Your Autobiography

This quote from Oswald Chambers is right on target—

“Faith must have an autobiography.” 

AutobiographyYou cannot live the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph or Moses.

You cannot live the stories of Peter, John or Paul.

You cannot live the stories of your grandparents or parents.

You can only live your story.

Your faith in Jesus must have an autobiography.

When Jesus tells us to let your light shine, and to go into all the world and preach, and to be My witnesses, He’s calling us to live our own story. He’s calling us to write an autobiography of faith.

How brightly will you live your faith autobiography in this new year?

Counting Down 2012: #2 The Return Of Sherlock Holmes (book review)

I am counting down the top 5 posts that I wrote in 2012, as determined by the number of views during this year. The 2nd most read post is: The Return Of Sherlock Holmes (book review). 

I don’t read very many fiction books, but I am a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes! So I just finished a wonderful collection of short adventures called The Return Of Sherlock Holmes.

Without being as wordy as some authors, Doyle paints such descriptive pictures of Dr. Watson, Holmes, his clients, his villains, and the crime scenes. I can “see” exactly how the characters look and “hear” how they talk, and can feel the emotions they are feeling. And the crime scenes are also painted in such vivid detail by Doyle, that I can catch all of the same details the Sherlock Holmes is taking in.

I cannot stand how some detective story authors “uncover” some hidden details at the very end that magically helps their protagonist solve the crime. The “magic” of Sherlock Holmes’ solutions is that Doyle allowed you to see everything Holmes saw. The real art is in the way Holmes uses his gift of deductive reasoning to solve the clues.

These mysteries are not always crimes. Often times they are simply perplexing problems. I’ve never been called upon to solve a crime before, but I certainly am called upon to find solutions to thorny problems. In that regard, I owe a debt to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for helping me learn from Sherlock Holmes how to deduce the most logical solution to my mysterious situations.

These are also great stories to read aloud, especially to your kids.

Counting Down 2012: #3 17 Quotes From “What Matters Most”

I am counting down the top 5 posts that I wrote in 2012, as determined by the number of views during this year. The 3rd most read post is: 17 Quotes From “What Matters Most.”

What Matters Most is sure to be a thought-provoking, conversation-starting, paradigm-challenging book. You can read my full review of Leonard Sweet’s book by clicking here. To help whet your appetite for this book (that you’re going to read very soon, right?), here are 17 quotes that especially caught my attention…

“To save the world we don’t need the courage of our convictions. We need the courage of our relationships… Especially the courage of our relationship with the Creator, the creation, and our fellow creatures. Our problem in reaching the world is that we’ve made rules more important than relationships.”

“Western Christianity is largely belief based and church focused. It is concerned with landing on the right theology and doctrine and making sure everyone else toes the line. The Jesus trimtab, in contrast, is relationship based and world focused. It is concerned not so much with what you believe as with Whom you are following.” 

“Relationship is one of the things that distinguishes Judaism and its radical Christian revision from other religions: God calls us into a relationship. Christianity is much more than a wisdom tradition or a moral system or a path leading to higher states of existence.”

“We don’t follow Jesus because we understand Him or because we know the truth about Him. We follow Jesus because He is the Truth, and He leads us into truth through our relationship with Him. …The Jesus call to discipleship is an invitation to enter a relationship with the person doing the teaching, not simply an intellectual encounter with the principles He taught.”

“The postmodern quest has been misunderstood as an abandonment of the quest for truth. It is far from an abandonment, but is rather a rerouting of the quest for truth along more relational and less rational paths.”

“If we shift our focus away from truth as right teaching and correct doctrine, and instead center our lives on truth as a Person and faith as a relationship with that Person, what does this do to evangelism? Evangelism shifts from an attempt to indoctrinate a skeptic into a new belief system and makes the gospel proclamation a process of inviting others into a relationship with God. Evangelism is as much invitation as it is proclamation. It is inviting others into a relationship with God so that the Holy Spirit can make Christ come alive in them and live in them and they can live in God’s fullness and providence. Evangelism is not leading people into right beliefs about Jesus. It is introducing people to a relationship with Jesus the Christ.” 

“Obedience, in the biblical sense, is not ‘doing what you are told.‘Obedience is living relationally, even ‘indivisibly,’ with the Holy One so that we honor, uphold, receive, and follow all that God is and all that God is calling us to become.”

“It’s time to end the theological error of talking about how to make the Scriptures ‘come alive.’ The Word of God is alive. It’s we who must ‘come alive’ to the Scriptures.

“I can either be right, or I can be in a relationship with my neighbor.”

