strength to serve, not to stunt

25 03 2008

// becoming… a servant \\

“those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. strength is for service, not status. each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “how can i help?” – romans 15:1-2 (the message)

of course paul was writing this to the christians in rome, and the focus was a matter of how people position themselves as it pertains to their faith. but the principle is much broader and covers a lot of ground, even today.

i never cease to be amazed at those who are looking for ways to use their influence, ability or position to get something for themselves or to build their “little kingdom”. that is not a kingdom principle.

we live in a “look out for #1” and “don’t stop, get it, get it” culture that tells us we should “get ours” at any cost. everybody is trying to be “stuntin’ like they daddy”, but I would ask… “for what!?!?” this hedonistic and self-centered world view is diametrically contrast with how the word tells us we are to live. we are not empowered for the sake of being empowered or being powerful. we are empowered to turn around and empower someone else. we are not given abilities, influence and position (strength) to be able to stand and say “look how strong and influential i am.” rather, those things are given as tools to serve those around you. i pray regularly that i continue to keep a hold on this concept and stay in a place of service, no matter where the Lord takes me in life.

are we asking ourselves how we can use what we have been entrusted with to turn around and serve those around us? so yeah… you have it. but what are you doing with it?

bygones, regrets and forgiveness

23 03 2008

// becoming… a better reflection \\

“a friend loves at all times and is born, as is a brother, for adversity” – proverbs 17:17 (amplified version)

i have been thinking lately about my friends. of course the ones that immediately come to mind are those who i am building great new relationships with, am in close relationship with and with whom i am walking through this life, trying to figure it out together. but as of late, i have really had a desire to reach out and reconnect with friends from my past, those who i spent time with throughout earlier seasons of my life but have lost contact with. both myspace and facebook have proven to be excellent tools for this sort of thing.

however, there are a few past friendships that have been on my heart lately that, for one reason or another, took a different turn. this is where my focus seems to be.

there is one situation in particular that is a bit dificult as i recall it now. about 7 years ago a very close friend shared some things with me and to put it mildly, my reaction was not good. in fact, it was very poor. this all happened at a time in my life when i had a lot of religion rooted in my heart. as a result, even though i was a good-natured person, my reaction at the time was nothing close to representing Christ’s heart at all. as i sifted through a bunch of old emails tonight, i came across some of our correspondence from that time and it brought to my mind how that situation was left hanging.

i have had many experiences, relationships and growth opportunities since this occurred. i believe i am a very different person than i was then and were the same scenario to go down today, i would like to believe that i would be able to exercise much more patience, love and kindness than i did back then.

allow me to be transparent here and share with you an excerpt from an email that i sent to this person this evening:

“…I know that the last time we spoke the air was very muddy. I know there were a lot of emotions at play at the time, and I know that I did not handle it well at all. For my contribution to the situation, I truly hope you accept my apology…”

the bible says that a friend loves at all times and it born for adversity. if this is the case, i was anything but a friend in this instance. i would say this is very different from the person i am and friend that i strive to be today. today, i go to great lengths to reach out and be there for my friends, no matter what. as i am in a season of many new relationships and friendships, tonight i am reminded of those that i wasn’t the best at stewarding. many times we see the error of our ways or where we missed the mark and ask God for forgiveness, but don’t always go back to the person we wronged and ask for their forgiveness, especially when years and many miles now separate us. how can we expect God to continue to bless us to move forward when we have left painful landmarks in our wake? and why does it seem easier to forgive rather than ask for forgiveness?

i don’t share all of this with you to pat myself on the back or get a jewel in my crown, but rather to be very honest and say that i, just like most of you reading this, have come a long way and am still pressing toward the mark every single day. part of the whole “becoming…” concept is growing and becoming better in every area of life, and tonight i am seeking to become a better reflection of Christ in my relationships. this is not the easiest blog to write, but i felt like i was supposed to write it. and maybe it’s not just about me. it usually isn’t.

that’s my king

21 03 2008

// becoming… the righteousness of God \\
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (The Message translation)

14-15 Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

21 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

recognizing God in the battle

19 03 2008

// becoming… victorious \\

i want to share some thoughts and points from a message I heard about 2 years ago about “recognizing God in the battle”. it was relevant then… it is relevant now… and maybe this is not just for me…

it is important to realize the spiritual dynamic to “winning” and recognize and discern God in the middle of my situation. God does not always show up the same way or in the same form, so i can’t be so dedicated to a past experience that i miss
him altogether as i face new situations and seasons. we have to be careful that we don’t allow our past perspectives to shape our present situations.

