The Maintainer

In the last post we discussed that there are three distinct groups in every society.  The first would be, “Those in Need / The Takers”, the second, “The Maintainers” and third, “The Builders”. We took an in-depth look at what it meant to be “Those in Need” and how to avoid being found among “The Takers”.

No matter what challenges and obstacles we face, we all should be striving to be a builder in the kingdom of God, but sometimes we get off track.  It’s good to be reminded that there is a very real and loving God who has a genuinely unique plan for each and every one of our lives.  It is up to us to develop the proper habits that will help us to continue to pursue, discover, and apply that plan to our lives on a regular bases.

In this post we will look at a group that makes up the largest percentage of our churches today: “The Maintainers”.

The Maintainers vs. Maintenance People

     One thought that can come to mind when thinking of a maintainer could be this, “maintainers are a vital part of every society and church body because they keep up with the maintenance of situations and problems as they arise. We need maintainers!” This is not the type of maintainer we are describing here.  These type of people are known as “maintenance people” and are very much a necessary part of every society and church body.  No, we are talking about a very different type of maintainer.  Maintainers  typically look the other way when they see needs because they question every cost that will come to them if they decide to actually get involved.  While maintenance people love those in need and think very little of what the cost will be to lend a hand.  Thereby, they are actively involved with the needs all round them.  We will discuss that group in the next post.  For now, lets take a look at “The Maintainers” and some of the characteristic traits that makes this group the way they are.

Unwilling

     The number one characteristic of a maintainer is someone who is unwilling.  Like all of us, the relationship began with the desire to be more than what they were,  but after time, they begin to realize that if the relationship was going to be successful, it would require moving out of their current level of comfort in giving.  In the beginning the price is small because we are the ones who have the most to gain.  The very reason we came to Christ was born out of a desire to have more than what life and our poor decisions were giving us. Remember, the first step in coming to God is faith, and the way that faith fist gets exercised is believing that God is real, and that he rewards you if you search for him; see Hebrews 11:6.  Of course it’s simple to grow at first, we just realized that there is a very real God who wants to bless us!  And all we need is a willingness to give him our lives with all its hurts and frustrations, and in return, he gives us forgiveness and freedom.  Not a bad trade!  At some point though many of us stop giving, and as a result, we become cold, apathetic, and worst of all, without hope.

Stunted Growth

     Many of you, while reading this post, are already doing some self examination and asking yourselves some very important questions;  “Am I guilty of having an unwillingness to give with my life?  I wonder if God is mad at me for not giving enough and that’s why I’m not really where I want to be by now.  How much am I really expected to give when I only have so much time in the day and the demands for my time are already so high?  God couldn’t be that unreasonable!…could He?”  The answer to all these questions can be summed up in Matthew 28:19 and 20, “GO (big emphasis on go!) and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded YOU (big emphasis on you!). And behold, I am with you always, to the end of age.”  We stopped growing when we stopped giving, and when we stopped giving the purpose for our lives in Christ began to fade away.  This fading has made it impossible for us to have a clear vision of both who God is, and what his intentions are toward mankind. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11  To stay in a constant state of growth means that we remember the two main vitals for life.  #1. God is real and he will reward / forgive you if you’ll seek him.  #2. God has a plan for your life no matter where you’ve come from, or where you find yourself currently.  Never forget these two Vitals for Life!  Place them deep into your heart and let them serve as a reminder when you begin to doubt God or the ability God gave you to do his will.

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The Taker

Three Groups

     In any society you have three very distinct groups.  The first is, “Those in Need”, or in some cases they are known as, “The Takers”. The second group would be, “The Maintainers”, and the third, “The Builders”.  The fist thing you need to consider is that there are many different types of people living in these three groups at any given time.  You don’t necessarily have to be an intelligent enrapture to be a builder.  All types of people, smart, special needs, rich, poor, women, men, white, black, the abused and the loved, exist in all three of these groups.  What you as the reader must consider is this:  What group best describes me currently, and how am I going to become, or maintain, the status of “The Builder”?

