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Monday, November 14, 2011

Backtracking is not Cowardly; Sometimes it's Prudent

Paul is committed to serving a living Savior. Prior to becoming a Christian, he had persecuted believers with a vengeance. Well educated in Jewish tradition, Roman schooling and other scholarly traditions, Paul thought he was doing God a favor. He was unapologetic in his approach. He was dedicated to kicking in doors and locking up Christ’s followers up for good. He even attended the stoning of Stephen.

You would think that as an enemy of Christ, God would put him away. However God had other plans for Paul. According to Ananias’ account in Acts, God had a plan for Paul that include him being a world class evangelist and who would suffer much.

The key word, which is my addition, is that Paul “would” suffer. He willingly gave his life to Christ after his conversion on the road to Damascus. As we look into bravery, commitment and standing up for what’s right, we see instances where God’s people submitted, as Jesus did, to being brought where they didn’t want to go, and suffer things they didn’t plan on suffering and did so willingly. But, they didn’t do so as victims.

A prime example is where shortly after Paul’s conversion, he is preaching Christ to the Jews and in their synagogue to boot. All the Jews could remember is how Paul had at one point been commissioned to stop the spread of Christianity and now he is infected; a believer. From Paul’s point of view, he can do nothing else. Having crossed the line, he was “all in”, ready and willing to serve. As with his earlier life, he did so without apology. Having upset the Jews, he faced his first death threat. Other disciples helped him escape.

However, Paul is not acting cowardly. He is boldly professing Christ. As a result, people want him to stop and will take his life to do so. Paul’s escape wasn’t a concession, but a bold plan to preserve his mission. He didn’t run away, denounce Christ, conform to the world or stay quiet. He ran to fight another day. Almost immediately, he began to preach at another location.

Using Paul’s example, here are 5 world class ways to be bold in light of adversity

1. Preach Christ where and when you can. God’s word is always valuable. However, some people won’t believe you and many will attack, ignore and try to discourage you. Here are some possible reactions:

a. If pulled away by the spirit, follow the lead

b. If chased out, go. Just as Jesus instructed his disciples to shake off the dust; dust yourselves off and go elsewhere

2. Always remember, the gospel always makes sense to somebody. You never know when you save a life. Be prepared to address questions with confidence (pray, read, practice). You might not have Paul’s education, but you do have your story and experiences. Speak for yourself and don’t try to use someone else’s words.

3. Step back, refresh and seek help from fellow Christians. Paul got help from the church. Make sure you are well connected, resourced and in a position to be renewed spiritually.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

An Incredible Opportunity

Jeff wrote about missionaries, now he wants to be one. From now until January 31, 2012, 100% of all Commitment royalties will go to send him on mission.

Just like Marta, Jason and the crew of Commitment, Jeff is gearing up to go on a part time mission trip. Jeff is excited to take part in evangelical and humanitarian assistance in Asian countries.

You can help in five ways:

1. Commit to pray for safety and the opportunity to teach the Gospel to many who have never heard

2. Purchase your copy of Commitment. Jeff will commit 100% of his royalties toward the mission

3. Tell your friends and family

4. Follow this blog and the Facebook page for updates

5. Consider joining your church in your own mission opportunity

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Humility and Selflessness

Paul taught humility. A great example is in Philippians 2: 2-3 where he writes to fellow believers to, "be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves".

This is a hard lesson for some of us. I remember as a young boy have many conflicting views on fighting. In Sunday school and church I got half the story. "Turn the other cheek", type of lessons led me to believe that being holy meant to be a punching bag on the playground. Had I been taught the rest of the story, I would have had both boldness and humility that Paul both displayed and asked for in his letters. 

So, I will begin my journey on completing the story through a series of blogs on what it means to be humble and selfless while experiencing boldness and joy. This series will cover-


If you look at Paul's life as written by Luke and demonstrated through his own letters, we see a man who has submitted his whole life to God. He is beaten and imprisoned and eventually martyred. 

