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Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

Always be ready.

I was not raised evangelical.  In fact the denomination I was raised in, Episcopal, was referred to as the “Frozen Chosen” by evangelist Billy Sunday.  Talking about faith, particularly speaking from the heart, speaking with passion, was NOT something I witnessed growing up.  That is not a value statement or a condemnation.  In fact I knew many Episcopalians who practiced the faith in very real, very devout ways.  It was just not a normal experience for people in the church I grew up in to speak about the faith… unless they were paid clergy.  And even then it was primarily a cerebral exercise more than a discussion that engaged the emotions.

So when I came to faith at age 23… in an Episcopal retreat called Cursillo, I was on fire for God, overwhelmed by a love and passion for Jesus and others, yet without a natural outlet to tell my story.  I can distinctly remember my Dad laughing good-naturedly and telling me, “Yeah, some people think that new Christians need to be locked up for a few months right after conversion so they don’t scare everybody to death.”  I believe I took that in the right way… that I needed to be sensitive to where others were and approach them in the right manner.  I also realized that was a very “Episcopal” thing to say.

Thirty two years later I’ve made plenty of mistakes both being too bold and being too timid in sharing my faith.  But along the way I’ve learned a few things that I think the Father would have me share with you.  As always we cannot go wrong with looking at Jesus, modeling what He did, and seeking to follow the Holy Spirit in speaking and doing as He leads.

  1. Beginning our day in intimacy with the Father sets the stage for our engagement with others.  When we start with time alone speaking with God, reading the Word, and allowing His Spirit to brood over us and work within us, we are spiritually prepared for the meetings with others we will have through the day.
  2. Keeping an open heart to the Holy Spirit will make us sensitive to the needs of others.  Today I was in a trade show for the consulting firm I work for.  I gave a presentation this morning (which for all intents and purposes was my main reason for being here) and then I manned the booth to meet potential customers as they walked through the exhibits.  On multiple occasions today as I stood at my booth awaiting someone to walk up the Holy Spirit impressed upon me to pray for divine conversations.  I did and sure enough, they happened.  (That is the real reason I was here!)
  3. Divine conversations have a two critical components – a listener who is receptive and a story-teller who is sensitive to the Lord’s leading.  I talked business about 85 – 90% of the day, but the 10 – 15% where the Holy Spirit opened the door were amazing.  This is an area where I have often erred either being too strong or too soft in my delivery, but today it consistently flowed.
  4. Our job is not to convert people.  Our role is to be obedient to the Lord’s leading and faithfully share from the Word in us and the life experiences He has brought us through.  It is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring people to conversion.  Yes, there will be times when we are there at the point someone makes a decision to give their life to Christ.  This is a glorious experience and true blessing to be a part of, however we do not need to take too much responsibility.  Our responsibility is simply to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
  5. This life is a prelude to something greater, something more real.  It is the door through which we pass to get to our ultimate home.  This life is not inconsequential, but it is also not our ultimate destiny.  The relationships we have here are the one thing that appears to have a link on through to eternity.  That belief helps me to hold onto the things of this life lightly, the relationships in this life more firmly, and the faith in Jesus most tightly.

It was a God-day and a great day.  I was able to hear other people’s stories, engage them where they were, and in a number of instances share God’s love through telling God-stories.  I sit here with a light and joyful spirit thinking of how good God is to allow us to participate with Him in His work to reach people wherever they are and draw them closer to Himself.  He is soooo good!

I pray you have a day full of divine conversations.  Be blessed and be a blessing!

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I love my wife.  I realized I loved her fairly early in our relationship and it was with great joy that she said yes to my marriage proposal after we had been dating about 5 months.  During this time I have never not loved Lisa.  I wish I could say that she has always felt loved, but I know that at times she has not.  This realization has been one arrived at through a rather drawn-out season of learning.  The Lord kept bringing me back to Ephesians 5:25 until I finally learned and acted upon His prompting to take love to another level.  Here is my post with my friend as we walk through Proverbs.  This is from Friday’s reading in chapter 5.

