Saturday, January 4, 2014

Unfinished by Steven K Scott

Jesus came to this earth to fulfill the work His Father sent him to do. When Jesus left his Followers he gave them an assignment. Steven K Scott challenges us in Unfinished to the four callings from Jesus that empowers and completes our purpose here on earth.

I blog for free books for Waterbrook Multnomah. This past time I choose Unfinished by Steven K Scott. Interestingly, over the past weeks prior to receiving the book I had been experiencing a down time in my life. My life was filled with jealously, anger and hurt over some situations, and a shadow of depression had come over me. I was in route to the hospital and knew I would be in the waiting room awhile so I grabbed this book, to get it read. I began reading and could not lay it down. The Holy Spirit began to convict me that for me to fulfill the calling that I so desired that there was something that I had not done that Christ was calling me to do, "take up your cross and loose your life for his name sake" (21). Steeped in self pity I read Scotts words, "When you realize you have no rights and you loose your expectations. Self-directed expectations and entitlement mentality are the enemies of happiness (22). He went on to say, "by dying to yourself and your rights you enter into an intimacy with our Savior that provides joy that is not dependent on people or circumstances" (22). Then he reminds us of Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." This was so freeing to me.

He sets out to tell us 1) the calling, 2) how to fulfill the calling.

The first calling is to become more intimate with God (8) by obeying the teaching of his word (9). As we focus on this assignment we will fear God (11), seek Him first (13), follow Jesus (18), accept his yoke (23), ask the Lord to send labors (24), and be on alert to serve (25).

The second gift is to accelerate your Christian growth (27). Our success with ministering to others is determined by our spiritual growth (29). Jesus calls us to set ourself apart for God's possession (29), pursue righteousness (33), come to Him (35), learn from Him (35), live in the present (47), and overcome to the end (49).

The third gift is to empower other believers (53). Jesus call us to feed his sheep (55), strengthen your brothers and sisters (59), teach others to obey everything Christ commanded (60).

The fourth gift is to impact the lives of nonbelievers (63). Jesus calls us to reach out now (65), open your eyes to the white fields (66), get involved in sowing and reaping (67),  bear fruit (69), be his witness (70), preach the gospel (72), preach repentance and forgiveness of sin (73), speak in daylight what God told you at night (75), be the salt of the earth (77) and, be the light of the world (78).
Scott, explains that there are many deadly detours, roadblocks, and traps to following Christ (82). He list pride (83), self-righteousness (85), religious activity and tradition (90), wealth (93), misplaced values (96), and procrastination (100) as the six greatest obstacles to following Christ. However as we fact these obstacles Christ has promised us he will provide a foundation that will withstand all storms life can throw at us (106). However, he reminds us that most of Christ's promises are conditional to a person obeying particular commands (106).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wait! Don't Respond too Quickly

Struggle: What happened to the fast-acting miracles?  Christians are told to "ask and it shall be given," aren't we? So… if we are asking for "good things" then why does God not immediately gratify our desires? Is it lack of faith, a problem with our prayers, or a "No" from God?

Truth: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33 

Truth Encounter: I remember going to the doctor years ago and getting an injection of something I called the miracle drug. By the time I picked up the other prescriptions at the "drug store" I would be feeling better. Now they say, give it a week and you will be better. Not so long ago, I made an appointment at my medical center. I saw Nancy, the PA on call, told her my problems, picked up my prescription and a week later I called and asked to see my doctor, hoping he would give me some fast-action potion. The PA saw me in the hall, and asked, "Patsy, How are you doing?" I told her, the medication she gave me wasn't working. She answered, "Go home and do what I told you, and give it time." Well that's just like, Nancy. She is good at what she does, she knows it, and if you give her time she will deliver."

I admit that if I do not get immediate results, I too quickly take things into our own hands to try and make "it" happen. This is true in everyone's life. The world system programs us to expect immediate response. We also follow the same pursuit in our spiritual life. We are told that we can ask anything and it will be given. We have read story after story where God responded immediately to an individuals needs. So why shouldn't we expect those miracles in our lives.