“The Holy Spirit is not a gift to individuals. The Holy Spirit is a gift to the body of Christ.”

“Relationship, not numbers, show if growth is biblical, healthy, and truly fruitful. Perhaps it’s times to declare a moratorium on statistics in the church. What if the only thing we reported was the answer to this question: ‘Is spiritual fruit in evidence in your church? Give me the stories, not more statistics.’ My dream for the church? God’s people telling more God stories than golf stories. An authentic Great Awakening is when people can’t stop talking about what God is doing.”

“James Hillman defines deepening growth as ‘work in the dirt.’ Plants can’t grow heavenward without first growing downward. Colorful blossoms are the byproduct of bland, down-and-dirty roots. Relationships that blossom are knee-bending, hands-dirtying digs into the bedrock issues. …If our relationships are to bear fruit, they first must become rooted in the soil of the Spirit. …If you’re concerned about your dignity, think about this: Where’s the dignity in being hung naked on a tree? Where’s the dignity in kneeling down to wash the dirtiest parts of someone’s body? Where’s the dignity in being born in a manger?”

“Prayer doesn’t plunge us deeper into ourselves, but deeper into others. The early church looked at prayer as a conversation with God that brings us into greater intimacy with God and others. Prayer is not what you do to get God’s attention. Prayer is what you do to bring yourself to attend to God and to pay attention to others.”

“For Jesus it was not ‘Poor people and other outcasts, find yourself a church’; it was ‘Church people, find yourself the poor and the outcasts.’” 

“Sadly, the church is too busy connecting people with the memory of Jesus, the Jesus Who ‘once was’ or the promise of a returning Christ Who ‘is to come.’ Meanwhile, the church is neglecting the Jesus Who ‘is right now,’ the Jesus Who lives all around us in the lives of the poor, the sick, the disabled, the persecuted, and the dying.”

“Being a Christian is more about relationship with God than beliefs about God; more about the presence of God than the proofs of God; more about intimacy with truth than the tenets of truth; more about knowing God’s activities than knowing God’s attributes. It is time to move from a religion that seeks to comprehend God to a relationship that seeks to encounter and be a home for God.”

“God does not come to us offering rules; God comes offering relationship. Truth is not found in the solving of difficult theological riddles. Truth is found as we get lost in the mystery of faith. You can maintain your bearings while getting lost… if Jesus is leading the way.”

Counting Down 2012: #4 God’s Word Is…

I am counting down the top 5 posts that I wrote in 2012, as determined by the number of views during this year. The 4th most read post is: God’s Word Is….

“Never compare this Book with other books. Comparisons are dangerous. Never think or say that this Book contains the Word of God. It is the Word of God. It is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, inexpressible in value, infinite in scope, regenerative in power, infallible in authority, universal in application, inspired in totality. Read it through. Write it down. Pray it in. Work it out. And then pass it on.” —Smith Wigglesworth

Counting Down 2012: #5 Pet (Pastoral) Peeve

I am counting down the top 5 posts that I wrote in 2012, as determined by the number of views during this year. The 5th most read post is: Pet (Pastoral) Peeve.

One of my biggest pet peeves: hearing pastors say, “Ministry would be great if it weren’t for the people.”

Pastor: People ARE your ministry!

After Christ’s resurrection, He wanted to help restore Peter. Jesus asked Peter a simple question, “Do you love Me?” When Peter acknowledged that he did, Jesus gave Peter a way to show it: “Feed My sheep.” I believe this exchange is what Peter had in mind when he penned the words,

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2,3)

Is it hard to be a shepherd? Yes.

Are some sheep difficult to shepherd? Yes.

Is it worth it to shepherd them? Yes, yesYES!!

I love Oswald Chambers’ insight on this —

Jesus has some extraordinarily peculiar sheep: some that are unkempt and dirty, some that are awkward or pushy, and some that have gone astray! But it is impossible to exhaust God’s love, and it is impossible to exhaust my love if it flows from the Spirit of God within me. The love of God pays no attention to my prejudices caused by my natural individuality. If I love my Lord, I have no business being guided by natural emotions—I have to feed His sheep.

Jesus, increase my capacity to love Your sheep. All of Your sheep—the ones that bite; the ones that are nice; the ones that are untidy; the ones that are clean; the ones that are thankful; the ones that are ungrateful; the ones that “get it”; the ones that don’t. All of YOUR sheep. Thank You, Lord, for the supreme honor and heavy responsibility of serving as Your under-shepherd.

