The following is a Twitter thread I posted yesterday. To interact with the thread, click HERE.
When, no matter what a candidate says or does weakens that candidate's support from his or her base, we cannot count on that base to turn in any significant numbers. I am not a pessimist, but realistically, we must appeal to those who are still weighing truth.
The fact of the matter is that many who support a particular candidate already know that candidate cannot be counted on for truth ... but they like a few things that he/she does and those are the most important to them.
They outweigh intelligence, leadership, goodwill, honesty, integrity, commitment to rule of law, philosophy of government, and the credibility of our country in the world community.
They would rather make a point about a vital issue with a law than tackle it from another angle and solve the problem. They would rather condemn sin and criminalize it than change the environment where it is nurtured and allowed to thrive.
Once such minds are made up, it is difficult to change them. Among these are sincere people with good hearts who would never harm or speak ill of a person face to face, but who really believe they are promoting their cause by destroying it.
No matter how much they frustrate me, I must respect and love them because respect breeds respect, because all are made in God's image, and because love is stronger than hate and indifference and ...
They rally around slogans that presumably reflect their values but are really shallow and cynical emotional manipulations to garner support.
The Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest during World War II.
They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised ... - Hebrews 11:37-39
Martyrs for their faith.
The Greek word for martyr is simply, "witness." There is no greater witness to the power and integrity of one's convictions than to lay down one's life for others. Jesus said that there was no greater love.
Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives us what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Here is what one old preacher called, "The roll call of the faithful."
We risk being called misguided and deceived if we give all to one thing, but that will not deter us. We are guided by a voice that to us, is unmistakably clear. It is not a bargain or a wager. It is a conviction and a joy to lose our lives for Jesus' sake.
Most of us will never to called to this level of commitment, but we pray that if called upon ...
" The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times."
"You, O LORD, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man." - Psalm 12:6-8 (ESV)
Who Am I?
I am every man. I embody, every extreme.
I am the plundered poor. I am the plunderer. I am he who treasures and keeps the Word. I am he who wanders. I am guarded. I am he, from whom the guarded must be protected. I am pure and I am vile. I am all in one - a complete package. I am beloved ... I am grateful. I need and receive grace.
At every punctuation mark of this precious Word, I see myself. I identify. I do so, reluctantly.
God, you have done so, in Jesus, intentionally and redemptively.
Today, I shall rather be plundered than plunder. I shall prefer to be defrauded than to defraud.
Let me not exalt vileness. Let me not wander. May I cherish that which is precious and ... May I live in the grace that is freely given.
Thank you for another day to learn to learn ... To embrace your truth and to be transformed by it. Of all the people I know, I desperately need it.
What Is the Right Thing to Do?
The ethics of faith are not always easy to sort through.
Our basic commitments are and we thank God for those anchors, anchored to one anchor.
However, to apply truth is something God calls us to work at sometimes, pray through, struggle with, and stay awake with. That is because we are always balancing things which require a perspective beyond ourselves to balance.
We are trying to do what comes naturally to God, to feel each person's pain and distress and desire the Shalom of every people and nation.
Easy to God, but difficult for us. Not impossible, and the difficulty of it is no excuse to settle into complacency, to focus our attention on a few sources, close our hearts and minds, or harden our hearts.
To be God's people in the world is to move beyond self-interest, even the interest of survival and safety, and embrace something larger - a Kingdom that has no boundaries or borders or language of its own among men. This is just one example of many of the issues with which the people of God must wrestle.
What about My Neighbor? - Homelessness and Fishing
At this point, it is not about teaching people how to fish. Many poor folks are very good fisher-people. It is about access to the lake, river, ocean, or pond.
They are very resourceful at survival, but to thrive takes something more.
It is a physical law that everyone must be somewhere.
That may be homeless camps for some. Perhaps these camps truly are problematic, but they exist because of an even bigger problem and we're not touching it.
Everyone is going to go somewhere today. Everyone. I have been extremely busy for the last year and have not engaged in solution-building at the level that I would like and I suspect I should.
We need creativity, energy, and tough-minded compassion, and we need engagement at the level that we all own the issue.
Without that, no one wins.
Begin Thinking and Let Your Thoughts Grow
I am every man. I embody, every extreme.
I wonder who I am every day.
Every day I wonder what I should do.
Every day, I wonder about some neighbor and I wonder what he or she is thinking, feeling, needing.
God, enter into my wondering that it may not just be wandering.
Psalm 12 invites us into a prayer. It is a dialogue between the singer of songs and the God who is present in hard times. There are two voices heard. One is the person or people praying. The other is God.
Listen and join in prayer as your are prompted, nudged, and inspired.
Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. – Psalm 12:1
Do you feel alone in your spiritual journey? Do you imagine that you are the only person in your school, workplace, or neighborhood that desires the things of God or seeks after His will? Do you wonder if there is even one other person who will stand with you for truth and righteousness?
Are you overwhelmed by the loneliness of solitary seeking?
Do you even wonder if the psalmist was somehow transported out of his time to speak of ours?
Things have not changed that much have they? We all look back on better times when we were sure that there were more righteous and earnest people living among us and compare those times with our “todays.”
We conclude that we are alone and that no one else is godly or faithful. While that is not true in every sense, it is in one. “There is none that is righteous, no not one.” We are indicted by that statement and must include ourselves among the number of the “no more” who have “vanished from the earth.”
