Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Thankful Heart

In the 80's, Beverly, Venita (my sister) and I had a Gospel singing group called "Thankful Heart."  We sang locally in area revivals, homecomings and in our parents' church.  The name "Thankful Heart" came from a song recorded by Petra.  It's funny now that I think about it that our little southern gospel group got its name from a Christian rock band.

While celebrating Thanksgiving last week, my heart was filled with happy memories as we visited with our families in Ohio.  My in-laws are doing well in spite of the health issues my father-in-law has faced.  My parents are doing well too...as they continue to pastor their church and love people.  I'm very thankful for their valuable place in my life.

Thankfulness is an attitude of the heart. Have you ever noticed that a person who is thankful is also a happier person?  When we recognize the wonder the many blessings and benefits that God and others have provided for us, we cannot help but have a thankful attitude that results in a joyous heart.

I have noticed in my own life that if I am careful to observe the most minor detail of graciousness shown to me, I am much happier.  If I look around me and realize that God is good and most people (at least here in Indianapolis) are potential friends, I have a positive outlook on life and look forward to the days and weeks ahead. 

Being thankful has two sides.  First, we must observe the blessings around us and consciously and verbally express our gratitude to those with whom we come in contact.  Second, we must be a source of blessings to others. 

As we have freely received, let us freely give.  As has been done unto us, let us do unto others.  As we would have done unto us, let us do unto others.

Many times in today's world the commands of our Savior have been twisted to come out something like this, "Do unto others before they do unto you!"  Our Lord taught us to be kind to all and to love our enemies.  We are to do good to those who would use us or hurt us.  We are to show His grace to everyone.

Most people know these truths and practice them.  I love the people of our city and am still amazed that after thirteen years of living here, to find such love and good will among so many.  Yet, there are those who are sour.  There are those who have grown bitter instead of better in time.  There are those who want to cause trouble and stir up rumors about the most trivial of things.

Being thankful is a heart attitude that must be practiced daily. If we do not practice it daily, we can fall into the pit of despair and become bitter.  I have seen it on the faces of many who claim to know Jesus.  They are so hurt, so resentful, so begrudging that their faces have taken on an ugly snarl.  Look around you or better yet, look in the mirror and make sure it isn't you.

The cure for the "ugly snarl" on the face is an attitude of gratitude in the heart.  If we are thankful in all things, as our Lord commands us, then we will accept the most difficult of people as being brought to us from our Lord for our good and His glory.  It is hard, sometimes, to love our neighbor, especially when they throw their garbage onto our property.  It is hard to love a teacher, preacher or boss when our personalities clash with them, but...we are commanded to do so. 

It is all in the heart.  It begins with an attitude of gratitude.  It results in being thankful in all things.

In this holiday season, look around you and find things each day to be thankful for.  Decide not to bellyache about anything but to give thanks for everything.  As you practice what we are commanded in the Bible, you will find your attitude changing.  You will soon have an attitude of gratitude and be thankful.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

So...I Joined a Church (Part 2)

If we can KEEP a covenant then we can also BREAK a covenant.  The Scriptures teach us in Malachi 2:10 "Do we not all have one father?  Has not one God created us?  Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?"

To be in COVENANT with God also means that you are in COVENANT with every other believer.  In essence, it's a DUAL COVENANT... vertical with God and horizontal with one another.  We cannot separate the two.  We cannot separate the BODY (believers) from the HEAD (Jesus).

How we treat ONE ANOTHER, we treat CHRIST.

In Malachi 2, God has a serious issue with the priests because of the ungodly way they were treating one another.  The priests were disregarding the COVENANT that the Lord had started with their forefathers. 

Remember all the "One Another's" in Scripture?  Those aren't suggestions...they're commands.  Anyone who has entered into the NEW COVENANT in Christ are required to behave in certain ways toward one another.  Basically, believers are mutually obligated to one another in RELATIONAL CONDUCT on the basis of LOVE through the empowerment of the HOLY SPIRIT.
Look at Malachi 2:10 again..."Do we not all have one father?  Has not one God created us?  Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?"

The Hebrew word interpreted “profane” means, “to defile, to pollute, to desecrate, to break one’s word, to dissolve”. 

The BLESSINGS or CURSINGS that flow to others around us are all dependent on our OBEDIENCE or DISOBEDIENCE to the COVENANT.  That's why it's essential for us to remain faithful to the COVENANT we have entered into with God.  Because, as the church goes...so goes the world.

Another definition for the word "profane" is "to bore through, to wound, to pierce”. To profane the covenant of God is to wound or pierce His Son, Jesus Christ. 

When we mistreat another brother or sister with whom we are in COVENANT, we wound the Lord. This is the original BODY-PIERCING that is taking place today within the body of Christ. Remember...what we do to one another...we are doing to Jesus.  We are ONE BODY.  Every time we mistreat one another...we are profaning His COVENANT.

The way we walk out, or manifest the HORIZONTAL aspect of the covenant, reveals to everyone, including ourselves, the true commitment of our VERTICAL commitment to the Lord.  A half-hearted commitment to one another is due to a half-hearted commitment to the Lord.

Jesus addressed the VERTICAL and HORIZONTAL aspects of COVENANT between God and man in Matthew 22:36-40...
  • A Pharisee asked Jesus, “’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 
  • And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (the “vertical” covenant). 
  • This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself (the “horizontal” covenant). 
  • On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’”
More to come...

Monday, November 19, 2012

So...I Joined a Church (Part 1)

Should I JOIN a church?  What does that even mean?  I'm asked frequently by returning guests "how do I join the church?"  I point them towards the CLIMB - the journey we ask every person take with us to become a practical member of our local church.  

