Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not for Self

I recently received my quarterly copy of PBU Today from Philadelphia Biblical University.  The focus of this current publication revolved around the graduating class of 2011 and the call for them to leave the University and make a difference in this world for God's Glory.

The president, Dr. Todd Williams, wrote an article entitled "Not for Self" as noted in my title above that tied so well into all that has been going through my head as of late.  Here are a few thoughts from the article that have struck a nerve and are worth chewing on I believe;

"A vision of the true God leads to a belief that His purposes and glory are the things for which we live and work." I would guess that most Christ followers would nod their heads in agreement with this statement, but what if the rubber were to hit the road and we all had to start evaluating our lives one piece at a time in light of that statement.  Do we live in the house we live in for the glory of God or would something smaller work just as well in order to give away more for His glory?  Do we work to build more into our retirement plans so we can someday cease to work and just enjoy life or do we work to build more into our retirement plans so I can spend the last 20 years of my life on the mission field for His glory?  To truly evaluate our lives based upon the above mentioned statement may have both our lives and our churches looking quite different if we truly believed it.

"The idols of self worship, self gratification and self service must be torn down and destroyed.  They have no place in the Christian life."  There is not much need to say anything here other than OUCH!  We may not set up wooden or golden idols in our backyards that look like a bull but we have bought hook, line and sinker into the worship of self above the one true and living God here in America and fail to acknowledge it is a form of idolatry. 

A few weeks ago in a previous blog post, I quoted the following Scriptures which speaks powerfully to the above statements; "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." (Romans 1:22-23).  The troubling part about this verse in light of today's blog post is that we don't even bother worshipping images of mortal man.  We have moved right to worship of mortal man, namely self.  Sobering and yet I have to believe God will honor those who seek to honor Him.  So let us live for His Glory and not for self.  Counter cultural... YES, but that's OK in light of eternity.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blessing and Purpose: A Disconnect?

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am currently reading Radical by David Platt.  As I work my way through this book, I find myself continuing to digest my February experience in the Central African Republic in order to somehow connect the realities of what I saw with my daily life on a radically different continent.  One concept that came out of the book that is helping revolves around the belief that there is an honest disconnect here in North American between God's blessing (as we define it) and His divine purpose for our lives.

For those of us who have seen and experienced (even if for a very short time) the poverty so many within our world live in, we cannot help but wrestle with the question "Why did God bless me and allow me to live in North America?"  We have fresh water, food to eat, the American dream to pursue etc...  For many of us, we spend a lifetime grappling with this concept because you never go to your refrigerator or step into a hot shower without some tinge of guilt when you think about how the rest of the world lives.

On the flip side, we spend millions within our culture seeking to explore our purpose in life.  Whether we do so with a spiritual perspective or not, so many daily wrestle with why they exist and long for life to have some sort of meaning.  This is as true in the church as it is anywhere else.  People who fill the pews speak often of trying to find meaning and purpose in their current level of education, promotion at work or the latest vacation home purchased for retirement 30 years down the road.  And yet, they grapple as well because this stuff just doesn't lend itself to the longings of our hearts that cry out for divine purpose.

Is it possible that we need to make a connection point with these two concepts?  Is it possible that the simple answer is this; God has blessed us in North America so that we can connect, merge and mesh it together with God's ultimate purposes for our lives.  Is it possible that you have received a fine education to use it somewhere else in the world for God?  Is it possible that God has blessed you financially so that you can have your one home and spend the rest on helping others place some sort of shelter around them?  Is it possible that you have been gifted in an area (finances, medicine, handyman, music, teaching, leading, administrating etc...) for the purpose of not only earning a living here in North America but rather to be used somewhere else in the world.

If we are all about bringing glory to God (which I'm not sure we are in the American church), we must connect the dots between God's blessing and His divine purpose for our lives.  Life is too short and too many people still need to experience the tangible love of Christ around this globe for us to have a disconnect in this area.  Something worth chewing on I believe...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Heart of Compassion?

Over the next few weeks, I have a feeling God is going to continue working within my heart in respects to reaching out to the helpless victims of our world in the name of Jesus Christ.  I have been praying lately that God continue to show me how best to lead a church/ministry leaders in ministries of compassion that will set the captives free.

