurting, broken and lonely. The church is a place for people to find freedom, find healing, find hope, and then help others do the same. The people in a church are called to share the love of Jesus every day with the world around them. The church was not meant to be a small group to only cares for each other, but that connects with the world, to love and serve others. That is why I love being a part of the local church.

Where I am serving now at Grace Church, we have some God Dreams that I think describe the local church and how it should be functioning. Here are those God Dreams:

  1. We imagine a church where hurting, broken people can find and follow Jesus Christ the Healer.
  2. We imagine a church where every Christ follower is being trained and sent to our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces to make and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ.
  3. We imagine a church that is building strong marriages, and healthy families in a world where divorce is common and families are fragmented.
  4. We imagine a church where every Christ follower is fully engaged by giving generously, connecting with other believers, and serving others with their spiritual gifts and talents.
  5. We imagine a church with a dream team of leaders at every level of ministry, inspiring, innovating, and taking kingdom risks to advance the churches mission of helping people, know God, Find Freedom, Discover their purpose and make a difference.
  6. We imagine a church where every Christ follower chooses to go on a short-term mission trip in the U.S, or globally to share and show the love of Christ.
  7. We imagine our church tithing 10% of our people to live among the unreached, to share the gospel, and to make disciples.
  8. We imagine our church launching multiple locations in our region as a way of making more disciples, reaching the unchurched, and expanding our gospel impact.
  9. We imagine our church launching multiple safe houses in strategic cities and countries, aimed at restoring hope to vulnerable women and children.
  10. We imagine a time when our Lead Pastor and his wife will be sent out from our church to equip, release, and coach church leaders and church planters domestically and globally.

That’s the kind of church that is essential. I’m so encouraged that there are thousands of churches like that all over the world. So let’s all do our part by being a part of a church like that. Get involved, get connected, find your purpose and make a difference.

Worry vs. Prayer

Big Point:  Worry is focused negative thinking, while prayer is focused spiritual thinking.

About 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, but far more suffer from mild anxiety or worry that has not yet developed into a disorder.  For many people today, worry has simply become a mental habit. Automatically thinking the worse case scenario for the events that happen in their lives.  It’s also playing the “what if” possibilities over & over in their minds.

This has become the normal for many people, however there is a better way and a better normal.  This way leads to less stress, more peace and better health. Philippians 4:6-7 gives us the better way “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

So, prayer is the better way.  Pray should be our normal response to anything that comes our way.  Pausing to talk to God, ask for his help, for wisdom, for courage, for patience.  Expressing our frustrations, fears and doubts to him instead of having a negative conversation with ourselves leads to peace.  It also leads to better health both physically and emotionally.

Read and Reflect:  Read these passages of Scripture several times.  Each time you read it emphasize a different word.  Then reflect and think about what you noticed.

  • Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7
  • “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
  • “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4
  • “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9
  • “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Questions to Consider:

  • What do you tend to worry about the most?
  • What benefits would you gain by praying more instead of worrying?
  • What is one thing you could do to remind yourself to pray more throughout your day?
  • When was the last time you memorized a passage of Scripture?  If it’s been awhile consider memorizing one of the verses in this devotional.

What’s Next?

  • Memorize one or more passages of Scripture this week.
  • Focus on Jesus by reading the story found in Luke 10:38-42
  • Make a list of all the things that you are grateful for
  • Build prayer into your daily schedule, with reminders until it becomes normal.

Pray:
Dear Lord,
I need you now because I am full of stress and anxiety. Reading your Word brings comfort, as I ask you to come and take my heavy burdens. I take each burden, one by one, and lay them at your feet. Please carry them for me so that I don’t have to. Replace them with your humble and gentle spirit so that I will find rest for my soul today. I receive your gift of peace of mind and heart. Thank you that I can lie down tonight in peace and sleep. I know that you, Lord, will keep me safe. I am not afraid because you are always with me. Please keep me daily, Lord, in your perfect peace.
Amen.

Generosity is …

Generosity is a quality that most people want to be around. It can be inspiring and heart warming to see genuine generosity. However, generosity is a heart issue, it’s what is happening in our heart that causes us to be generous.

Paul wrote most of the New Testament and he talks a good bit about generosity. in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 he unpacks some amazing truths about what generosity is. Take a moment and reflect on these 11 truths and then ask yourself how generous you are? Where do you need to grow?