From God’s perspective and standard of perfect holiness, no one measures up. Then Jesus Christ enters the picture and He alone stands for truth. Our only hope is in Him and in Him we are not alone. Consciously align yourself with Him today and allow God to flush away that sense of “aloneness.”
When You Can’t Trust a Compliment
They speak vanity everyone with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is Lord over us? - Psalm 12:2-4
If you can’t trust a compliment, what can you trust?
The psalmist has had it with flattery. He is discouraged over the tendency of his neighbors to use speech only to manipulate and deceive. We ought to develop that same level of disgust with untruth because all lying and falsehood are at odds with a God who is truth.
Pretty lies are no better than ugly lies.
Lies are lies and they are dark and dismal.
Ask God to fill your heart with truth today and with a love for that truth so that whenever you would tell yourself a lie, you would immediately appeal to the God of truth and be rescued. Whatever urge you may have to be hard on your neighbors, start first with yourself and let God’s grace fill you and change you.
Consider this from the first Maundy Thursday – praise and flattery met Jesus upon His entry into the Holy City. “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord,” they cried and most likely meant what they said.
Is it possible that some of those who praised Him on Sunday cursed Him on Thursday evening when He was arrested and brought to trial?
Could it be that some who praised Him were seeking to manipulate Him for their own ends and to triumph with their tongues, even to co-opt Him for their own causes?
Is it even possible that some that welcomed Him with their lips retained no sense of responsibility for their words beyond themselves?
We see ourselves as masters of our words whenever we refuse to submit ourselves, body, soul, and spirit, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus went to the upper room and took the role of a servant. With His words and deeds, He offered His body and blood for the redemption of lost men and women. He emptied Himself and held nothing back. His words are truth and love. Let us bring ourselves and our words to Him in that same spirit. Gather this day with other believers to remember the sacrifice of Jesus and be reminded of His gracious words.
God and the Oppressed
“For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him..” - Psalm 12:5
What is the Word of God to a man or woman unjustly imprisoned for his or her faith in a land of persecution? What message from the Lord soothes the heart of a child who has been victimized by the people, charged with his protection or the young woman beaten and battered on the streets in a senseless act of violence?
What does God have to say to the oppressed of the world and to those who labor under the weight of spiritual oppression?
God saw the oppression of the weak and heard the groaning of the needy, bound in the chains of sin and wickedness. Thus, He came to us as a man among men. He arose and took upon Himself of a lowly servant, He emptied Himself and became obedient unto the death of the cross (Philippians 2).
That is His Word, alive and viable! He identified with us completely, yet without sin and became our protector and deliverer from sin.
God has always been the champion of the weak and needy.
The Christ-event and the passion of the cross make it clear that every man, woman, and child is in need of a savior. We are all oppressed – even if we are oppressors. We each writhe in agony for someone to intervene in our darkness and bring us into the light. Friend, the cross, was, is, and always will be for you.
Spend some time today meditating on it. Seek out other believers with whom you can worship in wake of Calvary. Get alone with God and thank Him for remembering you on the cross.
Do not let this day pass as any other.
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. - Psalm 12:6-7
Oh, precious words, flawless, pure, beautiful in their refined glory. God’s words stir the soul, comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, and pierce the heart with divine truth and brilliant light.
On that dark Saturday between the cross and the resurrection, the disciples had only the remembrance of His words. What would they have meant to you in such an hour? What have they meant to you in your darkest hours?
After the resurrection, Jesus would meet men on the road to Emmaus and remind them of His words and those that the Father had spoken over the centuries through the scriptures. He would bring them new meaning and their hearts would burn within them. Let Jesus apply all of God’s words to your heart in the darkness of death from the place of resurrection.
We can never fully visit the despair of that bleak Saturday, but we can enter into our own darkness with the flawless Word of God to comfort our souls.
What a pointless prayer this would be divorced from resurrection truth!
Without the resurrection we are exposed, vulnerable, and unprotected. If Christ were not raised, we would be as Paul said, “still in our sins (I Cor. 15).” We could not expect help in the onslaughts of wicked and violent people or non-human forces from a dead and powerless God. Prayers would be futile attempts to feel better about our miserable circumstances. Compliance with ethics would be fruitless acts of legalistic compulsion if not overwhelmed by a dynamic conviction that God can raise the dead and thus, protect, deliver, and save.
God raised Jesus from the dead and pronounced the death sentence on death. He is alive and brings to life all who trust in Him. Celebrate! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!
Vilest Men Exalted
The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted. - Psalm 12:8
This must grieve the heart of the psalmist.
David loved God so much that he could not understand the motivations of people who warred against Him. Nor could he understand their apparent triumph. Why do these things happen? How can such men be exalted? Why do the wicked prosper? These were nagging questions for the man after God’s own heart.
One might think that the psalmist had stepped out of his time and looked upon ours to offer his commentary. The repulsive sight of the wicked strutting about in impunity is and always will be a source of grief to those who love God and His truth. The deeper indignity and affront to God is that what is vile is honored among men as noble, good, true, artistic, or benevolent. Little has changed. The values of society, left to its own devices, have always been at odds with God.