What is different is he was never a punching bag on the playground. He always defended God's word as well as those who couldn't defend themselves (widows, orphans, slaves, and Jews converted to Christ). He suffered as a consequence of his evangelism, but he never went quietly. He demanded fairness and a chance to speak for Christ. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Not Guilty

I had the recent scary experience of appearing in court today. I was summond to appear after receiving a ticket for not having a current proof of insurance. This event occured on a hot Alabama summer afternoon. I had made a Starbucks run for the office and was selected for a random inspection as I drove back on to Redstone Arsenal where I work.

This was in June and I had about four months to ponder the impending court date. Since I received the ticket on a military installation, I had to appear in Federal court. During the span of time I kept justifying my infraction with such lame excuses as, "They didn't have to give me a ticket", "I wouldn't have gotten a ticket if they didn't pick me for a random inspection", "They had no right to pull me over, they are just abusing their power", "They could have just let me go with a warning", and on and on.

Later I looked up the law and found that yes, rules were in place that required drivers to have a printed copy of their current insurance card. However, that didn't stop my excuses or attempts to rationalize my predicament.

Finally, my day in court came and I was going to let everyone have it. I played in my mind how I was going to explain the collossal waste of time. "I shouldn't have to go to court", "I am a responsible and law abiding citizen", "they should have looked past the 'technical" infraction' and you probably get the rest.

However, once I entered the court, I became a little more humbled. I sat in a gallery of others who just like me were appearing before a judge; noone talked. Suddenly, my excuses didn't sound so good, my rationale seemed weak, and resolve melted. Instead of preparing for a showdown, I prepared for judgement. Sitting in the stillness of a revered court and waiting for the judge, I felt insignificant.

Only one thing stood out; I violated the law and nothing else mattered. My clean record, my nice clothes, my support group behind me, nothing mattered anymore. I was there to answer for one thing; I didn't have my up to date insurance card.

Suddenly, sitting in the court among the guilty, waiting for my time to see the judge, my thoughts drifted to heaven and the final judgement. Would any arguement justify sinning? Can I rationalize any shortcomings? Not at all. The Bible is clear that our sin makes us guilty. God would easily find me guilty.

My thoughts were interrupted as my name was called.

"Yes, I'm here," I answered with a quacking voice.
"Come forward," she beckoned. "How are you today?"
I must have looked like a deer in the headlights.
"You received a ticket for not having a current insurance card?" She asked with a smile.
"Yes, I did." I tried to smile with a dry mouth.
"Do you have your proof of insurance?"
"Yes, I do." I managed to croak. I gave her my papers.
"Great, you're free to go." She stamped my papers and I was never more relieved.

Now I imagine standing before God, guilty of breaking his laws.
"Come forward." He commands.
I will look like a deer in the headlights.
"You lied, cheated and stole?"
"Yes I did", I'll say, not even imagining a smile.
"You believe in Jesus as your Savior, don't you?"
"Yes, I do." I'll manage to croak. He'll search and find my name in the Book of Life.
"Well done good and faithful servant." He'll let me in and I'll be relieved, knowing I'm forgiven and made whole.

We all might get our day in an earthly court. It's not about mitigating circumstances, but whether we did or we didn't, if we're guilty or not guilty.

The final judgment will not be any different. The only way to be excused from sin is to believe in Jesus and accept him as your savior. He covers our sin and makes us acceptable to God the father.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why Not Me? How God Chooses His Leaders

Paul was a powerful advocate for Christ. In his letters, he helped the early Christians Jew and Gentile understand their relationship to Christ. His writings still help us to understand that as sin multiplies, so does grace.

So, how does one get called out of a murderous rampage into one the most effective evangelists the world has ever seen? It's called opportunity and preparation meeting a "calling". God created Paul for what he was going to ask him to do.

But why Paul? If you are like me, sometimes how God calls others out of their sinful lifestyle to be His missionaries, ministers and lay leaders while leaving you behind. You are sure that you could be used as well as anyone else and feel God may be ignoring your willingness to serve.

