Church leadership- 2016 version

Two years ago I was incredibly frustrated at how church elders were selected, and who was selected.  Nothing personal about the selection committee, nor of the candidates.  It was not a personal issue.  It was a matter of discernment, of obedience to God’s plan for his church, and for how he has deemed leaders are selected.  It is a humbling thought that most of us are not leadership…. and more humbling is that the choice of who is prepared, seasoned, honed and ready to obey God in a leadership role often does not see it that way.

This frustration sent me back to deep study, to discern what God calls leaders, what they look like, how they are developed, and how they are recognized.  Big surprise – the method and the process were nothing like earthly ways.  In the Bible it was the known leaders gathering in prayer, asking for discernment, while reviewing the lives of possible candidates.  I found a wonderful recap of the concept of elder published by John Piper.

<Click here to read the article>

While it seems that some sort of selection group gathered, and names were raised for elder, did they lay them before God and ask for clarity? Two years ago one of the elder candidates was on the surface wonderfully skilled at teaching and a holder of an undergrad degree from a christian college, but if you watched that life, how they handle their own self, their family, their work?.There were a lot of alarms raised.  Perhaps i was closer to the situation, having known them for a decade, and having watched them struggle with their marriage, and life issues.  My objections were met with response that I was wrong, or my thinking was flawed. (Yes, that is always possible, but on this one i know what i was watching for 10  plus years. )  And while my heart was heavy to see the end result, i was not surprised that within 6-8 months he crashed hard and burned to a crisp under the weight of the elder-ship.

I never wanted to say “I told you so” but i certainly could!  And as a result we went 2 years without that office filled.  The role of elder was shouldered by less people, and growing demands.

God has framework and ways of living documented to us for reasons.  He is far more wise than any committee or group of humans will ever be.  And it seems that the role of elder is one of great weight of responsibility – one must know God’s word, be qualified, and humble, willing to help people through difficult things with strength, wisdom and character.

This year the choices were interesting.  There is a clear pattern of who influenced the decisions, which raises a great concern for the overall health of the church.  I hope i am wrong, but alarms are raised again for one of the men chosen.  It seems that was yet another choice of the “committee” to overlook or pay no attention to the documented qualifications of the office, ensuring they match with the character and history of the person.  But I open my hands, throw them to the sky and say “Lord, this is your church.  You are building it, not me.  You choose to bless us with wise and strong leadership, or withhold this and give us weakened leaders… yet it is you that is in charge, not a committee, or a person.  Have your way, take this burden from me, and show me how to pray for them.”

And that brings me to the article i wrote two years ago…. still valid, still practical, and still critical for body health:

The committee has met, the votes are tallied, and now a new leader (elder/deacon) has been decided upon.  Were the decisions unanimous?  Were there lingering wonder about their fit for the work?  What are we required to do?

1. Pray – pray daily that the Lord will have his hand upon the man:

  • Protection – from the attacks of the enemy
  • Wisdom to make correct decisions
  • Strength for the work

2. Encourage – when possible try to encourage them

3. Watch – watch as the leader steps up…. will they bring a humble heart, yielded to God, or will we see misuse of power?  Watch and pray

In the crucible of position character will reflect the truth about the person… whether they a re established, rooted and grounded, and able to lead.  Or not.  We are obligated to pray for our leaders, asking God to reign over all, sovereign, holy and with all wisdom.

“Lord, we bring our leaders to you.  May you always watch over and protect them.  May you grant them your wisdom, your spirit of leading, and always a teachable spirit.  May they lead well, with strength and power of your spirit, direction from your word.  May you give deep insight into the building of your kingdom, and use these leaders for your glory. Amen”

To this i have a few things to add to my prayer:

“Lord, First I ask that you will grow up these men that our congregation call elders…. give them strength in your word, soundness of character, protection from the arrows of the enemy and yielded teachable spirits toward you.  and Second, I pray for any intentions, engineering, personal gain, or other reasoning that may have come to mind in this decision- may you break down all that is not of you, and may you teach our church how to live by your word in powerful obedience.  May your power rest in strength on our leaders…. make them strong, discerning, capable and wise.  May you break down any weapon the enemy brings to try to weaken or destroy us.  And for the future practice of selecting elders, may you begin raising up men who love you, know you, already have withstood seasons of trial, and remain focused on you.  Only you can raise leaders, only you can build your church so that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  Have your way.”  Amen

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Wondering

I agonized over the title of this post for quite some time.  Titles cast the theme, and set a tone for the article… I chose to be very abbreviated with my title so that the body of the article could expound on the thoughts.