in exodus 17:8-12, joshua was leading the battle against the amalekites in the valley, and while he was fighting, moses was on the mountain. as long as moses’ hands were raised, joshua would prevail, and when he dropped his hands, the enemy would prevail against joshua. today, we know this because we have the benefit of the perspective from the mountain. but joshua wasn’t on the mountain and didn’t know this. he was fighting in his strength and did not realize that that shift of the battle was because of moses on the mountain.

it is vital to realize that the things that we are up against are not about us. it’s not about me getting the victory. this is not me using God to get my victory, but rather it is God using me to get his victory. when we fully grasp this, we can operate from a position of strength and not one of strain. we spend so much time, energy and resources trying to do things in our own strength, trying to fight our battle. 2 chronicles 20:15 tells us that the battle is not ours, but it belongs to the Lord. so, why do we get so wrapped up in trying to fight our battle? the enemy is his. the battle is his. the victory is his. the enemies of God will attack us and try to cause us to believe that it is our fight, thus producing a self-reliant stance where we don’t turn to God and trust him to conquer the enemy.

when joshua encountered the Lord as he was preparing for his battle with Jericho (joshua 5:13-15), he didn’t know it was the Lord. when he realized it, he fell down and worshipped. what separates mediocrity from greatness is the ability to see holy ground on the battlefiled. can I actually start seeing the battle as an opportunity for a fresh encounter with God. can I see my situation as a sanctuary? can i drop to my knees and worship with the arrows flying just above my head? there’s a visual for you.

right when joshua recognized God in his battle situation, he turned it into a sanctuary by worshipping. once he did that, joshua 6 shows how God then gave him the strategy to overtake jericho. it’s very easy to see our situation as our battle, and develop our own strategy, things that we can do in our own strength and understanding. but seeing the battle as God’s frees me to receive his strategy for his victory.


the accuser

19 03 2008

// becoming… what we already are, the righteousness of God \\

my friend jay has has the most amazing post about “the accuser” on his blog. you need to read it, jump in the river of God’s grace, then tell someone else about it and pull them in with you…

HIS purpose in HIS strength

13 03 2008

// becoming… weaker = getting stronger \\

a good friend sent me this excerpt from the Jesus Calling devotional today, and it was right on time for me.

walk by faith, not by sight.
as you take steps of faith, depending on Me, i will show you how much i can do for you.
if you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you.
when i gave you my Spirit, i empowered you to live beyond your natural ability and strength.
that’s why it is so wrong to measure your energy level against the challenges ahead of you.
the issue is not your strength but Mine, which is limitless.
by walking close to Me, you can accomplish My purposes in My strength.

reading that really encouraged me, but also convicted me at the same time. how often do i find myself in situations where i have exhausted myself, expending all my mental and physical energy, only to finally ask for God’s guidance or wisdom? how often is the counsel of God my plan b? or c or d?

also, i am learning more and more how challenges teach us who we really are and show us what we have in us… the good and the not so good. there is nothing that is produced by your expereinces that wasn’t already in you. i was talking to someone about this tonight, saying how that the challenges and obstacles we face don’t put anything new in us… but rather they bring to the surface what was already there. hopefully what is brought to the surface is a good and Godly character trait. but sometimes it is not.

my strength has a limit. His does not.
my wisdom has a limit. His does not.

so why do i have to hit a wall while spinning the wheels of my own devices before i pull on the limitless and abounding strength of God? i’ve heard this saying before, something to the effect of “where i end, He begins,” or “his strength picks up where mine left off”. the church i grew up in sang this song “when you’ve tried everything, and everything has failed, try Jesus…” but why do we have to get to the end of our own rope before we grab on to His? why can’t we rest in the confidence of the absolute sovereignty of God from the beginning?

Father, please forgive me for foolishly allowing myself to believe that i was actually supposed to carry out Your infintie call with my finite abilities and resources. thank you for being faithful to remind me that while You did call me to accomplish Your purpose, You never asked me to do it in my own strength.

my grace is enough; it’s all you need.
my strength comes into its own in your weakness.
once i heard that, i was glad to let it happen. i quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. it was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. i just let Christ take over! and so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
– 2 corinthians 12:9-10 (the message)