Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Problem with a platform - John Acoff

I read this just now and I had to repost it. There is so much truth behind it and me being the person I am, always have me on my mind. Crazy when you start to admit that to yourself and even more when you realize the lengths God goes to to remove these problems from you, nevertheless, we still struggle. Any way, check out this blog from Jon Acoff, it is spot on with stuff I deal with, especially having this blog...enjoy!

[check out his site whenever you get a chance, the guy is awesome!]

^I felt like using brackets....they are way cooler than parentheses, that and the fact I had to look up how to spell parentheses upsets me...

Stuff Christians Like

It only takes about three followers on twitter to become a punk. I know this, because I did.

When Stuff Christians Like took off three years ago I went off the deep end a bit with my ego. I got cocky. I got arrogant. I got extra handsome.

See? That just slipped out. Even in describing my narcissism I proved my narcissism. It’s a problem. I’m working on it.

But when you get a few followers on Twitter or start a blog or open a facebook account, something weird happens – you get a platform.

It’s true, you might just post photos of your cat water skiing or flowers you think look like former president Grover Cleveland, but the reality is that we all have platforms. They might be small, they might be large, but a platform is just a place where you share ideas from. That might mean speaking at main stage Catalyst to 13,000 people or beside your mailbox, speaking to your neighbor. They’re both platforms.

And I think one of the biggest reasons people don’t want to hear what’s being said from Christian platforms is that they think we’re hypocrites.

And I think hypocrisy is a form of arrogance.

The definition of arrogance is “having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one’s own importance, merit, ability, etc.” Arrogance is about pretending.

The definition of hypocrisy is, “a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.” Hypocrisy is about pretending.

Whether you label it arrogance or hypocrisy, it’s easy to pretend when you find yourself with a platform. The problem is that platforms are such great places to “perform” from. It’s easy to just be you when no one is watching but on a platform there’s a great temptation to manufacture the best version of you. For a while, I wasn’t that concerned about it until I saw something in a familiar verse that I’d never noticed before.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about his famous “thorn in the flesh.” I say famous because it’s practically Christian law that you have to assume his thorn was also the exact same thing you struggle with personally. We’ve all read those verses, but what I missed was the reason Paul said he had the thorn in the flesh. Here’s what 2 Corinthians 12:7 says:

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”

That is terrifying.

Paul just said that in order to keep him from becoming conceited God allowed a messenger of Satan to torment him. Conceit is so high on the list of things God is against that would sooner have Paul tormented by a messenger of Satan. Of the two, judo chop by Satan’s minion or Paul becomes conceited, God went with the judo chop.

That’s crazy, right?

Of all the things we focus on, of all the sins we shine a critical light upon, I think arrogance sometimes gets a free pass. We talk about pride every now and then, but I personally haven’t looked at it like I think our God does.

I don’t have a neat wrap up. I wish I did because I think most blog posts should. And it’s more fun to write the ones that end with grace than it is the ones that end with a groan. But that’s where I’m at.

I want to be humble.

I want to be real.

Instead of people saying “Christians are so hypocritical” I want them to say, “Christians are so honest.” And I think that starts with you and I and the way we live on the platforms we’re given by a God whose heart breaks when we get swallowed up by conceit.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Inner Being

We always fall short, thank God for His mercy. I want to do this proverbs thing every day for the month, however, I am finding it increasingly difficult to given all the things I have to do. So is that it? Is that the end of the road? Not quite. See if this was something that really meant a lot to me, then I would really be doing it regardless of the time, I would be waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier just to make time to do it. It is obvious, we aren't all we crack ourselves up to be. We make promises we can't keep, commitments we can't see through, statements we don't follow through on. I am being pretty transparent with you right now and with every good reason, there are things we all committ to that for one reason or another we don't do. So is that it? Or is there a purpose behind it all? There is...

This has once again shown me just how little I really am and I how much more work I really need. God can speak to me all He wants about a matter, but it isn't until I get up and decide to internalize it and begin believing it that it is going to make a different. I can be forgiven and not feel forgiven, I can be loved and not feel loved. So many of us get stuck in this idea of feeling. We look for this happy go lucky feeling. While those do exist and they do come, we shouldn't sit around waiting for them. We can't, it isn't part of the whole faith not sight deal from 2 Cor 5:7. Sometimes if God tells us something, we just have to see it through, regardless of how we might feel about it.

All that being said, I wanted to share with you a devo someone sent me this morning. It was pretty awesome and for me, definitely spoke to me plenty. I pray it blesses you as well...

