Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Choice Matters

Our goodness does not merit God’s provision. God’s provision merits our goodness.

Thinking that God is dependent upon our action or inaction for anything can be dangerous in that we slowly develop the theology that is human dependent, rather than God dependent. 

There is nothing that is human dependent. My choices matter to the extent that they will affect my ability to be a part of the victory, but they will not affect the victory. My choices, which are sometimes a mystery to me, are not a mystery to God, and He has already adjusted to accommodate for my decisions. 

To some, this minimizes personal choice and responsibility, when, in reality, it has no effect on their importance. God is love, and choice is the single most important aspect of love, for without it, there is no love. 

Narcissistic people live as victims. They reduce their personal responsibility for decisions they have made by blaming others, and the ultimately blame is usually aimed at God.  When someone blames God for their sinful choices, personal responsibility and guilt are totally removed.

Those who think they can do nothing about a situation usually do nothing about the situation. They live in a constant state of defeat, by choice. 

God does not need man; He wants man. He does not force us to love Him. He gives us choice,and that choice is real, as are the consequences of those choices. Because God knows the future, He adjusts history to insure His plan will be accomplished. 

It is difficult for us, the created ones, to fully comprehend the creator, and that is one of the characteristics that makes us different. We are not God. We are man and can only think, understand, and make decisions as man. 

Those who are in God’s family have God Himself, living within in the form of the Holy Spirit, and are capable of making decisions based on their sensitivity to listening to Him. Those who listen to God live by faith, meaning that they live in a way that makes no sense to those who do not know or listen to God. 

The Scriptures make it clear that God is sovereign and that we have choice. The only way we do not believe this is to put our own understanding above what God has clearly demonstrated. Those who do that are placing their own understanding at the same level as God’s, which is ludicrous at best. 

We need to position ourselves to enjoy God’s provision, and be available to be used by Him in His provision. Some of the greatest moments of God’s revelation happened during some of the toughest moments throughout history. 

My behavior will demonstrate to the world who God is or show the world the foolishness of living without the counsel of God. For now, the choice is mine, and it does matter. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear thLord, and turn away from evil.”  Proverbs 3:5-7 (ESV)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Examined Life

So he made their days vanish like a breath, and their years in terror. When he killed them, they sought him; they repented and sought God earnestly. They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer. But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues. Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant.  Psalm 78:33-37 (ESV)
A life that vanishes like a breath is a tragic life. It is likened to a life that has chased the wind and has actually caught it. There is a bleak nothingness that accompanies this thought.
It is easy for mankind to talk of repentance, and it is much harder to repent. So often we try to play “Let’s Make A Deal” with God, when, in reality, He has already made the deal.
I need to examine my life and allow it to tell me what I actually believe. Talk is easy, cheap, and can be manipulative. Actions can be put on display for the crowd, and my heart is deceitful and wicked. I need to always have a way to check what is true.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Holy Ground

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 
Exodus 3:5 (ESV)

And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:15 (ESV)

Moses and Joshua had moments, before they were to lead the people into the impossible, when they met with God. These meetings were similar in that both needed to remove their sandals to acknowledge the fact that they were standing on holy ground. 

God, for some reason, wanted them to understand that the instructions given to them were from God. This was different from the counsel of man. This counsel was such that it would set them on a sacred leadership journey where their ultimate strength would come from the fact that they once stood on holy ground and listened to God. 

Their strength would not come from their people, but from the words of God, alone. 

Somethings will never change. Leaders today who gain leadership from men alone will lack the strength, courage, and wisdom to lead correctly. Every successful leader, at some point, needs to hear and acknowledge God’s instructions for them.

Mission statements crafted by committees are helpful, but they often lack the power and authority of God. Mission statements can be crafted by pagans and believers alikeand if repeated enough, can become sacred in the minds of many. 

