Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's All About Him!

As a preacher's kid who has literally grown up in churches all over the tri-state area, I have witnessed lots of events, and been exposed to many people. Each person brings with them their own talents, gifts, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and peculiarities. My 42 years in ministry have also provided an opportunity to observe human behavior in all types of settings in church life. My experience has brought me to a sad conclusion. Sometimes, the work of the Lord is derailed, not by Satan's full frontal assault, but by the actions and attitudes of those who profess to be God's family. As the old comic strip character, Pogo, once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us!" Seems as though nothing can effectively douse the work of the Holy Spirit in God's Church, more than the culture of "SELF".
This malady is not exclusive to any age group, gender, race, or particular place of service. It is found in men, women, teenagers, and children. It has reared it's ugly head in pastors, evangelists, deacons, teachers, department heads, committee members, youth workers, trustees, and kitchen crews. Unchecked, the philosophy of SELF, will wreck ministries, ruin lives, and cripple the work of a local church. The philosophy of self often starts with the attitude of "Here's the way I see it" and leads to the ever popular, "My way or the highway" mentality. It IS human nature to focus on MY opinions, MY dreams, MY hurts, and MY plans, but it is not a scriptural attitude for the true child of God. What does the BIBLE say about our attitude toward self?

Philippians 2:2-8 says "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (NASB) This passage speaks of Jesus' attitudes of selflessness, humility, and obedience. Aren't you thankful that Jesus emptied himself for us?

Aren't you glad He didn't "demand His rights" and push His personal agenda? Don't you rejoice in the fact that he put our interests ahead of His own? Everything Jesus did pointed to His Father. Every fiber of His being was focused on doing the will of the Father. He prayed in the garden, "Not my will but thine be done", and he exhibited that attitude in all that He did. The scriptures remind us that as His disciples, we are to model the same attitude. That's a tall order - but it is possible. After all, Philippians 4:13 reminds us, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Well meaning people sometimes allow this attitude to slip away and become wrapped up in the culture of self. We all need to be reminded of this from time to time. May God bless us in 2013 to remember this simple truth. It's not about you. It's not about me. It's all about Him!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Did They Have It Wrong Back Then?

I haven't had time to write much lately, but that doesn't mean "For What It's Worth" has shut down.  Even though I have not written much of late, I am always challenged by some of the other blogs I try to read from time to time.

I wanted to share this one with you today.  Rather than just posting the link, I decided to just copy and paste it to this blog.  It is from "SBC Voics" and is written by David Miller - and it makes some points that I have considered before.  I hope you will find it interesting, and I pray that all of us as Christians will be challenged by David's message.

Evidently, the Early Church Didn’t Know How to Do Evangelism!