     This is going to be a three part series where we dive in and take an in-depth look at all three types of groups, and how they make our churches what they are today.

Those in Need / The Takers

     The problem with this group is that it’s very tricky to describe because our first reaction is to think negatively about them.  We tend to use the same mental pictures as that of an able-bodied man sitting at home collecting a check from the government when he could be at work making his own money like the rest of us.  But we know this isn’t always the case with those in need of assistants.  Think of the young new couple who are struggling to make it and they just found out that there’s a baby is on the way. He’s fresh out of college with only 6 weeks into his new job, and their not offering him insurance until 3 months on the job.  His only course of action is to seek help from the government until his new insurance kicks in.  Certainly you wouldn’t think poorly of them for their need of assistance.  You see them for what they are, a fresh young couple just trying to get their feet on the ground while in the beginning stages of their lives.

The New Christian

     Like this young couple we have new people in our churches.  Someone invited them to a special function and now this couple has started coming regularly.  After a few services, and hearing the preacher several times, they now have some questions about God, church, and religion.  We expect this from new people!   In fact, if they are not asking questions we realize there maybe a problem with lack of interest.  So when these questions begin to arise we are ready for them.  We offer this fresh new couple a Bible Study to help them prepare for their future.  This is the type of “Those in Need” people we hope to have in our churches at all times.

The Hurting

      We also have another set of people who fall into the category of “those in need”.  I would call them, the weary.  Sometimes we suffer loss, it’s inevitable.  And when we suffer loss, we most often move into the same group as “those in need”, and that’s okay, it’s part of the process of healing.  The Bible tells us in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”  Jesus also said in Matthew 11:28 and 29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

The Abused

     One last type of person that would fall into this category would be a long time Christian who has felt abused by leadership and needs time to heal.  But keep this in mind, God is a healer! and while the process of healing may take some time, you still have the same gifts and callings within you, waiting, needing, and wanting to be used!  Don’t allow this time of healing to turn into bitterness, thereby becoming the WORST of all people who dwell in “The Takers”.

The Takers

     The negative issues surrounding this group isn’t with these three types of people in it, it’s with the ones who stay in this group and never leave.  It’s easy to fall into the pattern of being a taker because we are always being catered to and constantly getting attention.  Once the healing process is over, or the big questions of who God is, how he deals with humanity, and how we fit into our church family are answered, it’s time to move on.  Most of a pastors time is given to this group, with both those in need and with the takers.  And unfortunately, a lot of pastors become burnt out due to the people who refuse to ever leave the group of those in need.

Tails To Look For

     Some tails to take notice of in discovering if you are stuck in the group of takers would be, do you come to every service thinking, “what am I going to receive today?”  When you go to the alter are you always looking for someone to come pray with you rather than you sometimes noticing those around you who may need prayer?  When you think of the pastor, do you consider his time to be made for you only to vent your problems and frustrations?  And the last and greatest is this, do you feel justified for feeling these ways because you feel worthless, angry, or hurt?

     The important thing to remember is that there is very little room for growth in this group, because God never intended for you to stay here for very long.  God made you to be a high functioning part of His body, one that contributes to its growth.  There is only one prayer request Jesus ever laid at the feet of mankind: “Pray therefore that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest” Matthew 9:38.  Notice how he called himself “The Lord of the Harvest”?  He is the Lord of “Those in Need”.  He said about himself in Matthew 18:12 that he “would leave the 90 and 9 and go after the one lost sheep”.  He also said in Matthew 9:37 that “The harvest field is plenteous but the labors are few.”  It is impossible to be a laborer when you refuse to leave the safety of “Those in Need”.  So it’s at this point of reusing to grow that you move from one who is in need to one who has become, The Taker.  IMG_3173

I’m Alone! …aren’t I?

