RSS Feed

Becoming ‘self-feeders’ and leading those around us to do the same

How often do we look to others to ‘bring’ the presence and anointing of God, forgetting that we can have it and ‘bring’ it ourselves? This question reminds me of the story of Deborah in the book of Judges. There are so many wonderful things to say about this passage of scripture, one of my favorites in the Bible, but I want to focus on these verses today:

Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go. But if you will not go with me, I will not go”. “I will go with you,” she said, “but you will receive no honor on the road you are about to take, because the Lord will sell Sisera into a woman’s hand”. – Judges 4:8-9 (HCSB)

God sent Deborah to prophecy to Barak about the upcoming victory over Sisera, a commander of the enemy’s forces, and to advise him on how to do it. God did not initially send Deborah to go into battle with Barak but that’s exactly what happened. The presence of God was so strong about Deborah that people evidently wanted to be around her. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all – the presence of God should be contagious, and it should be desired among us. God had anointed Deborah as a prophetess and a judge over Israel and this was obvious. Unfortunately Barak should have realized that the presence of God was accessible to him too! Again I ask the question: how often do we look to others to ‘bring’ the presence and anointing of God, forgetting that we can have it and ‘bring’ it ourselves? I believe that this is what Barak did – he rode on the coattails of Deborah’s calling and relationship with God and as a result lost the honor of the victory that was meant for him.

Secondly, I believe that this passage can speak specifically to leaders as well. Now, I am not saying that Deborah has done anything wrong here, but as leaders how much do we let others feed off of our relationship with God, unknowingly hindering the personal growth of those we’re leading? In a book I was reading recently I read the most interesting story of Bill Hybels who leads Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. Hybels made a public apology and rather than paraphrasing and running the risk of misquoting, here is the direct quote:

“We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have … taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.” – Bill Hybels

We need to intentionally teach our ‘flock’ to be ‘self-feeders’. Ultimately Barak received less blessing by feeding of off Deborah instead of diving into God’s presence for himself. So how do we as leaders intentionally teach those that we lead not to feed off of us? I believe that humility and getting rid of our own self-righteousness play a huge part. We need to have an attitude that does not elevate our status as leaders to an unhealthy level – those that we lead need to know that we struggle, that we don’t always get it right, that we need God and His word as much as they do! Bill Hybels says that we have to teach people to take responsibility for their own walk with God. How many people attend your church or bible study group to get their weekly ‘fix’ and continue throughout the week with no other spiritual food than what you’ve given them? We need to be teaching our people a) the value of reading the word and spending time with God for themselves and b) how to do that very thing and live it out. The number one best way to do this is to lead by example. What goes on in the head of the church filters down to the congregation and if we are not feeding ourselves and making sure that we are spiritually healthy, the people that we lead will suffer also. My prayer for leaders in churches and ministries all around the world is that we would focus more on equipping our people with what they need to have a living, breathing relationship with God without having to hop on our bandwagon and rely too heavily on us.

Advertisements

Permission to Believe

He believed in God, who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. – Romans 4:17 (HCSB)

This verse is permission to believe without hesitation. This verse sums up what God is capable of doing. This verse is a command to have faith that is not restricted by science, by reason, by man, by our tiny human minds that don’t understand. This verse is empowering and comforting all in one – empowering because we have access to this God who brings death to life and creates something from nothing, comforting because this God is on our side. Why would we fear anything of this world and beyond it when this God is our God? Be encouraged by this verse today – what is it that you desperately need? What miracle are you asking for? What trial are you facing? I pray that your faith will rise as a result of reading this verse and that it will no longer be restricted by things so much smaller than our God.

Remove the sandals from your feet

“He said, ‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ ” – Exodus 3:5 (HCSB)

As I sit here two days after Christmas, drinking English tea (Tetley to be specific) from my favorite mug, eating a slice of warm buttered panattone and reading from my new Bible, I am soaking up the story of Moses once again. The scene has been set: Moses has run away from Egypt, married a Midianite woman, and is encountering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the very first time.