I believe the reason we do not always receive immediate responses from God is that we do not truly seek his will for our lives, we only seek help in time of our desperate needs. We are told to "seek God first." He is our counselor, our great physician, and the provider of all good things. God promised the children of Israel that if they would follow Him he would provide for them. However, we know that as they moved toward the Promise Land, they soon forgot how he had provided for them. In their unthankfulness and impatience they began murmuring and whining about their provisions, and ultimately, many were kept from seeing the promised land. 

We want the "right"spouse, job, house, etc., so we pray or ask others to pray for us in hope that God will answer our prayer for that need. But if God does not give immediate gratification as soon as the amen rolls across our lips, we take things into our own hands.

I believe the biggest hinderance in our lives is not in our seeking God, but, in our waiting on him to answer. We must allow him time to work it out in our lives. God still performs miracles and I have experienced some specific ones in my life. While God answers prayer he is more concerned in teaching us to trust him. He love us and wants us to have "good things." Matthew 8:28 tells us that God works everything to the good of those who love God. Instead of trusting God for his best, we see his answer as a "No" so we decide to take matters into our own hands. 

Right now there are some opportunities that are out there for my family as well as in my personal life. It is not easy to wait. In fact, I daily fight the urge to to run ahead of God. I am learning to exercise James 5:7 in my spiritual walk. Submit to God and Resisting Satan's temptation to run ahead of God is the best way to exercise our trust in God to deal with and provide our needs.

What is your greatest need? Have you truly sought God? Are you fighting the temptation to run ahead of God to supply your on desires or need? Don't respond too quickly… give God time to work it out. Share your thoughts on waiting on God.

On the other hand, many times God has given us answers and we do not act based on his answer. How do you know that you have received God's answer? My future posts will come from comments that I receive from my readers.

Prayer: "Father, I know you have a plan for my family and for me. May your Holy Spirit continually draw us to you, and that we keep our focus on you.  Help us to exercise patience in our life, to give you time to give us those "good things" that you have in store for us. In Jesus name, Amen."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer

Are you a church member? How involved are you? What define your membership. I have served churches for many years now. It is interesting that church membership often triples the attendance (17). It seems like there is more lack of interest in church attendance than ever before. Church statistics  reveal that churches are declining. Members in their attempt to coerse others to get back on track have joined the "blame game," blaming the decline on culture, politics, hypocritical members or uncaring pastors (5). Thom S. Rainer, pastor, researcher, proposes that church members are more concerned about paying the minimal dues in order to receive the privileges and perks. They are more focused on being served, feed, and cared for instead of focusing on the biblical understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ" (5). Rainer contends that if members will cease to complain about the state of the church and the adverse situations and circumstances within the church setting the church will become healthier. In turn, they will have a positive impact on the community in which they reside (7).

Rainer wrote, I Am a Church Member: Discovering an Attitude That Makes a Difference, to challenge church members to "discover or rediscover the privilege and joy of church membership" (6). He does this by defining the biblical principles of church membership and then leads the reader to pledge to being a committed member.

1) Each member is a functioning member (12).  Every member has a role or function that is necessary for the good of the whole (13). Every member should love each other. Love is defined by the principles of 1 Corinthians; patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not conceited, not acting improperly, is not selfish, not provoked and does not keep record of wrong (14). Members are not content to paying dues alone. They are focused on being a functioning member which includes giving of tithes and offering, serving from our spiritual gifts and abilities (16).

2) Each member is a unifying member (21). Keeping love at the forefront, members are to; seek unity among the brethren even at the sacrifice of personal preferences (24), avoid and rebuke gossip (26), and grant forgiveness and pray for others (27).

3) Each member places others preferences before their own (33). We should have a servant heart (35) looking out for the preferences and need of others rather than themselves. We are to do what it takes to keep unity in the church (39).

4) Each member prays for the pastor and other church leaders for wisdom, insight, and words to preach (46).  Pray for their families and their protection from the devil's trap (49) and for their health and safety (50).

5) Each member should lead their family to be healthy church members by (55) praying for the church, being faithful to the church (59), worshipping together as a family (60), and loving each other unconditionally (62).

6) Each member treasures church membership as a gift (67). In appreciation for what Jesus has done for us it is a natural response to want to serve others (73).