I wonder –

I wonder how each of us see one another.

I wonder if those differences are points of prayer, rather than points of contention and judgement

I wonder if as we gather to worship if we choose to lift each other up, or snap to conclusions on appearance, actions, thoughts

I wonder if we are willing to look at each other’s journey to heaven and accept that God calls each of us to travel different terraine  with his distinct purposes in our lives.

I wonder if we stumble over the path each of us have been called to.

 

My pondering came as a result of some time spent in prayer, and reading through the bible.  Its at the end of John 21 Peter has just been restored to fellowship with Jesus, and almost immediately he begins to inquire about John.

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”)

When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”   -Gospel of John 21: 20-22

Peter had just learned that as he became  old he would be led about, a prisoner, against his will.  And as he looks out at others, like John, he did not hear that prediction of John.  We are all creatures that want a quiet life, with little stress… but this might not be the plan God has for us.  Its human nature to wonder about others, or to compare their life to mine.  But if we are truthful in viewing this passage we will glean a treasured nugget.  Each of us are given a specific plan, and while we are on this earth we are here at the purpose and leading of our great God.

In my quiet time, as i read this passage for the 8 millionth time the words spoke to me in a fresh way. “Barb – the plan for your life is one of times of great challenge, of testing and of stretching. ”  No i did not hear voices, but it was as if God himself whispered into my soul.  “Let go of the idea that we are identical… and focus on what God wants of you.  Your heart, your surrender, your focus.  Love the lord your God and lay down the preconceived notions of what your life should be.”

I have to be honest and disclose to you that I have spent a long time holding on to and idealizing the life I once had, which is gone.  Yes, it was nice to have a predictable life, predictable career, evenings free, and weekends were not much more than laundry, grocery shopping and worship.  Loved those evening enjoying the summer nights on the porch sipping iced tea, and looking through a magazine, or catching up a chapter or two of a book.  Loved those fall evenings of painting, or big home improvement projects…. which we no longer can afford.  And i loved knowing there was a big bank account and credit cards, and no want of anything.  But God knew my soul needed something that was not found in bank accounts and free time.  It was his very real leadership and presence.

So i have layed down that part of my life, and look to this time as a new chapter.  God has called me to trust him, to wait on his provision, to trust his hand as good, and to meet my needs.  It is a much deeper immersion into living by faith.  And there are times when, like Peter, i begin to look at others in the body and become focused on their life… their needs not only met, but a life much more comfortable, and at ease.  And it is at that point i hear the words of God – “Why are you concerned with them?”  It is as if Jesus is saying to me also “Do you trust me? Do you?  Do you really trust me for the monthly income to meet your needs?  Do you believe I am intimately involved in your life, and care deeply for your needs?  Then trust me.”

I know that we are called to a different place.  For some reason the Lord has shut every door of employment for Steve, and as each rejection of a job lead comes it seems that a new door opens for our business.  Not once, not twice, but countless times over the past few years the Lord has reinforced our direction.  As we respond and follow His leading we have seen this little vision of a business into something viable, and profitable.  He has showed us that as we trust him for the next step that He will open those doors.  And the doors open.

Our life is not a traditional 9-5.  Our life requires a significantly larger involvement of our time, energy, creativity, and networking.  And our life leaves much less time for just sitting on the porch sipping iced tea.  But this is the life we are now called to.  Our life is a calling to a people group that needs hope.  The art world

I still wonder how you view us though.  Do you accept that our life is so very non-conventional?  Do you pray that God will continue to lead us, use us, and provide our needs?  Or do you find it hard to accept that some of us are called to a different place?  If you must know, we can see it in your eyes, and we can hear it in your comments.  We see those eyes that look at us like we are a bit on the crazy side… or you say things that are polite but have a belittling tone.  You don’t understand the work God is doing in our lives, or you have no realization of the way that our society has changed in a very short amount of time and has closed off the opportunities you always knew.