I Feel So Alone

     As a Christian, aren’t I supposed to know that “I am never alone”?  And if this is truly the case, that I am never alone, then why do I so often struggle with feeling like I am?  The “alone feeling” I’m describing isn’t the kind that I experience when I’m at home by myself, or the last one at work finishing up a project.  That kind of alone subsides the moment I walk in the door and I’m greeted with a kiss and hug from my wife, telling me how happy she is that I’m home… loneliness gone!  No, the loneliness I’m describing is something much deeper.  This loneliness won’t go away with a kiss or hug.  It wont be quenched by a fun pastime or a date night with your spouse.  It’s the kind of loneliness that begins to eat away at the fabric of who you are!  This loneliness is relentless, it gnaws at your bones while you lie in bed searching for rest; and it’s waiting to claim you all over again in the morning when the sun rises. This loneliness will make you question everything!

Nothing Will Satisfy 

     Even David, the king over all Israel, at times dealt with this kind of loneliness.  He said these words in Psalm 6:2-6,

2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
    Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.

     No one talks like this unless they are in it deep.  The kind of deep that makes you question everything!  The kind of deep that makes you feel as if God has abandon you when you really needed Him most!

God Has A Plan!

     I know this seems like a lot of scripture to read, and your first response may be to start skim reading it, but for your own sake, don’t.  Let the words you are about to read soak through your weary soul, healing you, restoring the edges of the fabric.  These scriptures brought tears to my eyes as I looked them up and read them.  So I am going to share them with you.  They are taken from Isaiah 55.  Isaiah was speaking to a nation that had forgotten God, and thereby, felt as if God had forgotten them.

6-7 Seek God while he’s here to be found,
    pray to him while he’s close at hand.
Let the wicked abandon their way of life
    and the evil their way of thinking.
Let them come back to God, who is merciful,
    come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.

8-11 “I don’t think the way you think.
    The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
        God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
    so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
    and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
    and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
    producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
    not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
    they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.

12-13 “So you’ll go out in joy,
    you’ll be led into a whole and complete life.
The mountains and hills will lead the parade,
    bursting with song.
All the trees of the forest will join the procession,
    exuberant with applause.
No more thistles, but giant sequoias,
    no more thornbushes, but stately pines—
Monuments to me, to God,
    living and lasting evidence of God.”

     Just because you’re an active Christian doesn’t mean you haven’t forgotten God.  We forget about Him when we pray our own will rather then His… no matter how sincere the prayer.  We forget Him when making decisions based on our own comfort rather then on His plan for our lives.  God is forgotten when we lift our hands to pray or preform ministry well, then turn around and gossip about our neighbor, or look the other way when we see someone in need.  We forget about Him when we put family, son, daughter, husband or wife before Him.  We talk to them about our lives but we hide things from God and don’t talk to Him at all; and we become ashamed ourselves.

     While sitting at church, putting our money in the basket, and showing up every Sunday, we are running away from Him, and this… is making us lonely. 

     Alone

Thoughts From A Soul Winner 

  
     “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

     These words were penned by a man who also said, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some some”. Paul had a deep understanding of what it meant to first fall in love with Christ, and then in that love, he would discover an amazing, unwavering love for others. 

     This love for others would drive Paul into a ministry that would cost him everything. He was willing to lay down his own personal wants and desires, even his life, to add souls to the kingdom of God. His desire went far beyond the hope to just satisfy the requirements of God. Paul had a longing, a need, an unstoppable desire to bring souls to a savior who had loved him even when he was lost in sin.  

     Let the passion of Pauls words in Philippians chapter three flood through your soul as you read them. Try and let yourself go beyond just “reading the Bible”.  Allow yourself be awoken by the hunger that drove Paul to the depths of his relationship with God. 

     7. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in a Christ, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

     These words, his passion on display, his need to have intimacy with Christ, it shaped a man like Paul into an apostle of Christ.  

     God can not make you love him, nor can he force you to love those around you.  He can only display his love for you in hopes that you will begin to experience it for yourself, and in turn, share it with those around you.

