Friday, February 15, 2019

Evaluating Our Maturity

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon taking place in the Church. We like titles. Using a descriptor like “pastor” is comfortable for most people. Even “teacher” and in some cases “evangelist”, if you are a bit more evangelical. When words like apostle or prophet are used to describe a person’s calling eyes will begin to roll and so do the subtle remarks about the danger of pride and self-promotion that might be associated with those functions. Apostles and prophets are not the only people who experience the temptation of pride and self-promotion. In our pastor-driven American church culture, I have seen plenty of pride and self-promotion in lots of pastors – including me.

In circles of fellowship where education is valued the initials of a person's educational accomplishments will either precede their name as in “Dr. so-and-so” or follow them with the designations of M.A, M.S or any variety of alphabet soup. Education is valuable and wise, but it does not require God to achieve these designations – just hard work and dedication. If you don’t think so, attend a graduation ceremony from an institute of higher learning. Not everyone walking in cap and gown follows Jesus. They were just good students.

If the Church is going to express the kind of maturity Paul described in Ephesians 4 that will only come from sitting under the influence of the equipping gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, perhaps we need to ask our selves a question. Why are so nervous about certain titles/functions or give more credence to an educational achievement than we do to a gift given by Jesus to equip and mature the Church.

Maybe we are not as mature as we first imagined.

Removing the Weight of Fear and Worry

In the winter of 1968-69, I was a freshman at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. That year loads of snow was dumped on the city. The snow was measured in feet, not inches. There was so much snow it was feared roofs would begin to collapse under the weight. 

The guys in my dorm had an idea. We cut sheets of plywood into large square sections. We narrowed one edge of the plywood square to a knife-like edge so it would cut easily through the snow. We went around to neighborhoods asking if people wanted the snow removed from their roof. Once we agreed upon a price, we would climb up on the roof and use the plywood squares to section off large cubes of snow and slide them off the roof. It looked like someone building an igloo but in reverse.

What motivated our clientele was the fear of a collapsing roof. Fear and concern are strong motivators, real or imagined. It is important to discern the difference between rational and irrational fear. Rational fear hires a few college guys to risk their young necks to clear snow from a roof. Irrational fear has no anchor in reality and immobilizes people without a rational foundation. Fear is actually a dark spirit at work in our mind.  It trolls our thoughts looking for a place where love and trust are not in control. In these places, our irrational fear becomes the primary motivator for our thinking and behavior.

Scripture tells us the love of God can push irrational fear out of our thinking if we allow love to have its way. The evidence that fear has been cast out is the arrival of a beautiful and unfamiliar peace along with a confidence that assures us God will be faithful to see us through the challenge. Without that peace, the negative affairs of this life will eventually become an overwhelming weight we can no longer support. We will become like a snow-burdened roof just before it collapses on its occupants. 

If worry, doubt, or fear have been weighing down on your life, ask God to show you how to clear away that weight with His truth - the truth revealed in His Word and the truth of His past faithfulness in your life. Fear cannot stand in the presence of truth. When that weight is removed you will begin to experience the lightness of His peace invading your thoughts. That peace will become a warm and supporting presence in the winter seasons of your life.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Living Beyond the Point of No Return

I watched an inspiring video about a Medal of Honor recipient from World War II. The recipient of the medal was a pilot leading a squadron of aircraft sent to protect bombers in route to a bombing mission. The distance they had to fly was at the limit of their fuel capacity. As they approached the point of no return it was obvious they had used more fuel than anticipated. The squadron turned back, but the leader pressed on. While dropping his payload of bombs, a dogfight with enemy aircraft ensued. The pilot shot down 5 enemy aircraft. He had to bail out after being hit and having no remaining fuel. After parachuting into the ocean he swam 8 miles to an island where he was eventually rescued.

During the after incident interview the pilot said he could not have lived with himself had he turned around and aborted his mission. He would rather die honoring his commitment than spend the rest of his life regretting his decision.

In each of our lives, there will be a point of no return where we will have a choice to turn around or press through our difficulty toward an uncertain future. This is the place where heroes are born. It is not only true in warfare, but it can also be true for a spouse who commits to remain in a challenging marriage just a little longer. It can be true for a small businessperson who puts it all on the line to survive or when a friend risks a friendship by telling a hard truth to a friend.