The Inner Man
by Ray Stedman

A devotion for March 12th

...he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being... (Ephesians 3:16b).

What is your inner being? Many take this to mean the soul, with its faculties of reason and emotion and will. But I don't think this is what Paul means here, because in 2 Corinthians 4 he gives us a clue about what he does mean when he says “the inner being.” There he says that “our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (4:16 NKJV). That is, for Christians there is something about us that is getting old, decaying and deteriorating; but there is also something about us that is getting more vital, increasing and becoming richer and deeper and stronger every day we live. And that is what he calls “the inner being.”
Your soul grows old as well as your body. It is clear that the soul is part of our life linked with the outer person, which is perishing day by day.

But that is not the inner being. The inner being is the human spirit. It is here that God begins the work of recovery. Not in the realm of our feelings, but in what psychologists would call the realm of the subconscious, the deep-seated part of our life, the fundamental element of our nature. When you are really discouraged, really brokenhearted and have given up, your condition is often described as dispirited. That is an accurate term. Your fundamental nature is dissatisfied. It is not merely a question of temporary boredom. That would be in the realm of the soul. But this is something that touches the spirit, right at the deepest level of human life, and you find yourself filled with despair and indifference.

This is where the recovery must begin. And what the apostle tells us about here is the capability of the Creator himself our loving Father, to give us a fresh infusion of strength by His Spirit into our spirit, the inner being. In 1 Corinthians 12, speaking of believers, Paul says, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, . . . and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (v. 13). That is what our human spirits are for—to drink of the Spirit of God so that we are refreshed and revitalized. Just as taking a drink refreshes your body, so drinking of the Spirit refreshes your spirit, at the deepest level of your life.

That is not the realm of feeling. We get so hung up in this process of spiritual recovery by always wanting an instantly good feeling. Relief will come, but it doesn't start there. It starts down at the level of the spirit and may be nothing more than some consciousness of reassurance that things are going to work out.

This beginning step is not your responsibility; it is God's. All that is necessary is that you ask Him for it. Paul prayed that these Ephesians might have this granted to them. When we ask on that level, God promises to give.

Thank You, Father, that I can come to You ask that You would strengthen me in the inner being, and that because of Your great love I trust that You will answer this cry of my heart.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ashes, Chambers, and a lot of accounting....

Today I should be blogging on Proverbs 10 and I have some notes I took from Proverbs 9, but work has been insane...just wanted to post up something so you didn't think I was out of it...

The Lord loves me and you, and man is that awesome. Definitely thankful that He understands me....wanted to post this for you, just two things that have blessed me in the last 2 days. Pray for me, work is getting crazy!

Allow God to have complete liberty in your life when you speak. Before God’s message can liberate other people, His liberation must first be real in you. Gather your material carefully, and then allow God to “set your words on fire” for His glory. - Chambers

Psalm 103

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.[a]
17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Living Wisdom

Proverbs 8:15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice. 16 By me princes rule and nobles, all the judges of the earth. 17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me.

Sound like someone we know? I couldn't really decide on a verse from this section today, I loved the whole thing. The chapter is about wisdom, or is it? As you read it and begin paying close attention to the description Solomon is giving this thing called wisdom, quickly you realize that these verses, all of them, can apply to someone in the bible.

The chapter is about wisdom, but while wisdom is important in making every day decisions, we must realize what kind of wisdom is the kind that matters and really put that one to use.

In Eph 1:15-21, Paul prays for the church at Ephesus, specifically that they have wisdom, but not just any kind of wisdom, eternal wisdom:

15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding[c] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

I urge you to really read Proverbs 8 through and through. It really is a beautiful chapter. Understand something about this wisdom Solomon speaks of. It is the wisdom that transcends all other wisdom, it is the wisdom of Jesus Christ, the one who is before all things and through whom all things were created and have been created (Col 1:15-17, John 1:3).

Jesus is the spoken Word of God. He is the wisdom of God revealed to us, "the mystery revealed" as Paul calls it in Ephesians 3. By the wisdom of Christ we should see all things in life and realize as Col 1:15-17 tells us, everything was created for Him. All things were created to glorify the Father.

I take for granted this wisdom that has been revealed to me. I often live life defeated, as if the wisdom of Christ can do little for me. It is like spitting in the face of Christ, something the centurions did to Him and something we do every time we don't think He is able enough or sufficient enough and yet, like He did that day on Calvary, and He does everytime for us, He pours His love and forgives us and makes intercession for us daily just as He did on the cross when He cried out to His father and said "Forgive them."

