17 Oct 2017
The Signals You Send
“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”
–Edward R. Murrow
Children change everything. Have kids and your every word and behavior come under watchful eye.
If you’re a parent, you remember how your little toddler could parrot your every word—and more often than not, it was the careless word you let slip which the child would seize upon to perfect!
Then there’s the studious adolescent who recognizes from the backseat—and doesn’t hesitate to point out—the speed limit signs say 55, but you’re rolling … a little faster.
The last place you ever want to stand as a parent is on the platform of “do as I say, not as I do.” When you toe this moral precipice, you’re toast.
Perhaps you’ve read the “I’d Rather See A Sermon” poem by Edgar Guest. It observes: “The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear. Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.”
In the gospels we often read statements about Jesus like, “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22). It’s moral authority which is in view here—the people observed consistency between what Jesus said and what he did.
From there, words like these from Jesus carry weight: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Do what I say, because it’s also what I do.
Jesus’ consistent example and his moral authority allowed him to admonish: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Indeed, why would you?
Moral authority allows you to look your children, family members, friends, co-workers, and subordinates in the eye and say: “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
Those words were among the last the apostle Paul shared with the church at Philippi, who had long observed his words and deeds. To be able to say, consider “everything you heard from me and saw me doing” is a precious gift to give.
As Guest’s poetry rightly captured, “For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give, but there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.”
My prayer this week – Gracious Lord, I have seen and experienced the great consistency between your words and actions. May it be so, that others would experience such consistency in me! May the example of my life bless and encourage others!
10 Oct 2017
Who’s Your Timothy?
“If you stop learning and growing today, you stop ministering tomorrow.” –Howard Hendricks
After a distinguished performing career, virtuoso violinist Jascha Heifetz accepted an appointment as professor of music at UCLA. Asked what prompted his change of career, Heifetz replied: “Violin playing is a perishable art. It must be passed on as a personal skill; otherwise it is lost.”
Heifetz speaks of mentoring. And we should listen to the great musician.
The skills and disciplines for living a Christian life aren’t picked up sitting in the audience, watching skilled veterans perform.
We need hands-on instruction to grow. We have a responsibility, as we’re growing in Christ, to provide those hands-on lessons to the next generation of believers.
When you think of mentoring relationships in the Bible, Paul and Timothy come immediately to mind. Paul was a lifestyle mentor to young Timothy.
This sort of mentoring is kind of like parenting—but without parental responsibilities! It involves letting someone share much of your life, walk with you, and observe you in action.
Late in his life Paul wrote to Timothy: “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them” (2 Timothy 3:10, 11).
Timothy knew, because he’d been there. They were life lessons, experienced. Paul gave his young protégé consistent signals and provided him a consistent example. From such a foundation, he could speak into the younger man’s life, and tell him what to expect:
“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:12-15).
Paul’s investment in Timothy made a difference in both of their lives. Paul came to view Timothy as “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2).
He was able to commend him to others: “I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News” (Philippians 2:20-22).
Who in my sphere of influence would be a good candidate for me to mentor? What am I waiting for?
My prayer this week – Heavenly Father, you’ve blessed me so I can be a blessing to others. Who in my life would you have me mentor? Will you give me the courage to live my faith vibrantly before others?
03 Oct 2017
Can I Offer Some Encouragement?
“Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”
–John C. Maxwell
A gentleman opened his door on a Monday morning to get his copy of the newspaper. He was surprised to find a strange little dog sitting on the front porch with the newspaper in its mouth.
Delighted with the unexpected delivery service, the man rewarded the dog with some treats and attention. “You’re a good dog!” he praised.
The next morning the man was shocked to find the same dog sitting on his porch, tail wagging—and this time surrounded by eight newspapers!
A little encouragement sure does go a long way.
A young Jewish man by the name of Joseph in the Bible knew this. He was such an encouragement to others, people started to call him Barnabas, which meant “Son of Encouragement.”
If you want to learn how to encourage others, who better to consider as an example than a man named Encouragement?
Barnabas encouraged others by practicing stewardship: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37).
He saw a need and gave of his possessions to meet it. Giving encourages everyone.
He encouraged others by extending friendship: “When [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9:26-27).
He encouraged Saul by extending him love and friendship when no one else would.
He encouraged others by being a bridge builder: “News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:22-23).
He was an emissary and brought encouragement from the church at Jerusalem to the church at Antioch.
He encouraged others by making introductions: “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:25-26).
He encouraged the believers in Antioch by recognizing Paul’s skills were a great match for their needs, and bringing him to them.
Consider this doxology from the apostle Paul: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement, who encourages us in all our troubles, so that we can encourage those in any trouble with the encouragement we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Who have I encouraged lately?
My prayer this week – Father, will you move my heart to encourage others as you’ve encouraged me? Will you open my eyes to those around me in need of encouragement? Whether through giving, extending friendship, building bridges, or making introductions—will you give me the courage to act?