For the church to be a healthy place we must take heed to the passage about John and Peter, acknowledging we don’t know what God has in store for each other.  But we know God, and we know his plan is good.  As we get our eyes off of each other and on to the place they belong we will become a much healthier, less judgmental body.

We don;t expect the misunderstood comments to go away, but we only hope that grace and God’s love will replace human wisdom for willingness to watch and pray.

Because God is good. and his plan for each of our lives is as varied as his creation.  Its our job to trust and obey, and lay down the wondering.  Yes, that goes for me too.

Hunger for heaven

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, – Philippians 3:20

As this sin scarred earth grows older, and each of us grow in our faith it seems like we are differentiated from the world in greater and greater ways.  Like a citizen of a foreign country visiting Cleveland it is noticable they are not from around here.  They may not speak the language, or understand the culture.  They may have no clue about how our government, or politics work, the sports we watch, the arts we enjoy, the food we eat.

We, the believers of Jesus, live on the earth among a world that wants to run to pleasure, selfish gain, idols and self centered lives.  How we live, practice our business, and  raise our families should look different because we are different.  We are just passing through. This is boot camp to strengthen us and build our faith up.

We know we are here for just a time… and one day we will be either called home to heaven, or we will see Jesus return to take us home.  We are called to watch and pray, wait for the redemption of our souls.  This day will come.  Until then we are ambassadors of the most high, and we must demonstrate in our life, our speech, and our choices that our citizenship is in heaven.  With the power of our great God we can to that!

 

its in god’s hands

prayerair

Life is unpredictable, people even more unpredictable.  The truth is that our lives are in God’s hand, yielding us to watch and pray, trust and remain faithful  to God’s word.

Note to Readers:  If you attend my church and are reading this post, thanks.  I some times write in generalities based on what i notice happening in the kingdom.  Sometimes I draw from current events, and at other times it is from experiences of my past.  My writing is intended to be a way of working out my faith… and should it help others, praise God.

I love to work on building friendships.  I only have a half dozen people that i can trust with my absolute life… let alone the deep things of life that I wrestle with.  I think its probably very biblical to know a lot of people, but surround myself with people i would call friends, and still fewer people that I would deem mentors, and mentees.  Jesus showed us that he had 12 disciples, yet only 3 or 4 very close disciples.

almost 3 decades ago i had the privilege of developing a friendship based on faith.  It was one of my first “christian friendships”.  We felt like we knew each other for a life time.  We shared the common belief in Jesus, and we shared that heart for evangelism, and for taking the gospel to the world.  We were both quite young in our faith when we jumped into ministry, feet first.  We ran hard for the work, knowing very little, but trusting God for all of it.   And there was a deep bond because God was developing in both of us the character and gifts he wanted used.

Ministry was flourishing… it was right, good, and we were seeing people come to know Jesus and it was fruit that remained.  But slowly, ever so slowly we felt a tugging in different directions, and a pulling of our hearts in different philosophy of ministry.  We both still loved Jesus, but something entered into our relationship that was changing us, breaking us apart.

God clearly moved us from our comfort in suburbia to an inner city ministry work that required the skills we had honed in those ministry start ups we were leaving behind.  Those years of building were able to be handed off to capable hands, trustworthy believers who would continue the work.  That work continues to this day, viable, vibrant and still preaching the gospel with the power of God’s spirit.  It is in God’s hands.

And over those  twenty some years we worked in the inner city God privileged us to be a part of mighty things.  In our work with youth we had a small core group of kids who had a deep hunger for truth, and for salvation.  We still hear great things about each of them.  Most have grown up well, become wonderful adult human beings that love Jesus, and have centered their lives on their faith.  Yes, they are in God’s hands.