  1. Generosity is unrelated to income and wealth – You can be generous no matter what your economic status.

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 8:2

2. Generosity is never forced – it’s a choice we make everyday.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own. 8:3 

3. Generosity cannot be contained! – When we are transformed to see as God sees, and care as God cares, we understand the honor we have in giving. Giving is contagious.

And they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 8:4 

4. Generosity is always focused first toward the Lord – When we give ourselves to the Lord, our hearts turn from selfish to generous.

And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 8:5 

5. Generosity is tangible evidence of our love for God – It is outward evidence of the inner change happening in us.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 8:8 

6. Generous people meet needs – God helps us to notice the needs around us and gives us the discernment to know how to best help those in need.

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need . . . “[He] who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” 8:14-15

7. Generosity honors the Lord – It is an act of worship and brings glory to God.

What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 8:19 

8. Real generosity is expressed cheerfully – It’s a joy to give. When we give we are a blessing to others and when we give we are blessed ourselves.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 9:7

9. Generosity is personal between us and God – It’s a personal choice to give, we should always pray about our giving and make plans to give.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 9:7 

10. God provides the gift for the generous to give – God owns it all and supplies it all.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous . . . 9:10–11 

11. Expressed generosity moves others closer to God – Our giving impacts people in ways only God really sees.

So that you can be generous…and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity . . . 9:11–13 

Ten Saving and Giving Tips

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Most people want to be generous and help those in need.  The reality is most people do not give much.  Most people also understand that’s it’s important to save money.  The reality is most people don’t save much money either.  So what’s the problem?  Part of it may be understanding the world better.  Also part of it is not having a plan.

Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel in Ft Lauderdale gave this example of putting the people of the world into perspective.  Let’s look at the world as made up of just 100 people:

  • 70 of them don’t know Jesus. 30 do.
  • 30 are white. 70 are some other color.
  • 51 are women, 49 are men.
  • 80 live in substandard housing, meaning they have no electricity, running water, inside plumbing or a roof over their head.
  • 50 are malnourished. Their food is not satisfying, not enough and doesn’t provide proper nutrition.
  • 70 can’t read.
  • 1 is dying as you read this-a little kid under the age of 10. He’s dying because he can’t get enough to eat.
  • 6 have a significant portion of the world’s wealth.
  • 6 live in the United States.
  • What if you’re the dad of the kid who’s dying of malnourishment?  Wouldn’t you be asking one of the 6 wealthy to share a little for your child? Unfortunately, the answer all too often is: there’s other things to do with our money, new things to buy.

Most Americans spend their money this way:

  • 24% on housing
  • 19% on health care
  • 22% on recreation and personal needs
  • 15% for food
  • 17% for transportation
  • Leaving 3% for other such as giving or saving

Most people want to make a difference but are either too far in debt to be generous or have good intentions but don’t plan in advance to be generous or even to save.

So here are some tips on how you can Save more and Give more:

  1. Save second and Give to God first.  When we give first, then save some we don’t spend money on those unimportant things that we don’t think about.  The fancy coffee, the extra soda, the fast food.
  2. Use an automatic transfer at your bank.  Transfer money out of your checking account into a savings account after every paycheck.  You can also set up automatic giving to your church either through your bank or through your church.
  3. Be consistent.  If you save money every other week for a year it adds up quickly, same goes for giving.  If you give consistently every week and not just when your in church you end up being more generous.
  4. You might want to have multiple savings accounts you transfer money into.  One should be an emergency account, another could be to purchase your next vehicle or other large item and another could be for a down payment on a house.
  5. You might even set up a saving account at a different bank to make it harder to get to and more out of mind.  When you don’t see the money in your checking account or in your wallet you won’t spend it.
  6. When you get a raise or a bonus put that money in savings, give some away or pay off debt.
  7. Pray about saving and giving.  Ask God to give you wisdom with your finances and guidance on how to spend what He has entrusted to you.
  8. When an opportunity to give comes along if you’ve been saving money you can pull from your savings and give and not have to take money out of your budget.
  9. Plan in advance where you want to give each year.  Give to your local church first.  I recommend 10% of your gross income as a target.  Then plan what other non-profits you have a  heart for and what you would like to give to them for the year.  Then plan to use money from savings or budget to give to things that come up that you would like to support like girl scouts, youth group, pizza fund raisers etc.
  10. When you payoff debt add that extra money to your savings and give some away.  Or if you are able to save some money on expenses increase your giving or your saving.