Proverbs 5:18.  “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
Lisa and I have been married for over 30 years.  Any couple that has been together for any time has had their share of difficulties.  We have had ours although in God’s grace, none have been too serious.  Probably our most persistent issue has been that we get too busy with our jobs, activities, and doing things for the kids that we forget to take time to nurture our marriage.  Make no mistake – the most important earthly relationship a married person has is the one with their spouse.
I went through a season beginning about 7 years ago that the message the Lord laid on my heart was Ephesians 5:25.  “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her…”   This went on for about 4 years.  During that time I repeatedly tried to “Band-Aid” an acceptable response.  I would take this prompting to mean that I needed to “do more” for Lisa, which I would do for a while, but I would soon drift back into busy-ness.  I would again notice the lack of passion and depth in our marriage and I would seek the Lord and He would point to the same verse.  Now I have sought to walk closely with the Lord for 32 years.  I know Him to be real.  He has actively guided me.  For the majority of the time prior to this, there were things He would bring to light that needed changing in me, sometimes it might take me a little while to get it right, but usually in short order He had brought about the change in me He desired and the next lesson would begin.  So for a single lesson to continue for 4 years was different and very humbling.  God had to eventually break me in a very painful and powerful manner.  You can read about it in depth in this blog in the post entitled “Broken Legs, Mended Hearts”.
Here are a few truths that I learned from that season that tie into this verse in Proverbs.
1) Our relationship with our wife is the best barometer of our relationship with God.  If we can’t get the relationship right with the most important human being who we can see, we will struggle with the relationship with the most important One who we happen to be unable to see yet.
2)  God knows the deep things that must be rooted out in our lives.  He loves us enough that He will do the work that needs to be done to get them out.
3)  The first step is not adding more “spiritual” things to our to-do list.  The first step is dying to self and allowing God to replace our wishes, wants, and desires with His desires.
There is an amazing thing that has happened since I reached a deeper place of dying to self and better serving Lisa.  God immediately put a fresh love for Lisa in my heart.  Before anything actually changed in our relationship, God was already making changes inside of me that would become the fertile ground that grew a renewed and deeper love between us.  In a practical way, my love began expressing itself in her love language again which is Quality Time.  My love language is Acts of Service which isn’t on Lisa’s love language radar at all, so all my work to try and show her love in my love language missed the mark.  As God worked in my heart I didn’t have to consciously think about how to show her love.  Since we have been through the Love Language training and recognize the truths of the Five Love Languages my brokenness now sought to effectively demonstrate itself to her.  However since our love had gotten stale and we both were so busy, we had forgotten the need to be intentional in this area.  Once I started truly dying to what I wanted, I became focused upon pleasing Lisa and our relationship has grown and blossomed.  It has been really great the past three years or so.
Oh, I almost forgot.  The fact that I was dying to my desires did not mean that my deepest desires now were totally neglected.  The good ones, the godly ones, the best ones now became the desire of my wife.  God began prompting Lisa to meet my needs at a much deeper level too.
There is a lot of godly wisdom in the verses of Proverbs 5, particularly about avoiding the temptations of the wayward or adulterous woman.  However I have found that if I focus upon doing the BEST thing, I don’t have to spend nearly as much time and effort on not doing all the wrong things.  Dying to self and loving your spouse in practical ways are two sides of the same coin.  Here’s to doing the BEST thing.
I hope you enjoy today’s reading.  Drop me a comment or ask a question if you would get a chance.  I’d love to interact with some of my readers.
Be blessed and be a blessing to someone today.

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I am convinced that every one of us was created on purpose for a purpose.  You are neither an accident nor is it an accident that you are where you are in life.  You may have made some decisions in your life that have gotten you to a place that you never expected or didn’t plan for, but take heart, God has not abandoned you.  One aspect of every person’s purpose is to help meet the needs of people God puts in our path.  We were created to be inter-connected.  We are not meant to do life alone.  That is in the intimate friends, family and spouse sense, but also in the larger community of faith, geographical region, and as part of all people God has created.

In May of 2008 my brother Steve, my daughter Christin, and I traveled to Honduras for a week to work with Fernando Acosta in a church plant in Playa Grande.  We held a day camp for the young people with a soccer tournament, daily lessons, games, and singing each day.  We wrapped up with a celebration including pinatas and a party on the final day.  Over the next few days I want to share some of the impressions from that trip.

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One of the indelible impressions was the ability of our new friends and faith family to live above their circumstances.

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In the pictures you will see mostly smiling, happy faces.  Our event was a wonderful diversion for children and adults alike.  Some of the pictures will show the living conditions.  Mud huts are common.  Cinder block is perhaps the majority along the roads where we traveled.  Many homes are only one room.  There was no running water.  Water is delivered into the family pila once every third day.  We lost electricity almost every day for periods of 30 minutes – 2 or 3 hours.  Homes were not closed up and there was no air conditioning.  When we were there in May the temperature was 94 – 96 degrees every day with 85 – 90% humidity.  For us used to air conditioning the sleeping was probably the most challenging.

The home we stayed in was one of the nicer homes in the area.  The family who owned the home were working in the US.  They bought the home with money they made in the US so they would have a place to live if they had to leave the US.

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It had a real kitchen with essential appliances.  It had a large living room area where we held the mid-week service for about 50 – 60 people.  We were packed in and it was stuffy and really hot, but the Lord blessed the time in a wonderful way as 6 young people chose to follow Christ that night.

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Another home we visited simply had a fire pit inside the home for cooking.  It struck me that the arduous task of cooking a meal for this mother was essentially the same a campfire cooking that I have done a number of times.  She does it every day, multiple times every day.  Additionally in her one room home she raises her four children without a husband.

Despite the joy that we got to see, the life of the people in Playa Grande is a very hard life.  Unemployment is 25% or higher.  Despair and hopelessness are two of the greatest struggles.

IMG_8124IMG_5512There is one private doctor who lives several miles from Playa Grande, but very few of the villagers could take advantage of him.  Medical care is government provided, but that means you have to arrange transportation to the capital of Tegucigalpa which for us was a 5 hour trip in and a 6 hour trip back.  The pattern for most young people is some schooling until they are 9, 10, or 11 years old and then it is off to try and find some sort of work even if it is simply subsistence farming of the family vegetable garden and few animals.

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I have been around poor living conditions here in the US, but I have to say the scope of poverty does not compare.  In the US people have options that simply do not exist in Playa Grande.  That despair and hopelessness are the two biggest challenges is not in the least surprising.  It drives me to be incredibly thankful for what we have, but it also makes me desire to help.

Playa Grande is a real place God has used to touch my heart.  However there are Playa Grande’s everywhere.  Each one of us has opportunities all around us where we can reach out and help.  You do not have to go a thousand miles away to meet needs.  They exist in your own community, perhaps within your family, surely through your church there are real needs to be met.  I encourage you to join me in seeking areas where the unique gifts and talents that you and I possess can be put to use for the good of others.IMG_8133

Have a blessed day and ask the Lord to make you a blessing to others today.

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The phrase Noblesse Oblige has been running through my mind for quite some time now. It struck me as I listened to a commentary yesterday about a study coming out of UC Berkley that purported that rich persons are more unethical than poor people.  While there were some obvious flaws and a degree of bias in the study, it does effectively raise the question of the personal responsibility we each have.

I looked up the term Noblesse Oblige in Wikipedia and I found that it is of French origin and it simply means that with nobility comes responsibility. I was raised to believe that we have an obligation to do for others less fortunate than ourselves. In the home where I was raised this did not manifest itself as a political ideology but rather a personal responsibility. It was to be carried out at least partly in thankful response to God’s provision for us.

In Hebrews the people of God are called a royal priesthood and a holy nation.  As a child of God we are adopted into God’s family.  Children of kings are princes and princesses.  Since God is the King of kings we His children are princes and princesses of the most high king.  We are royalty.  But this is not an honor to be crowed about, but rather a responsibility to be lived out.  Rather than a status to become puffed up and proud about this should provoke a response of humility and gratitude.  All the resources of heaven are at the disposal of God’s children, but they are not there solely for our benefit and consumption, but so that we can further God’s kingdom.  We are blessed to be a blessing.

I think a lot about the legacy I am leaving my children.  My parents were able to provide more for my siblings and me than their parents provided for them.  There is no condemnation of my grandparents in this but the simple recognition that coming out of the depression my grandparents had little, so their opportunity to provide was diminished.  My parents trained us that we in turn were to provide appropriately for our children when our time came.  But that provision carried within it the clear mandate of responsibility to others beyond our children.

While I am fortunate that I can look to the pattern my parents set not everyone has the good fortune to have the role models in the home that I had.  However we all do have Jesus, the penultimate role model that we can look to.  Jesus was the Son of God and yet He condescended to live among us as one of us.  His time here on earth was a model of obedience to His father and His Father.  And the expression of that obedience was to always do the Father’s will in serving, helping, teaching, and ministering to others.  A quick scan through the gospels reveals that Jesus helped rich and poor alike.  All social classes were drawn to Him.

Even though I would postulate that the religious and political elite of the day were generally antagonistic toward Him, Jesus still reached out and ministered to those who would listen.  Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were members of the Sanhedrin who could easily have gone with their religious leaders, but they followed Jesus instead.  And even in His final hours Jesus was not hostile to the leaders who were condemning Him.  He spoke the truth and then offered up His life as a sacrifice for them as well as for the admiring followers.

The practical application of Noblesse Oblige falls to us today.  As children of the King we are to further God’s work of redemption in this fallen world.  Kindness, courtesy, and treating others with respect are the basic fundamentals we must exhibit.  Noblesse Oblige is as simple as listening to God’s voice and responding when He gives us a task or reveals a need that we can address.  Serving others like Jesus did is a wonderful privilege and holy obligation that is ours as believers.

Be blessed in your service to our Father and unto those He puts in your path today.

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