by Dave Miller on January 14, 2013 ·
I’ve been preaching through Acts on Sunday nights and I keep getting more confused as time goes on. You see, I went to seminary and I got me an edumacation and lots o’ book-learning. I’ve been to evangelism conferences and training sessions. And, with all that I have learned about evangelism and cultural engagement, I am left with only one conclusion:
Those poor folks in the church in Jerusalem just didn’t get it.
They did not know the effective evangelism strategies that we have learned today and they didn’t know what we now know about engaging our culture in a positive and tolerant way. We have some tried and true methods and programs that we have learned through the years and they just didn’t get it.
Permit me to mention a few examples.
1) They were so confrontational!
Didn’t they know that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar? Everything we do is supposed to be positive and encouraging; uplifting. We are here to make people feel good about themselves and to show love. We have learned that it is never God’s will that we confront people directly with their sin – that will just drive them away.
Sadly, the poor Apostles just didn’t get the memo on this one. As I studied through Acts, I was horrified at the way those men shared the message of Jesus Christ. They actually looked people in the eye and told them they were guilty sinners who needed to repent.
Peter got things started off wrong on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out in power. He could have gathered everyone to join in a circle and sing, “Kumbaya,” but no! He was rude.
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36-38
Did he expect to build people’s self-esteem by accusing them of crucifying Jesus and calling on them to repent?
And he didn’t learn from his mistakes. When he healed the lame beggar, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Had he just told them that God loved and accepted them exactly as they were, he could have gotten them all to say, “Jesus is cool.” But no, he had to go and get all mean-spirited again.
But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. Acts 3:14-15
How did he expect to win them over calling them murderers? We know better now, don’t we? We’ve learned to present the gospel of salvation with barely a mention of sin – people just won’t listen to that kind of message.
Then, of course, when the Council called Peter on the carpet for his intemperate and offensive words, he did not apologize and become more tolerant. He doubled down on his offense.
Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:10-12
Poor Peter. He just didn’t get it. Because of this, the early church was known more for what it was against than for what it was for!
2) When the culture got offended, they didn’t back off.
One of the things we have learned in American Christianity is that if our culture is offended or angry at us, we must be doing something wrong. It’s got to be our fault. If people don’t like what we are doing, we should do something different. After all, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, right?
But Peter and the Apostles just never figured this out. The Council politely asked them to stop preaching about Jesus in Acts 4:18 and the Christians just totally ignored that request. The next time, in Acts 5, the Council had to give the Apostles a little beating to remind them that they were offending people with their message about sin and about Jesus, but still the disciples of Christ would not listen.
It all came to an unfortunate head when Stephen preached a sermon that was way out of line, calling the religious leaders all kinds of offensive names. They finally felt the need to bounce large rocks off his head until he stopped his preaching. It didn’t have to happen, if he had just been more positive, more encouraging and more tolerant of others.
They must have been insane because no matter how often they were asked to stop it, they just kept preaching that salvation was found only through repenting and trusting in Jesus Christ.
3) They REJOICED when they suffered!
We have learned that if we are living right as Christians, God will make everything work out easy for you and you will live a happy, contented life. Isn’t that what Romans 8:28 says? Everything will work out right and you will get everything you want, if you just please God with your life. God’s greatest desire, we have learned, is to make us happy and to help us to fulfill our goals and find contentment, happiness and success in life.
But the Apostles did not understand this truth. In fact, it is possible that there was some form of mental illness rampant in the early church, a group delusion or something. When the Council threatened them and beat them, they did not regroup and figure out a new, non-offensive, more tolerant way to engage their community.
They rejoiced! Yep, that is what I said. Look at Acts 5:41-42.
Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
They were rejoicing in their suffering as if it were some sort of badge of honor to suffer for Jesus. They didn’t change their ways, even though people were getting offended. They just kept preaching that Jesus was the only hope of salvation for the entire world, even though it had been made clear that their strategy was not being well received among the Jewish leaders.
I just wish I could travel back in time and take some of the boxes of curriculum I’ve got laying around the church with me. How different the Bible story would be if we could just have given some of our modern methods to those poor souls who just didn’t know what we know today.
Of course, it’s so odd. In spite of all their failings, they still had some success.
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:41
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:47
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. Acts 4:4
And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, Acts 5:14
I don’t know, it must have been a fluke. Think how much better the book of Acts could have been if those fellas had just had some of our knowledge and insight into strategies and methods.
If only they had known what we know now….

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year's Prayer

Dear Father in Heaven, the Psalmist wrote, "Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."  Jeremiah said, " Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him."

I am so thankful for those truths. They have been a comfort to me during this past year.  Don't get me wrong, Lord.  You have blessed us in many ways over the past year, but you know there have also been many challenges that we have faced, as a family, and as individuals.

Our hearts are broken, Father, over our parents who are suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, and who are slowly slipping away from us daily by degrees.  I thank you, Lord, for giving Dad the strength and desire to care for Mom as well as he does.  I pray for physical and emotional strength for him, as he is also fading with the frailties of old age.

The terrible injustice that has been done to my father in law by a member of his family is reprehensible. Our natural reaction is one of desiring retribution, but Father, we know it is not our place to bring vengeance - for that is your responsibility and within your power.  Even in the terrible circumstances, you have given us the blessing of caring for him in our home.  Who would have thought something this terrible could bring the other members of the family closer together in the resolve to seek their father's comfort and protection in his old age.