Imagine this: If Solomon (who I truly believe was filled with the Spirit when he wrote this chapter because I can't help but think this is purposely paralleling Jesus) wrote this chapter about wisdom in general and shows how wisdom is what governs all things and is before all things, how much more than the wisdom of the revelation of Jesus Christ. He is the mystery of God revealed to man. The next time you say God doesn't speak to you, look up at the wisdom nailed on the cross (and this applies to me tenfold....how short I fall.)

"The bible says in Hebrews 1:3 that all things are held together by the power of His word, His pinky if you will. Now is this someone who you think came into your life just to be your assistant?" - Tim Keller

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." - C. S. Lewis

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Maybe Tomorrow...

Prov 6:9 How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep— 11 So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.

(Sorry about yesterday, I don't think I had a minute to sit...I owe God Prov 5)

"I don't feel like it." Something I utter more than I really want to, or do I? See the man in me wants to basically do nothing all day. If it were up to me, I would sit in bed and sleep all day not doing a thing, but I can't. I can't just sit and let the day waste, not just because there are consequences with regard to my ability to live, but because when one reads the story in Matt 25 of the three men given their fair share of talents and how the master goes and deals with them, it becomes clear that God is not in the business of liking laziness.

Verse 10 spells out how it works with us. It all starts with a little sleep here, then it goes from sleep to slumber, then it goes to us just flat out folding out hands and refusing to do anything. It all starts with a little compromise here, a little compromise there, and before you know it, your life is wasting. When I lost my job that month and a half, I could have easily slipped into this. In fact I did for almost 2 weeks. I remember people asking me if I had applied, of course I would say I did, but in reality, no. I would lay in bed and sleep until my little heart desired to wake up. I really didn't care much for working.

God didn't make us to be lazy, He didn't make us to do nothing. I am often reminded of the story in Joshua 5-6, specifically where the Commander of the Armies of the Lord (aka Jesus in the Old Testament, also known as a Christophany) appears before Joshua and lets him know, "I am totally with you!" Now, could you imagine what would have happened if Joshua would have sat down and done nothing from there. Imagine if he had had the "God is going to do it, therefore I don't have to do much" attitude? The providence of God favors not the idle. God is not a fan of idleness, He wants us to use those things, those talents which He has given us for His glory. So often we all get lazy, and maybe in the sense of physical work, but in the area of spiritual work. I can work 60 hours a week for the next two months and still be the laziest person on the planet.

Our minds are often stuck in the temporal that we often miss out on the eternal reality going on around us. There are always two sides to the same coin, there is of course the present consequence, but there is always an eternal consequence to a thing as well. Though we may not see it or believe it, there is. It isn't just about working for a paycheck, it could be about working to show a boss what God can do in the life of a person. It isn't just about obeying your parents because they are your parents, it could be the only witness they have to what Christ has done in the life of their child. It isn't just about cleaning your room, it could be your sibling seeing how responsible you have become and wondering what is it that has changed.

Look for the eternal in everything and don't be so lazy. Laziness comes from many avenues of which disqualification, despair, discouragement are a few. Look for the eternal in what you do, it may be what keeps you going in those moments when even that paycheck doesn't look for appealing.

"We should pray as though everything depends on God and work as though everything depends on us. Praying for the Lord to guide your footsteps will be ineffective unless you are willing to move your feet!" - St. Augustine

Friday, March 4, 2011

Easy as 1, 2, 3...

Proverb 4:20 My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart;
22 For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.

We all have struggles. Our struggles can sometimes weigh us down and if left unkept can take over. We can often be paralyzed by the things going on around us or the things going on inside of us. How do we defend? How can we possibly get past this thing, this thought, this sin? I know that by myself I'll never be able to stop. Sure I may stop for a season, but eventually, I'll fall right back in if I don't give it over to Him and let Him speak to me instruction.

So what do you do when you fall right back into stuff like doubt, worry, worhtlessness, fear, anxiety? Well I'm sure in all of this God has at some point given you some words, some instruction, some comfort and now your job is to continue based on those words. No you may not feel like moving, but since when did this walk have anything to do with feelings? Around this time last year, a friend of mine gave me the above verses and with them a three step process to helping me overcome garbage. It may sound simple and some people may think it is so beyond them, but try it and see what happens.

