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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Finding joy

Let me give you a word that everyone in America is chasing. It's a word that's as elusive as a greased pole. Sometimes we don't know how to get it, but we all know when it's there. The Bible speaks of it as our strength.

The word? Joy.

In February of 2006, an autistic high school senior named Jason McElwain taught his entire school a lesson on the reality of joy. Jason had served as the basketball team manager for three seasons, diligently fetching water, catching rebounds, and mopping up sweat.

However, for the last game of the season, Jason's coach decided to reward the young man's efforts by allowing him to suit up. Then, with the team ahead by 20 points and only four minutes to go, the coach put Jason in the game.

Jason badly missed his first two shots, but his third was a charm—a 3-point swish. As soon as the ball went through the net, the entire gymnasium erupted with applause. But Jason wasn't done yet. He went on to hit a total of six 3-pointers—a Greece Athena High School record—to finish with 20 points in just over four minutes.

With each basket, the crowd became more enthusiastic. By the time Jason hit his last shot, everyone was jumping up and down in a frenzy of excitement, happiness, and disbelief. As soon as the game ended, the bleachers emptied onto the court as the crowd gathered around Jason, and his teammates hoisted him onto their shoulders.

Speaking after the game, Jason's mother said: "This is the first moment Jason has ever succeeded and could be proud of himself. I look at autism as a Berlin Wall, and he cracked it." But Jason's success touched many more lives than his own, as those who celebrated with him experienced the selfless joy of delighting in others.

As a follower of Christ, I know that my joy ultimately comes from a relationship with God. The "joy of the Lord" is my strength.

Despite the obstacles that we face, we cexperiencence a godly joy, not for the circumstances we find ourselves in, but in the knowledge that God is with us in the midst of our circumstances.

You can make it this day. You can be an overcomer. May the joy of the Lord give you the encouragement that you need this day.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Spiritual Courage

When we think of courage, we connect with taking risks. Jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorbike or going down the Niagara Falls in a barrel. These are called courageous acts because people risk their lives by doing these things.

But I would suggest to you that none of these daredevil acts come from who we really are. Our true inner self. They come from a desire to test our physical limits and to become famous and popular.

Spiritual courage is a different animal. Spiritual courage is following the deepest, godly desires of our hearts at the risk of losing fame and popularity. It is losing in order to gain. It is dying to self in order to receive eternal life.

It takes courage to live for God in the workplace. It takes courage to live for God at home. It takes courage to live for God in places surrounded by godliness.

In fact, I would say that it takes more courage to live and walk in godly integrity than it does jumping off a bridge with a cord around your ankle.

Take courage today! Live for God!

Where does that courage come from? The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit's presence. The Holy Spirit's power.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Spiritual Warfare in an evil world

War can be such an overused metaphor in today's world. From professional sports to corporate takeovers, we are said to be "at war."

The Bible specifically talks about the fact that we as Christians are "are war." Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against Satan and his demons.

When I become a Christian I don't join a country club, I'm not signing up for a cruise. It's more like joining the military and signing up for a battleship.

Jesus said, "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." Matthew 11:12

The New Spirit filled life Study Bible writes,

"Jesus asserts the "violence" of the kingdom. The unique grammatical construction of the text does not make clear if the kingdom of God is the victim of violence or if, as the kingdom advances in victory, it does so through violent spiritual conflict and warfare.

But the context does.

Jesus references to the nonreligous style of John and the confrontive, miraculous ministry of Elijah teach that the kingdom of God makes its penetration by a kid of violent entry opposing the humans status quo.

It transcends the softness (Matthew 11:8) of staid religious formalism and exceeds the pretension of child's play (Matthew 11:16,17). It refuses to "dance to the music" of society's expectation that the religious community provide either entertainment ("we played the flute") or dead traditionalism ("we mourned").

Jesus defines the "violence' of His kingdom's expansion by defining the "sword" and the "fire" He has brought as different from the battle techniques of political or military warfare (compare Matt. 10:34-39 and Luke 12:49-53 with John 18:36).

The upheaval caused by the kingdom of God is not caused by political provocation or armed advance. It is the result of God's order shaking relationships, households, cities, and nations by the entry of the Holy Spirit's power working in people. (See also Luke 16:16)."

