Loving to Life Pt 7

GET OUT OF THE WAY

One of the things that is really fun to do is just sit back and watch God do the work. I have been challenged by this in the past because I have been the one who wanted to make sure everything was running and going smoothly.

But, here is something for us to consider. We have prayed. We have began to meet with people. We have interacted and gotten to know people in small groups. We have visioned together. We have shown God’s incredible love through small and consistent acts. We have made sure we were practicing and promoting Sabbath rest.

This has not been an easy road. It has not happened as quickly as we may have liked. But, God has been working in and through us. It is God, through the Holy Spirit, who was doing the work and has been using us as willing and able vessels. Be proud of what you have seen God do in and through you.

Now, we get to be in celebration mode as we see what God has in store for the person/organization/church. Be prepared for what you witness to possibly be something different than what was planned, or something even better.

If we continue with this same “process” these past few posts have lined out, we will see a renewal movement with people relearning what it means to experience and fully live in the life of God through Jesus Christ.

We can be proud of the work we have done; but be sure to give God all of the glory. Yes, we were part of God’s work because we joined him; but be sure to give all glory to God. After all, we have been working hard to bring people to experience and live into the grace and new life God offers through Jesus Christ.

The work we have been able to do has, hopefully, guided the people to know what it means to live. We have been able to LOVE people, through the love from God, to LIFE. Hopefully, there is no desire to want to go back to the simple and easy status quo; but, rather, keep living and moving in the life and direction God has in store.

Keep going through these chapters. Keep praying and meeting new people. Keep seeking the wisdom and guidance from God through the Holy Spirit. Allow God to work in and through you. Watch God do incredible work in the hearts of the people.

Our mission is, of course, to work with God for the redemption and transformation of the world. We’ll get to do this one step, one person at a time.

I am praying for you in your work and mission.

“I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 CEB)

Loving to Life Pt 6

PRACTICE & PROMOTE SABBATH

How many people do you know of that can work 7-10 days a week (yes I know how many days are in a week) and still have the energy and desire to live a full life outside of work? Plain and simple, we can’t.

In the book of Genesis 1-2, Exodus 20, and reiterated again in Deuteronomy 5, God is teaching about a Sabbath rest. This is something we really should pay attention to. A day of rest is so much more than a day “off.” It is so much more than a day to “catch up.” A day of rest is simply that—a. day. of. rest. Period.

So, what does this look like?

It means to not do any normal work. I have heard pastors talk about a Sabbath day as a time when you do not do your “normal” work. In fact, if you consider it work, don’t do it. Instead, do things that you enjoy and re-energize you. For example, if mowing the lawn seems like work, don’t do it on your day off; But, if, mowing the lawn is something you enjoy, something that relaxes you, by all means mow the lawn on your day off.

Another thing to consider is a Sabbath day is not a day to be lazy. This is not when we should just sit around and do nothing. Even when we are resting, we can still be growing in our knowledge and love of/for God and other people. Take time to find ways to worship, to read, to be outside, to spend quality time with family/friends.

So, why does all of this matter?

Ask yourself this question, “do I trust God with all of my heart, soul, mind, strength, work? All of my life?” If the answer is “yes!” then how we spend our Sabbath shows what we really believe about trusting God with everything. If we take time to rest and do not do our “normal work,” no matter how much we have to do, we are showing we trust God that everything will get done. We show we can trust God to refuel us and get us ready for the week ahead.

We are not meant to be workaholics. We are meant to do the work God designed us to do. Not everything has to get done (I have to keep reminding myself of this daily).

If we take time to rest, and actually take time off of work, we find our minds are more clear and we have a better heart for the work we’re doing.

A couple of years ago on October 6, 2016, I wrote a blog on the importance of Sabbath Rest. Here is the post:

I came back from a week in the mountains with some great friends as well as some new men I haven’t met before. This was an incredible week to take time away and rest in the Lord, intentionally.

Sabbath rest is extremely important and it is a discipline that is overlooked. One of the books I was reading during this week was “Emotionally Healthy Leader.” This is an awesome book which forces you to look inside yourself and see how, through the grace of God, we can be better and more healthy leaders. This is a book that I would recommend.

In the chapter on “Practice Sabbath Delight,” Peter Scazzaro writes about a time when he visited a trusted friend. He was frustrated when the Christian leaders he taught all over the country preach about Sabbath rest and even say it is a great “idea,” would not actually practice a true Sabbath. Bob, his clinical psychologist friend told Peter, ““They can’t stop. If they stop, they’ll die. They’re terrified. They’re frightened to death of what they’ll see inside themselves if they slow down. And you want them to immerse themselves in things like solitude, Sabbath, and silent reflection?” He chuckled again. “Do you have any idea how foreign this is for any leader —Christian or not? Something so much deeper is driving them; they just have no idea what it is.” It was the penetrating truth of this statement that stunned me: If they stop, they’ll die. They’re terrified.”