Attempting to build the “church” without leaders who have had to take their sandals off makes operating a church similar to managing a secular business. In the end, you may affect many people, have large numbers, and look like a dominant force for good, when, in reality, you have been a failure for transforming large numbers of people, and accomplishing a stated mission statement could easily honor the people and the statement more than God.

Those who meet with God stand in awe of Him. Those who listen to Him attempt and accomplish the impossible.

We need to have leaders who spend more time on the holy ground and less time in committee meetings. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Leadership 101

Leaders need to lead people, not herd them if they want to see real and lasting results. When you herd people, you push, prod, and cut them off, while shoving them in the desired direction. When you lead people, you put yourself out front, show them how to face dangers, and demonstrate the ways successful people live. 

Leaders who herd are more dictators than leaders, for they operate from a basis of fear. Leaders who lead are like Christ Himself, who gave up all the rights and privileges He rightfully had, to serve those He had created. 

For some reason, many think that leading is having others serve you when in reality, it is the leader having the opportunity to serve those being led. 

Church leaders who work 40 hour weeks and expect those in their church who work 40 plus hours a week should volunteer to do more should be leading the pack in volunteer hours. 

Ministry leaders who ask for people to give to their ministries should be the first one giving to their ministries.  I have heard those in ministry say that they provide to their ministry by working for less than they deserve, and that may be true. However, one must realize that getting paid what one deserves is a relative term and that many who give to their cause could very well be making less than them.  Real leaders always lead, do not make excuses, and reject the idea that the masses are there to serve their needs. 

The Bible states that we need to care for those who minister to us, and indeed we should, and in many cases, we are not. Those who give their lives to caring for the flock should be cared for by the flock, and it is often difficult for the shepherd to teach the sheep this principle. 

With that understood, it is still the responsibility of the shepherd to lead by showing the sheep how to care for others. 

There is a mindset on both sides that needs to be adjusted. Those in ministry need to focus on leading in the area in which they are asking their followers to participate. Those who are seeking help from those in ministry need to make sure their needs are met. This is reasonable and responsible.

Leaders understand that this life is not about using people to make our lives better. Instead, it is about making all those around us successful. We need to keep thinking about what our role is in the body of Christ, and function in that role without hesitation, trusting God to ultimately provide our needs. 

Perhaps we struggle to produce disciples today because our leaders are herding rather than leading. It should not and does not need to be this way. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Complicated Part 2

What is it that fuels the complicated in life? Those who live complicated lives often talk of having no alternatives to the complication, and often endure, rather than live life. Those who live in a world that is too complicated eventually need to find help to ease their troubled minds, and entire ministries and industries have arisen to help make sense of these complicated lives. 

Perhaps those who have developed a knack for raising funds and validating themselves and their ministries have caused this epidemic of complication. There are marriage and family ministries because marriages are so complicated. There are counseling centers, rehab centers, and crisis hotlines in abundance. Stress is a favorite target of mental and physical caregivers, and medications and alcohol have become norm in an overly-complicated culture. 

Listen to those who run ministries talk sometime about all the complicated and trouble family, marriages, friendships, and relationships they deal with, and how vital they are in the process of helping people sort out these complications. 

Personally, I like my marriage, and I think marriage is natural and simple. In fact, all relationships are simple, yet I tend to want to make them complicated to give me an excuse as to why there is a struggle at times. I know why there is a struggle at times. I am sinful and self- centered, and that causes troubles. (It is much easier to deal with the complications in life than my sin.)

We do not need a long seminar to point out the fact that my sin causes separation from all good in relationships, so if I deal with my sin, the relationships take care of themselves. 

I have minimized going to any of the major marriage seminars or get-aways because it seems that they major on the complicated, and they make things more complicated than when we started. 

I think the complications in life come to the Godless and just carry over into our Christian lives. Trying to make sense of life without God means you’re writing your own owner’s manual, and when you do that, you will continually be adjusting it to new circumstances, making it more complicated, and thereby, stressful.