Being generous feels good and helps make the world a better place.  Saving is a healthy practice and helps you to be more generous.  Start today by choosing a couple of these tips and put them into practice.

 

Five Key Spiritual Habits

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We are all busy, there are many things competing for our time and energy.  Leadership can be defined as having influence in someone elses life.  If you have faith in Jesus Christ you are also a spiritual leader, because now you are an ambassador for God.  The influence we have with people, whether it’s at work, home, school or church is often a reflection on what daily habits we have.

Jesus gave us a great example of things we can do to stay focused on the right things and keep the right perspective on life.  It’s easy to drift and be consumed by the day to day activities of life unless we develop these essential habits.  So here are five things we can observe in the life of Jesus that can contribute to our development of faith, character and leadership.

  • Solitude – This is a challenging behavior because it’s countercultural.  It is a rare and often unsettling feeling to stop doing and just be.  Solitude is being completely alone with God away from all human contact for extended periods of time. It is in these times of solitude that we can seek to refill our spiritual fuel tank, hear from God, think clearly and honestly.  It helps us make better decisions, work through grief and pain and strengthen our spirit and resolve.
    • Jesus spent 40 days alone in the desert.
    • Before he chose the 12 disciples he spent the entire night alone praying and thinking.
    • When a close friend John the Baptist was killed he went off in a boat by himself.
    • After a great ministry event of feeding the five thousand he went up into the hills by himself.
  • Prayer – How’s your prayer life?  Prayer is essential for our spiritual and emotional well-being. Regular connection with God through prayer is what sustained Jesus while he was here on earth.  For us as leaders it’s vital to be able to talk with God about anything and everything.  Prayer is the way in which we plug into God’s power, receive God’s comfort and encouragement, vent our frustrations and pain and intercede for other people.  Prayer helps prepare us for the day by focusing on God first.  Praying with people and for people is a powerful leadership principle.  Praying for your spouse, family, friends, co-workers, employees, small group, boss and other leaders is an effective way to lead and love people.  When prayer becomes a habit it becomes part of our DNA and normal way of life.
  • Bible – It’s the greatest resource known to mankind.  It’s more than a how-to manual for life, it’s an intimate love letter written to you from your Heavenly Father.  I’m currently reading through the New Testament in 60 days.  I’m on day 51 and I love it and look forward to it.  There are five practical ways you can cultivate this habit of getting into God’s Word.
    • Hearing God’s Word – That is why it’s important to go to church, to hear God’s Word and messages about how to listen and obey and put it into practice.  You can also listen to the Bible through great Bible Apps like YouVersion.  Have your spouse or friend read the Bible out loud to you, not only will you get into God’s Word it will build that relationship with your spouse or friend.
    • Reading God’s Word – There are so many great translations of the Bible that it’s much easier to read the Bible today.  I use my Bible App on my phone a lot.  There are great reading plans for all parts of the Bible.  Don’t take on too much but be consistent.  Reading the Bible daily or most days will help you lead better, even if you don’t understand everything at first.  Great leaders read a lot and the Bible should be at the top of the list.
    • Study God’s Word – This is more than just reading, this is examining and looking into the meaning and application of God’s Word.  This is great to do with other people in a small group, but we also need times when we dig in on our own.  Using a study Bible is helpful because there are study notes that explain what the Scriptures are saying.
    • Memorize God’s Word – When was the last time you memorized something?  A great way to go deeper in God’s Word is to memorize it.  Every year I lead a group of men and one of the things we do is memorize Scripture together.  Jesus used Scripture to fight against the devil and we can do the same.  When you memorize it you can recall it later when you need courage for the fight.
    • Meditate on God’s Word – Memorizing Scripture puts it into your head, while meditating puts it into your heart.  It’s focusing on a verse or several verses over a period of time.  Writing it down, reading it out loud, emphasizing different words, personalizing it by putting your name in the verse, praying the verse to God.  It’s praying while your focus on that Scripture and asking God to reveal what he wants you to know or do.
  • Trusting God – Jesus completely trusted God with absolutely everything.  In our culture we tend to only rely on or trust ourselves.  Trusting others and God is a struggle for most people.  Pride & fear fuel this lack of trust in our lives.  Many people have also been hurt or let down by important people in their lives so it’s hard to trust again.  Only in our relationship with God can we trust for complete unconditional love.  Because of God’s incredible, never changing love for us He is trustworthy.  When we understand who God is and how much He loves us it changes our perspective on life, ourselves and the world around us.
  • Intimate Community – Jesus had the 12 men that he spent significant time with.  But he also had 3 men that he was even closer and more intimate with.  It was his inner circle, the ones he did life with and passed on the leadership of the church to.  It’s vital for leaders to have soul-filling relationships with people where you can give and receive.  A safe place to share your heart, your struggles and your victories.  We need to be around people that know us well enough to tell us the truth, challenge us, question us and love us.

