Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stop the Dysfunction

I thought this comment from Lance Witt on Tony Morgan's blog regarding things to stop and start in 2012 was very insightful...
What’s one thing that leaders and/or organizations (businesses, churches, non-profits, etc.) should consider stopping in 2012? 
LANCE:  Stop ignoring the dysfunction.  Many churches and ministries suffer from what I like to call “terminal niceness.”  We just aren’t very good at hard conversations.  For the most part we are polite, sensitive and we hate conflict.  This causes us to beat around the bush and make nice.
Sometimes you just have to be courageous and have the hard conversation.

Check out the whole post.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Made to Be Courageous

I recently watched the movie "Courageous" with my family. Wow! Courageous is a powerful movie inspired by everyday heroes who long to the be the kinds of dads that make a lifelong impact on their children - by being the type of Christian men desires us to be. I was deeply moved by watching this, and here is a part of a prayer I wrote that evening...
Lord - help me be courageous. In little things and in big things. Help me courageous to always  choose the right action, the action that honors you, serves others, and draws me closer to your Son. My words and my actions matter. Not because of who I am or anything special about me, but because of what God is doing through me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of the Father, in the name of the Son. My actions matter because every act comes either from believing the truth leading to obedience and growth in Christlikeness, or from believing a lie, leading to sin, and grieving somebody. Every opportunity. Every act. It draws us to the Father, or pulls us away. Surrender is key. Not partial surrender. Not giving up one thing while holding back another. Total surrender. God is holy. He and He alone is utterly worthy of our whole life, and nothing less. 
My words and my actions matter, because so many eyes, including four very, very special ones, are on me, wondering if the Christ I preach is real, if the Bible I teach is one I follow, if the Spirit I say lives in me, works through me. Does God really matter in my life? Do they matter? My actions and words can encourage, they can build up, or my words or actions can wound. Wound horribly. May it never be so - Lord, help me be courageous. 
Afterwards I was wondering what the Bible had to say about being courageous, and I remembered II Timothy 1:7 "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." (NIV84)  As I looked more closely at the words translated timidity and self-discipline, I noticed something pretty cool. Timidity could well be translated cowardice. Cowardice (deilos) is not simply fear (phobos), it is allowing fear to stop you from taking an action you know is right. Self-control is more than just willpower or an aptitude for self-discipline beyond our control, but it is a sound mind and sober thought that allows us to take the tough action we know is right. In this context, it could be considered as a call to be courageous. To be courageous is not to be fear-less, but to choose to act according to what is right or called for rather than to give in to that fear.

Will you ask God today to help you live a courageous life?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Made For a Purpose

Do you ever wonder... what am I here for? what should I be doing? what will make me happy? I have, and I at times I still do. I've heard these questions from several friends recently and so it was natural to close out my recent sermon mini-series on stewardship (of opportunities and of finances) with stewardship of talents. But the driving force behind it are these two questions:

What am I here for?
What will make me happy?

The following is not a statement everyone will agreement, but as I see it the Bible teaches that it is impossible to know your true purpose in this life apart from knowing Jesus Christ. It is impossible to find real happiness by pursuing happiness as your main goal. And it is impossible to find the deepest fulfillment in your life apart from serving others. A key reason is that one of our main purposes, something common to all of us, is to have a loving relationship with God. And because He is the one who made us, He gets to decide our specific or unique purpose. We will over time discover it, but not create it. And that purpose involves serving and loving others and modeling Christ's love. That's not in a cookie-cutter way, but in a way that is completely unique to us - at the intersection of our passion, our skills, and someone else's need. In the message we look at passages such as Ephesians 2:8-10, John 15, II Corinthians 8, and Ephesians 4. The bottom line...

We come to discover and life out our unique purpose in life, and find true fulfillment in the process, by serving others according to the unique way God has designed us, our SHAPE. Get to know the One who made you, take steps to understand your SHAPE, and set your heart and hands to serving others as a loving response to what God has done for you. If you have any comments or questions on the sermon, let me know!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Financial Joy

At Calvary we are big on Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace program. It's a nice word picture - the ability to have a less stressed view of your finances, by applying solid (and biblical) principles for handling the money He has entrusted to our care. For most people, financial peace is a result of external circumstances - your monetary ducks all being in a row. But how do you find Financial Joy?

You might think that Financial Joy is an upgrade to Financial Peace. You're not just peace with the state of your finances, but you're thrilled about it. If so, the pathway is more money, right?

That's not what the Bible has to say about the pathway to Financial Joy. Almost the opposite. In the Bible, Financial Joy comes from excelling in the grace of giving, and is completely independent of the state of your checkbook. Check out this passage from Colossians as Paul describes some amazing brothers and sisters..
"And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving." (II Cor 8:1-7, NIV)
Did you catch that? Severe trial -> overflowing joy. Extreme poverty -> rich generosity. It gets better. These very poor and very persecuted Christians were literally begging Paul for the privilege of being allowed to donate money towards some people in Jerusalem going through a terrible famine. It couldn't be any different from those who think joy comes from having more stuff.

Financial Joy comes when you Excel in the Grace of Giving. 

To learn a lot more on this, please listen to my sermon delivered on Jan 8th, 2012 at Calvary Baptist Church

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Making the Most of Every Opportunity

Happy New Year!! Many people are starting off the new year talking about hopes, dreams, resolutions, grabbing the brass ring and reaching for new opportunities. This morning at Calvary I was privileged to be able to share a message in our Sunday morning services. We took a look at what it means when the Bible encourages us to make the most of every opportunity, teaching from this passage in Ephesians 5...
"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 5:15-20, NIV)
The word translated 'opportunity' in this passage is kairos - a special moment in which the Spirit of God is looking at act through us. Paul is instructing us to walk around with our eyes open to what God is doing in the world, in our life, in the lives of others - and to respond by asking and doing what God would please God in that moment. This spirit-filled life is contrasted with a life on auto-pilot, never considered how God may be present or looking to act in the situations we're in. It's a very powerful passage - and a great opportunity for us to live according to the Spirit, and make the most of every opportunity in this New Year.

If you're interested, the sermon has been posted online - check it out and let me know what you think :)