Like the WWII Medal of Honor recipient, each of us will have to live with the unknown consequences of the tough decisions we make at the point of no return. We will carry either a sorrow that comes from giving up too early or a sense of honor that only comes when we press on when life required of us the kind of courage we thought impossible before we made our decision. Heroes in any walk of life are those who wanted to turn around but kept flying no matter what the odds because aborting the mission was not something they could live with.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Snake in the Wall

A wall stands in your way and you have been assigned to dismantle its opposing presence. As you engage this spiritual demolition project, trust no assumptions you are carrying from your current assignment or relationships. This is between you and God and no one else. Unpack the Lord’s instructions with precision and discernment and you will be safe and able to move ahead without jeopardy.

While the wall is assigned to come down, hidden within the wall are things that can harm you if you are impatient and unwise. Some have been bitten in a demolition process by unresolved personal issues that crawled ahead of them and were positioned in the wall awaiting their arrival. Solomon wrote, “…the one who breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake” (Ecclesiastes 10:8). Examine each brick before you pull it down but only after you have examined your own heart and motives.

On the other side of this wall is the path into a future you only imagined. It is currently being guarded by deception and ruse. Don’t give the serpent a chance to sink his fangs into your life. Be wise. Be patient. Be courageous. The wall will come down.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Speak to the Ashes

I saw the image of an urn holding the ashes from a dead season of life. The urn was reluctantly placed on the mantle of someone’s personal history thinking they only had one chance and that chance had died. In their grief, they saw their future as nothing more than lifeless ash. Just as speaking to dead bones can bring back the full measure of life, so it is with the ashes left over from a season of sorrow and regret. God is calling people to rise from places of sorrowful resignation and speak to the ashes of their deepest failure and command new life to come forth. God wants to show us He is God Almighty and nothing, not even an emotional urn filled with the ashes of failure, regret and sorrow can withstand a declaration of faith fueled by hope.

The Roller Derby Women of Faith

As a kid, I remember watching a television show called Roller Derby. The show depicted women on roller skates racing as a team on an indoor track against an opposing team. I had never seen women act so tough. At age 8, I thought, “Man, I would never mess with any of those ladies.” When the memory paid me a visit so did a word from the Lord. 

While the actual Roller Derby was a push and shove match without much decorum, it did give me a picture of how a woman of faith responds to the lies and obstacles hell places in her path. A woman fully ignited in her faith and realizing she has a calling from God and a mission to execute is no one to mess with. Some have unwisely assumed a woman is always to be gentile and chiffon-like as her mark of womanhood.  There are times when that aspect of her identity is appropriate, but there are other times when a woman will be called to act like a Roller Derby queen and kick the butt of darkness aggressively out of her way. It's the momma bear thing. You don't want to get in the way of that kind of woman and play foolish games with her. I know. I am married to such a woman.

When I watched Roller Derby, I would see the winning team take a victory lap after a long and brutal race. These victory laps revealed breathless and physically spent winners rolling around the track in an exhausted peace where just moments before they had become visibly tough overcoming every hindering presence on the track. 

Some of you reading these words have been in a very challenging and emotional race. The race may have involved the fulfillment of your calling, the spiritual survival of a loved one, or in some cases, the fate of a city or nation. In the race, you were bruised and wounded, but you endured and pressed through every obstacle. For those of you who faithfully remained in the race, your victory lap is coming. So is a change in your attire. 

After the victory has been secured it will be time to be refreshed and change out of your garments of battle to put on something more in line with a long and romantic candlelit dinner. This will be a meal of fellowship you will have with the Lord. As you sit at the table, He will look into your eyes and smile knowing you had discovered the fullness of your womanhood. At that moment, you will know you are both a warrior and a lover.   

Never forget the devil and his minions see you as one tough chick. In Christ, that is your reality.  Once you realize who you are the devil's bluffing and bullying will have no effect. Your toughness and endurance in a race of faith come from the One you carry inside your heart, not how you look, your age or status in life. No lie or dark opposition will be able to stand in your way because you have learned to race with the promises of God as your strategy and your empowerment. You are tough. Race like it!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Unsolicited Criticism

In this life, you will receive unsolicited criticism and suggestions. Everybody has an opinion. Choose to be large enough in your spirit to be willing to review each of these, even those that appear absurd. Embedded somewhere in such suggestions may be the very thing God wants you to hear. Ask the Lord: “Is there anything in that comment you want me to hear?” 
Sometimes, a critical piece of information we might need in order to make a healthy life-transition can be packaged in the most unlikely form. God may place a piece of information inside the comment of your critic to test the condition of your heart. Having the right information is not enough. We need a right heart attitude in which to house the wisdom we receive. 

(An excerpt from the book, A Good Place.