I hope these are habits that become a normal part of your life.  I encourage you to take small steps toward applying these habits into your daily, weekly and monthly routines.  If you do it will transform your leadership and your relationships.

 

The Heart of God

This past week I spent 6 days working with Hope Reigns doing disaster flood relief in West Virginia.  This is the third trip I have done with Hope Reigns.  They are a division of Eight Days of Hope a non-profit organization that helps communities rebuild after a disaster.

Every morning the volunteers gather and someone shares a message or devotional and we pray together before heading out to the projects.  In the evening after we eat together we have a time of worship and a message and more prayer.

On Monday July 4th I shared a devotional with the volunteers in the morning.  We had been talking about the heart of God and understanding how amazing his heart is.  Here is what I shared:

As I think about the heart of God I have to think about my own heart.  My heart is not perfect like God’s, I have stuff in there that is not good.  Things like anger, greed, envy, lust and pride just to name a few.

Of course Jesus changed everything when it comes to our spirit and our heart.  He made is possible once again to be at one with God.  To be reconciled to Him and a part of God’s family.  God’s heart is for us and His desire is for all to be reconciled to Him.

When we make the decision to have a relationship with Jesus.  When we believe Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, that he took the sins of the world on himself and died on a cross for those sins and then three days later rose from the dead overcoming sin and death, our spirit is changed.  We now have a part of God in us, the Holy Spirit resided in us.  That is when our hearts start to change.

We begin to see the world differently, we see people differently, we have a new perspective on life.  We are no longer slaves to sin because Jesus is now our Master.

Romans 8:26-28 says: “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them”

So since we have the Holy Spirit with us and for us and in us, we have a great advantage in life.  Over time as we mature in our faith and relationship with Christ.  Our heart changes, those things that were in there begin to become less and less and we have more of the Spirit in us.  In Galatians Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit and below is a listing of those fruits and a definition, the opposite and the counterfeit.

Be filled by the Spirit:

Love

Definition – To serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you.

Opposite – Fear: self-protection and abusing people.

Counterfeit – Selfish affection. Rescuing someone but really rescuing self. Attracted not to a person, but to how this person’s love makes you feel about yourself.

– Joy

Definition – Delight in God and his salvation

Opposite – Hopelessness, despair.

Counterfeit – Happiness that come because of the gift, not the giver. Mood swings based on circumstances.

– Peace

Definition – Confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than your own.

Opposite – Anxiety and worry

Counterfeit – Indifference, apathy, not caring about something. “I don’t care.”

– Patience

Definition – Ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing up. To suffer joyfully.

Opposite – Resentment toward God and others.

Counterfeit – Cynicism. Self-righteousness. “This is too small to be bothered about.”

– Kindness

Definition – Practical kindness with vulnerability out of deep inner security.

Opposite – Envy.  Unable to rejoice others joy.

Counterfeit – Manipulative good deeds. “Right hand knowing what left hand is doing.” Self-congratulation and self-righteousness

– Goodness. (Integrity)

Definition – Honesty, transparency. Being the same in one situation as another.

Opposite – Phoniness; hypocrisy.

Counterfeit – Truth without love. “Getting it off the chest” for your sake.

– Faithfulness.

Definition – Loyalty. Courage. To be principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable. True to one’s word.

Opposite – Opportunist. Fair-weather friend.

Counterfeit – Love without truth. Being loyal when you should be willing to confront or challenge.

– gentleness. (humility)

Definition – Self-forgetfulness.

Opposite – Superiority: self-absorbed

Counterfeit – Inferiority: self-absorbed, self-consciousness.

