Friday, September 23, 2011

By Faith.....

The story is told of John Kavanaugh who went to India to spend some time serving in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. The trip came at a turning point in his life when he was seeking God’s direction for the future. 
It seems that when he met with Mother Teresa, John Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him. “What do you want me to pray for,” she asked. So he uttered the request that was uppermost on his mind, the reason he had traveled so many thousands of miles from home.
“Clarity. Pray that I might have clarity.”

To his surprise, Mother Teresa refused. “I will not do that,” she said. “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and the last thing you must let go of.”

But surely Mother Teresa had found clarity in her many years of serving the poor and dying in Calcutta. She laughed at that suggestion. “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you will trust God.”
Simple, clear and very biblical.
This life is often confusing, and sometimes it is downright bewildering. Just when we think we’ve got it figured out, everything turns upside down. Any “clarity” we have doesn’t seem to last very long. If we have to have “clarity” going forward, we’re all going to be stuck where we are for a long time.

There’s a big difference between faith and clarity.
The old song sings," I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all obsticals in my way." Clarity is what we want.

The old hymn sings, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey. Faith is what we need.
(Hebrews 11:1-3) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.  (NAS95)
(Hebrews 11:6) And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  (NAS95)
 Hebrews 11 doesn’t say “By clarity” Abraham went out, but “by faith” he went out.
(Hebrews 11:8-10)  By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  (NAS95)

Stop clinging to clarity and pray for the grace to start trusting. Following Jesus isn’t always an easy road. Sometimes the way forward is clear; sometimes it isn’t. But each step taken by faith brings us another step closer to God.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting The Most From a Sermon

I found this on another blog and thought it interesting…

Do you ever find yourself . . .
Waking up on Sunday morning and wishing you didn’t have to go to church?
Having a hard time staying awake in church?
Daydreaming during the message, or making a mental “to-do” list while the pastor is preaching?
Picking apart the message or the preacher in your mind or not getting anything out of the sermon?
Wishing your pastor would be more _____?
Forgetting what the message was about before you get home from church?
If we’re not benefitting from the ministry of the Word as it is publicly proclaimed in our local churches, the fault may not lie in the one proclaiming the Word. It may lie in our readiness to hear, receive, and respond to the Word.
How can you prepare your heart to get the most out of your pastor’s preaching?

Before the service
1. Pray for your pastor as he prepares for Sunday. Pray that his schedule would be free from unnecessary distractions. Pray that God will give him understanding into the meaning of the Word. Pray that God will speak to him personally through the Word and that he will respond in humility and obedience. Pray that God will help him to communicate the truth with clarity, freedom, passion, and power.
2. If your pastor is preaching a series from a particular book of the Bible, take time during the week to read ahead and meditate on the text. Ask God to speak to your heart before you even hear the message.
3. Prepare for public worship the night before. Turn off the TV, limit social activities, and instead do things that will cultivate your appetite for God’s Word.
4. Ask God to prepare your heart for the preaching of the Word. Repent of any sin God reveals to you, and get rid of the things that are standing in the way of the Word of God in your life.
5. Ask God to give you a sense of anticipation. Come to church asking God to meet with you. Expect to hear from Him and to be different when you leave.
During the service
1. Participate—you need to be there. You’re not going to get a lot out of church if you don’t go.
2. Get to church early enough to spend a few minutes before the service quietly preparing your heart for worship. Pray for God to move—in the pastor, in your heart, in others’ hearts—and surrender your heart to whatever God will say.
3. Don’t be a spectator. Participate fully in every part of the service. That means when it’s time to sing—sing. When it’s time to pray—pray. When it’s time to give—give.
4. While the sermon is being preached, open your Bible and follow along. If your pastor refers to other references, look them up.
5. Listen attentively to the reading and the preaching of the Word. Try to make eye contact with the pastor. Be a “yes face”! Not only does that help the pastor know people are listening and connecting, but it helps you stay alert and focused.
6. Listen humbly to the preaching of the Word. Ask the Lord to make it fresh. If your heart is humble, your focus won’t be on evaluating the message or how it’s delivered; you will let the message evaluate you.
7. Take notes. Jot down things the Lord speaks to you about; highlight points the Spirit applies to your heart and life. Take those notes home, and work through them later.
8. Don’t make your pastor a prisoner of unrealistic expectations. Your pastor doesn’t have to be mesmerizing, entertaining, dramatic, or tell a lot of stories to be effective. You are blessed if he is a man of God who is humble, loves the Word, and opens the Word and seeks to make its meaning plain. The power is in the truth, not the messenger.
After the service
1. Ask God to give you at least one takeaway from the message—a key concept, phrase, or verse that you can review throughout the week. Jot it down so you don’t forget.
2. While it’s still fresh on your mind (before you leave church, on the way home from church, over the meal following the service, etc.), discuss the message with others. Share how God spoke to you.
3. Be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer (James 1:22). Apply what you heard Sunday morning to real-life, everyday circumstances and situations throughout the week.
Making It Personal
  • Do you highly esteem, respect, and reverence the Word of God (Neh. 8:5; Ps. 138:2)?
  • Do you prepare your heart to hear the Word of God (Ps. 119:18)?
  • Do you find delight in hearing the Word proclaimed?
  • Do you listen attentively when the Word is being read or preached (Neh. 8:3; Ps. 85:8)?
  • Do you expect God to speak to you every time you hear His Word proclaimed?
  • Do you have a teachable spirit (Ps. 25:9)?
  • Do you tremble at the Word of the Lord (Isa. 66:2; Ezra 9:4)?
  • Do you pray for those who proclaim the Word to you, that they might be pure, anointed vessels of God (1 Thess. 5:25)?
  • When the Word is preached, are you conscious that you are not listening to the words of men but to the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13)?
  • Do you have a commitment to obey anything God shows you from His Word (Matt. 7:24; James 1:22–25)?
  • Do you respond in faith, that is, acting on the Word you have heard (Heb. 4:2)?
  • Is your heart good soil that receives the Word and produces fruit (Luke 8:15)?
  • Are you willing to let the message sit in judgment of you rather than you sitting in judgment of the message?
  • Do you take the message personally (James 1:22)? Or are you more focused on how it applies to the people sitting near you?
  • Do you pass on to others what you’ve learned from the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:2)?
  • Do you express appreciation and gratitude for those who minister the Word of God to you (Gal. 6:6; 1 Thess. 5:12-13)?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When You’ve Been Fired

