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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Waiting and Watching

Luke 17: 22-37

After the Pharisees asked Jesus how to find the Kingdom of God, He told them that the Kingdom was within us. There is no need to look around, but it is within hearts of believers.

Yet another teaching point, Jesus begins to predict his second coming. This is a great foretelling of a remarkable event that can come so suddenly, we will be caught unaware. Imagine Noah building the ark day in and day out or Lot leaving Sodom, while the populations continued with no clue what would happen. In an instant history changed as rain covered the earth in Noah’s time and fire rained on Sodom.

Just a few weeks ago a neighbor told my wife that the space station would be flying over between 7:10 and 7:30 pm. That was a huge gap in time, but we really wanted to see it. I especially wanted to give my children something new and exciting to see. Around seven my son and I began to wait and serve as an early warning to my wife and younger daughters. Now waiting is a pretty tough game, but even so for a six year old. We kept looking up through the trees waiting to see the site. Finally, closer to 7:30 the space station began streaking through the night sky. My wife had arrived a few minutes prior and we’ as a family’ stood there looking at a spectacular scene.

Our neighbors however, were nowhere in sight. They were eating, watching TV and doing the things that neighbors do and had missed out on something spectacular.

It’s hard to wait for Jesus. He’s coming back whether we are prepared or not. Those who have asked him to be their savior will be caught up to something glorious. Those who are eating and drinking and living their lives will be left behind. Are you waiting and watching?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

There will be troubles

Luke 17: 1-21

Jesus taught powerful lessons in this section about forgiveness, being His servant and having a grateful attitude for the miracles He performs. These short few versus convey the attitudes and thoughts we should have toward one another and God.

We are all humans, and we are going to sin. In fact, we will hurt each other. As much as we hate it, we Christians do it all the time. We betray our loved ones, say bad things to family and friends and sometimes don’t support those appointed over us. If you’ve been on the receiving end of insults or gossip, you know how hurtful it is. If you have dealt the blows, you may never know the damage.

I remember one conversation I had with a gentleman at church. We had a lot of activities going on and each was as important as the other and it was impossible for our pastor to be everywhere at once. One person made a comment that he hoped the pastor would make the visit. However, it was more to the tune of: “we are all out here working on the event and our leader can’t even show up.”

We all knew that that had been an unfair statement and the person who spoke it regretted the statement immediately. Soon thereafter our minister did show up with his family to enjoy the event. We were all happy to see him and had just forgotten the statement until…someone let it slip.
“Hi Pastor,” the worker began as he shook the preacher’s hand.
He just couldn’t leave well enough alone.
“Someone said you wouldn’t come to this and see our hard work. We’re glad you made it.”
Now we all felt bad again and now our leader could feel like a victim of gossip.

We do not know the damage that our idle chatter can cause. That was several years ago, but our spiritual and other leaders deal with a lot of stress as they do their best to lead the flock. They need our support and love.

Alas, Jesus promised there would be trouble. He does finish the warning with another challenge. Even though you will be offended, insulted, injured, wronged…you must forgive. If a person asks for forgiveness we are to forgive each time.

Soon thereafter, Jesus showed us the ultimate example of how to forgive. He let others yell, lash out, beat, insult him; the most horrible of humiliations. Finally, he allowed himself to die in their hands. The great thing was, he knew they were going to do that when he gave this lesson to his disciples. FORGIVE THEM.

Here is another truth. While we are forgiving and serving, we should do so with the attitude that it is the least we can do for our savior and the kingdom of God. We have no rights or privileges. As Christians our freedom in Christ comes at a great price to Him and with great responsibility within us. We have liberty and freedom because we are forgiven, but we should not cause people to stumble because of our freedom. Our efforts should be to do anything to help spread the Gospel.

We are free to drink, smoke, gamble and overeat, etc. However, how can we tell others about Jesus if we lose credibility in certain areas? It’s like travelling overseas and demanding our way while in another culture. To influence people, we have to adapt their culture and build credibility (no, we can not partake in the “when in Rome” attitude).

Oh what price liberty, at our Savior’s expense. We should do our duty as good servants and lose the attitude of privilege. Let’s just do what is expected of our savior with the right frame of mind. “We are unprofitable servants; we have done which was our duty to do.” Jesus will not forget our commitment. He is waiting on us with our reward.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

How should we use our influence?

Luke 16: 14-31

The Pharisees continued to practice tough laws and Jesus continued pointing out their pretentiousness. The religious leader’s standards were so high that even God’s Kingdom seemed more flexible. There was no love or compassion for those of lesser political, religious or economical stature and qualities of a forgiving God were not relayed to the people. The Pharisees practiced a double standard and most standards did not apply to the leaders.

I’ve witnessed this kind of behavior from new leaders, including myself. For the cruel or perhaps inexperience leader, this behavior serves to validate themselves and their perceived benefits of power.

When I served in one of my first leadership assignments in the Army, I had the attitude that the rules just didn’t apply to me. I gave off the attitude that I was above reproach, but my actions did not demonstrate that. For unexplained reason, one of my team members pulled me aside on my second day in charge. As painful as it was, I benefitted tremendously from the following experience. This person who worked for me took the time to meticulously, but respectfully hold up a virtual mirror in front of my eyes. As they exposed my shortcomings, a portrait began to reveal itself on the canvas of my life. Soon, I saw a clear picture of my failing leadership style and I didn’t like what I saw. Fortunately, I took our conversation to heart and was able to make the adjustments that prepared me for greater future leadership opportunities; not so for the rich man…

Lazarus suffered out side the rich man’s gate. Though the rich man was not responsible for the pitiable man, he showed no mercy. The rich man was not in a leadership role, but had the resources available to help the dying man just outside of his property. He chose to live in luxury, power, wealth and do nothing to alleviate the suffering of one not so fortunate.

On the other side of life, Lazarus lived in luxury in Father Abraham’s bosom. Though Lazarus may have felt compassion, he could in no wise help the rich man. It was not in his control.

How about your life? Are you in a leadership or other position where you have to opportunity to help? Or, are you like the Pharisee only seeking to validate yourself with your power and position? Do you enable those around you, or do you use control and manipulation to get your way?

Think upon these questions. What you do today could make the difference in whether or not someone wants to become a Christian. The Bible is full of positive leadership role models to demonstrate how to lead while developing relationships that will bring others to know Christ.