And i think many of the youth group members of our group from the 90s were impacted by one simple yet traumatic event – One of the beautiful young girls (Diana) was a quiet spirited girl that never missed our jr high club meetings.  One Sunday evening we gathered, and we asked the kids what questions they have.  Diana quietly asked “What does Jesus look like?  Does the bible say very much about it?”  We looked at each other – shall we go for the Isaiah passage that he was of no reputation?  Or Revelation chapter 1?  That passage of Revelation 1 was the choice… and we read it to the group – Hair white as wool, feet glowing like brass in a fire, eyes… the image is both one of fear, and of awe.  And i remember saying that one day we shall see him as he is… we will bow down before his holiness, and he will speak to us.  I had no idea that night Diana would get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and fall on her little brother’s small toy, and suffer irreversible brain injury that would put her in a coma, and she would go home to meet Jesus.  Every one of the kids told us they felt moved by the thought that she was now seeing Jesus as he is, in heaven.  It became so real to each of us, and so important to share our hope with others because there might come a day when this life ends.  Diana was and is in god’s hands, as are those kids of the 90s who are adults today.

In our years of visiting the nursing homes we met so many good people who were aging, and their bodies were becoming unkind to the life they have known.  Some of the residents were sad, or even deeply depressed from their changing quality of life, or the death of a spouse, the loss of some portion of their body, or their mind.  We met so many people who ministered to us far more than i think we did to them.  One of the residents that impacted us so greatly was a man named Guy – sad, angry, lonely and feeling quite betrayed by life, he was not easy to speak with, but when he finally realized we cared, and wanted to visit his heart began to soften.  One day he called and asked Steve and I to come visit him.  We arrived and it was after dinner, late for the resident that turn in by 6-6:30.  But there was Guy, waiting, excited, eagerly scanning the horizon for us.  Guy wanted to know how to be a christian… 78 years old, having gone to church, lived an honest and hard working life, but had never given opportunity to yield his heart to Jesus.  Guy died 3 months later, knowing where he was headed, knowing he was forgiven, washed and clean, a child of the King.  Yes, all those years Guy was in God’s hands, and he is now in God’s presence.

Over the years we have known so many people who have walked this path of faith.  Some continue, others have turned back, given up, wandered away, or were lured away by the lust of the eye, lust of the flesh or the pride of life.  But they remain in God’s hands.

My point is simple.  WE choose to yield our lives to God, surrender our plans to him, and live for him each and every day.  As we touch others we can pray for them, we can encourage them, and we can pray and give them back to God’s hands.  We have no control over whether they choose to follow God or not.  We can only trust that God holds them in his hands.

Some of those we have known and we have  trusted to God’s hands flourish, shine for the Lord, and carry the message of hope to the world.  They are pastors, or missionaries, or lay leaders, worship leaders, chaplains, or just people of faith living in the work world.  Others choose to embrace power, privilege, selfish pleasure, personal gain or any of the other deceitful sinful things this world can pull us into… and they have crashed and burned.  Their life is a shipwreck, their ministry gone because they would not yield to the prompting of God’s spirit, or were unwilling to be teachable, or would not heed the warnings and admonition of leadership… or they were leadership and had given in to pride, or the flesh, or power. Sin has overtaken the ground of their soul and faith, while present, is tucked aside, forced out of the way for the idolatry  that has consumed them.  Yet, they are also in the hands of God.

The warning is to each of us – Guard your heart for out of it flow the issues of life.  Guard your heart, and give yourself to the hands of God.  For God is more than able to see you through, and help you finish well.

 

In a wicked world its good to know we have hope

Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
    Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
From your presence let my vindication come!
    Let your eyes behold the right!

You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night,
    you have tested me, and you will find nothing;
    I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
    I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths;
    my feet have not slipped.

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
    incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Wondrously show[a] your steadfast love,
    O Savior of those who seek refuge
    from their adversaries at your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings,
from the wicked who do me violence,
    my deadly enemies who surround me.