Good stuff.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Knowing God

The more that I study about God, the more I realize that there is much more to know about God than I will understand in my lifetime.

God is greater than my finite mind.

A friend of mine wrote this:

"Rob Bell comments in Velvet Elvis: “Central to the Christian experience is the art of questioning God. Not belligerent, arrogant questions that have no respect for our maker, but naked, honest, vulnerable, raw questions, arising out of the awe that comes from engaging the Living God.

This type of questioning frees us. Frees us from having to have it all figured out. Frees us from having answers to everything. Frees us from always having to be right. It allows us to have moments when we come to the end of our ability to comprehend. Moments when the silence is enough.

The great Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, ‘I did not ask for success. I asked for wonder.’

The Christian faith is mysterious to the core. It is about things and beings that ultimately can’t be put into words. Language fails. And if we do definitively put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something God is not.”

Bell argues for a more flexible articulation of doctrinal propositions—more like a trampoline than a solid brick wall. He says that we have been guilty of painting Velvet Elvis doctrine and theology that ends up outdated and shoved in the corner of our attics or basements. Faith at its core is the ability to believe without having concrete proof—it does appear that if God wanted a rock-solid articulation of theology (literally “God-Study”) he would have been a lot more straight forward in articulating it in Scripture. Some of our “distinctive” doctrinal positions are closer to “pet rocks” or “mood rings”—so individualistic and temperamental."

Definitely interesting stuff!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Spiritual language

One of the distinctives of being a pastor of an Assemblies of God church is that we believe that a Christian, led by the Holy Spirit, can speak in another language. I use the word language, for it better explains the intent of what God gives us than the word "tongues."

It is an actual language that can be developed over a period of time as a follower of Christ grows in God.

This language is described in Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19.

What really great about this aspect of our faith is that when I use the language that God has given me I experince expanded worship, enabled warfare, personal edification and communication with God.

To see how spiritual language helps expand our capacity to worship the Lord, I encourage you to check out and compare the disciples before and after the "outpouring" of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

Paul tells us in putting on the armor of God in Ephesians 5, to "pray in the Spirit." It's by praying in my spiritual language that I activate the armor of God in my life.

My spiritual language can be used for self-edification as well as for edification of others. Check out Romans 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:4; 1 Corinthians 14:5,12; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 2:21; Ephesians 4:16 and Jude 20.

My spiritual language aids my communication with the Father. It assists me in prayer. Check out 1 Corinthians 14:2; 1 Corinthians 14:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

If you are facing a difficult time today - pray in the Spirit! Let the Holy Spirit encourage you and give you the direction that you need today.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Leaders and those around them

One of the things I really respect about leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan is that they were never afraid to put people around them who were "better" at something than they were.

It's a great leadership principle.

When Jack Benny was considering adding Wayne Newton to his television program, he was warned “Be careful; that kid is too talented. He’ll steal your show.” Benny said, “He better. If he can’t steal the show, I don’t want him.”

Great leaders aren’t afraid to surround themselves with talent. They’re not afraid of someone stealing the show. Neither do they mind sharing the spotlight. Poor leaders find this threatening, but great leaders understand that it all comes back to them, anyway. They know that they’re only as good as the team they have assembled.

If you have the luxury of drafting your own team, pick the best players you can find and the best players you can afford. If your team is chosen for you, make every effort to bring out the best in them. Either way, be sure they get the recognition they deserve. Don’t be afraid to let a little light shine on them.

Paul talked about us being one body: Now all of you together are Christ's body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

Whatever part of the body a leader might be, we need to remember that none of us are called to be the ego.

What is ego? Ego is Edging God Out.

God is the ultimate leader. I am here to simply follow his instructions.

May we all follow his leading today.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spiritual laws: sowing and reaping.

Over the years, I have heard and even participated in expressing the thought that "you reap what you sow" in a negative way to persuade people to avoid sin.

Remember the consequences!

Yet that is a positive thought as well.

There are three verses in Proverbs 11 that address what has been called, "The Law of the Harvest (i.e. What you do comes back to you)."

• When you're kind to others, you benefit yourself (v. 17).
• When you give freely, you gain even more (v. 24).
• When you refresh others, you yourself are refreshed. (v. 25).

One author writes:

"Conversely, Proverbs says that cruelty leads to trouble, and stinginess leads to poverty.