Does this describe you? If I was honest earlier in my life and ministry career, I would have to say that that statement actually pinned me to a “T.” After all, why would I want to purposefully look into the depths of my character, passed mistakes, and anything else that God wants me to work on. My thought was “I can do this. I’ll spend time with God and make Sabbath as part of my daily life. But there was a problem with that mindset; I wasn’t discipline to take at least an hour away from “my day” when I “had to be productive and get things done.”

As I have learned and realized the importance, I try (not always though) to take a complete 24 rest from the work I have to do the other 6 days of the week and spend time to delight in God. This means I will rest from work (paid and unpaid) and only do the things that give me complete joy. Some of this includes spending time with family, more time for reading, prayer, reflection, play.

For the last few years, I have been going on week long men’s retreats to the mountains. During this time away (not off like we think of being off), I have learned how to structure my days so I can come back refreshed, joyful, and ready to get back into the work of life.

Each day I will take a minimum of 2 hours, and a maximum of 5 hours for reading, meditation on Scripture, prayer, taking a walk, etc. This is usually done by myself. The rest of the day I would spend time with the group and go hiking, go into town to walk or hangout. Basically, the second half of my day is play and spending time with friends.

I am not sure of your station in life, or what you are going through. But I would encourage you to take time every 7 days for a true Sabbath rest (not necessarily stopping work; but having no deadlines to focus on). If taking 24 hours to do this each week seems challenging, I would encourage you to take time to build up to it. Purposely plan what you will and will not do on your Sabbath time and just see how God refreshes your soul for the next 6 days of building relationships and your work.

I pray, you continue to find joy, rest, vision in your walk with God as you continue to step out in faith and do the work God has given you.

Loving to Life Pt 2

MEETING PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE

Last week we began a series to help us love people to life. When we go to a new place, it it easy to assume we know what people need to do. In many cases, we may be right.

The best thing to do is to pray, and listen, to see where God is working and how God is working in the new area we’re in. Go night to a new place and driving forward our plans, without seriously paying attention to the work of God already in progress, can create some issues. This is not saying God will not bring redemption through work we do;  but the work could actually take longer.

So, we’ve prayed and we believe we have listened carefully to God’s voice and have opened our eyes to see the work in progress. We must be careful not to give into the temptation to get to work right away. I know this seems odd to say. The truth is we would do so much better if we took our time.

Taking our time means we begin the process of getting to know the people. Plus, it gives us a chance to “meet people exactly where they are.”

Think about that for a minute. How did Jesus Christ begin working with your life? He met you, the person you were, in the exact situation you were in. I would also bet to say that when you realized Jesus was right there with you, he did not start off by saying, “I’m here to fix your life, so you need to do these steps right away!”

Instead, I believe Jesus first said to you, “I love you. Come and see what your  life can and will be like with me.” That’s basically what he said when he called the disciples in Matthew 4, Mark 1-2, Luke 5, John 1. He invited the disciples to join him, just as they were. That’s when the transformation begins.

Our number one priority in this life, aside from loving and worshipping God through Jesus Christ, is to love the people God created.

Now we have to ask the question, what does meeting people where they are look like?

This is really one of the hardest things we will ever do. This involves simply listening to their stories, what they say about other people, how they say they live their life, anything they want to tell you…without judgement. It involves us learning the area, past customs, past traditions, history of the area, learning what dreams people have. All of this is done at the same time we are praying for God’s wisdom, vision, for the area while we are there.

I have found that, most of the time, you will hear people begin to say things that are very similar to what God has been speaking to you. And, when we take time to get to know the person and witness their life, trust is formed through this relationship. Then, we can begin to see the work of Christ in their life. Afterall, this is how we would want other people to treat us.

We may have a grand vision, grand ideal, for an area, for the life of a person, or people group; but Jesus may be working on something deeper than what we can see and experience at the surface. This is why it is so important to meet with people where they are, as they are, so we can see how God is using us to work with him in that person’s life.

Here is something I have had to learn to consider in every situation: maybe it’s not just about working to make change in other people’s lives; maybe it is also about God’s redemptive and transformative work within our own life.

How is this sitting with you, right now? What did you know about this concept? What do you not agree with?

Additional questions to consider:

1) What do the people do/act like, that is hard for you to be around?