10 They close their hearts to pity;
    with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
11 They have now surrounded our steps;
    they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.
12 He is like a lion eager to tear,
    as a young lion lurking in ambush.

13 Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!
    Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,
14 from men by your hand, O Lord,
    from men of the world whose portion is in this life.[b]
You fill their womb with treasure;[c]
    they are satisfied with children,
    and they leave their abundance to their infants.

15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
    when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness  —-Psalm 17

its been a month since we cut off the TV, and limited the endless drone of bad news, tragedy, fear breading flashes of a culture and a world sliding ever farther from its moorings, and ever more from the world a perfect and loving God created and said was good.    I’m not sure how these constant waves of negative and life taking information affects you, but as for me i can say it profoundly affects me.  Hearing news of perfect strangers is one thing, but as bad things happen to good people around us the news becomes more personal, and the reminder that we are just travelers in this life, heading for a city who’s builder and author is our great God.

Psalm 17 was penned by David in the height of his struggle with King Saul, who was hunting him like a dog.  Hiding in caves, and on the run to preserve his life, David literally knew two very clear things:

  1. He knew the character of his God, our God  – God will hear him, and will answer him, he gives loving kindness to him, preserves him from evil and wicked people,  Delivers him. and satisfies him.  He knew and understood his place in God’s Kingdom – apple of God’s eye.  If we can just wrap our minds around the thought that we are chosen, called, and so very much loved it would change our perspective, wouldn;t it.
  2. He recognized there is a war, and there is a very real enemy that is seeking to destroy him.  That same enemy is alive today, working hard to tear us apart, shred us… whether it is physical, spiritual, mental, financial – David knew he must be on guard, girded for battle, not letting down the guard.  While we are not physically being chased about the country by an army, we are in a real sense being pursued by the enemy of our soul.  If he can knock us off our blocks, invalidate our testimoney, reduce our capacity through insecurity, disbelief, anger, or any of the thousands of ways he tries then the work of reflecting the glory of God, and sharing the hope of Jesus will be limited.

I must tell you that since I began to plan the ladies conference at our church the war came home to my head, and my heart.  Insecurities I have never experienced before have visited me, trying to draw me into the vortex of doubt.  And people around me have been going through deep challenges, spiritual struggles, physical battles.  In my own heart and head i have run to Jesus to just clear the fog, disable the fears, and clarify again what I believe he called me to do.

So I have been praying hard, and spending more time with the Lord, seeking wisdom for life.  And here is what i have found:

  • Just like any relationship, thoughts and words have only as much power as you give them.  When the doubts, disbelief, misunderstandings, and confusion creep in the best idea is meet it head on, call it out for what it is – UNTRUE, and give the thought, idea, words, emotions to Jesus.  Give no room for the thoughts to grow, or develop – turn them over to Jesus and leave them there.
  • Spend some time assessing your heart.  Here are a few questions to ask:

– What have I allowed to creep into my heart or mind that might raise this doubt/disbelief/emotion?

                               – Have i invited the enemy in through some involvement with something or someone that is not a believer?  or an evil practice?
                               – Have i confessed anything that needs to be confessed, and repented of all that needs to go?
I heard a wonderful and clarifying teaching by Tony Evans, of the Urban Alternative and the sum of what he said is this – The war is real, and the enemy of our souls will continue to try to pound in, entrench in.  But he will only have what we allow him to take.  So take back your heart, your mind, your emotions and yield them only to Jesus, and give NO ROOM for doubt, mistrust, discouragement, or any other thought or emotion that will break you down.  Repent, give it to God, and fill the void with the words, thoughts, songs, sights that bless, build up, strengthen, and grow your heart.   We may be powerless, but our Great Savior is All Powerful to overcome anything the enemy would bring.

Blessings and Curses

Been doing alot more reading, and study in preparation for something later in the month… and the thought that words have power keeps echoing back through all that i read.  Words can build us up, or cut us down.  Words, not just letters on a page, but audible sounds that we recognize as language can be spoken to bring life, or take it.

We are all guilty of either speaking things that are not life, or receiving such things.  The bible calls anything that is negative, and destructive a curse.  Curses have power.