There's no question that God wants to bless us; the Bible is full of such promises. But, first, God wants us to learn to give. That's the key to the Law of the Harvest: you give first, receive later.

Let's forget for a moment how this may or may not apply to our finances, and think about how it applies to other areas of life.

There is so much you can give to others. For example, you can give your family an uplifting start to each new day. Even if you wake up in a rotten mood, you can speak words of encouragement and thoughtfulness (or at least put a lid on your complaints), so that everyone else in the house has the chance to begin the day pleasantly. The same goes for your employees, staff, and everyone else that crosses your path.

Let's practice this kind of generosity. Regardless of the kind of day you're having, freely give a good day to everyone else. Offer encouragement. Share a compliment. Say what you have to say with gentleness. Give them hope. It won't just change the direction of your day, it will change the direction of your life.

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)."

May we all seek to be kind and generous this day.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Describing God

Let me ask you this question - and think it through before giving any kind of cliche answer - how would you describe God?

We immediately want to say, "God is such and such" and use an adjective. But is it possible to use an adjective to describe God?

God is love. That's true. The Bible says that.

God is holy. That's true. The Bible says that.

Yet as we use these words, we must be careful that we do not attribute human characteristics to divine ones.

God is love, yet his love is so unconditional and purposeful that it smashes through the boundaries of what we consider love.

God is holy, yet his holiness is so reverent and awesome that the writer to the Hebrews describes it as a "consuming fire."

In eating lunch yesterday with a Jewish friend, he explained to me that in his way of thinking we can't really describe who "God is," but only what "God is not."

Our human word for love falls short, so the only thing I can do is say that "God is not hate."

Our human word for holiness falls short, so that the only thing I can do is say that, "God is not sin."

That's one thing that's really cool about Jesus. In Jesus I can describe God. Jesus said basically, "if you want to know the Father, look at me."

God is like Jesus.

How would you describe God?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

God's role in our joy; it starts in the morning!

I was reminded this week from a fellow blogger, that God plays a big, big role in our joy. We can ask God for joy! We can ask God for peace! On a daily basis!

I am frequently asked, "are you keeping busy?" I generally answer, "as long as there are people there are needs, and as long as there are needs, I am busy."

I hear bad news all day long. As a pastor, I am called to deal with this problem and that crisis and this delay and that complication—some days it's not quite as bad as that, but other days it feels like it'll never end.

I am learning (for sometimes I forget) that I'm most vulnerable to bad news first thing in the morning. When I get knocked down too early, it's hard to get back up (metaphorically speaking) and the whole day can be shot.

In fact, I am told that the first person you come in contact with each day, and there words or actions, will set the tone for the rest of the day.

I am doing what I can to immunize myself from this vulnerability: I try to start the day right. I read the Word, I review good things that are happening in my life (there are more than I can count) so that by the time I have to start dealing with situations, I'm emotionally and spiritually prepared for battle.

And when I get lazy, I pay the price. I get discouraged, frustrated, and gloomy. Not exactly the marks of a great man of God.

David said, "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love." (Psalm 143:8)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What's the line between tolerance and bigotry?

I read an interesting article today in our paper. It kind of typlifies the struggle that our country is going through concerning tolerance or the lack there of in the area of religion.

I encourage you to read the article and then my comments at the end:

NEW YORK -- Isaac Hayes has quit "South Park," where he voices Chef, saying he can no longer stomach its take on religion.

Hayes, who has played the ladies' man/school cook in the animated Comedy Central satire since 1997, said in a statement Monday that he feels a line has been crossed.

"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," the 63-year-old soul singer and outspoken Scientologist said.

"Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored," he continued. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."

"South Park" co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply in an interview with The Associated Press Monday, saying, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians."

Last November, "South Park" targeted the Church of Scientology and its celebrity followers, including actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, in a top-rated episode called "Trapped in the Closet." In the episode, Stan, one of the show's four mischievous fourth graders, is hailed as a reluctant savior by Scientology leaders, while a cartoon Cruise locks himself in a closet and won't come out.

Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

Did you catch that last statement? Where does the line between intolerance and bigotry begin?

It's one thing to make fun of Christians and Christianity - but when the show starts speaking of Isaac Hayes' faith, than it's time to draw the line. To me that is a symbol of the hypocrisy of those who don't appreciate any kind of reference to God or Jesus or a faith walk in Christ.