I have been a "functioning" church member for some 50 years, however, Raines reinforced a point that I have heard all my life, "Satan does not have to use the outside to destroy the church, he will destroy it from within." Unless we take our role seriously to make a positive difference church members will actually destroy the church from within. I truly believe that gossip and negativity is what kills the church's influence. I have been too critical of the church, justifying my behavior, as a messenger of truth. The Holy Spirit convicted me of my critical attitude and idle talk. I have committed myself to functioning as Christ called us to serve.

This small book is a quick read, yet packed with the fundamental truths that define a church member. Too many times we assume that all churches have the same expectations of their members. They do not. For this reason, I Am a Church Member would be a great gift to give to new church members to help them understand their attitude and role that is expected of them. It is concise enough to be used as a devotional for Wednesday or Sunday evening services. Order your copy of I Am a Church Member today. Read it and pass it on to someone else, and then ask them to do the same. One by one we can make a difference. Let me know how this book touched you? Were you convicted of changes you need to make?

Monday, October 28, 2013

If He Can Change Me... He Can Change You

Struggle: If God can heal the sick, raise the dead, calm the sea, then why is he not making a difference in me?

Scripture Truth: 
"If we walk by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh." Galatians 5:16

Truth Encounter: I had accepted Christ as Savior of my life as a young girl but I had not been very successful when it came to the things in life that tempted me most. I had tried living the Christian life but it had been more about me doing "what Jesus would do," instead of "being like Jesus.

As Paul would say, I had done most of the things a good "Christian" or "church worker" would do. In fact, most professing Christians are not really Christian at all but are individuals who are living in the flesh and are domesticated to look and act like Christians. In other words, I was able to act in, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,(Galatians 5: 22-23), when it was beneficial to me. Even though I could produce something that appeared to be these things, they were not my character. In fact, as I examined my heart, I realized that much of my actions were works of the flesh such as idolatry, impurity, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, envy, and the like, Galatians 5:19-24.  Instead of finding my joy, power, and strength in God, I found joy in things of the world, and I operated out of my power and strength rather than in God's.

This was not what I wanted. I wanted His majesty, power, and strength working in my life, empowering me to live the life he had called me to live. Scripture tells us that "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,"(Gal. 5:24), and, "if we walk by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Gal.5:16). We cannot make this transformation on our own. 1 John 4:4 tells us that God's children can overcome temptations because "greater is he that is in us than he who is in the world." In other words "we abide in Christ and he abides in us" (John 15:1-8). This means that we cannot passively sit back and watch it happen; we must be intentional about being a follower of Jesus. 

How do we do this? We must make James 4:7 our focus for each day, "Submit to God, and resist the Devil." Each time I am tempted to sin, I have the choice to "take my thoughts captive in obedience to Christ," (2 Cor. 10:5), or obey Satan. I am learning to act and react to God's Word, His truths, and His promises. 

I am not perfect, and there are times that I fall desperately short of what God desires of me, but I praise God that I am not the woman I used to be. Daily, I resubmit my life to God and asks Him to change me, to mold me, to complete the work He began in me. As I have chosen to abide in Christ, he is transforming my mind. Instead of producing works in the flesh, the Holy Spirit is actually producing fruit of the Spirit in me and through me.  I am seeing his transforming power, splendor, and majesty at work inside me, changing the way I think. The things that once affected me, causing me to act and react in unChristian ways, do not have the same effect on me. 

It was truly like experiencing a miracle, not before my eyes, but in my mind and heart. And, for the first time, I knew that God was transforming me, because never before had I been able to deal the negative reactions that were triggered by my feelings. To God I give the glory.

I have been transparent concerning how my life was filled with works of the flesh. My prayer is that you will allow the Holy Spirit to begin a work in you. Will you take a moment to read Galatians 5:16-24. Ask God to reveal the things in your life that is not of him.  Ask God to change your heart to become like his. If He can change my heart, He can change yours.

I came across a song that a pastor used to lead a group of worshippers in Barbados as they prayed for God to change them. I had never heard it before but it touched my heart. The words of this song was the words of my prayer as I cried out to God, seeking transformation in my life. 

How has God changed your life? Share how great our God is and how Jesus has made a difference in your life.