God makes it simple. I am a sinner and my sin has separated me from Him and others. When I admit that, and start to enjoy God and His Word, I can begin to sort through the complicated, and understand and apply the simple. As I spend time with Him, His Spirit teaches, convicts, and encourages me. The many things that once were extremely complicated are now simple in that God, my Father, knows about them, and has them under control. I can trust Him. 

The Holy Spirit guides me day by day, and allows me to enjoy the maze of life, rather than be overwhelmed by it. 

When I was a kid, life was simple because my Mom and Dad needed to deal with all the details of life, and my responsibility was to obey their directives. Today is no different in that the details of life are in God’s hands, and my responsibility is to obey His directives. 

When I enjoy God, I enjoy others, and life is sensible and simple. It does not get much more profound than that.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Do We Make Things Too Complicated? Part 1

It seems that life is more complicated than it needs to be, and it remains complicated to validate many of our livelihoods. 

The following statements are not an indictment of specific jobs, but a thirty thousand-foot view of the problem in need of a solution. 

I remember helping a friend (or him helping me) by working for his moving company in downtown Chicago. Many times, we were stalled in our efforts because there was a union rule that demanded we use an elevator with an elevator operator. The elevator was normal, had numbered buttons on the inside, and the operator was not necessary. Many times, many people waited for this operator to show up, or for him to take a break, and it slowed everything down and escalated the movers' costs.

When I inquired as to why we could not push the buttons, I was told I was uncaring because the question itself showed I had no concern for this man’s livelihood. 

I began wondering that if you had a job that was not necessary, if there was any fulfillment in the job anyways.  The rules that the city had set forth made things more complicated, costly, and frankly, were absurd. 

As I thought more about this (and I had time to think as there were many delays in button- pushing), I felt bad for the company that hired me, for they were wasting their money. I felt sorry for the elevator operator in that he had to keep justifying a job that needed not exist, and I thought of all those who had jobs defending the idea that unnecessary positions were necessary. 

I often think the same thoughts about those who make a living in the “tax” world, or the accounting world. I understand that I don’t understand, and that I depend upon others to make sure I am doing it correctly, yet I cannot help but think that if we simplified things a bit, we could save a lot of resources, and these people could get jobs that did more than making the finances say whatever they want them to say. 

The government often makes things harder than it needs to be, and it seems to want us all to stay in the category of ignorant, and then coin the phrase that ignorance of the law is no excuse. 

Personally, I can simplify a lot of these things. I know how to push buttons in elevators. I would love to have some sort of percentage tax, drop all the loopholes, and minimize government involvement in our everyday lives.  If we did these little things, we would have many more productive hours in areas of creativity and growth. 

Keeping things complicated protects unnecessary jobs, while simplifying things unleashes creativity and productivity. 

Years ago, we began a non-profit educational institution. I was warned to keep it simple and I was also told, that in the long run, it would be impossible. As we grew, we needed to clarify the rules of operation, and created a policy manual. We started with some simple, common sense policies that through time needed clarification, and then more clarification. Now we have many policies in this manual, and with policies come loopholes that need to be continually addressed with more policy. Arrrgggggg!

We live in an age of communication, and sometimes I think that we are communicating too much in that most policy manuals collect more dust than eyes. 

I think that the new challenge for business and government would be how to simplify rather than complicate life, and in doing so, this would unleash a workforce that would be excited to go to work again. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

God, my Rock

To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.  Psalm 28:1-2 (ESV)
Whom or what do you call on in times of trouble if you have ignored God all your life? People who ignore God would cry out to the rocks to kill them, and have the rocks ignore them, for the rocks are not in charge of life or death, and are subject to God. During their lives people who have ignored God have lived futile lives, and at the end of their lives they depend on meaningless and silly things to relieve their suffering.
When one lives without God, they become god. If they live long enough, thinking the world revolves around them, they actually begin to trust in themselves. In the end, they are most miserable.
The universe is in sync with God. We need to observe and do likewise.