We must carefully examine all that we place upon our cultural pedestals and pay homage to. God’s standards are different than that of the world. We value what may contain a grain of truth, but it is so often distorted and ignoble.
The numerology of apocalyptic literature takes the number 6 and repeats it three times in contrast to the holiness of the complete Trinity. Thus, 666 represents the fullness of evil. The curious thing is that the number 6 is only one whole number shy of 7 – the number of perfection.
The lesson is almost hidden, but clear:
That which is repugnant may be something that is very close to the truth (for instance, the devil quotes scripture and believes in God), but veers off the path of truth in a small way that is significant enough to altar everything.
It should be easy for the Christian to detect the blatant and flagrant abuses of truth, but be cautious that you are not caught up in the frenzy of honoring that which is popular just because it has an outer veneer of righteousness.
We leave this invitation to prayer as it is, open-ended, ready to be continued, ready to be explored, ready for God to speak to our own hard and desperate times.
It has been said that desperate times call for desperate measures.
"Titled Hard Times, after Charles Dickens’s novel of 1854, this composite photograph shows an unemployed carpenter sitting hunched with worry in a cramped bedroom while his wife and child sleep peacefully behind him. In this print, which Rejlander labeled “A Spiritistical Photo,” he superimposed a second, ghostly image of the man placing his hand on his wife’s head in benediction as the child prays at their feet—an intervention that elevated an otherwise realistic scenario into the moral and religious domain of high art."
To be known, consecrated, and appointed is an awe inspiring insight into our own selves under God. It was never, "Will you go?" It was "You shall go." It was never, "Figure out what to day." It was "You shall say what I command you to say."
But I am a very young boy?
Yes, that is me speaking at 65 and more than a half. I have much to learn and much growing to grow and I am a boy. "Fooey,"
God says in better words. "Don't say that. I am with you."
With me? Yes, with me.
That is a big deal. Do not gloss over it.
"Do not be afraid."
Could I be afraid with that reality etched into my consciousness?
Has your mouth been touched and words implanted? Has your courage been strengthened and your resolve reordered? Words ... pluck up, pull down, destroy, overflow.... with PURPOSE:
To plant and build!
Go and say ... today. "In you, Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame." (Psalm 71:1, NRSV)
"Our God is a consuming fire,: (Hebrews 12:29)
"Awesome," the dudes on the street corner utter, "Awesome!"
He shakes things up. He shakes me. He shakes you.
And here we are, just boys and girls and we are shaking the world. God shakes! We shake! The earth shakes! What a dance!
God has to clear away some debris and old broken down buildings of our own contrivances and the rubble of our rusty rubrics. There needs to be some bulldozing of old orders for the new order to take hold.
Jesus, by His sprinkled blood, the mediator of the new covenant (Heb 12)!
He too, was just a boy!
JUST?!?! Just nothing ... but JUSTICE!
He came and healed on the Sabbath and exposed the rubric realm of reigning religiosity. (Luke 13:10-17)
But He was not just a boy! He knew the whole story. He knew what it was all about before we started messing with it, over-structuring it, and supervising it as supposed "deputies of God."
Why do we need anything but the words in our mouths and the God who is with us?
Jesus did not despise the Sabbath? He loved it, celebrated it, and restored it?
He did not come to tear down anything of essence. He came to clear the rubble around it so that it might be seen again, afresh, anew.
What have we come to? (Hebrews 12:18ff.)
There is fire ... always fire.
But there is also festal gathering! Mostly that. That is the THAT!
What cannot be shaken shall remain!
Acceptable worship with reverence!
At that time, a voice shook the earth and it is almost always ...
Hello there, all you Jeremiahs! You are not just anything. You are known, consecrated, and appointed!
You shall go! You shall speak! God is with you and His words are in your mouth.
Go shake a few things and see what remains!
There are treasure out there to be unearthed of God's own planting!
Does this or any of these describe how you are experiencing today?
Know this from the psalm, that it is OK to tell God.
Know this also, that God knows, understands, cares, and enters into your experience.
Know even more that there is a parallel story being written about your journey. It is a story that is far more accurate because it is wrapped up in the final paragraphs, more accurate because it knows and tells the unseen and unperceived realities that are active all around you. It is more complete because God wins and you win.
Just to be clear, I did not miss an indefinite article.
I did not mean "a job" or "Have you considered getting a job."
You have a job. Today's job is to consider Job, the man and the story. It is your story and mine. It is also your job to ask Job's questions, especially, today, "Why am I here?"
Check out this picture, Job by Léon Bonnat (1880). Have you ever seem a man look more pitiful and desperate?
Maybe you have. perhaps you have in the mirror.
Job Pops Out of the Woodwork - Every Person's Story
We all have our own stories, but we also have a common story in which we all participate. The story of Job is offered to us in order to help us see how one man related to some of the deep questions and perplexities of life.
Job's story comes out of an ancient culture somewhere in Asia. Job pops out of the woodwork without a lot of historical context to draw us into the dialogue where we are moving toward a meeting with God.
Have You Considered Job?
And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? -Job 1:8
This was a defining moment for Job and he was not even aware of it at the time. Something was happening in the spiritual realm that would translate to the world of time and space and he was about to be tested.
There are such times in our lives that are defining. Often we are tempted to believe that God is giving Satan a free hand to harass us. When we peek into this heavenly transaction, it would appear at first sight that God is doing business with Satan, dealing with him and inviting him before his court of justice as if he had the right to appear.