So i ask you today – what was spoken over you, to you, about you, by you?  Were the words uplifting, inspiring, and a shining example that you followed to this point?  Or were they words that limited you, sensitized you to some area of life, words you grew into, or words that prophecized that you would never amount to anything.

I think we need the good ear of Jesus as we bear our hearts before him, and take time to remember these curses… not to give them more power but to share them with Jesus, and turn them over to him… clean house, get rid of them.  Like those boxes of stuff we all accumulate, curses sit heavy on our hears and minds.  They reduce the capacity we were designed for. They limit who we have become.  And they ought not.

 

So what have you been called?  What were you told you would never be free of?  In my life it was weight… i was often told i would never be anything but fat.  As a child, as an adolescent, and certainly as an adult.

It is a falacy to recite that kids ditty “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  Names hurt… they sting deep into the core of our being.  They break down who we are designed to be.  They limit.  The give life to curses.

So today, in the name of Jesus i give you Jesus, all of the curses spoken over me by others. spoken to myself, and those lived out.  Your body was broken and poured out for our sins.  You were called cursed for hanging on a tree… I send these curses to you and ask that you wash this life clean, break every curse, and the grip they have had on my life, our lives…. amen

Broken Cisterns

spigot

I am a city kid…. and the only understanding of water sources i have known are the sinks and spigots in my house…. Water comes as i turn the handle.  It is so very easy, and so instant, yet i know there is a complex engineering design behind those spigots.  And there are people employed to keep the pressure up, the purity of the water consistent, and the service constant.  Cold on the right, and hot on the left.  A ready water source is right there in our homes, works, schools and churches  in this modern age.. piped in, pumped in to us with ease.  I have never had to search for water, with the exception of a camping trip as a child, for fun.

The bible talks about water in many ways, including storage of water.  I have chosen to write this blog about a passage i was again reminded of as my husband and i listened to the bible on his cell phone. (we love the app uversion.  its is so handy, and always with us.)  He is reading through the bible in 90 days, and over the weekend he approached the book of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah always speaks deep to my soul but i must admit i would not have wanted his job.  He was called to preach the truth, and call for repentence to a people who were stubborn and unresponsive to God.  But the book that God called Jeremiah to write speaks to us, as warning, as call to repentance and as hope for the future.  In the midst of listening I heard the passage that took me back to my first days as a christian, and a teaching that i have carried deep in my soul because I can say I was guilty of this myself.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” – Jeremiah 2:13

Throughout the bible God does not change.  In the new testament Jesus identifies himself as the Water of Life, and speaks of his word as water to wash the soul.  And here, centuries before he speaks through Jeremiah reminding us that he is the spring of living water.  For a people who live in arrid climates water is essential, for life, for refreshment, and for sustainability. In our modern age where water is readily available we may not think as much about the need, or the absolute blessing of refreshment that water is.

In this passage God is speaking to the heart of the matter, and that matter is a serious one.  His chosen people, whom he has seen through so much history with, have forsaken him.  Forsaken is a harsh decision – it is to abandon, to lay aside never to return, to give up on.  What a contrast in terms.  God is always calling, pulling, drawing, watching over, protecting, providing.  And his people, in this passage, have dropped him like a hot potato.  In itself that is very sad.  It is tragic.  But that is not the whole story.

The passage goes on to say that instead these same people have dug cisterns.  Not being so familiar with agrarian terms, i hit the internet and learned that cisterns are defined by wikipedia as:

cistern (Middle English cisterne, from Latin cisterna, from cista, “box”, from Greek κίστη, kistê, “basket”) is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater. Cisterns are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings. Modern cisterns range in capacity from a few litres to thousands of cubic meters  effectively forming covered reservoirs.  – Wikipedia

Cisterns are a planned attempt to capture and store water.  It probably took great skills to figure out how to create such a thing, which drives home the point.  It took ingenuity, engineering, planning and skills to execute the plan. They put forth great effort to make this plan happen.  They put forth great effort to abandon God and his living water.