The Need to Feel Valuable

ValuableWhere We’re At

Who here doesn’t care to be valuable to someone or to some cause? This is a boat we are all sailing along in together, because no matter where we come from in life, we want our life to mean something! We want others to talk positive about us behind our backs; to hand out compliments when we do something that goes above and beyond what would be typically expected of us. Sometimes we even want others to envy us and the things we have; to wish they were us, because let’s face it, isn’t this the utopia of human value?

Still Feeling Empty

The real conundrum here is that no matter how many pats on the back and “attaboys” we receive, it’s honestly just never enough. When a husband comes home and says to his wife, “Wow honey, the house looks nice!”, it feels good in the moment, but the house is messy again, and in just a short while the whole process starts over, and the wife feels unappreciated. How about when the husband spends all day out in the yard making it look like a million dollars. It feels so good to have the neighbor give that envious look and say, “I see you’ve been busy”. But sure enough, the grass grows again and the weeds return, making your yard look like the house down the street that never cares enough to keep anything up. This is life! For most of us, we are always looking for more compliments; just one more way to prove to ourselves and to others that we are, in fact, valuable.

Looking in The Right Places

The truth is that we are searching in the wrong places. First of all, you and I know that when we only do something to receive a compliment from someone, it’s short lived. The reason for this is…”It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NIV). When we give only to receive, we are being selfish; but when we give because we love those around us and we desire to make their lives better, then we begin to find the true reward. The same applies to what we do for Christ. Yes, I too am guilty of asking God to make my life into something beautiful for Him, only to be disappointed by what He gives me. In fact, most often times what He gives me seems so insignificant that it feels like He hasn’t given me anything at all! Like, “come on, really, anyone can teach this person a Bible study, and I don’t have the time for that anyway!” What we are really saying is this, “I need something that will bring me the admiration of others. For all my time served, and the amount of donations given, I deserve something big; not something that just anyone can do!” Yes, we all have been here, we all have thought this way. The most tragic part of this scenario is that we ultimately end up giving up on doing anything at all. We resolve to do just what is mandatory of us to make it into heaven. Our thought is, “God must not think I’m very valuable, so why even try to be
any better then this”? The apostle Paul was admonishing the church on this very thing when he said, “In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary “(1 Corinthians 12:22 NLT). Oh how selfish we are! Doesn’t Jesus Himself remind us in Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”? The selfish man I’m constantly doing battle with doesn’t want to hear about “the least”, I want to be the most valuable, and be a part of the most desired situation! You can be sure that I’m going to waste most of what little time I do pray, to ask God to put me in the big situations, the ones that ultimately make ME feel valuable! “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6 NIV). Don’t think that just because you feel broken down and unappreciated you are not battling pride.

Words to Live By

Do your work as unto the Lord, and you will begin to realize the value of your life. You will feel it in a hug and a hear it in a “thank you for loving me when it felt no one ever would”. You will begin feel it from your loved ones because you have taken the time to really love them rather than try and win their approval.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT)
“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ (Matthew 25:23 NLT)

“I just want to make a difference!”

Super Hero Kid

The Dreams of Grandeur 

     As humans, I believe one very common denominator between most all of us is the hope to do something great in our lifetime.  As children, when asked about our future, we will choose something spectacular and amazing; something that others would be in awe of.  When we get older, our dreams change into something a bit more realistic, but we never really let go of the hope that we were meant for more than just the routine things of this life.  More than just the mother who raises her children to be all that THEY can be while putting her own hopes and dreams aside.  Or the father who’s always worried about his paycheck and whether or not it will cover all the household expenses.  How about the young person facing college. She thought she always knew what she wanted to do with her life when she grew up, but now that college is staring her in the face, she’s not so sure anymore.  Life doesn’t seem to be so full of promise as it was just a few short years ago.  It’s at these moments that we stop and take a real look at our lives and we ask ourselves, “Why am I going nowhere!  Can’t life be better then this?”  We reflect on our dreams that tell us we are meant for more than just this, and once more we are disappointed.