This is not the whole story. Satan's name means adversary and is the same word that can be used for "prosecutor." He is always accusing and his case is always before the bar of God. God, the judge, is defending His chosen servant, Job as well as weighing the evidence.
God knows how Job will emerge from this trial because He is his helper and advocate. God knows that Job is about to enter a deeper dimension in his fellowship with Him and that through a series of questions, Job's wisdom is going to grow dramatically.
God is both defending you and weighing you even now. He is your best advocate as well as your judge. In the same way that He believed in Job, He believes in you because He sees you through His Son. When trials come, He is in your corner taunting Satan. "Have you considered my servant, (your name)?"
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. -James 5:11
Why Am I Here?
Why died I not from the womb? - Job 3:11
Job is entitled to a few seconds of self-indulgent pity on his way to deeper faith. At least, he thinks he is. One of his early questions is one that we ask today: Why am I here? Job poses it from the place of pain. When all was going well, the question did not cross his mind - though it is one of life's most important considerations.
He actually approaches the matter from the negative. If life is full of hardship and agony, why should a person even be born? The question presupposes that the purpose of life is ease, comfort, and freedom from trouble.
Job would learn along the way to ask better questions with a seeking and honest heart. He would learn to be willing to let God answer them His own way and in His own time. But for a season, he had to struggle and wrestle with human emotions and doubts.
What does it take in our lives to prompt us to ask the difficult, penetrating, and yet, vital questions that define our significance? How do we come to the place where we ask, with open and earnest expectation, "Why was I born?"
The ancients summarized it this way: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. There was nothing in Job's predicament to impede or prevent that process. Nor is there anything in your experience that can ultimately separate you from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ (see Romans 8). That is why you did not die in your mother's womb - because you have the potential to bring glory to Him through your life and the hope of enjoying His presence eternally.
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. - I Corinthians 6:20
“And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.“ - Acts 8:26-39
Phillip woke up one morning unaware of the significance of the day. He would not have to dream up some way of serving God. And yet, His participation in what God was doing and about to do would alter history for one man and, perhaps, an entire people.
Phillip received a message from one of God’s messengers that day. Have you ever heard from an angel? Are you sure?
Hebrews 13:2 says that some of us have entertained them thinking them only to be strangers.
I wonder when Phillip knew who it was speaking to him. What is clear is that he recognized the call of God and embraced the vision of going to one man along the way who could take the message of grace to thousands in a different place and culture. He was willing to be used as a messenger of God himself. He recognized a divine appointment and made himself absolutely available to God and to the Ethiopian who was the object of God’s loving concern.
If our vision is enlightened by and through our vision of God’s glory in Christ, we must practice our awareness of divine appointments, angelic, nudging, and the still small voice that compels us to speak to a fellow traveler, in a respectful and mutually conversational manner, about the good news of Jesus.
Note that Phillip asked a question and the man in the chariot gave an invitation.
The men on the road to Emmaus had walked for miles with Jesus and only knew that their hearts were burning within them. They recognized Him only in the breaking of bread. As they walked, Jesus opened the scriptures to them and taught them that everything God had ever done or said had pointed to His redemptive plan for the world and their mission. From that moment on, their lives would impact history.
Listen for God’s message and prompting. He is working and He plans to include you.
"If you wish another to keep your secret, first keep it to yourself." - Seneca
These are the days of going public with knowledge.
Some, like me, enjoy people knowing what we are thinking and doing, who we know, how to contact us, and other details of our lives.
It is a good thing because, like it or not, once we have posted it to one, it has the potential to go viral and spread to any who might care.
Of course, the great tragedy in our lives might be that not enough care.
It has been over 2000 years since Seneca spoke these words. They were true then too.
It is not that people want to disrespect your confidence; it is just very hard to keep it. They tell one person who they are sure will keep the secret and that person thinks the same about the person they tell.
The moral of the story is simply to be circumspect. Assume that what you tell will be told. Live transparently, authentically, and openly, but keep some things to yourself.
You can always and should tell God, who reveals the secrets of the heart.
There was a song back in the 70s that lamented the futility of spending one's life answering questions no one is asking. Then I found a book that asked the question, "If Jesus is the answer, what are the questions?"
Looking for the book, I came across a great blog post by a pastor-story teller named Tim Chesterton:
If Jesus is the answer then what is the question? Years ago in my young days as a Christian I used to sing this song.
Jesus is the answer for the world today; Above him there's no other, Jesus is the way. Jesus is the answer for the world today; Above him there's no other, Jesus is the way.
I stopped singing it after I read the story of a woman with multiple problems in her life who was in the habit of going to see her priest to try to sort herself out. The irony of the situation was that, even though her life was a mess (and at least some of the mess was of her own making), she continued to give her allegiance to a theology that claimed that if you just gave your life to Jesus he would solve all your problems for you. This all came to a head one week when she showed up for her counseling session wearing a tee-shirt proclaiming that 'Jesus is the Answer'. Her priest looked at her and said, "You know, you've got to stop this talk about Jesus being the answer. He never said he was the answer. He said 'I am the Way' - and that's an entirely different thing".