– Self-control

Definition – Ability to choose the important thing over the urgent.

Opposite – A driven, impulsive, uncontrolled person.

Counterfeit – Willpower through pride

So we have the heart of God in us and The Holy Spirit is active every day in our lives.  We have everything we need to live life to the fullest and to deal with anything that comes our way.

Our Identity

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This past Sunday our Lead Pastor Dwight Mason shared a great message about our identity as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.  We are Also Known As Saints – You can watch the full message here – NewPointe Community Church

When you confess with your mouth that Jesus in Lord and you believe in him and put your trust in him you are changed, and become new person spiritually.  At that point God sees you as a Saint.  In part of that message Dwight shared some very helpful info on the fruit of the Spirit.  As we mature into our identity these things should become more evident in our lives.

Be filled by the Spirit:

Love

Definition – To serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you.

Opposite – Fear: self-protection and abusing people.

Counterfeit – Selfish affection. Rescuing someone but really rescuing self. Attracted not to a person, but to how this person’s love makes you feel about yourself.

Joy

Definition – Delight in God and his salvation

Opposite – Hopelessness, despair.

Counterfeit – Happiness that come because of the gift, not the giver. Mood swings based on circumstances.

– Peace

Definition – Confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than your own.

Opposite – Anxiety and worry

Counterfeit – Indifference, apathy, not caring about something. “I don’t care.”

– Patience

Definition – Ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing up. To suffer joyfully.

Opposite – Resentment toward God and others.

Counterfeit – Cynicism. Self-righteousness. “This is too small to be bothered about.”

 

– Kindness

Definition – Practical kindness with vulnerability out of deep inner security.

Opposite – Envy. Unable to rejoice other’s joy.

Counterfeit – Manipulative good deeds. “Right hand knowing what left hand is doing.” Self-congratulation and self-righteousness

Goodness. (Integrity)

Definition – Honesty, transparency. Being the same in one situation as another.

Opposite – Phoniness; hypocrisy.

Counterfeit – Truth without love. “Getting it off the chest” for your sake.

Faithfulness.

Definition – Loyalty. Courage. To be principle-driven, committed, utterly reliable. True to one’s word.

Opposite – Opportunist. Fair-weather friend.

Counterfeit – Love without truth. Being loyal when you should be willing to confront or challenge.

gentleness. (humility)

Definition – Self-forgetfulness.

Opposite – Superiority: self-absorbed

Counterfeit – Inferiority: self-absorbed, self-consciousness.

– Self-control

Definition – Ability to choose the important thing over the urgent.

Opposite – A driven, impulsive, uncontrolled person.

Counterfeit – Willpower through pride

God’s Will

What is God’s will for my life?  That’s a question that a lot of people ask including me.  We can question every decision we make and wonder if this is God’s will for my life or not.  Yet as I look at God’s Word this is what I found for God’s will:

  • That none perish but all believe – 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9
  • That salvation come to the Jews and Gentiles – Ephesians 1:5 & 2:22
  • That we present our bodies to him daily – Romans 12:1-2
  • That we bear much fruit – John 15:8 & Colossians 1:9-12
  • That we pray throughout our lives – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

God’s will is that we believe in Jesus Christ and then He will live in us and work through us.  God is not going to make decisions for us, but he is with us through all the decisions we make, both good and bad.  God is doing the work inside of us, we just need to focus on Jesus Christ, loving him and other people.

Top Ten Proverbs

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Recently I challenged a group of guys I meet with to read through the book of Proverbs and identify their top ten.  We all found that very challenging as there are so many great Proverbs.  So here are my top ten:

  1. Proverbs 3:5,6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
  2. Proverbs 4:23  “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
  3. Proverbs 11:2  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
  4. Proverbs 11:25  “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
  5. Proverbs 12:18  “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  6. Proverbs 19:11  “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
  7. Proverbs 19:21  “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
  8. Proverbs 27:1  “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
  9. Proverbs 28:13  “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
  10. Proverbs 27:17  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

If you can’t read through all the Proverbs take some time over the next several days and read these 10 and ask God to help you understand how they apply to you personally.

 

 

Letter From God

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What if you received a letter with a return address of Christ: The Universe? We may be afraid, concerned, excited or all of the above. In any case I am sure we would be riveted to the text of this letter. We need to be riveted to the text of the letter Christ wrote through John to the church of Laodicea in Rev. 3:14-22.

