Sunday, March 20, 2005

Food for Thought

"[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]."
(Phi 3:10-11 AMP)

The Amplified Bible attempts to give the reader shades of meaning in the original text. It can be a bit of a challange to read, but the result is often worthwhile. If you've got a moment, invest some time to read slowly through this passage and digest what Paul is saying - it'll blow you away!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Power of Focus

The Miami Herald writes this about Lawrence Frank, coach of the New Jersey Nets:

Take his speech prior to the Nets' game against the Hawks, who had just added four new players. The diminutive coach came into the locker room with a stool and explained how a lion tamer uses the piece of furniture to distract the beast.

"He was like, 'What does a lion tamer bring into the cage with him?'" center Jason Collins said. "A whip, a chair and a tranquilizer gun. He was like, 'Why the chair?' And he said when you hold up the chair, the lion focuses on the four legs, and that paralyzes the lion because he can't focus."

The lesson: "Don't be the lion," Collins said. "Don't get distracted by the legs of the chair. Don't get distracted by what we did last week or by the next opponent or by what's going to happen next week. Focus on one thing -- tonight's opponent, the Atlanta Hawks. Go out and get the win. Don't be the lion."
No matter how powerful the lion, he is ineffective when not focused. Don't be the lion.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Quiet Time: Friday 3/18/05

Proverbs 16:6: "Unfailing love and faithfulness cover sin; evil is avoided by fear of the LORD." (NLT)

If we consistently demonstrate the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) toward others, they are likely to overlook our faults. Ultimately, Christ removes all of our sins when we make him the Leader of our life. This is an expression of his unfailing love and faithfulness toward us.

The Hebrew word that has been translated as "fear" in this context means to have great respect and reverence and conveys the idea of being in awe. The word translated "LORD" (or Jehovah) is considered so reverent and holy that it is never spoken out loud in the original Hebrew. Put together, we see that mankind turns away from evil (sin) through proper reverence and respect toward God.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Integrity

I just ran across a brief article titled "Do the Right Thing" in Fast Company, a popular business magazine. I've included much of the text below, but you can view the entire text here.

Consider this:

It isn't always easy to do the right thing. Sometimes it can feel like the weight of the world on your shoulders. In these situations, use your conscience as a guide. Don't look for the "easy way out." What looks easy at first is often tough to live with in the long run. Always remember that you have to look at yourself in the mirror each day. And it's a lot easier to do if you're proud of what you see.

Something to try:

1. Start noticing where you don't stand up for what's right (however you define right).
2. Develop some ideas on how you could take action.
3. DON'T TAKE ACTION RIGHT AWAY - chat with others to get some perspective.
4. Choose your course.
5. Take action.

Obviously, from a Christian perspective, the bible is our guide in defining what is right. Scripture shapes our course of action. In fact, we can find a scriptural basis for each of these steps.

What do you think?

Evangelism

Evangelism - the word itself is enough to make most of us cringe. We picture some guy with a bullhorn on a street corner or a disgraced televangelist. But evangelism shouldn’t be either of those things. Evangelism should be just telling our story honestly – warts and all.

Robert Scoble is an evangelist for Microsoft. He tells it as he sees it. When he thinks Microsoft does something right he tells the world and when he disagrees he calls a spade a spade. Since he is employed by Microsoft, one could argue that, to some extent, he disagrees at his own peril. But it doesn’t stop him. He does his best to use wisdom in what he says and how he says it, but he does not water down the message.

Likewise, telling our story should just be a normal part of our Christian walk. Share a new insight from your quiet time. Share your trials. Tell your friends how God gives you strength. Share your victories, defeats, and struggles. Ask for prayer for your needs. When God answers your prayer, tell others. If you are still waiting for an answer, say so. Pray for the needs of others. Be authentic. This is evangelism at its best.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Quote from Ashley Smith

"I feel like I met him for a reason," Ms Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "If that was for myself not to get killed, or any other police officers not to, or for him to save hundreds of other people in prison, my purpose was fulfilled."

Quote from Ashley Smith who was abducted in Georgia by Brian Nichols, an accused murderer with whom she shared her faith. (as reported in the Guardian Unlimited)

Uncommon Faith

Sometimes, even in the midst of great evil and despair, something miraculous happens.

Ashley Smith is the 26-year old single mother who was held hostage by Brian Nichols, an accused murderer of four people in Georgia. Nichols started his killing spree from a courthouse where he was on trial for rape charges and ended up taking Ashley hostage. You can read the story and see Ashley’s interview at www.ksdk.com. [Note: The first segment of the video is broken and some of the other segments have errors.]

Nichols believed that he was lost, and in fact, that he was "already dead". But over the course of time Nichols came to believe that Ashley was an angel sent from God to help him. Ashley took time to build a relationship with Nichols. She told him about herself, the death of her husband, and how her five-year old daughter needed her. She shared her faith and told him the truth about how the things he had done were wrong. When she asked if she could read her daily devotion from the Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, he agreed.

She turned to chapter 33 and began to read to him. The chapter is titled "How Real Servants Act" and one of the quoted scriptures is "You can tell what they are by what they do." Matthew 7:16 (CEV)

While Ashley had several opportunities to take the gun and kill Nichols, she did not want anyone else to be hurt or killed, not even the man who imprisoned her. I'm not sure I would have had the same strength, but by God’s grace, she did. In the end she got her wish - no one else was hurt or killed, including Nichols.

Chapter 33 of the Purpose Driven Life has six sections:

1) Real servants make themselves available to serve
2) Real servants pay attention to needs
3) Real servants to their best with what they have
4) Real servants do every task with equal dedication
5) Real servants are faithful to their ministry
6) Real servants maintain a low profile

Perhaps without knowing it, Ashley acted out her devotion for the day. She served her captor, even making him breakfast. She paid attention to Nichols' need to talk and met that need by using her God-given gifts to build a relationship with him. She ministered to him faithfully even when he had no reason to expect her to do so. In the end, the fact that she became a servant made all the difference.

One of the last scriptures quoted in the chapter is 1 Corinthians 15:58: "With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort." (MSG)

Ashley’s effort was not wasted. Thank you Ashley, for being a servant of Christ. Thank you for your demonstration of uncommon love and uncommon faith.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Relevance

One of the core values of our church is relevance. It occurs to me that, to some extent, relevance depends on our audience. If you have no interest in God then a discussion about God is irrelevant. If you are searching for spiritual Truth, then conversation about God and the bible is interesting and relevant. And, if you are a committed Christ Follower, then discussion about God is more than just relevant, it is central to your life.

Some things are relevant regardless of where we are in our spiritual journey. For instance, because we are human, we have basic needs. Therefore, a discussion about basic human needs is inherently relevant. In a fast-paced society, time is of the essence and the need to set and maintain priorities is essential, so a discussion about time and priorities is relevant. If you have children, information on parenting skills is relevant. The same can be said about your job, career, education, passions, and any other area of your life.

In the end, it comes down to this: know your audience. The message of God’s love does not change but how we deliver it determines whether or not our audience perceives it as relevant.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Why are some people born with "birth defects"?

This is an issue that came to light during a discussion with some friends.

John 9:1-12 tells the story of a man who was born blind and healed by Jesus. John 9:3 states: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." (NIV)

Does this mean that God caused the man's blindness so that Jesus could heal him? If God caused his blindness, does that mean that God can be cruel? The religious leaders taught that sickness, disease, and death were caused by a person's sin. Is Jesus just pointing out that this man's blindness is not due to sin on the part of the man or his parents? Was the man born blind without God causing his affliction, but God just used the opportunity to show his power through Christ?