The "way to the Father" never changes. Nor do the answers to the big questions. However, the questions are constantly changing. They not only change in society as a whole, but they change within the context of ones own life as one moves from stage to stage in personal development.
The questions I asked at 15 when I was in the midst of a major and defining faith crisis are not those I was asking at 25 in my second pastorate. At 35, I was asking different questions and so it has been at every stage of my life.
People were asked about the frequency with which they asked two questions:
"If I were to die today, do I know for sure I would go to heaven?"
"How can I find more meaning and purpose in my life?"
Ed Stetzer observed, back in 2009:
"It appears that more people are thinking about meaning and purpose than life after death. (And it is important to note that the Bible provides the answers to all these questions.)"
If more people are asking about meaning than about where they will spend eternity, that should inform our approach to sharing our faith. That is not watering down the gospel. It is actually communicating a major part of Jesus' call and message. In calling His first disciples, He said things like, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."
He called them to purpose, meaning, and significance. At some point, they got the whole package, but their entry point was a challenge to invest their lives in something greater than themselves, the kingdom of God.
The encouraging thing about this is that it may indicate a move away from mere and pervasive narcissism in humanity's quest for spiritual truth. Christianity is not a consumer product.
For one thing, you come to realize the necessity of persevering. You cannot give up until it is absolutely over.
For another, you must get started. That is where this acronym kicks in: Go For It.
G - Get ready to dream. Clear your mind of impossibility thinking and faithlessness. Negativity must go. Position yourself to dream.
O -Open your mind. Open your heart. Open yourself to God, to others, to the possibility of possibilities. Free yourself to imagine what has never been.
F -Face your challenges and stare them down. Acknowledge your weaknesses and take command of your life. Face the facts, but don't let the facts freeze in time. There is nothing that does not change except God Himself.
O -Overcome. Decide that you will be an overcomer. You will never live, "under the circumstances." You will be the cream that rises to the top of life.
R -Retreat and Reflect. Get alone with your thoughts and prayers. Find a place and give yourself time to flesh out a dream. Let it run wild. Write it down. You can sort it out later. Don't let anything restrict your thinking. Postpone practical considerations.
I - It. The word can mean almost anything and you decide what IT is. What is the it of it? What is the core of your dream. Is it greater than your own pleasure and fulfillment? Will it better the world for others. Will it bring honor to God? Will it lift people? Will it extend beyond your lifetime? Consider it and if your it is too small, go back to the retreat and expand it.
T -Tell others. Don't keep it to yourself. Risk humiliation and ridicule. If you tell enough people, you can expect some of that, but you will also find allies. Reject the negative responses and keep listening for the encouragement that will come. By telling others of your dream, you are making a commitment to it. You are climbing out on a limb where you MUST perform.
Fight for your dreams because in doing so, you will be fighting for your life!
You've heard that question before and it has been used for a number of purposes. It usually means that someone wants to take some of your time and needs your attention.
How do you answer that question?
The truth is, we all have time, but we do not have time to waste. We have time to use. How we use it is our choice and will determine our success in many ways.
Time Principles from Romans 15:23-33
The Apostle Paul gives us a rare glimpse into his understanding of time as he explains in what may seem to be a routine note, to the Romans, his plan for a visit.
What principles of time are you employing in business, ministry, and life? I would like to suggest seven that we can extract from Paul.
Principle # 1 Free Time
"But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you...” - Romans 15:23
Here we catch a glimpse of an unspoken concept – that of free time. Free time is time to do the things that your heart desires but your priorities prevent.
For Paul, his missionary work took priority in his schedule. If he could be useful and busy about his mission, that came first. At the same time, he desired to spend his time in certain places with certain people when and if the opportunity presented itself.
That was free time.
What do you desire to do with your free time? It is a legitimate desire. It is a possibility. Make a list and then work to free some time for doing that very thing. Who will you be with? What will it be like? State it as Paul did.
God has given you a big picture dream and vision which drives your life mission, but it does not erase all of the things that you would like to do when you are free to do them. Life is never primarily about vacations, side trips, and lunch breaks, but these things occupy our longings and give us both incentives and diversions.
Let’s get our work done and then play a bit.
Principle # 2 Passing Through Time
"I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.” - Romans 15:24
So often, our free time is the time we grab when we are passing through on our way from somewhere and to somewhere else. It is an entirely valid pursuit to fit things in to the cracks of our lives. If we didn’t, so many things would never get done.
Businesses would not be built.
Hobbies would not be cultivated.
Friendships would not be nurtured.
Books and music would not be enjoyed or even created.
So much of what is good in life happens when we are passing through life. If we do not take advantage of the opportunities along the way, they will be lost.
Paul had two excellent reasons for stopping by Rome along the way. One was to have the Roman believers assist him on his journey. The other was to simply enjoy their company.
Do not discount either motive.
Principle # 3 Service Time
“ Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26 - For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” - Romans 15:25
The primary reason for Paul being on this upcoming journey is service. Specifically, it is service to God’s people in Jerusalem. They were experiencing a time of need. Perhaps it was because, as Barclay suggests, that they had lost their jobs in the industries that supported Temple worship. These were controlled by a small and select group of men who were particularly opposed to the Christian movement.
Having been excluded from the economy of Jerusalem because of their faithfulness to Jesus Christ, they were hungry. Paul saw it as an obligation and an opportunity to help them.