But the plot thickens more.  God tells us that these cisterns were built, but they cannot hold water.  As men and women we have a limited capacity for somethings, and we need to discern what is beyond our scope.  The living water is freely offered by God… without requirements to design, engineer, build and test out cisterns.  We must look to him for the source of living water, and know that he will supply our every need for that water.

So maybe there was a time when you went it alone, decided that the source of water for your life needed to be something you created, designed, engineered, and tested.  If you a re like me you would one day realize how leaky the design is, and the water contained in that cistern was fouled, polluted, and far from satisfying.

But the water of life was that and more.

(Jesus said) but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14

The invitation is there.  Jesus calls us to repent of those broken cisterns, and turn to his living water.  I just love Isaiah 55:

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

Remembering Dad

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My father, around 1946 with his faithful pup, Brownie.

Today is my father’s birthday.  Had he still walked the earth today he would have turned 104.  He has been in heaven since 1987, and i still miss him alot. My dad was a native Clevelander his entire life, raised in the Tremont neighborhood, and then his parents moved to a house that is now the off ramp of I71 between Pearl Rd and Fulton Road in Brooklyn Center.  He is a World War II veteran of the European Theater  decorated with honors, and carried to his grave some schrapnal that was not operable.

Dad’s first job was working in a hat factory, creating mens fedora hats.  I wish i had that photo to post.  It was so interesting.  He went into WWII as a volunteer, and became a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne in the US Army.  His military service was all over the map… invasion in north africa, italy, behind the lines of the normandy invasion, and all over europe.  And i am the blessed one to have heard the stories.  My regret is that i did not capture the stories in video.  He had some amazing stories.

He returned home after the war to become a post office administrative guy… working behind the scenes, keeping time, doing all sorts of interesting things to keep the gears of the postal system humming.  And in the early 1950s he met my mom, who lived in Pittsburgh… their chance meeting developed into a friendship, and finally marriage in 1954.   They remained married to the end of their lives, which was 33 years.  Dad was a hard working bread winner, who took good care of his family.  He lived well, loved well.

My parents were lifelong Russian Orthodox church attenders.  While i can say my mom had a deep personal relationship with God, i am not clear about my dad.  But i have a peace to know that God was there, and he brought people to share the hope of Jesus with him.  In his final weeks of life he strived to make peace with everyone… from the sister he had not spoken with in 20 years to the smallest misunderstandings, he strived to clean up the accounts and bring peace to them.

So I ask myself what spiritual lessons my dad taught me.

1. Love with reckless abandonment – do good, love and encourage someone with all you have.

2. Be generous – share what you have, give as needed, be willing to open your hands and give to someone else what they need.

3. Dream big dreams – allow your self to have dreams, and lay aside the hinderance you perceive.

4. Consistence – steady on, continue daily whether it is a good day or a bad one, but stay the course, keep on going.

I long for the day in heaven when i can see him again, and we can really talk about our lives, and i can really thank him for the stability he gave my life, the selfless hard work he put in to keep us with our daily needs met, and with security that it was not just daily minimum, but abundance.  And i will thank him that he taught me how to be consistent and steady on.

Happy Birthday Dad!

What do you tell yourself about YOU?

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In the quiet and privacy of your own space how would you describe yourself?

As young children we begin to shape our world and our view of ourselves by the words others speak of us.  We begin that crazy process of comparing ourselves to see how we fit in with others.  It always seems that we focus on negative aspects of our differences, rather than thanking God for the differences.  It is true of me.  Is it true of you?

As young children we don’t begin to speak harshly to ourselves, but as we grow  we can become so very critical of ourselves, and tell ourselves things we would never voice out loud to others. Hurtful things, judgmental things… words that do not breathe life, and hope and healing.

But God tells us that we are made in his image, wonderfully and fearfully designed, we are chosen, holy, blessed, made to reflect his Glory, made to shine.

“Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don’t compare yourself with others.” Galatians 6:4 (CEV)

Not only in the work you do, but how you look, dress, act, think.  Comparison is a slow drain of life, and a limiting of your capacity.  It is the enemy of our soul that delights when we choose look around, and try to measure up to others.  He knows this will disable us.  He knows we will draw defeating thoughts, and we will allow toxic thoughts to shut us down.    And the bible is clear that out of what is in our heart our mouth speaks, and our feet follow.

We can be like horses, putting on blinders so we cannot look to the right or left.  But that is not possible or practical.,

So what is the answer?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Phillipians 4:8

Weigh the thoughts you have against this passage and you will begin to see that the enemy works in opposition to the ways of God.

  • Does what i am thinking, hearing, sensing have truth to it?  If it does, take heed, but if it does not, cast it aside.
  • Is what i am thinking Noble?  That is to say, does it have or show fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals?  
  • Is it right?  We all have hardwired into our soul an insight into what is right and what is wrong.  And as believers the holy spirit is there to gently clarify this for us too.  Is the action, thought or behavior correct?  is it moral?  or does it break down morality and ethics in some way?  If it breaks down anything, cast it aside.
  • Is it pure? Like being right, pure indicates untaited by the pollution of the world, of corrupt thoughts, or of worldly ways.  Are your thoughts wholesome?  I think we have all encountered someone who speaks to get attention, but everything they say has a smarmy undertone, sexual inuendo,  or quiet disbelief.  Are your thoughts, actions and ways pure?  Not motivated by some hidden adjenda?
  • Is it lovely?  Does it bring up beauty, hopefulness, encouragement?
  • Is it admirable?  Does how you act, think, live make others want to have your life, or follow in your example?  I think of a friend going through cancer who shows such strength, and deep faith in God during this time.  If i am to compare, i want to have that kind of faith that will withstand the hurricane of cancer.
  • Is it excellent?  That implies thoughts and actions that are the best…. highest quality, and there is no better you can go.
  • Is it praiseworthy?  Do others want to give praise to god for you, because of your actions, thoughts, or choices in life?

So what if you went down the list and had things that don;t measure up?  What do you do with them?

1. Pray, confess them to God

2. Ask God to give you a different way of looking at it, thinking about it, or acting.

3. Change what you are exposed to.  I find when i watch too much TV i grow very critical of myself, and of all the shortcomings of us versus TV.  it is irrational, but i think we can all say that from early age peer pressure, and the idea of keeping up with the jones has been in operation.  I am asking God to break that pattern, but for me it means turning off the TV.It could be people, places or things that take you in wrong directions.

4. Allow God to flood your soul with his word.  Spend regular time with God daily.

5. Fill your heart and mind with God’s Word – Memorize a verse a week, or a passage a month.  Hiding the word of god in your soul will store up good things to think on, like deep cool water on thirsty days.

6. Listen to edifying things – whether music, tv, movies, or people, make a conscious choice to only allow good things into your soul.

7. Share encouraging things with others.  Reach out even when it is uncomfortable, and give what you have to others… often your kind words will be the only ones someone hears that day.

So I ask you today, how do you describe yourself?  Are you the daughter or son of a king, blessed, called, chosen, royal priesthood, bought with a precious price, treasures of grace, loved by the best?  I hope you realize this today.

REpost: Death of a vision

I follow a number of blogs, and one that is always spot on is “TGIF: Today God is First” written by Oz Hillman.  Oz has sensed the call to minister to the marketplace, and call Christians to redeem their work life for the glory of God.  His daily devotion came from a season in his life where much of his world crashed down on him.  God, in his grace, had a different plan for his life.  He called Oz to this new direction, to speak life to the business world, to rally men and women of God in living out their christian principles in the business world.  And his leadership in this area has been a watershed of great movement of God’s Spirit.  But it all starts with the death of a vision.

Vision is personal.  yet it is a gift from God for his kingdom.  Vision is calling to obedience, aligning will, mind, strength and purpose to follow the calling.  Here is a repost of his daily devotion on the death of a vision.  Like a seed in the ground must die before it breathes new life, visions must die too.

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If you would like to visit his website, or sign up for a daily devotional please go to http://www.marketplaceleaders.org/tgif/