Speak Life

tobymacI love the message behind tobyMac’s song Speak Life. Our words really do have an impact on people. The writer of Proverbs said it this way—

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Probers 18:21)

In tobyMac’s song, the lyrics echo God’s Word—

Though it’s crazy, amazing

We can turn our hearts with the words we say

Mountains crumble with every syllable

Hope can live or die…

Well it crazy to imagine

Words from our lips as the arms of compassion

Mountains crumble with every syllable

Hope can live or die

Check this out…

And if you’d like to hear Toby’s inspiration for this song, check on this clip…

Scared Half To Death

Mega fearHave you ever had a really good scare that turned your life around? For some people, they need to be scared half to death in order for them to make changes in their lives.

I think this is what happened to the shepherds outside Bethlehem the night Jesus was born (Luke 2:8-20). The Bible says that when the glory of the Lord shone around them they were terrified (the King James Version is very picturesque when it says they were sore afraid). The Greek word for fear is phobeo, but the phrase Luke uses here for “terrified” is megas phobeo phobos. Get the picture? They were scared half to death!!

But now, what to do what that fear? The angel gave them the first step—Go find Jesus. He didn’t tell them to get themselves cleaned up, or start going to church, or even to stop acting a certain way. Simply go find Jesus.

The shepherds obeyed and went to meet Jesus, and then something amazing happens.

  • Their fear is turned to praise—the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.
  • Their silence is turned to testimony—they spread the word concerning what had been told them.

Jesus was born as a Man to experience all our fears and sorrows and pains. But He took these upon Himself as He became the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice. Now there are no fears that can keep us from God’s presence. Jesus conquered all that kept us from God! 

There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him.He was despised and rejected—a Man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins!But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. (Isaiah 53:2-5; Ephesians 1:3-4)

This Christmas I pray you will…

Find Jesus for yourself!

Let your praises to Him ring out!

Tell others what Jesus has done for you!

Another Christmas Message?!?

Christmas presentBelieve it or not, I actually heard a pastor say this: “I’m not sure I’m going to preach a Christmas message this year. It’s the same story all over again, and everyone’s already heard it.”

Are you kidding me?!?

This is the greatest story. Ever! God coming to earth—the Infinite invading our finite world—yields infinite possibilities in how to re-tell this story. One of the biggest cop-outs there could ever be is to say, “I couldn’t possibly think of another way to tell the Christmas story.”

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind. Read the story again. Insert yourself into the story. Imagine how those first century characters felt. Re-read the story in a different translation. Slow down. Soak in the text.

There are so many ways to share this amazing story. It’s not just another Christmas message. It’s THE greatest story that can be shared in an infinite number of ways.

Pastor, may God give you a fresh view of this amazing story!

Thursdays With Oswald—God’s Honor Is At Stake

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

God’s Honor Is At Stake

As long as a Christian complies with the standards of this world, the world recognizes him; but when he works from the real standard, which is God, the world cannot understand him, and consequently it either ignores or ridicules him….

God’s honor is at stake in my eyes, in my hands and feet; His honor is at stake wherever I take my body. My body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, therefore I have to see that it is the obedient slave of the disposition Jesus Christ has put in to stand for Him.

From Biblical Psychology

God’s honor is at stake in how I live, so I must constantly allow the Holy Spirit to help me answer the questions, “How am I living? How am I representing God?”

Here’s a passage of Scripture I try to keep in mind to help me answer those questions:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:15-17)

  • Is Jesus Lord over me?
  • Do I live with a visible hope?
  • Am I prepared to answer others’ questions?
  • Am I speaking gently and respectfully to others?
  • Is my conscience clear, or do I need to ask forgiveness?
  • If others slander me, is it because I am living according to God’s standard?

May God always be honored in the way we live!

Incapable Of Innocence

Incapable of innocenceThis is God’s description of ancient Israel, but it sounds a lot like modern-day America to me. God said they (we) have…

  • Broken My covenant
  • Revolted against My law
  • Rejected what is good
  • Appointed rulers without My consent
  • Made idols
  • Acted as if My laws don’t apply to you
  • Practiced a meaningless religion (see Hosea 8)

And then God asks them (us) this question—

How long will you be incapable of innocence?

God’s question triggers a bunch of additional questions…

  • What are we waiting for?
  • Why don’t we repent of our sins?
  • What’s keeping us from returning wholeheartedly to God?
  • How much longer will we remain incapable of innocence?
  • How much longer will we tempt God’s mercy?

I’m not waiting for them to change; I’ve got to change. I must recognize my sin, repent of my sin, and return wholeheartedly to God. What about you?

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