Another group of poor believers in Macedonia and an Achaia had embraced the opportunity and had freely given of themselves and their limited resources. They understood that whatever had been entrusted to them was a stewardship and that the only way to preserve resources is to give them back to God.
So it is with time. Time spent in service is never time wasted, nor is it lost.
What are you doing with your time to serve other people? Is some part of your day spent, each day, in reaching out to others and touching human need? Is your time filled with significance?
Principle # 4 Obligated Time
“They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. “ - Romans 15:27
What made this use of Paul’s time and the other believers’ money and obligation?
Fellowship is the reason.
Fellowship is partnership and sharing. Paul reminds the Romans that they have shared the spiritual heritage and benefits of the Jewish people, the legacy of the law, the rich traditions of the God’s hand at work in the history of Israel, and especially, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
They owe something to the believers in Jerusalem.
Material and spiritual blessings are sometimes interchangeable. They are not equal, but they are in close communication, one with the other.
Likewise, we are a part of each other and owe each other love, respect, fraternal caring, service, and help. God has molded and melded the church from a conglomeration of people groups and backgrounds and has gathered us into one family.
If nothing else, we need to spend time together and to take the time to meet one another person’s needs.
Principle # 5 Opportune Time
“So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. “ - Romans 15:28
The opportunity has arisen, in the mind of Paul, to do to things. The primary thing is to go to Spain, the western frontier of his known civilized world, a place bustling with opportunity and influence where some of the most innovative thinking on earth was taking place in Paul’s time.
It was time for the gospel to go to Spain – at least it seemed that way to Paul.
Paul was always looking for opportunities.
The second opportunity was to stop by Rome on his journey – to visit with friends and share the benefits of fellowship.
Opportunities can sometimes be planned and at other times, simply emerge.
Curiously, this opportunity did not materialize, a fact that we will visit in a moment. However, Paul was ready for it and we need to be ready for the opportunities that come our way.
What opportunities might await you this very day and how will you greet them?
Principle # 6 Precious Time
“I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.” - Romans 15:29
Time spent in cultivating friendships in Christ is precious time, blessed and valuable.
We must cherish such time and see it as part of the full blessing of Christ. Isn’t it wonderful that God, in His love, mercy, and wisdom gave us such wonderful comrades on the journey of faith and service?
I have been sitting over a cup of coffee with dear Christian friends, in the midst of a conversation about deep matters or heart and eternal truth and suddenly realized, “The is holy ground.”
There are sanctified moments in our memories, flashes of time, indelibly etched upon our consciousnesses that nurture us at the core of our being.
Are you allowing time for precious moments in your life? Are you making time for those snapshots of seconds, minutes, and hours that give you great strength and encouragement for how you will use the rest of your time in the service of the master?
So often in our businesses and ministries, we do not value the shorter, precious moments that God affords us. We must appreciate them as we anticipate them, as we participate in them, and as we look back upon them.
Principle # 7 Prayer Time
“I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there,” - Romans 15:30-31
Perhaps the most neglected time in the day of any busy Christian is prayer time. It is time spent in the struggle preparing for the struggle. It is time when we can identify closely with the challenges that are faced by our brothers and sisters near and far.
The word used for struggle has the same root as that for “agony.”
This call to pray together is rooted in the very person of Jesus Christ whose entire life was about intercession and in the love of the Holy Spirit.
“Pray for me,” Paul suggests, “and you will be part of me.”
When we pray for someone, we join them. We share in their successes as well as their pain and disappointments.
Paul had two pressing and legitimate concerns:
First, he prayed for deliverance from those who were “gunning for him” in Jerusalem. He was a man with a price on his head and he had many enemies. This was such a legitimate request that it may come as no surprise to learn that God answered this prayer in a funny sort of way. When he did make it to Jerusalem, Paul was arrested and spent four years in prison.
The deliverance came in the fact that those became ironically effective years and productive times. Epistles were written. Influence was shared. Lives were changed. Believers were encouraged.
So the second prayer request was of even greater significance. Paul prayed and requested prayer that his ministry would be effective and acceptable.
God allowed something that seemed to be Him ignoring the first request in order to accomplish the second. In fact, God never stopped answering Paul’s prayer for deliverance, but that is a different story.
Time spent in prayer is never wasted.
Principle #8 Refreshing Time
“... so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.” - Romans 15:32-33
What Paul looked forward to most was a time of mutual refreshment with the Roman believers. They needed it and he needed it.
While it would not happen the way he predicted, he relished the thought.
In fact, Paul would come to Rome within a few short years – in chains. Yet, he would also come in joy and his presence would bring refreshment and courage to the church there.
He valued, as must we, the will of God and gladly submitted to that will. He associated it with joy and refreshment.
The most refreshing experience of time is to be found in the will of God, doing what He wants us to do, being where He wants us to be, speaking what he wants us to speak, enjoying the company of those He brings into our paths, and exercising our ministry and influence among them.
So, we see that Paul values time and takes the expenditure of time very seriously. You have today – at least for now and you may have tomorrow. What will you do with it?
“And the woman left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, ’Come, see a man, who told me all the things that I ever did. Is this not the Christ?’” – John 4”28-29
Are we too attached to our water pots to carry the call of Jesus to our cities? Are we so fixated on our trivial tasks that we cannot leave them to bear witness to His power, grace, and truth?