Honestly, anyone who is born-again is already a spiritual member of the body of Christ.  Joining a local church is simply ALIGNING ones self with the vision, mission, values and purpose of that church...and then entering into what I believe is a COVENANT RELATIONSHIP.

For some,  joining a local church seems to be something you do out of tradition...for example..."my grandparents have always attended here."  Some even seem to join a church for the assumed "BENEFITS"...i.e., weddings, funerals and even financial assistance

To me, joining a local church should ultimately boil down to the SPIRITUAL SUBSTANCE of  believing in the vision, mission, values and purpose of that church and then willingly entering into COVENANT with that local body to achieve it's goals.  

Joining a church should be something you feel deeply passionate about.  It should be more than just a "membership" to another group, club or agency.  In fact, if you're merely joining a church just so you can have a card in your pocket, bragging rights or even the churches name listed in your obituary...then that's the wrong reason to join a church.

Back to my question..."what does it mean to join a church?"

Perhaps we can best describe what COVENANT MEMBERSHIP looks like in the language used in wedding vows.  Jesus (our heavenly bridegroom) is asking us to enter into His marriage covenant per His terms.

Marriage is not a CONTRACT...it's a COVENANT.  Basically, a contract is a LIMITED commitment.  A covenant on the other hand is an UNLIMITED commitment.  God intended for marriage to be a permanent relationships between one man and one woman, freely and totally committed to each other as companions for life.

Marriage is merely a model of God's covenant relationship with His people.  However, due to our western culture and our lack of understanding the meaning of the word COVENANT - we treat it like a contract that is self-serving and comes with limited liability.

When's the last time you heard the word COVENANT?  Not too often in America.  This word carries great significance to believers.  Christians recognize it to reflect our commitment to Christ and to one another.  This relationship is supposed to be sacred, serious, final and irrevocable...which is deeper and more demanding than most of us understand or may be WILLING to make.

It boils down to COMMITMENT.  All you have to do is look at marriage statistics today and you'll see that broken marriages even within the church are a reflection of our half-hearted commitment to Jesus Christ.

When we enter into COVENANT RELATIONSHIP with Jesus, we do so willingly...through repentance.  The blood of Jesus establishes our new relationship and secures our EVERLASTING COVENANT in His Body...THE CHURCH.

Inside of us we enjoy an INTERNAL RELATIONSHIP with Jesus that is expressed through our EXTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS within His Body...THE CHURCH.

Our public treatment of one another is visible evidence of our private life with Christ. 

More to come...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Moving Forward

Ever help someone move?  When I was a teen, I helped a friend of a friend move from their house into an apartment.  I assumed when we arrived, that Saturday morning, everything would be boxed up, labeled and ready to load.  NOT!  

Nothing was boxed...and needless to say the place was a wreck!

Moving is no fun.  It's physically demanding, emotionally challenging and can be stressful if you are working without an organized effort! (and on an empty stomach...lol)

In my experience, It's always better to have a TEAM effort when attempting to accomplish a big project!  What could be better than successfully accomplishing a project as a TEAM?

1. Batman had Robin

You're more effective with others.  Can you imagine Batman fighting crime alone?  Without Robin, there would be no DYNAMIC DUO.  Don't do ministry alone.  Find someone who has the same passion for Christ as you and have a Holy Ghost Hook Up!  

2. Love the people you're with

If you enjoy the people you work with, you'll be much more effective.  If you can laugh together, you can weather the toughest of storms, too.  When it comes to ministry, the team will move FURTHER and FASTER if they enjoy being together.

3. The Big MO!

What motivates you? For some, it's time off, more money or a good meal.  Regardless of what it is, we all need motivation and encouragement.  People need to know they bring value to the table, that their ideas have merit and their role on the team is vital.  In ministry, a little motivation goes a long way!

4. Breathe

If you fail to take a breath...you'll soon be out of breath.  There's nothing wrong with taking a five minute breather...especially after you've just finished a big project.  If you work hard...you should also play hard!  In ministry it's important to develop a rhythm.

5. Relationships matter

More than likely you'll receive help from the people you've personally invested in when things get overwhelming.  When you pour your life into others...they'll pour back too.  In ministry, we don't just lead from positional authority; we lead out of the relationships we've built with people.  As we invest our life, wisdom and resources into others it will eventually be reciprocated. 

6. Ask for help

Asking for help involves humility and yields creativity!  When you involve others, you'll end up with better ideas, more buy-in, and more effectiveness as a team.

7. Plan ahead

Can you imagine packing your entire house on a moving truck with no plan?  Nothing would fit if boxes and furniture were thrown in at random. When we plan ahead, we are ensuring that we're bringing the right people to the table, the right ideas are being implemented and the goals are going to be reached.  This takes work!!!  If we fail to plan...we plan to fail.

8. Lead the way

If you slow down...everyone else will too.  If you power ahead...so will everyone else!  In ministry, leaders set the pace.  When a leader decides to push ahead, the team will do the same. 

9. Lead well

Sometimes you have to step back from doing the work to making sure that the people you've delegated are moving in the right direction.  In ministry, the team needs direction and high-level leadership, not just another worker.  Someone needs to direct, advise and make quick decisions.  That's the job of the leader.

10. Pack an umbrella

Plan for rainy days and times when the goal or deadline is missed.  In ministry, know that you'll forget some things along the way.  It's ok.  You're not perfect.  Remind your team that it's okay when things don't go as planned.  Simply pick up the pieces and move on.

God loves you so much!  Share His love with others and do all you can to build the Kingdom of God!