Friday, March 31, 2006

It's All About Jesus

Following Jesus is not about a few minor changes. Following Jesus is about an entirely new direction and walk. Paul told the Colossian Church “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col 3:2-4). The phrase “who is your life” can certainly mean that Jesus has given us life since we have died to sin, but it can also mean that we live in Jesus – we LIVE in him.

Chris Rice sings the untitled hymn most often called “Come to Jesus.” The message is that when you are weak and wounded, you should come to Jesus. When your burden has been lifted, you should sing to Jesus. When you fall, and we all fall, then fall on Jesus. When you are experiencing loneliness and pain, you should cry to Jesus. When you can’t contain your joy because the love spills over, then dance for Jesus. Finally, when your heart beats its final beat and you go to Glory’s side, you should fly to Jesus.

When you follow Jesus, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, Jesus is the focus. He is the one to whom, for whom, and on whom we are always coming, singing, falling, crying, dancing and flying.

That’s Life at Work!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Love and Loyalty

Roger Casement had served as British Consul in Mozambique in the early 1900s. In that role he had seen the mistreatment of the locals by the Belgium governmental authorities who ruled there. His criticism of their policy of mistreatment led to an overhaul of Belgium’s administration there. When he retired he moved to Dublin where he had been born. There, he witnessed the same kind of mistreatment of his own people by the British government who ruled. He played some role in organizing an armed protest called the Dublin Rising in 1916 and was subsequently arrested, convicted, and hanged by Britain. He gave a speech after his conviction that expressed a great truth about love and loyalty. Can you see lessons regarding discipleship in this statement?

“Loyalty is a sentiment, not a law. It rests on Love, not on restraint. The government of Ireland by England rests on restraint and not on law; and, since it demands no love, it can evoke no loyalty.”

Jesus told his apostles, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). John wrote later on: “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:2-4a).

More than restraint due to law, Jesus is interested in your loyalty due to love. His life, death, and resurrection, though revealing his kingship was not intended primarily to motivate subjection because of the threat of condemnation. His life, death, and resurrection was intended to evoke you to love him, so that you would obey him with all your heart.

That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Growing Spiritually by Prayer

Neil Wiseman wrote Growing Your Soul to offer “practical steps to increase your spirituality.” Of course, he writes about prayer. Specifically, he reveals ten ways that prayer changes the prayer. It is important to know that by the time you get to this point in the book and chapter, the need for honest, unguarded talking with God is essential for spiritual growth. In other words, prayer won’t have the incredible impact on you that it can if you don’t open up before the God who knows your heart anyway.

Prayer unchains an individual from old habits of feeling, thinking, and acting.
Prayer takes us on a voyage of inner discovery.
Prayer shapes us into Christ likeness.
Prayer requires a wholehearted honesty.
Prayer judges integrity.
Prayer provides a long range perspective of life.
Prayer frees us from self-centeredness.
Prayer motivates action.
Prayer encourages plain talk with God.
Prayer admits absolute dependence.
Pray cultivates friendship with God.

Those things will never happen in prayers prayed in the pulpit, before meals, or in family devotionals. You must spend time in prayer alone with God. If someone else is present, it must be someone with whom you are completely vulnerable, someone with whom you will be totally honest, like your spouse or a very close prayer partner.

Wiseman recommends this exercise for prayer. Finish these lines in the beginning of prayer when you are alone with God:

Father, to make it happen in my inner world,
Free me from _______________________;
Enable me to become _________________;
And tear down every hindrance in my, such as ____________________;
I open my whole life to your will and your promise. Amen

That’s Life at Work!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pray and Breathe

“For Christians, prayer is like breathing.”  That’s the opening line of John MacArthur’s study of prayer called Alone with God.  Of course, the fact that so many of us hold our spiritual breath for so long is the reason why he wrote the book; and why this article is written.  Jesus’ teaching about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount did not first address those who don’t pray much.  He first addressed those who prayed a lot – at least in public.

I can imagine that those who stood in the synagogues or on street corners going on and on with their babbling thinking they would be heard because of their word count weren’t closet prayers.  Closet prayers are only heard by God.  These people weren’t praying to be heard by God.  Unless they kept the closet door open, no one was likely to hear them and the purpose for their prayer is defeated.

To be quite honest with you, I believe that the people who pray publicly in my circles are not praying to be heard by men.  I think we are too presumptuous about motives when we hear people saying some of our most famous prayer phrases, then assume that their prayer is not genuine.  I think people just want to pray right – to be heard by God and to effectively lead the family.

It is possible, though, that our pure motives in public prayer are the only way that we are different from the hypocrites that Jesus addressed.  How long have you held your spiritual breath?  How long has it been since it was just you before the throne adoring, confessing, giving thanks, pledging loyalty, and petitioning?  Has it been a month?  A week?  Has it even been a day since you knelt in private before the Almighty?  Pray now…and breathe!  That’s Life at Work!    

Happiness for a Lifetime

"People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on 'being in love' for ever.  As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change--not realizing that, when they have changed, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one.  In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not last. . . Let the thrill go--let it die away--go on through the period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow--and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time." (C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity)

Those are some words of wisdom for today!  Someone reading this article is thinking about leaving his/her family because the thrill is gone.  Leaving will not fix things.  Whatever thrill you find after leaving will die, too.  Husbands, find out how to love your wife with a godly love.  Wives, find out how to love your husbands with a godly love.  We can help you with that!  You will discover that happiness for a lifetime is much better than a thrill-a-minute.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Secret is It's Secret

“The paid off home mortgage has replaced the BMW as the status symbol of choice” (Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace). I’m not sure that everyone buys into that notion, but Ramsey has certainly changed the minds of many of his listeners in regard to their emphasis on “stuff.” But better money management that leads to the paid off mortgage is still about money. What we think of ourselves and what others think about us, in America, has so much to do with our money and how we use it.

Though perhaps archaic, “alms” is still the word most frequently associated with giving for spiritual cause. So I believe you’ll understand what I mean when I say that status, money, and church intersect at “alms giving.” The big giver has replaced the “service to all” as the status symbol of choice in the church. Righteous and giving were for Jews in the days of Matthew’s writing nearly synonymous. That’s why you see these different translations of the same passage in Matthew 6:1:

Matthew 6:1
“Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Matt 6:1
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia comments about alms, “The later Jews often used "righteousness" as meaning alms, that being in their view the foremost righteousness.”

In the culture of Matthew’s readers, then, giving lots of money at the synagogue purchased lots of praise because giving lots was evidence of lots of righteousness. That says a lot, doesn’t it?

There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that givers were actually “announcing it with trumpets,” but they were making sure that their charity was known by all around in some way. Maybe you drop a hint, maybe you make sure your check is facing upward in the plate as it is passed, or maybe you hold the cash a little higher than you have to hold it. Maybe you can’t think of a way that lets people know about your “big giving,” but you wish you could. Jesus wants us to evaluate what our actions say about our motives. The question of the day is: Can you give generously without letting anyone know that you’ve done it?