Agree or disagree?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Are you a pessimist or an optimist?

Are you a peessimist or an optimist?

You can lead for any length of time without inherently being an optimist. While realism is part and parcel of any leadership role, within all of us as leaders is that nagging voice that says, "it's going to get better, things will change, the best is yet to come."

When it comes to pessimism versus optimism, the Bible doesn't leave us many options. If we believe in God (and believe the Bible) we can't help but be optimistic about the future—because, regardless of what happens in the interim, we know that ultimately every thing will work out for our good and God's glory.

Paul was just this great optimist. Even as he sat in a Roman jail, he could see the benefits of his imprisonment. He had no promised release date to look forward to, and the prison conditions were less than ideal, and yet he remained optimistic about the future. Listen to his words...

Everything that has happened to me here has helped spread the Good News. (v. 12)

Because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold. (v. 14)

I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and as the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will all turn out for my deliverance. (v.19)

For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. (v. 21)

These aren't the words of a doomed man. Paul clearly believed the best about the future, because he believed in a God that is good, and powerful, and merciful, and loving.

Pessimism might come quite naturally to you, but the excuse "It's just my nature," doesn't work—any more than we can excuse off sins such as lust, laziness, or greed. The bottom line is that pessimism is a sin. It reveals a lack of faith in God, and anything that is not from faith is sin. [Romans 14:23]

Optimism is a choice. I don't believe it comes naturally to anyone. Those who seem to have a perpetually positive outlook on life have learned to make that choice.

If Paul can be optimistic in a Roman dungeon, then we shouldn't let a few disgruntled people ruin our day. That co-worker at your job, the person at the grocery store or even another brother or sister in Christ.

We can be optimistic, too. We can make the same choice he made: we can choose to believe the best about tomorrow, in spite of what is happening today, because we know that God is good. All the time.

What choice are you making today?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Are you in the right job?

We spend the vast majority of time each week at our jobs.

I would think that it's important to fulfilled at what we do.

What is your criteria for a great job?

For me - it's the knowledge that I am where God has called me to be and doing what God has called me to do (I don't mean to be so spiritual about it, but I work as a pastor after all). Someone once said, "Success is knowing the will of God and doing it." I like that.

Susan Pines has written:

James Leahy, 39, of Cincinnati has held and resigned from more than 20 jobs. "I've built fences, inspected property, worked in sales and done home remodeling, to name a few." Currently he works in distribution and warehousing.

Did unhappiness cause him to leave most of the jobs?

"Definitely," Leahy says. He added that he's never found just the right job or had a true career focus.

Career Satisfaction Elusive for Many

While most people have not worked in 20 different jobs, Leahy is not alone in his career dissatisfaction. Half of all Americans are unhappy in their jobs, according to findings by the Conference Board, a New York-based business research group. In addition, most people can expect three to five career changes and 10 or more job changes in their working years, reports the U.S. Department of Labor.

"Many people spend years unhappy in their careers," says Michael Farr, author of "Overnight Career Choice" (JIST Publishing).

"Some move from job to job, searching for more-fulfilling or better-paying work. Others say they fell into a career without asking it if suited them. Still others follow in the footsteps of a parent or pursue a hot field."

Career indecision and unhappiness have high stakes, both in pay and personal satisfaction.

"You are more likely to enjoy, stay with and be successful in a career that suits your interests and skills. For these reasons, you would be wise to spend some time considering what you want out of your work," Farr says.

Nine Steps to Your Best Career Fit

A large body of research gives nine predictors for career satisfaction and success, according to Farr's book. By thinking about these factors in an organized way, you can make the right career choice in a short time.

Farr suggests you take a few hours to consider the following nine most important components of an ideal career before thinking about specific job titles:

1. What are you good at?
List your top skills and abilities. Think about your personality traits, such as honesty and enthusiasm; your general skills that are useful in many jobs, such as writing clearly or an ability to prioritize; and your job-related skills learned through education, training and experience.

2. What interests you?
Write down your top interests. Are you good with computers? Do you have a knack for repairing engines or furniture? Do you enjoy photography? Do you have a flair for numbers? Do you like to help people solve their problems? Consider all of your interests.

