Monday, March 21, 2011

Lone Ranger or Grave Robber?

"Hi-yo Silver, away!!" That was the cry of the Lone Ranger as he would ride off into the sunset. Many of us think that our lot in life is to be that "Lone Ranger," spending life alone. 

Alone defined means separated from others and while we are meant to retreat for short periods of time to be alone, we were never designed to live our life in that way. Religion has even perpetuated this isolationistic (I know that I probably just made that word up!) mindset through teaching that we are to separate ourselves from the world and singing songs like "Me and Jesus got our own thing going." And let's not forget the ever-so-popular "I have decided to follow Jesus" which declares 'Though none go with me... still I will follow."

We were never meant to live our lives alone. As a matter of fact, we will never come to know true freedom or come to full maturity in Christ outside of a loving community of faith. 

In John chapter eleven, we find Jesus hearing about the death of a dear friend named Lazarus. As he arrives in town, he is confronted by the sisters of the dearly departed. He is so moved with compassion for this family that he asks to be taken to the grave site at which point he commands them to take the stone away from the opening. When they do, Jesus speaks to the dead friend telling him to get up and come out of the grave. To the surprise of the onlookers, out walks Lazarus.

Jesus treats us in much the same way. Until we entered into a committed relationship with Jesus Christ, the Bible says that we were all, like Lazarus, dead. Only we were spiritually dead. There came a time... for me when I was fourteen years old, when Jesus spoke into the grave of my life and commanded life to enter my spirit and I walked out into a brand new life. 

Now this is where the story takes an interesting turn. Lazarus comes walking out of the grave but he still has the grave clothes wrapped tightly around his body so that he could hardly move. Jesus now turns to the onlookers and commands them to set him free. "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." (John 11:44)

It is like that in our lives as well! Jesus gives us life, but he delegates the process of freedom to the church. If we are alone, we have no one to assist us in taking off our grave clothes. We lack accountability. No one is there to ask the hard questions. And we have life in Christ, but we are still bound. Bound by habits. Bound by attitudes. Bound by wrong ways of thinking. Bound.

So, today I ask you, who is being the church in your life? Who has to right to speak to the areas of your life that are holding you back? Who asks you the hard questions? 

And secondly, who are you helping to attain freedom? For whom are you being the church? 

Let's talk...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Surrender

Philippians 4:13b (AMP)
"I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency."

Most people spend their life for self-sufficiency. As a child we long for the day that we can get our drivers license. As a teenager, we long for our eighteenth birthday. As a young adult, we can't wait until we're twenty-one. We long for this place and every milestone seems to get us closer but none seem to fully get us there. The apostle Paul seemed to understand why. He knew that the only way we could ever become self-sufficient was when we had fully surrendered to Christ's sufficiency.

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army once said, "The greatness of a man's power is in the measure of his surrender." This appears to be a contradiction. How can we have great power when we are fully surrendered? How can we be self-sufficient when we completely rely on Christ's sufficiency? How can I be in charge when I am absolutely submitted?

Well, I don't completely understand that myself but I know that, according to the scripture, the only way to live a life that is pleasing to God is to surrender it fully to Him. And we were created to bring Him pleasure.

So, I have made up my mind. I want my life to make God smile. I want Him to be pleased. I want to bring Him joy. And so, I echo the words of Peter after a night of failed fishing. When Jesus asked him to cast the net back out, Peter replied, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. BUT BECAUSE YOU SAY SO, I will let down the nets."

Will you join me in having a "because you say so" lifestyle?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Beginning of the End

For most people in the church, the title of this post would seem to indicate that I am going to talk about end times events. Maybe recent tragedies came to mind. Quite possibly you thought of the Left Behind book series. Well, let me put you at ease, I'm not talking about end times.

In Proverbs chapter one and the second half of verse 32, the writer makes an interesting statement when he says, "...the complacency of fools with destroy them."

This jumped off of the page today as I read it because so many people I encounter live their lives in a state of complacency.

Now, of course, none of them would admit it if they were confronted about it. Most of us would not admit to living a complacent life. However, if we were to take a look at the definition of the word, it may describe more of us than we realize.

Complacency is defined as "an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction." Understanding that, most people who are complacent probably don't even realize that they are! They have just became so numb to life, and satisfied enough with their current situation, that they won't put up a fight to change. Maybe, you are that person... maybe I am. Have you been sick for so long with no hope of getting better that you just come to believe that is how it will always be? Maybe you have dreams of a better future, a happier marriage, a life free from depression but because you haven't seen a change in so long, you just quit trying. What about those who had big dreams... starting a business, launching a ministry, buying a dream home... but they let others talk them out of it.

The writer of the proverb said that the day we began to live in complacency was the day that our destruction started. That was the beginning of the end.

God never designed us to live like that. He created us with a purpose. He said that before we were formed, He already had plans for us. (And that those plans were good!) So today, if you realized that I just spent the last few minutes describing your life situation, please shake yourself out of your complacency! Ask the Father to reawaken the desires and dreams that you once knew. Allow the Holy Spirit to breath life into your imagination. And begin to dream again!

Don't let today be the beginning of the end. Make today the beginning of your future! How will you start living life today?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Just Do It...

John 2:5
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you."

As a child I remember hearing stories of Lacy Drew. He was a minister who travelled to speak at many local churches in our area. More than that, he was a man who truly knew the power of God.

Of all the stories that were told me of this general of the faith, one sticks out more than all the rest. It was a story concerning one of the messages that he ministered from this passage of scripture. It was a story that his life and his ministry were built upon.

"Do whatever He tells you."

Lacy Drew was known for his powerful sermons. He was known for his strong leadership But more than all of that, he was known for his unwavering obedience to the spirit of God.

