Friday, June 22, 2018

HUMILITY IN RELATIONSHIPS

"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" - 1 Peter 5:5b 

I'll never forget the first time I discovered what a feeling was. It was in my early forties. "Surely not!" you may be thinking. Yes, it is true. Since then, I have discovered many men still live in this condition. It took an older mentor to help me understand the difference between information and a feeling. Wives are frustrated because their husbands share information, but not their feelings. They want to know what is going on inside their man. The fact is, most men have not been taught to identify feelings, much less how to share them. It is something that men must learn to do because it is not a natural trait. If they do share their feelings, society often portrays them as weak. No man willingly wants to be portrayed as weak.
In order to become an effective friend and leader, one must learn to be vulnerable with others and develop an ability to share feelings. It is a vital step to becoming a real person with whom others can connect emotionally. This is not easy to do if your parents did not teach you to share your emotional life with others. Emotional vulnerability is especially hard for men. Author Dr. Larry Crabb states,
Men who as boys felt neglected by their dads often remain distant from their own children. The sins of fathers are passed on to children, often through the dynamic of self-protection. It hurts to be neglected, and it creates questions about our value to others. So to avoid feeling the sting of further rejection, we refuse to give that part of ourselves we fear might once again be received with indifference. When our approach to life revolves around discipline, commitment, and knowledge [which the Greek influence teaches us] but runs from feeling the hurt of unmet longings that come from a lack of deeper relationships, then our efforts to love will be marked more by required action than by liberating passion. We will be known as reliable, but not involved. Honest friends will report that they enjoy being with us, but have trouble feeling close. Even our best friends (including spouses) will feel guarded around us, a little tense and vaguely distant. It's not uncommon for Christian leaders to have no real friends. [Larry Crabb, Inside Out (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navpress, n.d.), 98-99.]
If this describes you, why not begin on a new journey of opening up your life to others in a way that others can see who you really are? It might be scary at first, but as you grow in this area, you will find new freedom in your life. Then, others will more readily connect with you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

MOVING AHEAD OF GOD

"The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her" (Gen 16:2). 

Have you ever felt that you were supposed to receive something from God but it just hasn't materialized? You wait and wait until finally you decide that maybe God wants you to help out the situation. This is exactly what happened in the case of Abraham and Sarah.
God had promised them a son, but as years passed by they were still without a child. They took their eyes off the One who had made the promise and decided to take matters into their own hands. So, Abraham lay with Sarah's maidservant, Hagar, and she bore a son, Ishmael (see Genesis 16). The son of promise, Isaac, came later through Sarah, just like God had promised. However, the modern day conflict between the Arabs and Israelis is the fruit of this act of disobedience that occurred centuries ago.
I recall a time when I launched a business enterprise only to fall on my face. It had all the hallmarks of a Godly venture, but I was premature and guilty of presumption instead of faith. The resulting financial losses are lasting reminders of a decision that was based on a horizontal choice instead of a vertical dependence that required patience until God said, "Go."
The way to avoid making "Ishmael" decisions is to seek God fully on the matter in prayer, be in an accountable relationship with your spouse and close associates who know you well, and gain agreement through two or more people. The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"(Jer 17:9).
Whenever we want something strongly, it is a dangerous place because we no longer look at the matter objectively with a willingness to change our viewpoint. We have to approach a matter as being "dead" to the issue in order to fully see God's perspective.

Monday, June 18, 2018

EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP

"And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses His servant." - Exodus 14:31 

What makes an effective Christian leader today? Is it charisma? Is it ability? Is it communication and oratory skills? God's view of an effective leader has nothing to do with these qualities. They may be a part of an effective leader. However, the core attribute of a Christian leader is his integrity with God and his obedience to follow Him. When this happens, God manifests His power in and through that leader. Moses was effective because he was willing to obey the commands God gave him. When Moses did this, God manifested His presence in him. The result was that people followed. They followed because they saw God working in and through the man. They saw that this man was worthy of following because God's anointing was on him.
When people see the Lord's power manifested in your life, they will have a healthy fear of the Lord. They will look at you and say, "This person has something I don't have that is worthy of more investigation." Your challenge is to seek the Lord with a whole heart, resulting in God's power being manifested in the daily activities of your life. When this happens, you can expect others to be drawn to what they see in you. The problem with many Christians today is that non-Christians see nothing different about the way they live to motivate the unsaved to desire their faith.
What makes you different from your neighbor? Is your experience with God noticeably different from that of the man next door? If you're not experiencing regular encounters with God, it's time to ask why not. We don't live day-to-day for the next spiritual experience, but we should see by-products of a life centered in God that is reflected in fruit from His presence in our lives.