You have chosen to keep the malignancy in my body dormant for another year, and I give you thanks for that , and all the credit and honor.

You have given Linda and I forty three Christmases and New Year's Days together. You gave us strength and wisdom for the time of trials this past year, and also gave us seasons of refreshing with a needed vacation, and other quality time with our sons, daughters in law, and the five precious grandsons who are spread out 1,000 miles apart.

Thank you for our friends, both near and far.  Lord, I even thank you for social media.  Not only is it a wonderful way to communicate with our friends, but it has brought the blessing of even reconnecting with friends from High School and College days, whom I haven't seen in decades.  It's also a blessing that can be used in ministry.

You have provided for our families in a wonderful way.  We may not have had all that we would like to have had, but you have met our needs, physically, financially and spiritually.

You have given us the blessing of seeing both of our sons involved in ministry.

You have blessed our church...  Strengthened our fellowship... and given us great opportunity for missions, at home, in North America, and around the world.  We are thankful for your blessings in our children and youth ministries, and for the people who have come to know you as their Savior and Lord.  Thank you for the growth of others in our fellowship, who are stepping out into the deeper water of service to you.

There is still so much that we ask you for in the coming year, our Father, because the needs are those that only you can meet.

I pray for your continued blessing on our church.  We are calling our congregation to fervent prayer - especially during the first month of this new year.  We will pray for our lost loved ones.  We will pray for our church and it's mission.  We will pray for our missionaries at home and abroad.  We will pray for our Seminaries and Bible Colleges where you are raising up and equipping future leaders.

I pray today for my fellow pastors and co-laborers for you.  As Your undershepherds, help us be reminded that the sheep are Yours!  Our responsibilities are to feed them, lead them, protect and provide.  Remind us that they need to be touched, groomed, and corrected in love, until the Chief Shepherd appears to take us all home.

Help us look at one another as members of the body - YOUR BODY.  Remind us this year that each of us have our individual gifts, talents and abilities, and each of us have an important place of service in the body of Christ. Give us a boldness to work and witness for you, and as we look at our brothers and sisters in Christ , help us to see them, not through our flawed human eyes, but through Your eyes of Grace and Love.

I pray today for our men and women in the military service, and those who serve through the State Department and other government jobs, throughout the world.  I pray for our policemen and women, our fire fighters, EMT's, and other first responders as well.  Recent events remind us that all of them are in harm's way, and only You can provide a true hedge of protection around them.  I pray for their families. Keep them in perfect peace and comfort them while their loved ones are on duty.

Lord I ask for your protection of our school children and their teachers.  I also pray for the young ladies in crisis pregnancies and their unborn children. I also ask your protection and care for the elderly who are in nursing homes and hospitals.   May we have a respect for the sanctity of human life, and realize that You are the life giver.  You are the One who determines the time and date of our deaths.

I pray today for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.  I pray for those who feel so very alone. May your presence be near and real to them today.

We lift up those who are financially distressed. Those who are homeless, hungry, in need of clothing, or in jail. Give us your eyes and let us be your hands to minister to them in Your love and compassion.  Help us share the Good News to ALL who need to hear it.

Help us to pray for our elected leaders on the local, state, and national level.  We often criticize them, and some hold to world views that are far removed from Your revealed will.  Help us remember that we will never change the world through the ballot box or polling booth, but only through your influence and the life changing power of Your Holy Spirit. We would remember that the King's heart is in your hand, and you will steer it where You will.  Our duty is to pray for Your will to be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Lord, we do not know what the future holds for each of us, but we know that You hold the future.  Give us strength and courage for the challenges that we know which lie ahead of us in 2013, but also give us faith and trust to know that You are sufficient to handle the unexpected challenges and trials we will surely face.

I close my prayer today, but claiming again the wonderful words with which I opened it.  Thank you for those encouraging words as we enter this new year.

 "Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."  

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him."

Thank you, Lord for these wonderful promises. Thank you for being our God!