Always Be Investing In Someone

Bread

Call it discipleship. Call it mentoring. Call it whatever you want, but one of our kingdom assignments is to gather people around us and invest in them. Jesus did it with the twelve, and even more with the inner circle of three. Paul did it with Barnabas, then Silas, then Timothy. Barnabas did it with Paul, then John Mark. John did it with Polycarp and Batman did it with Robin.

I read an amazing story over at Danny Brown’s blog today about the boy with the bread. He tells the story of a young boy who made an investment in others that came back around to his ultimate advantage. You should read Danny’s post.

We never waste time investing in others. You and I can probably remember conversations we had with mentors that changed our lives. Sometimes one of those conversations is worth a semester in college when it comes to hardening our wills to press on in the right direction. You need mentors like that, and somebody needs a mentor like you.

The challenge is simple. Provide bread for somebody else today.

photo credit: Emily Carlin

Recommended Reading: John Maxwell’s The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization is a great resource on this topic.

The Agony of Defeat

Oh, the agony of defeat!

First, it happened Thursday evening in our softball match-up. We lost the first game to Bentonville Church of Christ by a decent margin, but we were pounded the second game 26—3. Ouch! I’m guessing about nine other guys are wishing I just wouldn’t have brought it up.

Then, it happened again last night as the Razorbacks gave up a touchdown in the last couple of minutes of the game to lose to Alabama in a gut-wrenching defeat. I’m guessing a few hundred thousand fans are wishing I wouldn’t bring that up either.

So what do we learn from losing? First, we learn that it stinks! But we also learn to regroup, to sharpen and hone our skills, to get our heads back in the game, and to try a little harder next time.

God doesn’t want you living in spiritual defeat. He’s called you to be “more than a conqueror!” But the greatest spiritual conquerors I know have suffered some losses… and they have become all the better because of the lessons learned. So when you lose… learn! But strive for the victory today!

Ten Years… And Counting!

Today marks our tenth anniversary as a married couple. I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting back on that very special moment when we were pronounced husband and wife by my father-in-law. I showed up at the church a few hours before the wedding and it was pouring down rain. I wanted to wait until it slacked off and until I could be sure I wouldn’t see Angie a moment too early. She was inside wondering if I was re-considering!

I wasn’t re-considering, and I haven’t since. I wouldn’t trade the last ten years for anything in the world. We’ve had a precious daughter, served a couple of great churches as Pastor and wife, Angie has earned two degrees (I’m on the very long-term educational plan), and we’ve made a whole lot of great friends along the way. We’re thankful to God for the fruitfulness of these years and can’t wait to see what God has in store for the decades to come.

A marriage, when lived out biblically, is designed to show the world how much Jesus loves His church and how much they can accomplish together in the redemption of lost mankind. I wouldn’t dream of putting forth the image that we have one of those perfect, never-had-an-argument, syruppy-sappy, always romantic relationships. If you do that, nobody believes you anyway and you probably get on everyone else’s nerves. Nonetheless, I’m proud of the marriage we have. We don’t ever have to question one another’s faithfulness and commitment, and we’re slowly learning to communicate and to compliment one another in a way that glorifies God. I’m so very thankful for all God has blessed us with… to Him be the glory!

Sweet Exhaustion

Have you ever experienced sweet exhaustion? Less than an hour ago we capped off our final night of Vacation Bible School by singing some lively songs which included jumping, clapping, and shouting (in church nonetheless!), dining on tacos and nachos, and sliming the Pastor and Worship Leader. Tonight was merely the finale of a week of getting to know our backward friends, Pete and Repeat, learning spanish with an odd assortment of costumed characters, and learning that Jesus is our Friend, our Life, our Leader, and our Savior.

Vacation Bible School is by far the most exhausting week of the church year, but also the most exhilirating! One young man trusted Jesus as his Savior and several others were asking about what it means to be saved. Relationships were built, seeds were planted, and God was glorified!

If you’ve never been involved in children’s ministry before, you’re missing out! You might not be a teacher, but what if you could be a greeter, a helper, or a prayer warrior? Nobody on earth is as precious to Jesus as children. I would urge you to find room in your life and in your schedule for a little sweet exhaustion. The sooner, the better!

Precious Memories

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” –Jeremiah 6:16

This weekend, my family and I are traveling to our hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky to see family. This may be our last trip to the bluegrass state until the holidays, so we’re going to squeeze all we can out of this quick jaunt. One great privilege for me, beyond seeing my loved ones, will be the privilege of preaching in the pulpit of the church in which I grew up, Clear Fork Baptist Church in Rockfield, Kentucky.

Clear Fork is not only an old-fashioned, Bible-believing assembly of people, the building itself is set in a picturesque place. Beyond many square miles of cow pastures, attendees top one last hill where the church is nestled in the valley beneath. It’s the end of the road unless you live in one of the few farmhouses down the gravel road behind the building. Clear Fork’s original structure was built in 1833. Since then, the building has been bricked, remodeled, has seen multiple additions of multi-story Sunday School space and a separate Fellowship Hall across the road with an addition of its own, as well as a two-story parsonage.

For me, my earliest memories of reading the Bible, learning from spiritual heroes, and asking questions about the ministry came at this sacred place. I owe so much of my own value system to those who came before me at Clear Fork. My grandfather especially comes to my mind. Jesse Cox was a Deacon at Clear Fork for 52 years. He was the chairman of every major building project during that span. He was also the Browning community’s fire chief, a farmer, the community store owner for a time, served in the Philippines in World War II and worked for Holley Carburetor for forty years. His leathery face and tough exterior gave way to a sweet and gentle smile when grandkids and great-grandkids were around.