3. What motivates you and is most important to you?
Prioritize the values you would like to include in a career. Do you want to help society and others? Would you like to have authority? Do you want creative or exciting work? How important is variety, independence, recognition, good pay and security to you? Think about what you really want from your career.

4. How much money would you realistically like to earn?
Mull over the money issue now so you can make a good decision when you receive a job offer. If you found the perfect job in all other respects, what would be the least pay you would accept? What is the reasonable lower end and upper end of pay you can expect on your next job?

5. What level of responsibility do you want?
Decide how much responsibility you are willing to accept in your ideal career. Do you like to be in charge? Are you good at supervising others? Do you want to be accountable for the performance of others, of a department, or of a territory?

6. Where do you want your ideal job to be located?
Consider where you would like your work to be located geographically. Are you willing to move? What kind of a commute do you want? Do you want to be near relatives or public transportation? As you add criteria, you will have fewer places to look for your job, but you may end up with what you want.

7. What special knowledge would you like to include in your career?
List knowledge that you have gained from school, hobbies, family experiences and other formal and informal sources. Are you a good cook? Are you talented at home decorating? Do you like to work with kids? Do you have a good understanding of investments? As you fine-tune your career choice, include one or two of your special knowledges. They could make you a unique applicant in the right setting. For example, a public relations specialist who knows a great deal about bicycle racing would be an ideal candidate at a bicycling association.

8. What kind of work environment do you prefer?
Define what you did and did not like in past work settings to create your ideal work environment picture. For example, do you like to work outdoors? Do you prefer a small or large organization? Does a quiet work space appeal to you?

9. What types of people do you like to work for and with?
Identify the types of co-workers you prefer. If you have ever had a rotten boss or worked with a group of losers, you know why this is important. Do you prefer creative types? People who are friendly or who keep your relationship very professional? Do you want a boss who interacts with you all day or one who lets you work independently?

After you define these nine ideal career factors, Farr suggests that you use them to research specific job titles and employers and keep the factors in mind during job interviews.

"Although you may need to compromise, getting as close as possible to your ideal career choice will likely pay off in success and satisfaction for years to come."

I would add to that...Is there where God wants me to be? Perhaps that should be number one.

Are you happy at your job?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Praying for Israel

In our church recently, we have been studying the tie in that we as Christians have with Judaism, specifically the tabernacle and how it relates to Jesus Christ.

We are instructed in the Bible to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." The Jews are God's chosen people.

Below is an article by Jack Hayford that I found interesting.

Why Stand With Israel Today?
by Jack W. Hayford

Israel is a land about which God says uniquely, prophetically, redemptively and repeatedly in the Bible, “This is Mine.” God refers to Israel as He does to no other land on Earth. Israel was raised up to be a light to the Gentiles.

The Church at its inception was virtually entirely Jewish, and it remained so until the Gospel began to spread. Ultimately the Gospel spread to Antioch—where the first Gentile congregation began—the base from which the Gospel spread into all the world.

In the book of Romans, chapters 9 through 11, the Apostle Paul deals with the question of the Jews in God’s providence and purpose. Within the whole of the Bible, these three chapters virtually stand alone as an elaboration of the theology of God’s dealing with Jews. The Jews were the “firstfruit”…the “first people” (through Abraham) to understand a covenant God. They then relayed the riches of that truth to the world, and through their agency, the Messiah came into the world.

The Word of God calls Jews the “root” and Gentiles the “branches.” We’re reminded that while “because of unbelief, some of them were broken off and you stand by faith,” we are not to become haughty but to fear: “For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.” When the fullness of the Gentiles is completed, “all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:16-27)

We are living at a sobering moment in history that calls us, as believers in Jesus Christ, to take a stand with Israel. We could be people of the last hour. We are not to be passive in the face of prophecy; we are called to pray with passion, to intercede, and to minister according to the words of the Savior who said it is not our task to speculate when the end will be. It is our responsibility to do Kingdom business until He comes (Luke 19:13).

Standing with Israel is not about politics; it is about the Word of God…but the political ramifications are dramatic. Scripture declares a time will come when all the nations of the world will turn against Israel. It is so highly conceivable that this could happen in our time that it is critical to outline why we should stand with Israel today.

