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Am I Worthy?

Tomorrow begins our 2 day seminar that I will teach about 10 hours at, with about 12 different other people from JBC speaking another 5 hours. I have been writing the material for the seminar for the last year. We held a seminar for over 20 years on these same dates on the topic of prayer. Two years ago I decided that we needed to change the content because just about everybody who was going to come probably had over the years. As I thought about what next to teach it wasn’t hard to decide. I have observed that one of the major needs in many churches, especially smaller churches was a system and program for training the people in the church to do the work of the ministry in the church. Most think that doing the work of the ministry in a church is the job of the pastor. The problem is that there is so much more that needs to be done than one person can possibly do, and smaller churches don’t have the finances to hire another Associate Pastor to help do the work. The training is typically called discipleship in the church world, but we have used the term “Leadership Training” instead. Over the years I have taught 8 month long “Leadership Classes” to several hundred men in our church and recently started teaching Ladies as well. The classes have been incredibly fulfilling for me to teach and the result has been that we have many in our church who lead and are involved in many different ministries that meet the needs of lots of people.

So tomorrow is the day. I think my material is ready, meals are organized, and homes are lined up for those who are attending to stay at. I am sitting here in my recliner going over the material I am going to teach feeling very nervous about the next two days. It isn’t the teaching I am nervous about, it is the content. Will it make sense? Will it be something that will be practical for other pastors and churches to use? Will it produce the same results in other churches that it has in ours? The biggest area of hesitancy is it seems so presumptuous of me to offer up myself and our church as a model to other pastors and churches on how to successfully do this important ministry. Am I or our church worthy to teach and model,this material?

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I fear that my passion to do more, and to make a difference in churches will cause me to jump the gun on God’s leading. I hope not! I have been praying diligently that God will give me and all those involved, the strength and the wisdom to glorify Him, and to make a huge difference in the ministries of every church represented at the seminar tomorrow. Well, it is to late to back out now, so ready or not here we come! If it wasn’t so late I would go to a movie. If I wasn’t off of all sugar I would eat a half gallon of my favorite ice cream! I think I will just go to bed.

Default Settings

I hate it when this happens, I can’t think another thing to write and it is midnight and it won’t be long now before the curse takes over and I am brain dead, then I won’t be able to write for sure. But I could switch everything over to auto pilot and default settings. What that really means is I could go back 2 years, pick a blog at random, read it to make sure I wasn’t brain dead when I wrote that one and hit “republish”. Awe, I hate to do that, I know how I am , I do that once and then a second time and then that is all that I am doing, repeat, repeat, repeat. The problem is that I have been writing for hours at a time getting ready for this seminar that JBC is putting on Monday and Tuesday. I will be teaching for about 10 hours and I need to have the notes done to put in the syllabus for the pastors that are coming. But, there is hope, a few more minutes of this mindless gibberish that I am writing and I will have enough words to call it a night. Oops, I fell asleep 15 minutes ago with my hand on the screen, and talk about gibberish! Nothing but g’s, I couldn’t leave that on the screen, a little to boring. OK, I think I have pulled it off, a blog of nothing but nonsense, a half step below my normal blog!

Good Works

God’s grace is not a replacement for good works, but it is the power to perform or accomplish good works.

1 Timothy 6:18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,

Titus 2:13-15 Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Titus 3:8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.

Titus 3:14 Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.

-When I see a need and choose to do a good deed to meet the need, the power of God which is resident in me in the person of the Holy Spirit is activated in me.

-Good deeds require us to be constantly looking for an opportunity to do something or say something that makes a difference in another person’s life. God will open doors and will open our eyes to see the divine appointments.

-Good deeds sometimes require money to complete, sometimes it is actually giving money to someone in need. God will often provide or replenish the funds given so we can give some more and meet some more needs.

-The good deeds that we do for people who are not believers in Jesus will often give us the privilege of sharing our faith and personal story of the difference Jesus has made in our life.

Amazing Grace

Grace is a big word in that it has many definitions and facets. The old traditional definition, “God’s unmerited favor” is fairly narrow and really only applies in a few references. Some other definitions that apply are, “God doing for us what only He can do”, and “God’s enabling power”. Some words that are a part of the whole definition would be, “mercy”, “power”, “patience”, “forgiveness”, and “enabling”. A definition that many claim, but is totally false is, “The freedom to do what I want with no consequences”. I often say, “Grace isn’t the freedom to do what I want, but the power to do what God wants”. When I was a kid we had a hand pump to get water, but before you pumped the handle up and down you had to prime it by pouring about a pint of water down the well. You could then pump the handle up and down and get pots of water. If you poured the water down the well and waited to long the water would leak out and the water would be wasted. In a very real sense God primes us with grace for salvation, for spiritual growth, and for service, but we can ignore that grace and it will have been given to us in vain.