In Paul's case, he was perfect for God's use, he just didn't understand. Paul was a Jewish leader, lawyer, Roman, and Jew among many things. He knew God's law, Roman law, and was very well educated. He just didn't know Jesus.

As soon as Jesus revealed Himself, Paul believed. The same zeal he used to lock up Christians, he now used to free sinners. Paul knew Jesus and he realized grace.

What did God make you for? How is he using you? If you don't know, make it a point to study his word, pray and ask Him how you can serve.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sample of Commitment-Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Papua, New Guinea, looked serene from 12,000 feet above sea level. Even from thirty miles away, John could make out the rain forests beyond the strand of the southern shore. Light wisps of steam hung over the island, revealing the high humidity common to this area of the world. The changing waters of the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria graduated beautifully from light green at the tip of Cape York Peninsula, Australia, to a beautiful azure and back to light green in the billowing waves on the shores of New Guinea.

So this is home. John pressed his forehead against the cool cabin window. The island in view was roughly the size of Greenland with the tall Puncak Jaya, rising 5,030 meters above the ground. Neighboring peaks perched above the haze like pyramids.

Instinctively, he reached for his flight bag as he had done five times throughout the flight. He unzipped it and sighed with relief at the two familiar slim books. Approvingly, he nodded as he flipped through page after page of his first flight log, recalling his hundreds of hours of experience behind the controls of planes and helicopters. He tucked it back into his bag then pulled out the second book. The pages he flipped through were blank reminders of experiences yet to come. Just a thousand more hours, that should do it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

2 Steps to a More Effective (Christlike) Work Ethic

I heard a good Labor Day message this past weekend. 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13 described ways to make my work effective and I reflected on ways to apply it to my life. I also realized that I could be lacking in my work ethic if I did not use the principals raised in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. Now, this message could apply to our Christian walk as well as how we perform our daily jobs or interact in our communities. Using the two principals can help you make your work more effective as well.
  1. Inventory the reasons you work. There are two reasons to work:  earn an income and to provide meaning. Earning income helps you meet the needs of yourself and your family.  Creating meaning includes providing for others and honoring God. Consider that whatever you do, as a Christian, you should be doing it to please God. These two realities should provide motivation and desire to do your best and provide resources for your employer, a means for your families and give honor to God. Taking a look at those who count on you to provide for them, write them down and reflect on it.
  2.  Establish the right attitude. Working isn’t just punching the clock and meeting the bare minimum. That would conflict with part of the first principal of creating meaning. Demand excellence of yourself and give your best effort. If you are a supervisor, provide this motivation to your employees.

People who have good work ethics learn to manage time, limit distractions and provide great products and services. They don’t waste time in vain arguments about politics, religion or other distractions. They focus on good relationships and contributing to the organizations vision. This ethic can be applied to all aspects of community and profession. Doing otherwise may indicate that you take advantage of your work and coworkers. You get pay (not earn) that you do not deserve. Strive to earn your keep, make your way, do an honest day’s work or whatever proverb you might be familiar with. Directly apply the concept of working for your pay and food and dedicate your volunteering, profession, hobbies or other activities to doing the right thing. Your reward is your pay, meaning and having the right attitude.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Five Ways You Can Serve God

I am so proud of the missionaries that I have known in my life. I pray for them and enjoy reading about the their hopes and dreams and the vision that God puts on their hearts. It's also inspiring to see family teams speak in one voice about the incredible work they are doing. God is always looking for obedient servants to join him in his work.

I read Luke 8 today and learned of new relationships as Jesus defines them. When we accept him as our savior, we are part of his family and on the winning team. In Luke 8 Jesus is traveling and drawing crowds. He is so popular and attracts huge crowds as he heals and encourages. At one point, the crowds tell Jesus that his mother and brothers are looking for him. Jesus responds that his brothers and mother are those who hear my word of God and do it.