1. Give attention to my words, incline your ear to my sayings

As Jesus said, "He who has ears, let Him hear." Listen to what God is telling you, look for His voice. As God said in Mark 9:7 to the disciples, "This is my Son, hear Him!" Before you even start go find that verse that the Lord gave you that morning you cried out and prayed, that night you went to bed feeling defeated. Find those words of life that your Father gave you. Notice it says give attention to and incline your ear. This means you can't just read them and keep going. You have to give them attention and by attention, I would say undivided.

2. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart

Plenty of people do this with verses at work or at home. Take those words and write them out. Put them in places your eyes will see. Places where you can constantly be reminded of them. The second half of the verse is key. Remember that Christianity isn't a religion. When people those self-help courses, they often think that repetition will fix their issues. This goes beyond repition, keep them in the midst of your heart. Pray that the Lord opens the eyes of your heart and makes it reality in you.

3. For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.

Don't take lightly to the fact that God spoke to You. The God of the universe, the Creator of everything, spoke to you. Despite our tendency to doubt His words, understand it is God speaking to you. The result of the above two steps with time will yield life and health to you.

Again, this probably sounds very friendly like one of those make yourself feel good devos, however, I don't mean for it to be that way. Remember in Joshua 4, when God commanded the children to set up stones as a remembrance of what He did for them at the Jordan river. So often we act like the man in James 1:23-24. We see what God has shown us, and we walk away and forget, don't let it be the case. Never forget what God has spoken. Hear His words and respond. Don't let fear or worry grip you. Don't be like the children of Israel in Numbers 14 who were afraid to enter into the land. I bet if they had really remembered what God has done for them that lead to that point, they would have stormed Canaan and wrecked everyone.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pain is Gain

Prov 3:11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights

It was last October and I had only been working at this accounting firm for 2 months. My boss was a nice guy and wasn't at all strict on me when it came to time or leaving early or anything really. I had the freedom (so I thought) to do as I pleased. There was something about Col 3:22-24 that I guess I didn't feel like obeying, or maybe it was the fact that I had gotten this job in the first place by God's grace and that He had taken me out of this crazy corporate job that I had forgotten, whatever the case, I wasn't being a good employee. Additionally, I wasn't being a good witness either. It bit me.

I got fired just two months into the job and my ex-boss had many choice words for me that day, good ones, but there were a set of words that let me know what had happened to me that day. "You're a Christian, and you aren't working as hard as you should. It is stewardship Chris, and it isn't something you've displayed very well." That's when it sank in and two weeks after that, I spent all my time realizing I had been a horrible steward with God's blessing and had been a horrible witness to several people I had been talking to in that office.

Sometimes God has to smack us (lovingly of course) and correct us in order that we might grow. In the Hebrew, the word chasten has no implication of punishment whatsoever. Chastening here speaks of someone admonishing someone, earnestly urging them with instruction, to correct, to teach or to discipline. To teach? Earnestly urge? Doesn't sound negative to me. It isn't. The best picture of chastening is just what the verse says, a father correcting his son. Think of it this way, if you had a son or daughter and you saw them playing in the street when cars are constantly driving by at 50+ MPH, are you going to let them play? Sure they are having fun doing it, but is it love if you let them get hit by a car? Is it love if you allow them to be damaged? Even more so, imagine you just let them go without any correction, then when something did happen to them, they would blame you.

Everything God does, God does out of love because God is love. Sometimes we aren't always going to like what He does, but He does it because He loves us, He does it because He has our best interest in mind (Rom 8:28, Gen 50:20). The point isn't to become upset by the situation and let that unfold us, the point is to become aware of the correction, of the Father behind the correction and look for the lesson. It is what we are called to do in every situation in life, look for the lesson, look to see what the Lord is teaching us.

I think often times we mistakenly look at God's wrath and anger in the wrong way. "God wrath is God's love in the face of sin" - Ravi Zacharias

"Am I prepared to let God grip me by His power and do a work in me that is worthy of Himself? Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me; sanctification is God's idea of what He wants to do for me, and He has to get me into the attitude of mind and spirit where at any cost I will let Him sanctify me wholly." - Chambers

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dwell where you dwell...

Proverbs 2:21 For the upright will dwell in the land, and the blameless will remain in it.

To be blameless, we all know what blame is and we know what being blameless is based on the definition for blame, however, can we ever really be blameless? Stop and thing for a second, when was the last time you were blameless? When was the last time God looked down at you and said, "Wow you are so perfectly blameless, I have no reason to think you have even a hint of sin." Yeah me neither. I think on a daily basis all of us at some point or another have a flub, a moment of weakness, a time at which we drop the ball.