We are called to stand with Israel today because…

… Every believer is charged to make the Jews a priority in their value system, and to render thanksgiving from their hearts for God’s work via them as a people. God has covenanted to bless those who bless them, and curse those who curse them (Genesis 12:3).

… Our place in God’s present order inextricably links us with the Jews as a people, and thereby the land of Israel according to the Word. When we put our faith in the Redeemer who came through the Jews, we enter into a line of those who have trusted God according to His revealed grace and redemptive purpose. Scripture declares that, spiritually speaking, when you receive the Lord, you become a Jew (Galatians 3, Romans 2).

… God has made unique declarations regarding the land of Israel which have never been rescinded:

It is His land, and His to assign and dispose of (Leviticus 25:23).
He has committed the land to Abraham and his offspring via Isaac forever (Genesis 17:7).
The loss of governance by Israel through sin and dispersion has not altered God’s announced commitment to make it theirs forever. (Read Ezekiel 37:1-28).
Neither has the truth that the Church (the Body of Christ, consisting of believing Jews and Gentiles) is the spiritual “Israel of faith” (Abraham’s seed of promise) replaced the Jews (Abraham’s biological seed and their land) or the national/ethnic “Israel of history.” This is underscored throughout Scripture.
… Israel’s present conflict is neither by their initiative nor perpetuated by expansionism or racism on their part. The general attitude of the world today regards the Palestinians as the underdog, but Israel is defending the land covenanted to them in 1917, and established by the United Nations Assembly in 1948. The Palestinian goal is not to secure a homeland, but to drive Israel out altogether. For the sake of mounting public opinion against Israel, surrounding, well-resourced Arab nations have never offered refuge to the Palestinians.

… To stand with Israel is not to oppose Arab peoples as an entity or to oppose the rights of Arabs living in Israel to a peaceful, politically secure and prosperous life. God has no disposition against any human being, certainly not Arabs who are also the offspring of His chosen leader Abraham. Standing for Israel doesn’t require us to be loveless toward other peoples.

… The relentless animosities of sectors of the Arab world are not merely political causes, but are driven by spiritual powers that will not be satisfied until Israel ceases to exist. The forces opposed to Israel are not simply those of people who don’t like Jews. We are caught in the stream of spiritual forces greater than humanity, forces that cannot be overthrown politically or by the power of persuasion. They can only be broken by intercessory prayer where principalities and powers are cast down.

… The same spirit driving these animosities is equally opposed to Christians as to Jews, and in time will eventually bring persecution to both. Just as Scripture states there are two witnesses that will be put to death in Jerusalem at the very end of time (Revelation 11), there have been two witnesses that have stood for God throughout history—the Jews and the Christians.

We are called to stand with Israel today because a biblical assignment and a divine promise summon our stand in faith, our intercession with expectancy and our support with promise (Psalm 122:6). The Lord has called us to be people with moral and biblical conviction, walking wisely and knowing His Word, and that He will honor those who make an abiding commitment to stand with the land He’s called uniquely His. The final issue will be, “Who is for Christ and His way, and who isn’t?”

I think that kind of says it all.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Finding joy

Do I find joy or does joy find me?

In other words, does my happiness and joy come from circumstances that come my way or do I experience peace by making a conscious decision to walk in joy?

Joy is a choice.

Many times we fall into a trap of complaining that our lives are sorrowful and depressing.

And life is hard.

Life is tough.

Where do we find joy?

Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck?

Are some people just flat out "snake-bit"?

Joy is a choice.

Two people can walk through the same negative circumstance, but one may choose to live it quite differently from the other.

One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, will bring about something good; growth in God, a closer relationship with Jesus, drawing closer to family and friends.

The other may choose despair and be destroyed.

What makes the difference? Freedom of choice.

Our Joy is found in Jesus Christ.

Christian author Brennan Manning calls us to examine the cause of our emotions:

To ascertain where you really are with the Lord, recall what saddened you the past month. Was it the realization that you do not love Jesus enough? That you did not seek his face in prayer often enough? That you did not care for his people enough? Or did you get depressed over a lack of respect, criticism from an authority figure, your finances, a lack of friends, fears about the future, or your bulging waistline?