The Dream Thief

     Some of us have allowed moments like these to define our existence.  We settle for the thought that “I will never be any better than what I am now, so why even try?”.  While others of us use these moments to get even more determined.  We work more hours to make more money and maybe one day, even become the boss!  We throw ourselves into projects that consume our time in hopes that others will notice our progress and praise us for our efforts.  But in the end, we realize we are still just as empty.  The answer is simple as to why we feel this way; your life is meant for more than just a promotion or a completed project.  It’s bigger than your college education and the degree you finish with.  Your life was and is meant for something special!  The real problem is that feelings of wholeness, completeness, and pure satisfaction are seldom achieved through the means by which we think they are.  Even well meaning Christians find themselves empty and asking “Are you even real God?  If you are, why do I feel so empty inside?”

The Defining Moments

     Your defining moments are not measured by the successes or failures of others; instead, they are measured by your willingness to be selfless.  The Bible has this to say about greatness: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NLT). Our mind tells us the opposite: “When I become great, others would die to be me!”  The soldier returning home from war does not receive a medal based on how many others kept him alive during battle. It was for his acts of courage and bravery.  In the end, this act of valor that he is receiving a medal for was truly just an act of selflessness.  Even the villain in every comic book is selfish and out for his own gain.  The superhero, however, is selfless, putting his life on the line to protect the lives of others while not caring about what he gets in return.  We know what defines greatness, we are just unwilling to put it into practice.  Don’t continue lying to yourself believing that, “If my family were just more thankful for how hard I work”, or, “If others could just see how much potential I have I would finally start to feel more satisfied”.  This is how bitterness sets in.  The Bible, in Hebrews 12:15, tells us this: “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”

“So What Do I Do?”

     For starters, don’t do acts of kindness in hopes to receive praises from others.  This will lead to people not even wanting your help anymore. Stop looking for the “Great Big Things” to do and take time to minister to the little needs all around you.  All the little needs will add up to a great need being met.  Be grateful for what you have now and what’s in your hands will become more beautiful and meaningful.  As an extra bonus, you will look back on your life in a few years from now and smile.  This last point is the most important:  Allow God to direct your steps in the here and now.  You may think you’ve already been doing this, but the real indication of one who is lead by God is summed up in the words of the Apostle Paul.  “I know how to live on almost nothing or everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”.  He tells you its a secret he learned to put into practice by first, no matter what he goes through, to be thankful, next to walk with Christ and last, to find his strength in Him.


Greatness is in the little moments of loving others and walking with Christ.  Learn to lean on Him and not on your own understanding, in doing so, He will direct your steps.

Does God Love Me?

Why does it seem like it’s so difficult to be right with God? This is a question that perplexes most of us. We worry ourselves with Hell and just how easily we may be on our way there. The Devil loves it when we question the love of God in our lives because that fear drives us to make poor decisions. “Why try to live right when God is upset with me? Why show love to my neighbor when God doesn’t show love to me?” In short, the doubt that riddles my mind about God’s love towards me, causes me to forget how to love my neighbor.
Trying to convince myself that God still loves me is a futile place to start. It makes more sense for me to start with what God has commanded me to do. “Love your neighbor as yourself” Mark 12:31. One I’ve put this principle into practice I will begin to clearly see just how much God loves me. ‭ John‬ ‭15:‭11-12‬ lest us know that, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
So does loving my brother alone make me perfect? No, of course not! But try and tell me that I’m a Christian God is pleased with just because I have a successful ministry and I’m used in the gifts of the spirit. All the while I’m overlooking those in need all around me, (unless of course it’s making my ministry look better). Over the course of our Christian walk many of us have developed a warped sense of how to get God’s attention, and how to earn His love. It will never be how I perform for God but rather how I love those around me that will gain His favor and in turn make me feel more secure in my walk with Him.

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It’s Not That Simple

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We’ve all seen them; the ones who come to church not looking or acting the way they once did. The smile is no longer there, and the amount of times you see them at church becomes less and less. And when you ask them where they’ve been lately, their response is typically the same, “I’ve just been busy.” But we really know what’s going on; they’re backsliding… or so we think.