It is intensely personal and highly relevant to our search for intimacy. It could have been written to us. Near the end of the letter there is a compelling invitation:

“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my father. That’s my gift to the conquerors! Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22 (Msg.)

Although many times we have taken this passage as being about salvation, the context dictates that it’s actually about a relationship with Christ for those who have already come to know Him.

Christ is standing at the door of our hearts, knocking. The metaphor is powerful. It means that Christ is intentionally, aggressively, passionately pursuing us. There are no qualifiers here. He isn’t speaking to a few select people, but to all the Laodiceans: the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, those with disabilities and those that are forgotten. Christ portrays Himself as intentionally pursuing intimacy with us.

If Christ makes Himself so accessible, why is it that we don’t open the door? There are at least three reasons for our hesitation:

The First Reason: Fear

Though God does pursue us and though Christ is there knocking, some of us may be afraid to open the door. Many of us have longed for intimacy in human relationships-with our father, mother, or someone else- only to find that our hopes for intimacy were not only dashed and broken but that as we made ourselves vulnerable, we were wounded in the process. We are afraid. We just don’t know if we can trust again.

Thomas Keating, in his book INTIMACY WITH GOD, speaks to this problem:

The Christian’s spiritual path is based on a deepening trust in God. It is trust that first allows us to take that initial leap into the dark, to encounter God at deeper levels of ourselves. And it is trust that guides the intimate refashioning of our being, the transformation of our pain, woundedness, and unconscious motivation into the person that God intended us to be.

Because trust is so important, our spiritual journey may be blocked if we carry negative attitudes toward God from early childhood. If we are afraid of God or see God as an angry father-figure, a suspicious policeman, or a harsh judge, it will be hard to develop enthusiasm, or even an interest , in the journey.

We need to pray , “Lord I want to trust You, Help me to trust you. We need to grasp the truth that God will not disappoint us. He will not abuse us. He will not use us. No one who as ever trusted God and moved toward intimacy has ever ultimately been disappointed – ever.

The Second Reason: Self-Sufficiency

Some of us have the same problem that the Laodiceans had. They were neither hot nor cold, but luke-warm. They were rich and had no material needs, so they thought they didn’t need God. They relied on what they consumed from the material world in order to satisfy, sustain, and secure themselves. Many of us don’t think it is so bad to be self-sufficient, it’s not like being self-centered or self-serving. But it is a big issue to God. Christ said to the Laodiceans that though they had all the stuff, comforts, companions, commodities, they were wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.

Wow. God wants us to be rich in the right ways. He wants to fill our lives with truly valuable treasures. He wants us to have His peace, comfort, presence, and power.

The Third Reason: Discontentment

“More. If there is a single word that summarizes American hopes and obsessions, that’s it. More success. More luxuries and gizmos. We live for more-for our next raise, our next house; and the things we already have, however wonderful they are, tend to pale in comparison with the things we might still get.” Laurence Shames

There is that ever-present craving for all that is more, bigger, or better.

He goes on to say this:

“During the past decade, many people came to believe there didn’t have to be a purpose. The mechanism didn’t require it. Consumption kept workers working, which kept the paychecks coming, which kept the people spending, which kept inventors inventing and investors investing, which meant there was more to consume. The system, properly understood, was independent of values and needed no philosophy to prop it up. It was a perfect circle, complete in itself-and empty in the middle.

The Biblical word for satisfaction is the word contentment. We are called to be content with what we have since we have God-and He is fully sufficient. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever want something or that we don’t enjoy a purchase here and there. It means that we are not controlled by the passion to consume. Having Him, we have it all. Anything extra is a bonus.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13 that he had learned both how to have plenty and how to have little and in both cases to be content. Contentment is not just a reflected in our relationship to things. We can be discontent with our spouse, our job, our place in life, our education, or a long list of other things. Sometimes discontentment can motivate us to righteousness or a zealous commitment to God. This is a healthy kind of discontentment. The kind of discontentment, however, that seeks personal satisfaction and security in “just one more thing, one more experience, one more friendship.” Leads to the emptiness and aloneness.

When we hear Him knocking, it is the trusting, God-sufficient, contented heart that hurries to answer. Opening the door generates the pleasure of experiencing His promise, “I will come right in and have supper with you.”