My grandfather fell victim to lung cancer in December 2002, but he died my hero. I even had the privilege of sharing in his funeral service. On this Memorial Day weekend, who is your hero? Who do you remember? For whom can you give thanks to God today?

Learning to Hate (the Right Things)

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.”—Proverbs 8:13

Sin is a bitter enemy. Until we learn to spot it, name it, and hate it, we’ll never overcome it. Learning to hate sin is a matter of agreeing with God about sin – sharing His perspective on it. Sin has done nothing but wreck and plunder God’s wonderful creation, so He detests it. Sin is the very opposite of all that is divine in nature, so God loathes it. Repentance demands that we turn from our sin and begin to agree with God about it – to hate it as He does.

Our problem is often that we minimize sin in our lives. Why? Because the world does so. When we laugh along with the world at inappropriate humor, at the triviality of injustice, or at the grossness of sin, we’re sort of participating in it, and we’re desensitizing ourselves to it as well. If you want to overcome sin, you must look at it the way God does – with hatred.

Never hate others. Never hate yourself. But learn to hate that which hurts you and others around you – sin.

Overcoming Temptation

Temptation. This one word encompasses all of the greatest threats to a consistent and successful Christian walk. Let it be known that you cannot resist temptation. That is, temptation will always be a part of your life. But you can refuse to give into it in the power of Christ.

The Best of Circumstances

…all our fathers were under the cloud… passed through the sea… baptized into Moses… at the same spiritual food… drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

– 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 (NKJV)

Paul points us back to the Israelites in their wilderness journeys. He quickly reminds us that great circumstances do not guarantee freedom from temptation, nor from the consequences of yielding to its power. Five times, he says that all of the Jews were at the center of God’s blessings. Then, he lists the top five…

  • They all witnessed the guidance of God in a pillar of cloud and fire.
  • They all witnessed the parting of the Red Sea.
  • They were all identified with a great leader in Moses, the lawgiver.
  • They all ate the manna that God provided them miraculously.
  • They all drank from the rock, which symbolized Christ’s presence.

But the Bible says that they failed… miserably. Their bodies were scattered across the wilderness as a result of God’s judgment. An entire generation of people, all of whom had seen some of history’s greatest miracles died in the tragedy of overwhelming rebellion.

What you and I need today is not a perfect set of circumstances. It isn’t even a great manifestation of God through the miraculous. Where we must begin to be successful is in getting to know the God of the miraculous. Again and again, the Israelites demonstrated that they had all the gifts God could offer, but the did not know Him well enough to remain faithful. They had tasted His goodness, but had not indulged themselves in Him. Have you met Him? Have you gotten to know Him more today?

The Worst of Decisions

Now these things became our examples,… that we should not lust after evil things… and not become idolaters,… nor let us commit sexual immorality,… nor let us tempt Christ,… nor complain.

– 1 Corinthians 10:6-10 (NKJV)

Even in the best of circumstances, we can make the worst of decisions. In fact, Paul will make the argument that our self-assurance is really Satan’s playground. Paul reviews the five-step downward spiral of yielding to temptation. You may find some of the steps surprising, but valid nonetheless.

First, we lust. The miraculous becomes boring and commonplace. The miraculous whets our appetite for more of God, but if we don’t seek Him in our hunger, we’ll find other junk to fulfill our desires. Then comes idolatry. When the thing we lust for becomes the object of our worship and the focus of our attention. Willpower is quite self-destructive because it often placed our gaze on the very thing we’re trying to resist.

Step three is committing the act. For the Israelites, it was sexual immorality. For us, it could be anything that breaks down our relationship with God. The word “commit” is significant here. It not only infers that we take action once, but that we resolve to give into a particular behavior. We “commit” ourselves to doing this evil thing. Beyond committal comes a change in our spiritual character in which we “tempt Christ.” That is, we begin to question the very beliefs that might have saved us to begin with. We lose our convictions.

Finally, we complain. This is more than a simply comment. It describes the heart’s calloused reaction to self, God, and the world around us. An old gospel song proclaimed, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go. Slowly, but wholly taking control. Sin will leave you longer than you want to stay. Sin will cost you far more than you want to pay.”

Are you on the downward spiral of sin and rebellion? Whichever of the five symptoms describes you, bail out of your rebellion now and repent. Confess your sin and return to God’s overwhelming grace.

The Greatest of Promises

Now all things these happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition… Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will now allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

– 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 (NKJV)

Today we have the privilege of learning from thousands of years of human civilization. The story of the Israelites’ rebellion in the wilderness was recorded and preserved in an infallible Bible so that we could learn from their mistakes. Satan is still up to his old tricks. In fact, He doesn’t need new ones when the old ones still work just fine.

If you want to overcome temptation, you must rely on God’s precious promises. Paul gives some of God’s great promises to us here. The battle for purity always begins in the mind, so you must begin to replace the lust, idolatry, and questioning of your convictions with God’s alternative thoughts. Namely…

  • If you think you can handle temptation on your own, think again!
  • Every temptation you face has been faced many times before. You’re not alone.
  • God is faithful! Enough said. He’ll be there for you, never leaving nor forsaking you in the heat of the battle.
  • God will never allow you to be tempted beyond your ability. This removes our excuse, but it also removes our fatalism.
  • God will always give an alternative thought, action, or attitude that will rescue you. There’s always an escape route!
  • You’ll be able to “bear” temptation. This literally means to “stand up under the weight” of temptation.

Perhaps you feel trapped in habitual sin today. You may feel too weak to overcome temptation. It’s possible you’ve even questioned whether the battle against temptation is worth it. I can assure you it is! The reward will be greater intimacy with God and a greater reward in heaven. You’ve been entrusted with the years of your life, however many they may be. Trust the great promises of God and determine today to overcome in the power of Christ. He’s worth it!