This is a post that I got for Ray Prichard...and thought it would be good to pass along...

When You’ve Been Fired

I talked with a man who was fired from his job in a public and painful way. This is what he said he learned from it.

1. The only answer to bitterness is forgiveness. Not surprisingly, the man felt like the firing had not been handled well. I say “not surprisingly” because firings are rarely handled well, especially from the standpoint of those being fired. Generally there are two choices for how it goes–bad and really bad. My friend’s experience was closer to the latter. “You have to forgive,” he said. But it isn’t easy nor does it come quickly. It takes time to let it all sink in, to work through your feelings, and to come to grips with what has happened. Over time you will either be destroyed by bitterness or you will come to the Christian position and find the grace to forgive as Christ has forgiven you. My friend is currently on this journey, and he is put to the test when people write emails or ask him questions about what happened. But because he knows that forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling, he has chosen to forgive and will be blessed and better for it.

2. Thank God that you were fired. This goes in the category of “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Again, not easy to do. It all comes back to the sovereignty of God. Does you believe that God is at work even in the worst moments of life? Where was God when my friend was fired? He was where he always is, on the throne of the universe, overseeing the course of all events. My friend could not have been fired unless God had willed to permit it. This truth gives us strength to go on when we feel like giving up. Plus you learn who your friends are when you are fired. That’s always a revelation. Because people understand that “these things happen,” they watch to see how you respond. Your response matters more than the facts of the firing. Down the road you discover that almost everyone loses a job or is “replaced” or “terminated” or “dismissed” or “encouraged to move on.” God uses these events to prepare us for new things he has for us and to teach us to lessons we couldn’t learn any other way.

3. Remember that no one likes a whiner. When we have been mistreated, we want to tell others our story. And to some extent, we need to tell the story. But at some point you have to let go of the past. My friend’s advice is, tell the story enough so that you let it sink in. Tell it so that you learn whatever you need to learn. Then stop talking about it and move on. You can’t get better if you constantly relive the painful events of the past. Don’t be a whiner. “After a while, people will get bored with your story."

Good advice on all points because it comes from a bedrock faith in God. I think my friend is fine and will do fine. He has been knocked around, but he is far from being knocked out. We can all take a lesson from what he said. Learn to forgive, thank God for allowing this to happen, and don’t be a whiner.

Many of us know the words of Psalm 37:23, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD." When George Muller of Bristol meditated on that verse, he jotted “and stops” into the margin of his Bible. So he read the passage this way: "The steps and stops of a good man are ordered by the Lord.”

That strikes me as a true application of the text. The same God who orders our steps also orders the “stops” of life. If we believe that, our faith will stay strong even when we have been fired.