Perhaps you have entered into a relationship with God at some point in your life and you want to hear God's word and do it. You are wondering what to do next? Do you follow God as a disciple? Become a full time minister or missionary? After all, what does God want you to do?

God spoke with and invited 12 strangers to be his inner circle. While others received different roles and missions. Later in Chapter 8 Jesus heals a man possessed of demons. Afterward, the man asked to follow Jesus. Jesus told him to go home and tell everyone what God has done for him. The man wanted to be on mission with Jesus. God needed him to stay home and spread the word locally.

Jesus wants us to hear Gods word and do what he asks. Here are five ways that you can do just that.

  1. Find out what your skills, talents and God given gifts are and find where you can use them to tell your story.
  2. Participate in a local body of believers. Don't just join a church, but also join the ministries. Share your experiences and enter into discussions in Bible study and Sunday school.
  3. Join a charity group and minister to the needs of hurting people. Take part in active service. For example, you can join a rescue mission and teach classes or serve food. Participate and build trust so you can be effective. 
  4. Become part of an international charity. Adopt a child, build a well, donate money or whatever you are capable of. However, be involved in the name of Christ and get educated on how the organization helps. 
  5. Look for ways of sharing your faith in normal day to day situations. You don't have to be preachy, just available when the opportunity comes to give a reason for your faith. Maybe your compelling story can help others.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Keep your promises; they are counting on you

When you make a commitment to support your local church, charity or mission, the benefactors are hopeful and expectant. Nothing is more counted on than the proclaimed financial and personal support. It takes teamwork to meet goals, just one member not doing what is hoped for can lead to an empty feeling of a failed mission.

Proverbs tells us that delayed hope causes a heart to be sick, but fulfilled desire is the tree of life.

What would happen if a loved one asked us to meet them for a picnic. "Go to the pavillion and I'll meet you there in an hour. I'll bring the food, bring some drinks."
You show up and wait for hours only to be stood up. It's an empty feeling.

That same feeling comes about when bills can't be paid by churches, volunteers don't show as expected for charity events and resources aren't provided to our missionaires. These expectations might be budgeted based on promises or pledges. When time comes to donate or serve, the pledger doesn't come through.

Consider what you pledge carefully and prayerfully. If you 've made a promised to pray, witness, love or serve do it immediately. If not, you risk delaying hope. People count on you to do well.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What Commitment Means

   In Commitment, Marta has lost her husband, but not her desire to serve the Lord in Indonesia. In spite of tremendous hardships, she has trusted God and relied on the love of the people she serves. Life doesn’t get easier for her because she became obedient to her calling. It becomes more rewarding as she realizes she is making a difference.
     This level of devotion reminds me of the many friends who serve the Lord in other countries. They have decided to faithfully minister full time and teach others what they themselves know about God. They are committed to living a life honoring God as they try to introduce Jesus to many who have no idea. It sounds easy, but such commitments are tough and stress a person’s dedication, focus and desire. Continuous prayer, bible study, support of friends and family and a deep faith helps them overcome the toughest of obstacles. 
     To put things in perspective, I reflect on a recent disaster that affected much of my state, Alabama. A few months ago, a tornado swept through killing many. It’s impact also destroyed homes and knocked out our community’s electricity for a week. We had no lights, hot water, air conditioning, gas, food or television. We were otherwise unscathed and therefore had many options to escape the inconveniences. One such plan included heading to stay with family in the next state. However, we made the choice to stay and join our church in helping neighbors and community recover.
     Since we had no direct impact, our days were spent volunteering with tornado recovery, trying to keep frozen food from spoiling, cooking food that we could rescue, gathering with neighbors and sharing food until it got too dark. We went to bed as shadows blanketed our homes and woke up with the sun creeping into our   windows. After a week, we were well into the rhythm of survival when the power was suddenly restored.   That week of inconvenience turned into a wonderful time to get closer to our families, friends and gather closer as a community. But this was a onetime experience, one that we quickly recovered from.
     In contrast, I'm reminded of friends in foreign places. Some locations are remote and electricity only runs for part of the day. Intermittent electricity is the norm, transportation is unreliable, language translation is fallible and customs are strange. Dinner may take several hours as meat has to be bought, water has to be sanitized, vegetables have to be cooked and ingredients have to be gathered that day. Businesses, stores, government services and doctor’s offices may not be available every day.  
     If family members get ill, there is no immediate visit to a doctor’s office. If foreign government services are needed, it may take days or weeks of waiting in a faraway city. As missionaries they have choices. They can return to the comfort of living in the US or they can remain where they are. My suspicion is that they have a strong pull to serve God right where they are. This desire far outweighs the convenience that they could be experiencing. Like Marta, they are right where they should be, enjoying the impact they are making.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Making it work