So why would God ask Moses to remove his sandals? Perhaps as a sign of reverence and respect, but also maybe to gage Moses’ obedience and desire to get closer to God’s holiness – so that nothing would come between Moses and becoming pure before God. Removing his shoes required a conscious decision and effort from Moses but had he not done that small thing that God asked of him, had he not sacrificed his pride, maybe, and his shoes, God may not have trusted Moses with the rest of what He wanted him to do. There are things in our lives that come between us and God, between us and becoming pure and holy, between us and God’s incredible plan and mission for our lives. He has to be able to trust us to lay those things down in humble sacrifice and submission to Him before He can trust us with the rest of what He has for us. In Moses’ small act of obedience and sacrifice to God, he took a large step towards God’s incredible plan for his life and towards the most precious relationship. Later on, in Exodus 33, Moses is referred to as God’s friend:

“The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend.” – Exodus 33:11 (HCSB)

We can’t be sure, but how many blessings might Moses have missed out on had he not removed his shoes that day? When we are faithful to obey and pursue God in the small things, He will be faithful to entrust us with the bigger plans and purposes that He wants to accomplish through us and we will experience an intimacy with Him that is unmatched. What is coming between you and a right and holy relationship with God? What are you not laying down? What are you missing out on because you haven’t laid those things down? Most often it is an idol that has crept its way into our lives and is gnawing away at our desire for holiness. It could be a person, a sin, an addiction – anything. It could be pride. God is waiting for you to show Him that you can be faithful in the small things so that He can lavish upon you grace, healing, and a much bigger purpose for your life than what you are living now.  God specifically promises us fullness of joy:

“You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundance of joy; in your right hand are eternal pleasures.” – Psalm 16:11 (HCSB)

My friends, today is the day to act upon what you know is the right thing to do. You are missing out on so many blessings because you are holding on too tightly to your ‘sandals’. I have ‘sandals’ of my own that I need to work on as well. I know full well that the promises of God are true and I believe we can learn a lot from this one little verse in Exodus 3. If what you need to lay down seems too difficult, seek God above all  but also seek support from your pastor, or a friend, someone who is older and wiser than you in the faith. You don’t have to walk this alone and although it may be tough, God promises that it is worth it.

Discouragement

I get discouraged fairly easily. It’s usually because of something I’ve done, a mistake I’ve made, saying something I should not have said or my lack of faith in general. It is easy to be discouraged. My frustration is that it does not take much to discourage me and I feel like I should be more durable. I’ve discovered that the key is to intentionally shift my thinking onto what really matters and that is the fact that while I’m not perfect, God’s grace is completely sufficient for me. Much of my discouragement comes from putting too much emphasis on what man thinks and not enough emphasis on the gift that is grace. This past week Chris and I visited a church in St. Louis, Missouri where Terry Virgo was preaching. Terry spoke on grace and one of my favorite things that he said was that grace is not just a cleansing, it’s a completely new identity which means that not only have we been washed of our sins but we have been given a brand new evaluation of ourselves which no one else can challenge. Terry was saying that just as Paul says in the first part of 1 Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God, I am what I am…”, the grace of God makes us who we are and therefore we don’t need to wallow in our discouragement. Terry challenged us with a question: Is grace changing you and freeing you? We are not to waste the grace of God, it has been given to us freely and we need to make a habit out of stepping into that grace all the time – especially when we get discouraged. If grace is not changing and freeing you, then you are wasting God’s gift to you and because of that you will not experience the joy that comes from it, nor will you be able to glorify God in the way that you were intended to. Every now and then I have to remind myself that God’s grace is a gift that I can’t earn, it’s a brand new identity that has been given to me, and I have no reason to be discouraged. So my challenge to you today is that when you’re tempted to reject the new identity you’ve been given through grace, don’t! Be encouraged that you no longer need to dwell in discouragement but that you can step into the grace of God and live in light of that!

Psalm 119 – Confidence in my God

For previous posts in this series, click here.

Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans. – Psalm 119:89-91 (NLT)

God’s word is eternal and never changing. It stands unshaken in heaven. His faithfulness is not just for people in the past, it’s for us – here and now. Just like the earth that He formed, His promises endure. Everything that is in His word, all of His instructions, are relevant and true for us today. Everything that happens and everything that is called into existence is under the rule of His purpose. He has intentionally orchestrated everything that has happened, is happening and will happen. For me, this is a message of trust and comfort. I have confidence in my God that He will not lead me into harm. I have confidence in my God that He will be faithful to me, in every circumstance – He will not let me fall. I have confidence in my God that He will guide me, either through His word or through whispers from His spirit that stir in my soul. I have confidence that my God will lead me into the right relationships and to places that I need to be. If you proclaim my God as yours also, do you have confidence in Him?

Psalm 119 – I Have Put My Hope In Your Word

For previous posts in this series, click here.

I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes are straining to see your promises come true. When will you comfort me? I am shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke, but I have not forgotten to obey your decrees. How long must I wait? – Psalm 119:81-84a (NLT)

They almost finished me off, but I refused to abandon your commandments. In your unfailing love, spare my life; then I can continue to obey your laws. – Psalm 119:87-88 (NLT)

Sometimes we get so caught up in our troubles that we have a hard time knowing God is there. We have a hard time feeling His presence, hearing His voice, holding onto His promises – and we feel worn out from our waiting. I appreciate the Psalmist’s honesty in these verses because I think that so often we feel guilty for feeling like God is not with us and beat ourselves up when we feel trapped in our circumstances but it is totally biblical to cry out to God and tell Him how we’re feeling. A lot of the time though, we wait around in hopes that God will speak and that we’ll hear His voice or see a sign when in fact, He has already spoken and His voice is right there in His word. When I am discouraged or need an answer about something, I go to His word in prayer. The truth is that while God does speak to us through His Holy Spirit, sometimes we need to be proactive by searching for His voice in the word. Everything in the Bible is God-breathed – every single word. So when the Psalmist says “BUT I have put my hope in your word”, “BUT I have not forgotten to obey your decrees”, “BUT I refuse to abandon your commandments” he is fully acknowledging that God’s word is a direct line to the throne. I understand that we get stuck in a rut of not feeling like what we read in the Bible is encouraging or helpful, and that is why I ask God to reveal Himself to me through it before I start reading. It is the most encouraging thing you could do – to open your heart and mind to what God might want to show you. The Bible is so relevant for you and I, but it’s not going to read itself to us. We have to seek God through it, we have to hear His voice through it, we have to learn from it and acknowledge/apply its truths to our lives.

Psalm 119 – Let Go and Let God

For previous posts in this series, click here.

Bring disgrace upon the arrogant people who lied about me; meanwhile, I will concentrate on your commands. – Psalm 119:78 (NLT)

As people we are wired to desire justice. Justice for the poor, justice for those who have been wronged, justice for ourselves when something is done to us or being said about us – justice. As we go through life, there are going to be times when we are wronged. It can be something trivial or it can be something huge and this can really hinder our spiritual growth if we allow it to. Someone could lie about you (as is the case in this verse), someone could take advantage of you, someone could abuse you physically, sexually, emotionally – the possibilities are endless. Oftentimes we cannot control what is done to us, but we can certainly control how we act in response to the situation. When something is done that you feel calls for some kind of justice, do not seek it out yourself. Now obviously, take that sentence with a grain of salt. If you need to go to some kind of authority about what has happened that is absolutely fine. However when bad things happen, the soil of our hearts is so ripe for bitterness and unforgiveness to grow in abundance. This can be a dangerous thing because the more hatred and unforgiveness that grows, the less room for God’s love and light there is. Bitterness grows like a weed if it’s not dealt with immediately. In Ephesians 4:31 and 32 it says to “get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” This command could not be more clear – no matter what is done to you, no matter what is said about you – it is your responsibility to get rid of all the bitterness and unforgiveness that can breed in your heart. In Psalm 119:78, the psalmist gives us the perfect way to do this – concentrate on the word. Let God be the one who brings justice on those who have hurt you – you need only to concentrate on His good and perfect word, on His everfaithful love and kindness. In doing so, you are actively pursuing God instead of bitterness and there will be no way that your heart can be consumed with sin. Think about who you need to forgive today, think about what you need to let go of and get into His word so that your heart will be rid of bitterness.

%d bloggers like this: