Saturday, January 28, 2012

#101 Aggregate Faith

I have had a lot of jobs in my life. Before realizing my call to ministry I basically went from job to job never having a sense of peace that I was doing what I was meant to be doing.

One of those many jobs was working for a concrete and cement block supplier in North Carolina. It was one of the largest suppliers in the area and we stayed very busy nearly year round. I did several jobs while working there. I drove a truck and delivered blocks, worked in the warehouse, and managed the yard overseeing the sales of sand, stone, re-bar, and other items for sale to the general public.

In the middle of the yard was the mixing tower. That tower was where all the concrete was mixed and loaded in the mixer trucks for delivery. The tower was quite tall with a system of conveyors and storage bins stacked into the air. It all had to be high enough for the trucks to drive under to be loaded. Inside the tower where all the concrete ingredients were mixed together was a fascinating site to behold. Part of my job as the yard manager was to go inside the tower from time to time and help unclog storage bins or repair various metal parts, pneumatic cylinders, or even minor electrical items.

When everything was working properly the operator in the dispatch office could select how much cement, sand, water, gravel, and fly ash to send to the mixture depending on the customers needs. Once the selection was made by the operator all the ingredients would begin falling into the mixer truck below to create the desired product. More goes into getting a few yards of concrete to a job site than one might think.

When I think back on those days it makes me think of our Christian faith. The more I study the Scriptures the more I realize that our faith is sort of like concrete mix. No, we do no need sand, cement, or gravel to saved, but our faith is like concrete in that we need multiple components to come together to form an aggregate whole.

Think about it for a minute. Christianity is not just saying, "I believe God exists so therefore I am saved." Christianity has multiple beliefs that come together to form a composite. Yes, we have to believe that God exists but we also need prayer to connect with our God. We need to read our Bibles to know His will for our lives. We need to embrace the fact that we are sinners who need a Savior, Jesus, to give us victory over sin and death. We need to receive the Holy Spirit that our sinful character may be overcome and that we might become like Jesus. We need to baptized so we die to our old, sinful lives. We need to share our faith so that others will hear about the Lord and so that our faith stays fresh and alive.

Any so-called Christian who neglects any of these components of our faith is not a whole or complete Christian and their faith will suffer for it. Perhaps even suffer to the point of becoming luke-warm or even losing their faith in God altogether. The beauty of Christianity is that we do not have to do these things on our own. If we will partner with God He will make Himself known in our lives in such a marked way that we will be transformed by His love and grace. When we partner with God He places a desire in our hearts to want to read His word, to want to pray, to want to share our faith. We need to surrender to His will and be willing to move as He leads.

So how is the mixture of your faith today? Do you have all the components that come together to form your aggregate faith or are you lacking a key piece of the Christian walk? If you have it all together then keep moving forward with the Lord and never look back. If you are missing something critical to the survival of your faith, then call out to the Lord and ask for help in becoming complete and then do not fight Him when the Spirit convicts you to make changes. Apart from Jesus we cannot be complete, but with Jesus we can have everything we will ever need.

Dear Father God,
Thank You so much for caring enough about us to take complete care of us. Thank You that when we embrace You that we never lack anything for our spiritual nurturing or advancement. Please forgive us for where we have ignored or failed to see Your hand working in our lives, and please teach us to be complete. Thank You for hearing our prayers for we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, January 20, 2012

#100 High Value Target

Some things in life are worth more than other things. When we consider people we know, again, some are ranked as more important than others. Not because one human life is worth more than another's but because we may be more deeply connected to one person more so than another.

In combat, certain leaders in a given group of Soldiers are considered High Value Targets (HVTs). This status is given for several reasons. The person may be a commander and their capture could compromise sensitive intelligence data. Chaplains are considered HVTs as well because of the blow to morale and spiritual security that capturing or killing them would cause to people of faith.

In the eyes of heaven, in the eyes of our loving, Creator God each one of us are also considered HVTs. Not because we are players in an earthly battle against flesh and blood but rather because of our spiritual battle against principalities and the powers of darkness in high places. In other words, the enemy of our souls, Satan, would like nothing more than to destroy us and everyone around us. But because we have been purchased by the blood of Jesus we have a value that is worth more than anything this world can afford to pay. The high value of our purchase from sin coupled with the fact that Satan has a target on us as the object of his snares and deceptions equates to each one of us who accept Christ being HVTs.

But many of us walk around seemingly unaware of our intrinsic value. We get down on ourselves and the world around us and buy into the lies of this world that would have us to believe that our value is tied to our wealth, academic accomplishments, our network of friends, or any number of other fleeting, temporal qualifiers. The Bible does not teach pop psychology that shifts with the popular tides of opinion and secular influence. It is pop psychology that says we should build a child's self esteem, make them feel good about themselves, and prop them up on the fragile niceties of false appearances.

The Bible teaches that we all have value because Christ died to purchase us from sin and the grave. He did not buy us with silver or gold, but with the blood of Divinity. That purchase gave us not self esteem, but intrinsic self worth. Again, making us very valuable targets of the enemy. I just want to live each day alive in the knowledge that I am special in the eyes of God. I want to live knowing that if He had it to do all over again Jesus would die the death of the cross just to save me. I want to live knowing that I am an HVT. And since there is a target on my back because of the banner over my heart may I live to honor the God who ever lives to protect His own.

Isn't it time that God's children started acting like they know to whom they belong? Isn't it time that we start actively seeking to bring others under the blood stained banner of Christ? Yes, I know it makes them a target too when they accept Jesus, but better to be a target of the enemy than the condemned of God. Because being a target means also that we are heirs to the glory of heaven. Choose today whom you will serve. By God's grace I choose to be a target.

Dear Father in Heaven,
Thank You for choosing us to worship You. Thank You for protecting Your own from the deceptions of the evil one. Thank You for making us valuable. Teach us to live as those who have value. Teach us to live as those who are engaged in spiritual warfare. And ultimately, please teach us to trust You to see us through till the end. We need You, we love You, we adore You. Come soon and take us to be with You. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, January 13, 2012

#99 Symbiosis: Part 2

We have talked about symbiotic relationships before within the context of earthly human relationships and especially within the marital relationship. We discussed how those relationships work best when they are built around a model where all parties seek to benefit others instead of themselves. Only the Lord can help us break away from selfishness and greed to the point where we are givers and not just takers within our relationships.

Today I want to challenge you to consider that we can also have a symbiotic relationship with our Lord God. There is no question that when we live a life connected to our wonderful Creator God that we reap benefits. No, the benefit package, so to speak, should not be the motivation for becoming a Christian, but there are benefits none the less. Not the least among these so-called benefits is the peace that comes from being connected to God. Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit that become manifest in our lives when we are filled with the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23.

Those fruits are love, joy, peace, longsuffering or patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Friends, these are very godly benefits of living a Spirit-filled life, but they also benefit everyone around us thereby making them symbiotic when applied through our relationships.

But not only does being filled with the Spirit of God bless us and those around us it blesses God too. "How" you may ask? We see several instances in the Bible where the people are God are called upon to bless the LORD their God. Nehemiah 9:5, Psalm 66:8, Psalm 68:26, Psalm 104:1, Psalm 145:1, and James 3:9 all speak of us blessing God. Yes, these are references that tell us to bless God but we are still missing the how, right? So how do we bless God?

First we have to ask, "What is the first thing that God wants from those He created?" The simple answer is worship. God desires our worship, our love, our devotion, reverence, and partnership in spreading the good news of Christ. Paul encouraged us to glorify God in all that we do (1 Cor. 10:31). When we respond to this call to glorify God, when we surrender our lives and worship the Lord as He has asked us to do then we bring a blessing to the heart of God. And when we bless the heart of God we become participants in a symbiotic relationship with our God. No, God does need us to be complete, but He sure loves it when His children come home.

It is my hope that we will live in such a way that we seek to bless God. Not only will it fill us with love and purpose but it will certainly put a smile on the face of our Lord. May we all purpose to be a blessing to the world around us and especially to our blessed Lord.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for seeking us. Thank You for teaching us how to be connected to You and for filling us with the Spirit so we can bless You and the world around us. Please give us the courage to live for You daily as You prepare us for eternity. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

#98 Symbiosis: Part 1

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

Relationships are the building blocks of our society. We have relationships with our family, friends, co-workers, governmental entities, and many others. Within all of our relationships we either function well or dysfunctionally to some degree or another. Sadly, it seems that much of our society lives in the realm of dysfunction more so these days.

Regarding families, traditional relationships within families where both parents are present to nurture and guide their children are being attacked by the enemy of our souls: Satan. He wants nothing more than to destroy the bonds between a husband and wife so the entire family unit suffers. His handiwork is proudly displayed in the divorce statistics of our society and world.

Television and movies glorify premarital and extramarital sex to the point that those who seek for or practice monogamous sexual relationships within a committed marital relationship as defined between one man and one woman are the odd ones that are out of touch with what's hip and en vogue. "Till death do us part" has in many circles become simply a token phrase that is translated to mean "Till I find something better or till I get tired of you".

The sad part is that this twisted, non-Biblical world view has been adopted by many Christians. So much so that divorce is just as common within the church as it is without. How have we let this happen? When did we as a society lose site of the special bond that God intended for us to experience in the sacred institution of marriage? How do we fight against this trend without alienating ourselves from the very ones that Christ wants us to reach for Him?

The answer is not simple or easy and I recognize that divorce is not always our choice. Many times it is forced upon us as an unwilling participant or for Biblical grounds of infidelity (Matt 19:9). But just because the answer is not simple or easy does not mean that we should not seek to know it and live it.

At least part of the answer is that each one of us has to recognize that God did not grant us a free license to use our bodies as a fun house. Sex is a beautiful gift from God but one that is only to be experienced within the confines of a committed marital relationship. And when we give our lives to Christ our body ceases to belong to us (1 Cor 6:19, 20). Christ purchased us from death and sin when He died to save us. So if we belong to Him then He has the right to direct us in how we use our bodies; sexually or otherwise.

Another part of the answer comes in the idea that God intended marriage to last until we go to heaven. In other words we should approach marriage with the idea that divorce is not an option. When we go into marriage with this thought it forces us to work through the trials and challenges to find mutually beneficial solutions that both sides can live with. Unless pride, selfishness, and greed get in the way God can always lead us to solutions that will allow our marriages to become stronger rather than weaker. This can even happen after infidelity.

And yet another portion of the answer has to come in the area of forgiveness. We are all human and therefore we will all make mistakes from time to time. That's a given. But the challenge comes in how we deal with our mistakes and those of others. Are we willing to admit when we're wrong? Are we willing to grant forgiveness to others when they admit their wrong doing and ask for forgiveness? If we keep the fact in mind that God has or is willing to forgive us for any and every sin we have or will commit then there should never be a time that we are not willing to grant forgiveness to someone else. To not forgive others when we have received forgiveness is to mock the forgiveness God has granted to us, and puts us in a place where we hold a different standard for forgiveness than God has.

In closing, I believe what we need more of is a healthy symbiosis within our marriages and even our friendships. Symbiosis is basically a cooperative relationship that is mutually beneficial to the parties involved. Symbiosis implies balance where one part is not taking more than they are giving. It is my prayer that we will not allow Satan to destroy the sacred institution of marriage any more than he already has. I pray that we will deepen our relationship with the Lord more and lean on Him and His holy word to know how to be givers and forgivers in our relationships. May the Lord teach us to not be selfish, greedy, or lustful, but rather content and generous. By God's grace may we cherish our spouses and the relationships that God has blessed us with.

Dear Lord,
Thank You for creating us for relationships both with You and others. Please forgive us where we have not given our best to each relationship and please teach us to live Your principles and not the loose morals of this evil world. May the Holy Spirit guide us each day is my prayer in Jesus' name, Amen.