I've been doing a lot of newspaper reading, information gathering, volunteering with praying to better understand who my neighbor is. After reading The Hole in the Gospel by Richard Sterns and Radical by David Platt, I realize that my "neighbor" isn't just around the corner or the next house over. These two books helped explain that our world's population is our neighbor.

Christ's message is to love our neighbors. That sounds easy until we learn that love is more than simply an emotion of our hearts, but a call to action. You're probably familiar with the term "make the punishment fit the crime." If you are, then allow me this analogy, "make your reward fit your heart". It's not enough to say, "My heart goes out to these people". Even their enemies feel compassion. But neighbors rise to the occasion to help. In my case, I've often felt distant and unaffected, blaming it on poor governments and people needing to "take care of their own problems".

Last week my neighbor's trees blew over into my yard. It was a huge mess and I fretted over how to clean it up without a chain saw.
Will I buy a chainsaw and take care of it myself?
Should I bother my neighbor and ask him what he plans to do about the trees?
Alas, I didn't have to do anything. Saturday morning I was overjoyed to hear the guttural and powerful growling of a chainsaw. Like a claxon, it called me and the surrounding neighbors to pitch in. Within hours we had both yards cleaned up.

Our neighbors near and far need our help. I received the message loud and clear and gladly spring into action. For me, it meant finding a local charity and supporting it in service and finances. It also meant joining Mr. Stearns in adopting a child, providing clean water, and donating to abused children through World Vision.

This week my heart breaks over the refugees from Somalia. Our neighbor's children are starving. Their mothers walk miles to feed them only to be abused. This is not their fault as they are born into their misery. What can we do? Are we powerless to help?

Let's start by praying for them, writing our leaders, donating money and using our talents to let our neighbors know we are doing our best for them.

If you are looking for ways to join in loving your neighbor, consider these points as addressed in Radical.
  • Become active in your church through service and tithing
  • Join a local charity organization and give of your time and money
  • Find an international charity and do the same
  • Plan to visit a foreign country to help where needed
If you are looking for a place to start, why not help me raise funds for abused children. I am partnering with World Vision.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Where's my Bible?

I travel frequently and usually depend on the Gideon International to provide Bibles for my room. I've been fortunate to open my bedside table drawer and find a copy there ready to be read. Nothing gives me more comfort than to see the red or blue bible bible waiting to be read.

This latest trip was different. My hotel didn't have a Bible available. I started to fret because I was really looking forward to it. Now I was wondering if I would have to go without reading it and hi-tail it to Books a Million, WalMart, Lifeway or some other bookstore in the morning.

Great news though, my Verizon Droid2 has an Application for that. As much as I dislike reading from a small screen, I was ready to do what was necessary. Just for kicks I decided to go to my phone's ap marketplace and look up free Bible Aps.

I ended up downloading Bible.IS. This was an incredible find. The ap allows me to easily and quickly select chapters and verses (1 Samuel 9-12 if you are curious). The background and text color scheme is real easy on the eyes.

The best feature by far is that it has an audio track. The quality is great and the dramatic reading includes background music, different actors for voices, and a very professional sound.

I am glad I found the ap. I hope you will consider using it as well.