2 Corinthians 6:1 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—

God will stay just ahead of us priming the pump of our soul and as we respond, obey, and do something He will continue to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

Good Feelings vs Bad Feelings

Bad emotions or feelings such as anger, lust, coveteousness, bitterness, revenge, self-pity, and others will negatively affect our behaviour if we allow them to control us. The saying that I have taught and quoted for many years, “You don’t have to act the way you feel” is very true, but super difficult to actually pull off in regular living situations. Our emotions are very powerful, and we can hold them at bay for awhile, but sooner or later we will probably give into acting them out. A much more successfull and enjoyable way to live is to eliminate or at least greatly reduce the bad emotions and strengthen the good emotions. The strategy for doing this is like learning to play tennis, train yourself over time by practice. As followers of Jesus we faithfully practice  basic disciplines of the Christian life, here are a five that work for me:

  1. Read the Bible every day, spend time weekly studing it, and systmatically memorize and meditate on what you have memorized. God’s Word is supernaturally powerful and it will transform every area of our life, including our emotions.
  2. Spend time with God in prayer every day.  This discipline works best if you have a place and a time, a date with God every day. Have a notebook and write prayers and make lists of people and needs. Pray for strength, wisdom, opportunities, and pray for the people in your life. The more time we spend with God the more we become like Him in character and emotions. I use an App on my Ipad called “Prayermate” that works great.
  3. Reflect on who you are, what your motives are, what your relationship with Christ really is, your weaknesses, your strengths, life mission, goals, and sins. Self-examination and reflection is a super powerful way to figure out why negative emotions pop up in your life, and once you have figured out the “why” you can eliminate the “buttons” in you that get pushed by people, events and circumstances in life to elicit the bad emotions. This discipline is impossible in my opinion without writing. A personal journal is a powerful tool and acts as a mirror into your soul.
  4. Find a friend to talk with about your struggles in conquoring and eliminating negative emotions from your life. God created us incapable of changing on our own, by ourselves. He created us for community, mutual grace giving, fellowship, and without it we will go in circles in our pursuit of godly character and self-control.
  5. Worship God well. In corporate worship focus on God, and concerntrate on directing the words you sing to Him as an expression of your love and adoration. Sing as loud as you can, and don’t worry if you don’t sing well, the people next to you don’t really care. Don’t ever fuss about any aspect of the worship in your church which would be a clear indicator that it isn’t about Him. Work hard at never grumbling or complaining during the day about anything, and thank God for everything all day long. Journal about this discipline and you will get better and better at it.

You Don’t Have to Act the Way You Feel

When we use the above phrase, we are assuming that we are talking about bad feelings. The good feelings of love, peace, joy, compassion, mercy, passion to accomplish a good idea, passion to build something good , we don’t resist, in fact we seek them in order to be good and motivated. The emotion of joy makes us feel very good, as does the emotion of love and peace, and we wouldn’t think of not allowing ourselves to act fully the way we feel. On the other hand when we are having strong emotions of lust, we try not to let that emotion control our behavior, the same goes for anger and bitterness. We can tackle these bad emotions head on and resist them so they don’t force us into a way of acting that will have huge consequences. But a better way of dealing with them is to get rid of them completely out of our life. It would be so cool,if we could just go with our emotions, and let them be a full part of who we are without having to be concerned that one of the bad boys would stick their head up in our life, and mess things up, big time. But how do we get rid of the emotions that lead us into sin and replace them with good, healthy, positive emotions that make us feel alive? That is a very good question, but let’s wait until tomorrow to attempt to answer that one.

Down is Up, and Up is Down

One of the things about God’s principles is that they are the opposite of human wisdom so we won’t figure them out on our own, we discover them in the Bible and then live them, obey them by faith. Once we put them into practice, and discover that they work we have a new personal law of life. As our list of these laws of God grows our success in every area of life will grow, and we will accomplish more and more with our life.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
One of these laws is, “Make yourself last and God will make you first, but if you make yourself first, God will make you last.” This law is repeated in the Bible about a dozen times so it is one that God wants us to know and follow. Jesus illustrates this law beautifully with His own life.
Philippians 2:5-11 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. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus humbled Himself more than any person ever has, and God the Father exalted Him above every person on earth and in heaven. The humbling that Jesus did had to do with thinking only of other people’s needs not His own, and doing whatever He could, paying any price to meet other’s needs.
Jesus taught repeatedly this principle to those who were His disciples,
Luke 9:23-24 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
This principle always works, be the one who initiates peace, be the one who meets others needs ahead of your own, be the one who takes the blame in a relational conflict, don’t be quick to defend yourself when falsely accused, and when someone is mean to you sincerely pray for them and look for an opportunity to do something good for them. It doesn’t feel right, but it is, and this is a principle that God loves, and He is generous with His rewards towards the person who lives this law of life.
Take a month and work really hard at practicing this principle in your life and see what happens. Begin by memorizing Philippians 2:5-11 and reciting it a couple times everyday in your mind, a dozen times is very much better. Journal about events and circumstances where you lived it successfully, and also times when you blew it. This principle is a huge game changer, huge.