What if, one day, something and someone completely challenged our faith, our love, and our sense of who we are?
Here was a woman with the worst reputation in the village and she went to the very people with whom she had made her reputation. To the men of the city, with whom she had no credibility at all, she declared the credibility of Jesus. At least they would talk to her. And she did it without the slightest hint of intimidation and completely undistracted by the unfinished mission that had taken her to the well in the first place.
Who cares about two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen when you can have living water? Washing clothes can wait. Cooking can be done later. Even drinking water can be postponed. It’s not everyday that you have a chance to meet a man who can tell you everything you have ever done – and in such a way that you feel love, forgiveness, and acceptance rather that shame, guilt, and fear.
This woman had been summoned to a new mission, a higher calling.
She was called from a cheap imitation of love to real love.
She was called from speculation and superficiality to deep faith.
She was called to tell.
She received the call and bore the call with passionate conviction and urgency. The call is upon us and on our lips, but if it is to be heard by the people of the cities, we must leave our water pots and deliver it in person.
Let's all grow old, at least a little older today.
Time is not static. Nor is our place in time. Times change. We change. Relationships, circumstances, cultures, challenges, and demands upon our time change with time.
If we are so blessed, we change in positive ways as we grow older. We grow younger in the ways that youth causes the soul to blossom. We grow old like those things which must be cured with time to reach their fullest potential.
We get the best of both with time: youth and age.
The best is yet to be.
"At twenty a man is full of fight and hope. He wants to reform the world. When he's seventy he still wants to reform the world, but he knows he can't."- Clarence S. Darrow
I guess I'll have to wait a few more years to find out, but I do not believe that is true in all cases. Yet, it is often true.
Perhaps it is , partially, always, somewhat true.
Perhaps, it is, also, potentially, an excuse for not trying. Try to find the balance for yourself.
I know people who have truly awakened for the first time at 70.
Nelson Mandela was nearly 72 when he was released from prison and began to reshape South Africa. In his 90s he was still reforming the world.
Harlan Sanders did not start Kentucky Fried Children until he was 65 and invested his Social Security check. Sanders allegedly had 1,009 rejections when trying to establish his franchise.
Others remained active well into their golden years.
Big dreamers never stop dreaming and hoping. They do so because they believe they can make a difference.
Darrow may have been right about a couple of things:
We learn we cannot change the world all by ourselves. It takes teamwork, community, and cooperation.
We learn that it can't be done overnight and we may not live to see all the changes we desire. The writer of Hebrews says that the heroes of old days died in faith embracing a promise that would only be fulfilled in later generations.
That is no reason for discouragement because real dreamers have visions that extend beyond themselves and their lifespans.
Growing old is and can be a wonderful thing. That is especially true when we pass on all that we have received as a torch to be carried by the next generation. It is even more true when we spend our closing years investing our best time in them.
I think, that no matter what our age may be, we can still make a difference.
Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand Who saith "A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!" - Robert Browning
Therefore I summon age
To grant youth's heritage,
Life's struggle having so far reached its term:
Thence shall I pass, approved
A man, for aye removed
From the developed brute; a god though in the germ.
I have never seen geese in a circle. Probably, not ducks either! Geese know how to fly on course, but they never play, 'Duck, Duck, Goose." - Tom Sims
Management is hard on a good day under the best of conditions.. It takes skill, finesse, sensitivity, tough-mindedness, insight, and creativity. That is on a good day.
On a bad day, it can be derailed at any number of road blocks. Here are two that you can avoid.
Perfectionism - What's So Bad About It?
Perfectionism is a set-up because:
It usually revolves around our limited understanding of perfection which is inordinately influenced by someone else's limited understanding of perfection and even deeper misunderstanding of us.
It is generally just imperfect because perfection is essentially completion and if our vision of the finished product is flawed our outcome will be even more flawed.
"The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself." -Anna Quindlen
The road to perfection is allowing God to make us who we truly are and were made to be.
Control Issues - The Kiss of Death
Now let's talk about control issues because the two go hand in hand.
If you have control issues, it may be for a variety of reasons, good and bad. Let us assume that you are not a "control freak," but that you prefer to tightly control every aspect of your organization or project. What are the repercussions of this?
You will wear yourself thin and wear yourself out.
You will limit your potential, your reach, and your overall effectiveness because you cannot be everywhere doing everything. All that will ever be accomplished will be what you can personally touch, control, and supervise.
The people you lead will never develop to their fullest potential. In fact, your best people will move on because they want more challenges and autonomy in their lives.
You will miss out on the synergy, ideas, and creativity of a team working together and bringing all of their gifts and ideas to the table.
If you are engaged in kingdom enterprises, you will be ignoring basic kingdom principles. While these apply especially to churches on mission, they are principles that can also benefit any business or entrepreneurial effort. The genius of a body with many parts and functions is that no person has every skill set necessary for great initiatives. Coming together, the sum of the whole is great than the sum of the parts.
There is no need to sacrifice quality to move from linear thinking to team thinking However, it requires trust and relaxed energy that allows mistakes and diversity of ideas.
Unwillingness to let go of control issues is the kiss of death for any organization. Without letting go, you will never progress from an entity to a movement.