Friday, June 15, 2018

SUCH A TIME AS THIS

"On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall." - Esther 5:1a 

Esther was a woman who lived for a cause greater than herself. God used this woman to save the entire Jewish people from extermination. However, before God could use her, she had to come to a place of death in herself. It was not an easy decision. Her cousin Mordecai was the instrument God used to challenge her to measure up to the task.
Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:13b-14)
Mordecai was telling it straight. For her to speak up meant great risks if the king did not receive her. It was automatic death if the king did not extend his scepter, which meant acceptance of her approach to the throne. It was also a time to realize that God may have brought her to this place and time for this specific purpose. However, if she did not respond in faith, God would use another instrument to deliver the people. What would she do?
Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16). On the third day of the fast she came and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall. She was like Jesus who stood in the inner court of Heaven on that third, resurrection day. She gave up her life, but God raised it up on that day and delivered an entire people from destruction because of one woman's willingness to give up her life for a greater cause. God has called each of us to a purpose greater than ourselves. Know that it will require death before life can be given to this purpose. It must be His life that lives, not ours.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

ARE YOU A THREAT?

"One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?'" - Acts 19:15

Are you a threat to the kingdom of darkness? If satan and his demons had a board meeting and your name came before the board, what would they say? Would they say that you are one of their most feared enemies and they needed to keep many demons harassing and opposing you? Or would they say, "Gentlemen, this person poses no threat to our activities. Leave him alone. He needs no help from us." There are millions of church-going believers sitting in pews Sunday after Sunday who pose little threat to the kingdom of darkness.
If we truly believe that we war against rulers and principalities that cannot be seen, then we must realize that their mandate is to hinder any believer who is seeking to walk in the fullness of God. However, "greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 Jn. 4:4b KJV).
If you are seeking to fully follow the Lord, you can expect harassment from the enemy. God permits temptation because it drives us deeper into the soil of God. These times reveal God's power to keep us and walk us through the temptations. Our message becomes fruitful when it is born out of obedience and suffering for His name. Do not consider it strange if you find yourself fighting major battles the more obedient you become to the Master. God desires each of us to become a feared enemy of hell in order to affect satan's domain. When you begin to feel harassed, chances are you are beginning to affect the kingdom of darkness, and satan doesn't like this. So, how many demons do you think are assigned to you?

Monday, June 11, 2018

THE SUCCESS TEST

"But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your forefathers, as it is today" (Deut. 8:18).

Muhammad Ali is considered the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. He won 56 of his 61 professional fights and knocked out 37 opponents. His most famous catchphrase was, "I am the greatest!"
One day, Ali was seated in an airplane when the flight attendant came up the aisle to make sure that all the passengers had their seatbelts fastened. Reaching Ali's seat, she asked him to buckle up.
"Hmph!" the champ sneered. "Superman don't need no seatbelt!"
The flight attendant smiled sweetly and replied, "Superman don't need no airplane, either." Ali fastened his seatbelt.
The greater our success, the greater the risk of us thinking too highly of ourselves. Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle observed, "Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity there are a hundred that will stand adversity." And Oswald Chambers wrote, "Sudden elevation frequently leads to pride and a fall. The most exacting test of all to survive is prosperity."
Each of us must view success as a gift from God. We must learn to see all of our successes as a gift from God, not our own achievement. The Lord is the source of all success, all elevation, all blessing. If you have a good mind and a healthy body, if you live in a land of opportunity, if you have a good education, if you've had a few breaks go your way, then you have much to be grateful for - and no cause for arrogance. You didn't achieve success; you received it as a gift. Each of us must voluntarily humble ourselves before God - or God will have to humble us Himself. I have learned it is better to learn humility voluntarily, than involuntarily! Paul tells us: "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you" (Rom. 12:3).

Friday, June 8, 2018

A NEW REMNANT OF PRIESTS

"Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards." - Isaiah 61:5

God is calling forth a remnant of workplace believers whom He will use mightily to bring good news to those who have never heard the gospel. The "10/40 Window" is commonly referred to as those areas of the world where no one has heard the name of Jesus Christ. This region represents many of the Muslim nations in the Middle East, India, China, and the former Soviet Republics. If Christian missionaries are not welcome in these countries, how do you suppose God plans to bring His message to these people? Certainly He loves these people just as much as He loves us.
God is mobilizing His workplace believers around the world to be the vessels who will bring the good news to these peoples. These countries welcome commerce, and in most cases this represents the only way to bring the gospel to these nations. In these countries, workplace believers are often viewed as those who have corrupt morals. However, God wants to change this. The "Joshuas and Calebs" are spying out the land. This class of workplace believer has a pioneer spirit that is seeking ways of penetrating strongholds of spiritual darkness in these countries. God is raising them up. They see the risks, but they see the awesomeness of God that enables them to accomplish something for His Kingdom by using their resources and talents.
And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of their shame My people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs ( Isaiah 61:6-7).
Workplace believers in these nations will be called priests of the Lord. They will feed on the wealth of these nations. The wealth of these nations are the souls who are precious in God's sight. Salvations will be their true reward as a result of their efforts. No longer will the shame many of these people live under rule their lives. God will set them free.
Has God called you to be such a vessel? Has He called you to be a catalyst in some way? Ask your heavenly Father if He might want you to affect nations for Him.