Whatever the miss, lets face it, none of us will ever really be blameless. There was only one blameless man in all of history and thank God for Him, because it was His blameless life that got me to look blameless before God. "Wait but you just said we aren't blameless before God?" I know, however, when we are covered in the blood of Christ, we are blameless. The bible says we have on us Christ's righteousness. Though our own righteousness is as filthy garments before God, He chooses to replace our nasty garments and give us those of His son so that we can stand before a holy God and be in relationship with Him.

Sounds basic I know, but let it sink in. I think a lot of us (myself included) have this tendency to sell ourselves short. We tend to sometimes get so consumed in a screw up, whether it be our past or our present, sometimes we tend to dwell on something we shouldn't. Rather than forgetting those things which are behind me and pressing on, we sit and dwell, and dwell, and dwell and before you know it, the good land in which you once were going to dwell in or were dwelling in seems off because you lost sight of Him.

You miss out on what God is doing for you this very day when you do that. The verse says the upright will dwell in the land and the blameless will remain in it. I know there is no way any of us will ever be blameless, but by His grace, we are. In God's eyes we are more than conquerors. Of course it has nothing to do with us and everthing to do with what He already did, but the fact is, we won. Don't be so hard on yourself and think you have been in some way disqualified simply because of your past or because of some mistake you made last week.

I read a blog by John Acuff not to long ago (he is really good) and in it he said something that hasn't left me to this day. I don't remember the quote but it went something like this: There is no such thing as the best Christian. I think this whole idea of best Christian is something the devil made up and uses to discourage us on a constant basis. Every one doubts, everyone worries, everyone sins, everyone messes up, everyone falls short.

I agree with him. Don't let the picture of the holiest saint with a halo over your head keep you from pressing on. The past is exactly that, the past. No, you'll never be blameless, but recognizing that you won't be is the first step. Just ask Jesus, it is no wonder of all the phrases to start His earthly ministry, He began with the words: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:3)

"The bedrock in Jesus Christ's Kingdom is poverty, not possession, not decisions for Christ, rather absolute futility - ' I cannot begin to do it', then He says 'Blessed are you." - Chambers

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Constant Sermon

Proverbs 1:20 "Wisdom calls aloud ouside; She raises her voice in the open squares."

Wisdom is defined as "knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action." I like that last part, judgment as to action. What does it mean that wisdom calls aloud outside? How could wisdom possible do such a thing? And if so, what kind of wisdom are we talking about? To answer this you have to go back to verse 7 where it says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. By fear, we don't mean a trembling fear like that of the demons (James 2:19), I am speaking of a reverence for the Lord. It is here where we start with wisdom, it is having a reverence for the Lord and understanding our surroundings through that lens that we begin to see the world for what it truly is. If we were to internalize this, it would do wonders for us.

In Romans 1:20, it says that creation declares the glory of the Lord and it is this creation that must be seen through the above lens. So often we fail to see the world for what it really is, we fail to see others for who they really are. Why don't we see others as who they really are, a person created in God's image? Why don't we see creation for what it really is, our constant reminder of His love?

"The heavens declare the glory of God...day unto day utters speech, and night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor langauge where their voice is not heard" (Psalm 19:1-3). Understand something, so often we are so caught up in literally hearing the voice of the Lord or wondering why He isn't saying much that we miss the most beautiful and loving of all His words: His creation. It is His creation that if looked at through that lens of godly fear, can in many ways calm us in our worst moments. No storm or trial can out do or out preach the lillies of the fields or the grass on which we walk.

It is the second we begin to internalize what Christ said in Matthew 6 that we allow the sermon His creation is constantly giving us to relax and unnerve us. "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin." Why do we? Ever stopped to wonder how much of your day you spend worrying about the dumbest things? I have found that in my own life, worry and doubt are what grip me most and there are days I don't feel the love of God, nor do I feel like I even love God, however, creation tells me other wise. Creation tells me He is madly in love with me. It tells me that if He cares enough that one sparrow doesn't hit the ground without His knowing, and that if we are of more importance to Him than sparrows, that no matter what life may bring, no matter how scared or unsure I may be, no matter how gripped I may be by my fears or my lack of worth, that God will provide, that God will guide, and that God will finish what He has started in me.

Today, listen to creation, what is God trying to teach you through it? Relax, God is in control.

"If you have been bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, it will be one of the greatest assets to faith when the time of trial comes, because your faith and the Spirit of God will work together. Learn to associate ideas worthy of God with all that happens in Nature - the sunrises and the sunsets, the sun and the stars, the changing seasons, and your imagination will never be at the mercy of your impulses, but will always be at the service of God." - Chambers