I too have been a “backslider” at one point in my life. When I was 18 I allowed myself to become disillusioned by thinking that somehow what my mother and father had taught me was nothing more than a lie. I was convinced that they were trying to keep me from the real fun that life had to offer. So with a heavy dose of rebellion and a fair amount of anger towards God, I left it all behind. Yes, I was completely and utterly a backslider. My attitude was, “I’m going to show you Dad! I hate this stupid religion! Don’t try and tell me what to do you’ll get nowhere!” But how can we automatically assume that the people we see less of in our church’s feel the same way I did when I backslidden.

We only see what is happening on the outside and have no real idea of the pain that this person may be dealing with. Could it be that their actions are only a cry for help? A way to finally be noticed, to understand that they are hurting and need a loving embrace? Or maybe just some time from a friend who can help heal their wounds? We have no idea. Oh but how foolishly we make our assumptions, somehow convincing ourselves that we understand all that is going on in their lives without even taking the time to try and love them.

While writing this I’m reminded of a man in the Bible named Zacchaeus. Everyone around him despised him. They didn’t care what his feelings were, or even what his needs may be. “And why?” you may wonder, because he didn’t care about them, or what their needs or feelings may be; he only stole from them. He oppressed the townspeople by over taxing them. So when the time came that Jesus was coming to town, and as the excitement and anticipation began building, no one even considered whether or not Zacchaeus may want to see Jesus as well. I don’t believe Zacchaeus had any false pretenses about meeting Jesus, he only wanted to see the healer. But what of the crowd? Why when they saw him struggling up a tree, willing to make a spectacle of himself, did they not make room for him? Couldn’t they see his desire? His need for the savior? No. They were blinded by their own anger and disappointment with him, and it was these emotions that kept them blind to the needs that were overwhelming Zacchaeus. But Jesus saw him! Up there in the tree, alone and hurting. The people were so blinded by their own emotions that even when Jesus called out to Zacchaeus they were confused and disappointed with his decision. “Why would you eat with him, a sinner?” they cried out with dismay. But Zacchaeus, already knowing his sin and shame replied, “I will give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody, I will repay back four times the amount.” What did Jesus have to say to such a response? He turned and spoke to the people of the city, the ones who didn’t allow themselves to really see Zacchaeus, and said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10).

The people of this town are no different than us. We look on with awe and admiration at those in the church who are doing well, and hold a good position in the church while taking little notice of those whose faces are seen less and less. And when a special speaker comes to our church, especially one who is used in the gifts of the spirit, we expect him to meet our needs first, and if there is any time left, minister to “the ones who don’t really care for the deep things of God”. We, like the town’s people, wouldn’t be able to understand it if the guest speaker only ministered to the one person who is the least deserving of it. We would murmur to one another, “if the minister only knew!” We would feel as if we had been cheated! “What about my needs, don’t you care God? And why him! He doesn’t care! Just look at him, he doesn’t even try to look or act holy anymore!” Oh how foolish we are. Oh how blind we have become by our own righteous pride. Did not Jesus say, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31, 32 NIV)

Could it be that the ones who first need a change of heart is us? Maybe the beam in our own eye has prevented us from truly seeing the hurt all around us in churches? It has prevented us from seeing them with love and compassion, rendering us unable to minister to their needs. Could it be that God desires to use us but we are just too unwilling to change ourselves first? I leave you with this scripture. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38 NIV)

When Did I Become A Religious Bigot?

Bigot: A person who is or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.

I’ve recently been thinking about the famous speech given by Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. entitled, “I Have A Dream”. When Martin Luther gave that speech it shook the nation, maybe even the world, because of his boldness and for what the speech stood for. He spoke to a body of people, not just white people on how the blacks wish to be treated, or to black people on what their rights were, he spoke to us all. Common people, black and white, law makers and law enforcers; he spoke to everyone of us. He couldn’t just point a finger at the white people without telling his fellow brother to not allow hatred to be harbored in his heart. Nor could he just ask his fellow brother to forgive the whites for all the injustices; or how would the whites have been pricked in their hearts? With many words and with boldness, he asked us to love each other in spite of our differences.