Then said they unto him, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God" Jesus answered and said unto them, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." - John 6:28-29
Either work is easy or belief is hard work.
I am going to presume that both are true.
Belief-work is what produces lasting satisfaction in our lives. This is the preface to Jesus' teachings on the bread of life. Because people are hungering for more, Jesus is addressing that hunger and providing Himself as the source of "food that endures to eternal life."
So far, they have labored with frustration and only temporary satisfaction. There is a need in every human to produce something of lasting value. Futility is the fruit of meaningless work. Jesus offers more.
Belief is not a passive thing. The word for "believe here is "pisteuhte", "to keep on believing." I have always been intrigued that the root of the word is used for our modern word, "pistol." Pistols launch projectiles into open space and belief launches our lives and efforts to a place beyond ourselves.
The work of God is to believe. Once we accept that, we can begin to learn what it means to believe. We can be taught by God what the implications of living faith really are. We can begin to be shaped by our believes as they take shape within in us.
As a starting point (as well as an ending point), Jesus gives us focus, to believe in Him whom the Father has sent.
"Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." - John 6:27, (NIV)
" Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness' - Isaiah 55:1-2
After a miraculous meal, the crowds worked very hard to find Jesus.
He gently questioned their motives in order to get them to do the same about themselves.
Your harried, frantic efforts to feed yourselves are futilely flawed, he seems to suggest. Everything in which you invest your time, energy, and resources is already in the process of spoiling.
There is, however, a food that produces eternal satisfaction.
Place your focus there.
Thus, Jesus introduces a lengthy discussion of the bread of life. He started by stimulating their hunger and thirst to hear more.
What does it take for God to make us aware of our profound hunger for more?
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.” For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh. The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands— O prosper the work of our hands!
When We’ve Been There Ten Thousand Years Bright, Shining as the Sun
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. - Psalm 90:4
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. - II Peter 3:8
Where will you be a thousand years from now? Ten thousand? A million? A billion?
We live in time and space and are subjects to the limitations of such. Time is depleted and never regained. Not so in our Father’s house. There will be no wasted moments or years. There will be no waiting, no boredom, and no hurry.
Time will be turned upside down, inside out, and all around. It will be but a faded memory. Eternity, of which we are now at least somewhat ignorant, will be as real as the second hand is today. What is incomprehensible will be comprehended. What is vast will remain vast, but our capacity to experience it will be transformed.
We may not comprehend it, but we don’t have to be ignorant of it either. We can at the very least, know this: There is so much that we do not know now, but someday will know fully even as we are now fully known.
It is about becoming eternally minded, living every day with eternity in our focus, in our hopes, and in our hearts. We are called to live on a different plane with an attitude of amazement.
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…” is how Paul put it in II Corinthians 4:18. It is a matter of choosing our view and sticking with it.
Can you imagine bright shining as the sun for eternity? I can’t either, but I can wait a little longer for it with the wonderment with which a child waits for Christmas. Now is the time to make decisions for eternity, because this is all the time anyone will ever get.
This is all the time that ever will be. We are about the step out of this realm into the timeless expanse of eternal glory. We are about to leap into God’s everlasting day.
Absolutely. Ask away, but here is a warning, "Have you ever known me to give a quick answer?
For instance, "Where do you want that box?"
"Hmmm ... there are multiple shades of meaning to the question and numerous possibilities available with multiplied consequences not to mention the unknown unintended ones. Let us explore ...."
"Yawn, never mind."
But I come to God this morning with such quick questions and quick prayers and He really understands all of these contingencies, possibilities, opportunities, consequences, and unfolding repercussions resonating from one stroke of a tuning fork of choice.
And I want a quick answer to a quick question with a quick fix.
Slow down, Tom! Are you a "laborer together with God (read: partner)" or are you just looking for a handout or a mindless assignment?
God has called us to participate in His kingdom and I would suggest that such participation might require allowing some time on my calendar for a few longer meetings.
Thank God He is open to quick questions and answers because He is so patient with me.
He gave us Psalm 100, but He also gave us Psalm 119.
As I have taught some of my bible study students to say and do when they get a chew-able biblical vitamin:
I do not have a lot of political savvy, but , on occasion, I have an observation, axiom, or thought. I found a couple I have spouted off in previous years on social media and decided to compile them into a blog post.
When did we start using "liberal" and "conservative" as nouns instead of adjectival modifiers? Seems like a denigration of the language.
What if we all considered every issue on its own merits without assigning it a box, category, or ideological label?
Today's "liberal" is tomorrow's conservative, today's conservative, tomorrow's liberal. Put away your meaningless scorecards.
Could we function in a world where people and their views were not labeled in indelible ink?
What if, for a month, all political discussions were in private in groups of adversaries who HAD to solve one problem each? It would be like a political escape room game.
"The world belongs to the enthusiast who keeps his cool." - William McFee
O—Open—Roots churches are not just seeker-sensitive, they are made up of seekers who continue to seek God with open hearts for as long as they live. “...that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith ...” Thus, the open-faced “beholders” of the God’s glory in II Corinthians 3:18 being changed by degrees. This is worship and seeking—awe in the presence of His glory!
T—Transformational—Roots churches are agents for God’s immeasurable power to transform lives, and communities. “...to Him who is able ...” Acts 17:6 describes “... These who have turned the world upside down...”