"Do whatever He tells you."

So many people today base their decisions on many different things... career choices, opinions of others, financial abilities. However, what we must do is learn to hear and obey the voice of Jesus.

Let's try it today....
"Do whatever He tells you."

Tell me your stories. When was a time that you obeyed God? What were the results?

Grace and Truth

John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of GRACE and TRUTH.

John 1:17
For the law was given to Moses; GRACE and TRUTH came through Jesus Christ.

In the Old Covenant, God gave us His law, issued His commands to see if we would obey. What was revealed was that commands outside of relationship results in rebellion. Thus He sent Jesus... full of GRACE and TRUTH. Jesus possessed the TRUTH, the commands, the law BUT He also possessed GRACE. Before He presented the TRUTH, He always demonstrated GRACE.

We must take the example of Jesus and make it our own. Christians have a tendency to want to control others to make them do the right thing. We want to be able to tell others how to live. We want to give truth but most of the time it is outside of the bounds of relationship. Without first having a relationship and allowing others to experience the GRACE of God in our lives, presenting TRUTH will only push others away. We must first be a person filled with grace because it is that grace that will open the door for others to hear the truth of the gospel.

So, let's stop being mean-spirited believers and become grace filled Christ followers! Are you in?? Tell me your experiences in this!

In the Storm

Job 38:1
"Then the Lord answered job out of the storm."

Most of the time when we face the storms of life we would like for God to stretch out His hand and calm them. We want to be relieved of the pain that this life brings. As Christians, we want healing, debt cancellation, deliverance... and we want it now! We have been conditioned to seek for medicine to ease the symptoms, alcohol to help us escape our reality. We use whatever we can get our hands on to alleviate the discomfort we experience. But God used the difficulties of Jobs life, the pain he experienced... the storm to speak to him.

If we would honestly pinpoint the times in which we drew the closest to the Lord, most of them would be in times of pain, frustration and difficulty. Maybe we should stop spending all of our time asking God to remove the storms from our lives and learn how to respond to our storm in a manner that would bring Him the most glory.

I recently heard a statement by a popular minister that said, "You will not be greatly used of God until you have been greatly wounded." And I think that may be true. If we look through the scripture, it wasn't the norm for the Father to alleviate the troubles of his followers. In most instances, God asked that we respond IN those circumstances with a God-like attitude.

So what storm are you facing right now? What is it that is causing you the most pain? Stop asking for God to remove the storm and begin to ask Him to speak to you in the midst of it.

Let's talk about it... What is God speaking to you in your most current storm?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Eddie James Ministry

A Leader or People Pleaser?

Luke 23:23 (NIV)
"But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. "

True leaders base their decisions on the principles that guide their organization and their personal morals. That is what Pilate should have done. He had previously informed the people that he found no reason to sentence Jesus to the death penalty. Yet, the more they shouted the more he caved. In the end, the voice of truth was overpowered by the shout of the crowd.

As a leader, there will be many opportunities to cave under the pressure of the opinions and demands of those whom you are supposed to be leading. However, when you cave to every desire of the crowd, you cease to be a leader and they in turn begin to lead you. It is in these times, when the shout of the crowd is loud and the demands are strong that true leadership must emerge.

Will you be willing to make the tough calls, the right calls or will the innate desire to please those around you win out? Will you be a principle-based leader or will you be just another people pleaser?

What do you have to say?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

An Empty Canvas

Psalm 139:15 (Message)
"You know me inside and out, You know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something."

The psalmist is acknowledging here God's intensive knowledge of our live. He knows us inside and out. He knows all of our limitations. He knows all of our insecurities. He knows all of our failures. On the other hand, He knows all of our gifts, all of our strengths and all of our successes.

How? He knows exactly how we were made! We were formed with His purpose in mind! Everything about our makeup was intentional.

But the most touching thing about this psalm is the final line. "I was sculpted from nothing into something." There are many times when we feel the "nothingness." Our lives seem to tank, we feel as though we can't get it right but we can take solace in the fact that He is taking us from nothingness and making us into something!

As a child we used to sing a chorus that said it all:

Something beautiful, something good
All my desires He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But He made something beautiful of my life.

I want to remind us today that God is in the midst of making something of your life. You may not see it from where you stand but hang on to hope that He who began a good work in you WILL complete it!

My prayer today comes from a worship chorus that Pastor Clint Brown wrote. Maybe you can find yourself praying this as well...

My life is Your canvas, so paint
I tried it on my own and it turned out all wrong
So with Your hands of mercy and gentle hands of grace
You select each color, fill in every space
I don't want to risk it to fate
My life is Your canvas, so paint

Monday, March 7, 2011

Push Past The Noise

Job 36:15

"But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; HE SPEAKS TO THEM IN THEIR AFFLICTION."

In this passage of scripture, Job's friends are in the midst of giving him reasons why he is experiencing the difficulties in his life. They believe that there has to be some rational explanation for his suffering. However, in the middle of their tirades, Elihu says something that speaks to me. He says something that hold much truth in this season of my life when he says... "He speaks to them in their affliction."

So, I've made up my mind! Instead of allowing the adversity of life, the opinions of others, and whatever difficulty I may find myself in to discourage and defeat me, I'm going to use this time to press in to God as hard as I can. Maybe you are there too. Join me in this! I believe that if we listen closely, beyond the chaos and confusion, beyond the backstabbing and the accusations, God Himself is trying to speak to us.

Maybe, just maybe, this is all just a distraction. The enemy knows that if we hear what God is trying to speak to us in this time, our lives will be radically and eternally transformed. All we have to do is push past the noise to hear His voice.

What is God trying to speak to you in the midst of your suffering?