While we now live in a free nation where we strive to show equal rights regardless of skin color; bigotry is still alive and well. It’s seen at election time when people of all races and ages begin choosing a side. Neighbor against neighbor, coworker against coworker, family member against family member. We began arguing with each other in hopes to change them to our political party. Each side believes that they are the ones who are right, and that everyone else is just ignorant. Each side feels so strongly about this that we can hardly bare to look at our neighbor if they have a sign in their front lawn supporting the “other guy”. Even driving down the road and seeing a bumper sticker supporting the “wrong guy” can set us off. Even worst though is the people on the radio and television showing support for their candidate and telling us why we should shouldn’t be voting for the “other guy”. Worst of all however is the candidates themselves! They try proving how right they are by showing how wrong the other candidate is, no matter if what they are saying is really all true or not.

When I look at religion today, I see much of the same things. While I do believe that we need religion and the structure it offers, I believe, over all, it has become a body of suffering people drunk on the pride of religious bigotry. When did religion become about; “if you don’t believe what I do, exactly as I do, I don’t have to really love you”? When did we start believing that God only really loves, cares, and listens to us when we are a part or our religion? When did we start believing that if people come to our church, and then stop for whatever reason, we don’t really have to show them the same love anymore because they have “walked away from truth”? Are we no different than the Jews of Paul’s time when Paul had to circumcise Timothy because of the religious bigotry all around him? See Acts 16. P

Paul, like Martin Luther, was ground breaking in his day. The peculiar thing is, it was for just about the same reasons. No one wanted to take the gospel to the Gentiles, even though Jesus told them in the great commission, “Go into all the world”! Why wouldn’t they? Religious bigotry! “We are better then them”. It took a man like Paul, a man unafraid of what the normal ways of thinking were to change a nation; to change the world! It took a man like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a black man in a white man’s country unafraid of the normal ways of thinking; to change his nation, to change the world! What will it take today to change this broken world in which we live? Who will it take? While we are not satisfied with how things are, we are comfortable with our situations; and many of those who are not comfortable find it easier not to change. We all want to be loved, but not many of us are looking to love those we can’t tolerate or understand. What then of Jesus while he was being beaten and hung on a cross by those who were guilty? What were his finial words, his final actions? “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. Then he died.

Oh the hurt of this world in which we live! Oh the discomfort and pain of our fellow brothers and sisters all around us! How long will we remain drunk on our religious pride and bigotry? How long will we ignore the faces we see, and the hurt that is etched deep into their eyes? How long will we “stand for truth” when we have never really lived it to begin with? Our battle is not republican against democrat, or one religion against another; our battle is with the enemy of our souls, and he has us blinded by our own pride.

Please make no mistake; this is not a call to leave religion behind. It’s a call for healing and love. The real questions begging for answers can only be answered by you. Who will go? Who will stand alone if needs be? Who will love when others don’t know how?

1 John 4:20-21 If anyone says “I love God,” but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar; for if he doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen? And God himself has said that one must love not only God but his brother too.

Ephesians 6:12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.

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The Death of a Dream

ImageWhen I was a child I remember having dreams of greatness. When asked what I would become when I got older I would quickly reply, “Spiderman!” I never thought this to be out of reach or just a childish notion. In my mind, Spiderman was real, and if he could climb walls, swing through the city, and catch all the bad guys, so could I. I had the bed sheets, undies, and matching pajamas to show my enthusiasm and give my support to the current Spiderman. After all, he deserved it! He had caught a lot of bad guys to get to where he was, and let’s face it, he was the coolest guy alive. But like most childhood dreams this one too faded as my understanding of the real world became more clear.