2) Do you think you have to patience to continue this work for getting to know people for months or even years without getting frustrated or impatient?

3) What do you sense God working on in your life, as you get to know new people and their stories?

Prepare: Daily Devotional for Advent

Click here for: Prepare – Devotions for Advent

Advent is soon approaching. How are you preparing to celebrate the Christ who came into the world and changed everything?

Christmas is much more than parties, giving gifts, and making everything perfect. Christmas is about celebrating and worshiping God, who came down to earth in the form of Jesus Christ.

This daily devotional begins on December 1 and helps prepare our hearts for the true meaning of Christmas.

I pray your Advent and Christmas season is filled with anticipation, hope, peace, joy, love. May the Holy Spirit come into your life and the Spirit of this season more real to you.

Click here for: Prepare – Devotions for Advent

REDEEMED: The Rescue

One of the great aspects of going though the season of Lent personally before heading straight to the resurrection is that we have a chance to slow our lives down and really contemplate the full life and death of Jesus Christ before we witnessing him rise from the dead, defeating it’s power forever.

We have been going through scripture to help us see how God has been redeeming people, and the world. A couple weeks ago, we looked at the interesting story of Hosea (Chapter 3) to see God’s unconditional love for us and how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us a great glimpse into this vast love. Last week, we talked about the Prodigal Son parable in Luke 15, looking at it from the father’s point of view. This week, we’re looking at being rescued by talking about the story of Abram (later Abraham) rescuing his nephew Lot from captivity.

I invite you to read the passage for this week, Genesis 14:1-16. If you would like further context, feel free to read chapters 12 and 13 also.

Abraham gets word his nephew Lot is in danger and is being held captive as a prisoner in a war. Without missing a beat, he gathers his men to go rescue Lot. He is not really concerned about what it will take to get Lot back. He is more concerned for Lot’s safety. What makes this story really good is that Lot went on his own way after getting too big (with all of his possessions) to stay with the safety and security of Abraham and his people. Abraham goes with just a little over 300 men to go against armies much larger and completes the mission of “Operation Rescue Lot.”

Does at least sound somewhat familiar to you? I hope so, because what I just described is what happens to our lives as well. Think about it for a second. Lot and all of “his” possessions got too big for them to stay with Abraham. Starting to see? When we allow what we know, what we have, what we desire to be too big to stay following God, we go off on our own to find “more space” and more things for us to do and get. The safety and security of being in God’s presence no longer satisfies when we think about our stuff more than Him.

The beauty about all of this is, God does not leave us alone when we get ourselves deep in danger, deep in sin. He comes to the rescue. He finally sent Jesus Christ to release of from the power of sin and death and the grip they held over us. Lot could have said he did not want to be rescued, that he would rather stay in captivity and go with the people who were taking him away. We can choose to stay in love with ourselves, our stuff, our intelligence instead of being released from the burden they carry.

Here’s what I see happen when we allow God to rescue us. We become free! This freedom means we use what we have, and have been given, for God’s glory instead of our own. We are no longer bound to the power the “stuff” has over us. We see everything as a gift and use our lives more wisely.

Jesus did not die on the cross so we could say, “oh, that’s cool he died for me. I’m glad I’m saved.” No, when He died on the cross and rose from the grave, He did so to show us a life that we can enter. A life that is fully in the presence of God. What a gift.

As we go through this season of lent, consider how much of a grip our “stuff” really does have on us and hold us back. Then take time to ask Jesus to release that “stuff’s” power over you and give you true freedom.

Three more weeks until Easter. How are you preparing your heart to fully grasp the incredible love, power, and majesty of Jesus Christ? Are you truly free?

NOTE: This is a sermon series concept posted on www.seedbed.com called “Redemption.”

REDEEMED: A Strange Love

We have begun the season of Lent, a time of reflection, repentance, and turning our lives back toward the gospel. Whether you practice the season of Lent or not (the 40 days before Easter not including Sundays), I invite you to begin this practice this year.

Ash Wednesday is the day that begins the Lenten season. In the Methodist Church, there is an invitation to the observance of Lent. This observance to Lent invites us to observe a holy lent. It puts it this way, “the early Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration there should be a forty–day season of spiritual preparation…the whole congregation was reminded of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the need we all have to renew our faith…in the name of the Church…observe a holy Lent: by self–examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self–denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.”

Today, we begin a six week series called “Redeemed” where we focus on what it means to be redeemed by God through Jesus Christ and empowers us with the Holy Spirit.

Our passage today comes from the minor prophet book of Hosea. Take some time to read this passage. (Click link to read Hosea 3:1-5.)

