Well last year I had a goal to post 52 blogs for the year. This post is number 20. Obviously I have fallen short. Which honestly has happened before. I have learned to give myself grace, and try again. So in 2013 my blogging goal will remain the same, 52 posts this calendar year.
I initially decided to blog for a few reasons. One my academic training is in Computers, Business and Recreation yet my current job is in ministry. I realized reading, writing and speaking are key skills I would like to develop. So to tackle the writing aspect what better way than to practice writing often and what better medium than the blog. as I approach this goal and other I have for the new year I am keeping these few thoughts in mind.
The gospel is opposed to earning, but the gospel is not opposed to effort.
Also I Corinthians 3:5-7 “5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted,Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” So I approach the new year desiring to grow not to earn anything from God but to give in response to all He has given to me. My desire as a servant of God is to make much of Him who gives the growth.
Happy New Year!
We use the phrase “spread thin” often to describe having to much to do and not enough time to do it. But we can be spread thin in other ways too.
A few weeks ago I was feeling spread thin but more emotionally rather than physically. While I was trying to figure out where this was coming from and why 2 thoughts came to mind.
First I thought of Bilbo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings series when he said “I feel…thin. Sort of stretched, like…butter scraped over too much bread.” I am sure we have all felt like that a time or two.
Then I thought of a diagram I have seen before about our growth in Christ as Christians. As we grow in the knowledge of ourselves and the knowledge of the perfection of God, what Christ has done for us grows greater and greater over time. Of course this doesn’t always happen. When we start to think we a better and greater over time we need Christ less. Conversely when we see Jesus as less perfect or as having a lower standard for us we also think we need him less. If we think either of these thoughts our view of Christ shrinks.
A few months ago I started to pray that I would grow in my knowledge and experience of the depth of sin and the greatness of God. Not that I wanted to sin more but wanted to more fully understand the depth of sin. I also started praying that I would understand and experience the depth of all that Christ has done for me and for those who are in Christ as Christians.
What occurred to me was that may be my feeling thin and stretched out, “like…butter scraped over too much bread.” was the experience that I had prayed for, and what the diagram illustrates. May be what Christ must have experienced as he died on the cross for our sins. Jesus bridged an incredibly huge gap between us and God. I think he felt stretched thin. As we are in Christ may be we to at times experience the same thing, being spread thin between the reality and depth of sin and the greatness and perfection of God.
Change is not essentially “good” or “bad”. It can be both good and bad or neither. But, I think we can agree that change at times causes stress.
Alvin Toffler said, “Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.”
The question is how do we live as people in a world of so much change. I believe we need to have some constants.
Over the last 4 years I personally have experienced a lot of change. I got married, moved to a new state, started a new job, made new friends, bought a house, a car, and started a family. In the midst of the change it has been a comfort and a stabilizing force in my life to know that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) His love for us never changes. His abilities and attributes never change. No matter what challenges we face, Jesus is with us and able to do what we ask of him.
The question is how to we experience or appropriate the truth that Jesus never changes in the midst of a changing world? Author Henri Nouwen says, “Contemplative prayer keeps us home, rooted, and safe, even when we are on the road, moving from place to place, and often surrounded by sounds of violence and war.” I believe him and have experienced prayer that keeps my heart connected to the truth that Jesus never changes, and is with us. I can tend to forget or get caught up in all the change, and responding to it. But prayer brings me back to the truth, back to Jesus, who never changes. Always available and always able.
I heard a great sermon this week by Isaac Hunter from Summit Church in Orlando. It was on the person and story of Samson and the way that character and giftedness played out in his life. Here are a few of the take always that I had from the sermon.
You can get by on your giftedness and your character will remain undeveloped.
Giftedness can isolate you from community that God can use to shape your character.
You can choose to rely on your giftedness or you can choose to rely on God and people.
Gifts are given to us by God to glorify Him and build His Kingdom, not to glorify self and build your own kingdom.
At Fall Getaway David Robins said, “If dependence on Christ is the goal, then weakness is an advantage.” If weakness is an advantage then giftedness could be a disadvantage. Paul unlike Samson, was a gifted man yet decided to boast in and delight in his weakness rather than his strength for Christ’s sake. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Is your character growing with your gifts?
Are you relying on your gifts and neglecting character?
How can you depend on God and others in your weakness and in your gifts?
Communion Community and Mission.
Fall getaway was a great time to getaway to connect with God and people. I was personally challenged by God through our speaker David Robins by 2 things. Today I will just comment on one and hopefully get to the other later this week.
You can not perfect the flesh. It is so simple yet so easy to forget. If there is nothing good in my flesh there is no sense in perfecting it. It makes more sense to kill the flesh or deny the flesh or replace the flesh with something else entirely. That is what God does for us He removes our flesh and gives us His Spirit. Yet we are in the already but not yet tension. We are already a new creation, but not yet. We are in process. It is in this process that we can get confused. As we attempt to grow rather than relying on Christ to grow us and change us we can begin to rely on ourselves. When we rely on ourselves we are trusting ourselves and trying to perfect ourselves or our flesh. Rather than asking God to give us the growth we try to grow ourselves Rather than trusting in the promise of Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” we trust our ability grow ourselves. I know that I am guilty of trusting my ability to grow myself, and the message this weekend was a good reminder, and course adjustment to begin again to trust God to make me who He wants me to be.
How are you trusting your own ability to grow?
How can you adjust your course and trust God to grow you?
There is so much to do and so little time. Everyone seems busy. So busy that the above question isn’t easy to answer. Where are you right now? Not were are you physically. Where are you mentally and spiritually. Do you even know? Often it takes me time and effort to really answer this question. It takes time and space to stop being busy and reflect on where I am. Not knowing the answer or this question can lead to a shallow life. If we don’t know where we are we have a hard time connecting to other people. We can not bring our full self into a conversation or a relationship because we don’t know where we are. I recently had a day to stop and reflect on where I was. Surprisingly it took most of the day to answer this question. When I answered where I was I was able to bring myself more fully to God an let him know. Of course he already knew, in fact I think it was Him that helped me to figure out where I was. Once I knew where I was it lead to intimacy with God. Eventually it led then to intimacy with others.
So I have to ask, where is your dot? How can you take the time to figure it out?
I have been enjoying, “A Shepherd Looks at the Good Shepherd”, by Phillip Keller. This morning this section stood out to me. I am praying it would be true of me.
“He simply asks me to be the one who will be so attached to Him, so fond of Him, so true to Him, that in truth I shall be like His pet lamb… No matter where He takes me; no matter where he places me; no matter who I am alongside of in my daily living, that person will be induced to eventually follow the Shepherd because I follow Him.
Put in another way it may be said that any Christian’s effectiveness in winning others is directly proportional to his own devotion to the Master. Show me a person to whom Christ is absolutely paramount and I will show you one who gently but surely is gathering in others from the pastures of the world.
This is the individual who has entered into an exciting, adventuresome, fresh mode of life in God. Day after day, under the guidance of the Good Shepherd, he goes in and out to find fresh pastures of new experience. His life touches other lives, and all the time here and there he sees others gently gathered in, because he was willing to be sent forth wherever the Shepherd best saw fit to place him.”
How can you embrace Christ and where He has placed you so that He can use you to gather His sheep?