26 Sep 2017
Called To Share
“The gospel must constantly be forwarded to a new address, because the recipient is repeatedly changing his place of residence.” –Helmut Thielicke
A missionary home on furlough offered to lead a seminar on personal evangelism. Anyone interested could come to the home where the missionary was staying at 7:00 on Sunday evening. At the appointed hour, one young man rang the missionary’s bell.
“I’m here to learn about evangelism,” he announced.
“So you are,” agreed the missionary, slipping on his shoes and grabbing his Bible. Expecting to be invited in, the guest was surprised when the host stepped outside with him.
“Follow me,” he instructed.
The pair made their way down the sidewalk and to a neighbor’s front door. Without saying a word, the missionary knocked.
When the door opened, the missionary began, “Hello. I’m your neighbor. My friend, here, wants to tell you about Jesus Christ.” And then looking to his young protégé he said, “Go ahead!”
When it comes to sharing the gospel—we’re it! We’re Plan A, and there is no Plan B. There’s no substitute if we don’t tell others about Jesus Christ.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Scary, maybe, but the apostle Paul tells us: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Then he goes on to ask a series of very important questions: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14)
Consider Jesus’ words: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
This instruction was among the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before ascending into heaven, and the disciples took it seriously. Thank the Lord they did!
Because the disciples carried out those marching orders, and because others were faithful enough to do so after them, somehow, over the thousands of years and across thousands of miles, that Good News reached you!
God has uniquely placed us where we are—at work, at home, in the community.
He’s given us a unique set of circumstances and surrounded us with a unique crowd of people. He’s done all this so we can be ambassadors of the gospel right where we are. We’re Plan A, remember?
My prayer this week – Gracious Lord, I recognize you’ve placed me in a unique setting and unique circumstances so I might reveal your love to others. Will you open my eyes to opportunities? Will you give me courage to seize them? Will you give me the words to speak and the grace and love to share Jesus with others?
19 Sep 2017
“I have more trouble with D.L. Moody than any other man I know.” –D. L. Moody
Four preachers met at a conference. One of them suggested, “People always come to us and confess their sins and shortcomings. It’s a relief to their souls. Let’s do the same.” The others agreed.
The first preacher admitted, “I’ve watched some movies with less-than-wholesome content.”
The second owned up to enjoying a good cigar some Sunday evenings.
“I like a sip of whiskey every now and again,” the third preacher confessed.
They looked to the fourth preacher, who was reluctant to speak up. “Come on,” they chided, “We’ve shared with you. What’s your vice?”
Finally he answered, “My vice is gossip—and I can’t wait to get out of here!”
While it’s just a silly story, there is a certain promise attached to confessing our sins and shortcomings. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
And in being forgiven, there is real blessing to be experienced. King David knew it firsthand:
“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:1-5).
Our sins require our attention. When David kept silent, he bore the weight of his unconfessed sin. When he spoke up and acknowledged them, he experienced forgiveness and relief—he summed it up as a blessing.
It’s a great practice to make confession a regular part of our prayer life. When there are occasions of sin we recall, own them.
It’s not a bad idea to allow the Lord to reveal sins to us which we may have overlooked.
We can pray, as David did: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23).
My prayer this week – Lord, you’ve searched me and you know me. Will you show me any offense within me? Hear my confession. Cleanse me. Purify me.
12 Sep 2017
What Part Do You Play?
“Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” –Vince Lombardi
Have you ever studied why geese fly as they do? It’s fascinating to read what has been discovered about their flight pattern and their in-flight habits.
Did you know those flying in front rotate their leadership? When the lead goose gets tired, it changes places with one in the wing of the formation, and another flies point.
Did you know by flying as they do, the members of the flock create an upward air current for one another? Each flap of the wings literally creates lift for the bird immediately following, affording the group a much greater flying range than if each goose flew on its own.
Did you know if one goose gets sick or wounded, two fall out of formation with it, follow it down to help and protect it? They stay with the struggling goose until it’s able to fly again.
Did you know the geese in the rear of the formation are the ones who do the honking? Scientists believe it’s their way of announcing they’re following, and that all is well, encouraging those ahead to press on.
Whether it’s rotating, flapping, helping, or honking, each plays a vital role. The flock is in it together.
The apostle Paul speaks of the body of Christ as being in it together: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
He then described the beauty of God’s creating diversity within this one body—a foot can’t say to the hand, “because I’m not a hand, I’m not needed.” The ear can’t say to the eye, “I don’t need you.”
But in fact, there’s interdependence among the many parts. They need one another. If there is a missing or non-functioning part, it’s a handicap.
Paul explains: “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Corinthians 12:18).
He’s orchestrated the body as he sees fit. Your role is as he desires.
Rotating, flapping, helping or honking, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
What parts do you and I play? How are we living up to our roles? The rest of the body depends on us.
My prayer this week – Heavenly Father, thank you for the reminder that you’ve placed me in the body of Christ. Will you help me to see my role more clearly, and to serve more faithfully as a vital part of the whole?