So, reading this passage may seem a little strange. But, what did you notice, what stood out? Why do you think we begin with this passage?

To begin with, let’s think about the characters. The prophet Hosea was sent to be with an adulterous woman. Why would God send Hosea to her? As it says in the passage, it was to show that the people of Israel had lost their way.

Think of it this way. The people of Israel had gone astray from their love for God and chose to live for themselves and worship other idols, and gods. But God did not give up on them. God does not remove any of the consequences for their actions and lifestyle; but He does go to prove He desires for them to be redeemed.

We see this action of redemption through the actions of Hosea. He had to “buy” the woman so she could go with him. Why did he have to buy her? Does this mean she was choosing that lifestyle? Not necessarily. It does mean that she was in a place, a situation, that she needed to leave and be redeemed from.

This is the same with God. We find ourselves in many circumstances and situations in our life. Some of which we put ourselves into and some we are in this state by choice. God does not turn his eye from us. How do we know this?

Look toward the cross. Jesus Christ, God in flesh, lived on this earth. Get that? God came down to redeem, to save, to bring to restoration those who are lost. The good news is that this is us. Jesus Christ offers us new life and chances to turn our life back to God.

Will you take this opportunity? No matter what is going on in your life, or in what situation you find yourself in, God has already paid the price for you and I to be free from our slavery to sin. Get that? You and I are free because of Jesus Christ.

Lent is so much more than just thinking about how good this truth is. Lent is about turning our lives back to God. Always remember the core of the Gospel:

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16)

May this Lent be meaningful and bring you closer to the throne of grace. Jesus Christ has done so much. Repent and believe the gospel!

NOTE: This is a sermon series concept posted on www.seedbed.com called “Redemption.”

Irons in the Fire

We are all busy people, and seem to be getting busier. At the time this blog post gets published, we will be one week away from Thanksgiving. Does that scare anyone? Think of all that needs to be done. Then throw on all the preparations for Christmas and parties and other events, and our lives get overwhelmed really quick.

Why do we have to be so busy? If we take a look at the stuff that fills our day, my guess would be we mainly have tasks that keep us busy and do not have any meaning to the real stuff that has to get done. I hear people say all the time, and I say it too, “I have to do ______.” Or “_______ needs to get done right now.” Do these questions sound familiar?

Our culture tells us we have to constantly be working and have things to do. Boredom is not an option. So, we add more and more to our already full schedule so no space is left blank and we can “feel” like we are accomplishing something. Do we really have to do everything that comes to mind, or be part of planning everything we want to be a participant?

Scheduling

Something we hear all the time is to make a to-do list and prioritize the most important tasks. Honestly, this is something I struggle to do every day. It scares me sometimes how much I try to cram in one day, so it gets difficult to write down because I start feeling like I’m going to forget something. But, I have begun to divide tasks out so I do not have to focus on everything every day.

Making a priority to-do list helps keep us on the right track and it shows what has to get done right away. It is important to complete the most important tasks first so the stress of them not getting done does not happen.

Empowering Others

It is so easy to get into the mindset that “I have to be the one to show how to do ______.” This is simply not the case. Often times, we can (and should) give people an idea of what needs to be done and talk about how it will get implemented and accomplished. We cannot do everything ourselves and it becomes more and more important to empower others to use their gifts and talents.

Each person has different gifts and talents. Scripture even teaches this. 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4 are some great examples. We can also see an example of this in the Old Testament book of Exodus 31:6, “Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you:”

God has given us the gift of relationships through community so that we do not have to try to do everything be ourselves.

Asking “Why”

The reason, I think, we are too busy really comes down to one thing: our pride / our ego. This may seem harsh, but the reality is that it is easier to think “if I don’t do it, it won’t get done right.”

We are people of a culture, in America, that says “I have to prove myself worthy.” This scares people when full credit may not be given straight to them. Why do we have to have the credit for accomplishing something? I think it’s because we need to feel important. It also goes along with making sure other people know how smart we are or that we can actually accomplish the task or event at hand.

Asking ourselves the question, “WHY does it really have to be me to do _______?” can be the most important question we can ask ourselves. Putting this at the top of our priority list daily should help keep things into perspective so we remember we are not in this alone.

So, how many things can you let go of doing personally and empower others to take care of them? I invite you to pray, talk with close friends, and seek the Holy Spirit’s direction to see who He has empowered with the gifts to accomplish the task(s) at hand.

Gotta run and see what I can pass off to people who have the gifts and talents to take stuff off my plate so I don’t get stressed.

Peace.