Joseph

I often think of Joseph and his big childhood dreams; dreams that were clearly given by God but skewed by thoughts of grandeur. When he approached his family and told them of the dream he had that one day they all would bow down to him, I don’t see him sharing it with a whole lot of humility. As a matter of fact, I kind of imagine Joseph seeing himself as a man inheriting rock star status. I mean let’s face it, God only gave him the glory part of the dream and none of the hardships it would require to achieve it. It didn’t take long for Joseph’s brothers to become disgusted with him and his perceived arrogance. God used Joseph’s brothers, and their disgust with him, to begin the long needed journey to become the man, that in time, would give God all the glory.

The Breaking of Joseph

If there’s one thing I can say for Joseph, he never gave up. His true journey to greatness began when his brothers’ distaste for him and his dreams finally caught up to him. They conspired together to kill Joseph but thought better of it and decided to sell him into slavery instead. A rich man named Potiphar, who knew nothing of Joseph and his dreams, bought him to be nothing more than a humble servant in his household. During this time, Potiphar’s troubled wife falsely accused him for trying to rape her. If we didn’t know the rest of the story it would be easy to think; “Joseph had done no wrong, he didn’t deserve this! Why would God allow this to happen to him?” The story only seems to get worse for Joseph and his dreams. He finds himself in prison due to the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife. Crazy thing is he doesn’t give up or lose hope. He still serves God and does all that he can do wherever he finds himself. Finally, he seems to get his lucky break. Two of Pharaoh’s men landed themselves in the same prison as Joseph. It truly seemed as if God was going to use this situation to rescue Joseph and get him back on his way to fulfilling the dream. But God had a different plan. Yes, God did use Joseph, He even gave him another dream in order to set things straight between the kings men, but God let Joseph keep on waiting.

Waiting

Many of us, at this point, would be ready to give up, throw in the towel, move on to a different calling or lifestyle. What made Joseph different? Why would he carry on and not lose sight of his dream or his relationship with God? Was he better than you and I? More spiritual perhaps? No, none of these things. He simply loved God more than his dreams, and this made him carry on even when all hope seemed lost.
Most of us dream of greatness with God. I believe most all of us would truly love to do a work that’s meaningful, enduring, and in the end makes a great difference for the kingdom of God. So why aren’t we? Why do we feel stuck, out of spiritual energy, or worse yet, forsaken by God? Has God moved on past us to find someone better and more qualified? Someone who really knows how to pray and read their Bible? Of course not. The Bible tells us in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” This is a big promise that often time doesn’t seem to be fulfilled. But Moses had this to say about God and his promises; “He is a faithful God, who keeps his promise” (Deut. 7:9). So why then did Joseph have to wait? Why do we have to wait? Why does God allow us to come to the place where we feel abandoned and the dream to be lost? Two reasons…

Why We Wait

Peter has a good reminder for us when we begin to feel forsaken. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9) The part about not being destroyed is one piece of the waiting process. Pride is always waiting just around the corner in our hearts to take the glory for ourselves, and make us feel as if we’ve become elevated above those around us. Remember; “God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).
The second reason we wait is due to weakness. We all deal with spiritual weakness on some level. God knows if we would have the strength to carry out the calling or not. Often times though, we are weak! This is why God said in Isaiah 40:31; “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Waiting is a process of growth, and if we are to do anything meaningful for God, we all must go through a season of waiting!
In the end, Joseph did rule over the land, and his family did bow down to him and pay their homage. But Joseph wasn’t puffed up. They were there because they were hungry and Joseph had the provisions they needed. They bowed down, not because it was Joseph, but because God had given Joseph a position of power so that their lives could be spared. Look at what Joseph said to his brothers; “Don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me into this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives… So it was God who sent me here, not you! And He is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh” (Gen. 45:5,8).

You Are Not Forsaken, Or Forgotten

The Bible assures us that even while Joseph was waiting, and maybe even feeling forsaken, he was not alone. “And the Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did” (Gen 39:2). I don’t believe for a moment that Joseph felt like he was always succeeding, or that the Lord was always with him, but he was. So what’s the real story of Joseph?…
He never gave up!