Here is what transpired yesterday alone that makes me think this...

I was doing some reading in a College magazine and came across Proverbs 21:13 that states; "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."

I have begun reading "Radical" by David Platt which will no doubt challenge my thinking on what it is to radically abandon ourselves to the person, heart and ministry of Jesus Christ.  There is little doubt that Jesus spoke often of the need to care for the poor and I am guessing He really meant it.

I went with my children to renew their passports last evening and we got looking at mine with the markings from my trip to the Central African Republic.    That trip has shaped me for the rest of my journey here on earth and I am hopeful that I will always feel challenged to keep the lessons learned there at the forefront of my mind.

Finally, we received our Compassion magazine in the mail yesterday that was dedicated to showing how that ministry is making a difference in the lives of preganant HIV positive women who until recently have been losing their newborn infants/children at a rapid pace when it ought not be.

All that in one day... Surely the Lord is trying to get my attention on this matter.  The more I think about it, the more I continue to believe that if we as the church are truly going to claim that God has raised us up to be the "Hope of the World" then we better take that call seriously. 

I hope the church will continue to wrestle with finding the balance in both proclaiming the Gospel and showing the realities of it through compassion type ministry.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Trials that do not end...

I have been thinking recently about how I respond to trials that don't seem like they will ever end.  I believe part of our human response that helps us cope is to believe within our hearts that the various trials we face all have a shelf life.  But, some are called to live with something hard for their entire lives and we need in our humanness to know what to do with that.

This has come to bear as of late as I have been thinking often of my experiences in the Central African Republic and listening to others talk about their mission experiences in some of the poorest places on earth.  Many of these people will spend the remainder of their lives on earth living through some of the hardest things any human being will face.  I've also been thinking about Paul who pleaded with God to take away his perpetual "thorn in the flesh" that literally "tormented" (beat him up daily).  This seemed to be something that was with him for a lifetime.

As I think on these things, I am becoming more and more convinced that we must determine early in our journey with God to find our hope securely in Him.  So often our hope is rooted in a belief that the trial will end or that there is some magic bullet to fix it all when in reality God is calling us to find our hope and purpose in Him and Him alone.  It really comes down to a simple decision.  Do I really believe that the ultimate purpose of my life is to bring glory to God which is often done through how I trust and reflect Him back to the world through my response to trials. Paul sets a good example for us and gives us the truth to hold on to in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 

Until we acknowledge that our spiritual sufficiency is in Christ alone, our hope lies in the empty desires that no trial will last too long before we can feel good again.  I believe it is very important that all of us determine early in life how we will respond to trials that may never end this side of glory.  A book that has helped me process this is called "When Life is Hard" by James MacDonald.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Exchanging the Glory of the Immortal God

I have recently been working slowly through the book of Romans as I am desirous to remind myself of all that believers have in Christ Jesus.  I am also desirous to continue growing in my understanding of what it is to live life moment by moment under the control of the Holy Spirit.

As I approached this endeavor a few weeks back, I was tempted to glance through Chapter 1 as I reduced it to the chapter that is written to all of the people outside of Christ who will experience His wrath.  As I began to do this, I was reminded that before being in Christ, I too was an object of God's wrath as Paul notes in Ephesians 2:3.  So, with that in mind, I slowed down and began to work my way through the first chapter willing to see what God wanted to teach me.

Then it hit... Romans 1:23 where Paul is talking about those who knew of God, but willingly chose to move away from Him.  I was convicted with the thought that I am tempted daily to move away from God even as one of His children.  In fact, 1:23 states that many chose the path of foolishness and exchanged the glory and life that comes through a relationship with an immortal God for something else which only and always leads to destruction.  As I read that, I became convinced that there are times where it seems much more enticing to "exchange the glory of our immortal God" for something of this earth.

Isn't it funny how rich we are in Christ and yet so often settle for the cheap substitutes of this world.  So, before you and I as Christ followers judge those who blatantly reject the glory and majesty of our immortal God, let us pause and think about those things of the world we readily pursue and in essence exchange the glory of the immortal God for them.

May the Lord help all of us live and walk in His power and promises as anything else is a cheap substitute!