Conversely, what gladdened you the past month? Reflection on your election to the Christian community? The joy of saying slowly, "Abba, Father"? The afternoon you stole away for two hours with only the gospel as your companion? A small victory over selfishness? Or were the sources of your joy a new car, a Brooks Brothers suit, a great date, great sex, a raise, or a loss of four inches from your waistline?

"Father, help me to choose joy today, and to choose it by reflecting on you."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Going from pondering to praying

I don't know about you but I ponder a lot. It seems like my mind is constantly going. Thinking about my family, our church, reflecting on life in general.

I would suggest to you that our minds are always active. We analyze, reflect, day-dream and dream in the middle of the night! There is not a moment during the day or night when we are not thinking.

You might say that our thinking (to borrow a word from the Apostle Paul) is "unceasing."

Many times we wish that we could stop thinking for a while; that is would save us from many worries, guilt feelings and fears.

The mind is a powerful tool for the positive, but it can be a conduit for the negative as well. It can bring great joy, but also great pain.

The question is: do we have to become victims of our unceasing thoughts?

No! Instead of "unceasing thoughts," we can begin to "pray without ceasing"!

We can turn our inner monologue with God into a continuing dialogue!

In other words, every time I ponder something and it begins to cause panic in my life, I need to pray!

And what's great is - that God really does want to listen to us!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Being the best leader I can be.

I am a learner. Especially when it comes to leadership. I want to keep on growing and learning to the day I die. Throughout all my victories and defeats, times when I do things really well and times when I don't, I know that God has called me to be a leader in His kingdom. My prayer is that I make my heavenly father proud.

I read a quote today from Bill Hybels (actually it's a prayer) that summarizes my desire today:

"Oh God, give me David’s optimism. I need David’s capacity to perceive what might happen when you are in the mix.

God, give me Jonathan’s capacity to love.

God, give me Joseph’s personal holiness, uncorrupted by power. I want to finish my assignment like Joseph finished his, without bringing reproach on you. Please give me the integrity of Joseph.

God, give me Joshua’s decisiveness. Leadership is about making right decisions and calling others to make them as well.

Oh God, give me Esther’s leadership courage.

And, Oh God, if you would just grant me a portion of Solomon’s wisdom/godly sober-mindedness that I will discern Your mind on every matter.

God, give me the emotional authenticity of Jeremiah, so we can experience the authentic faithfulness of God.

God, may I never forget how important parties are. Like Nehemiah, help me remember to celebrate, because, all service and no celebration is a formula for wearing people down and draining their joy.

God, make me like Peter. God, make me the kind of leader who knows how important it is to take initiative, one who has the willingness to step out and take action.

And finally, please give me Paul’s intensity. Make me like Paul. Give me his intensity so I will have the power of your Holy Spirit, strength in the middle of the battle and courage to endure."

I trust this is your prayer as well.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

It's a matter of the heart

I'm always amazed in God's kingdom, how we continually insist on looking at the outside and not dialogue as to the inside of a person's heart to see where they are coming from.

What's more important - whether I serve communion with a tie on - or whether my heart is pure before God? (Just thought I would throw that in there to get some kind of reaction)

Jesus was concerned about matters of the heart.

What's going on inside my head.

What are my thoughts?

What are my attitudes?

Our thoughts lead to our attitudes and our attitudes lead to our actions and our actions can lead to a habit and habits can lead to bondages.

It all starts out with what we are thinking about on the inside.

My attitude.

It's like the story of a little boy was sitting sadly on the curb beside his lawn mower, when along came a minister riding a bicycle. The minister noticed that the boy appeared discouraged, so he thought he would try to help.

"Hello there!" said the minister. "How would you like to trade your lawn mower for this bicycle?"

"Sure, mister," the little boy responded, and went on his merry way.

A few days later, the boy and the minister crossed paths again. The minister said, "I think you took me on our trade. I keep crankin' that old lawn mower, but it won't start."

"You gotta cuss it," said the little boy.

"Well I can't do that," said the minister. "I'm a preacher. I forgot about cussin' a long time ago."

The little boy answered, "Just keep on crankin', preacher; it'll come back to ya."

Within all of us is a propensity to sin.

The longer I live the more I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond.

As someone wrote, "if that is true, I believe that the single most signficant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude."

It's a choice. I choose to have a good attitude. I choose to have a bad attitude.

What's the choice are we making today?