Category Archives: Monday Morning Momentum

3 Ways the Comparison Game Cripples

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,… (Eph. 1:16-18 ESV)

      In Christ, we all have a ministry. Some work for a “public” or vocational ministry, others less formally minister “privately” to coworkers, colleagues, friends, etc. There are three things we typically tend to compare ourselves to in ministry – 

  1. Insiders – Ministries, other peoples’ ministry efforts, organizations, or businesses
  2. Outsiders – People in “secular” careers, the unsaved, or those not following God’s call (“but I’m doing God’s work!”)
  3. Ideal vs. real – Our internal vision of how things should be vs how they actually are.

      Generally it’s when things aren’t going well. It commonly manifests as either shame, self-doubt, or anxiety. Shame says “Woe is me, I should be further along, like so-and-so.” Doubt says: “If I were all I should be for God, I’d be making a bigger difference doing x, like them.” Anxiety (fear) says “what if program x flops?”. In all of these cases, we’re putting the course before the heart. Why? Because, it’s not about you.
      Can I rub some salt in? Really,  it’s not… about… you. Contrasting where we are to where we think we should be, where others are, or where we’d like to be factors out where God has placed us and what He desires of and for us. God didn’t make you them… He made you you. Does that clear anything up?

      Repeat that to yourself while I do the same, so we both remember it, mmkay? Guilty.

Matters of the Heart
      At the heart of this struggle is this: by grace, God has me right where He wants me. If I’m disappointed with where I am, I have a vertical issue: an idolatry issue with God. What I’m in effect saying is this –

“God should respect my plans and efforts above His.” 

     Core issue: we’ve taken a man-centric view rather than a God-centric view of things. But, take heart – “no temptation has seized you, but that which is common to man.” Easy enough mistake to make. As a card carrying member of the “been there, done that” club, I ain’t mad at ya…

Sovereignty?
     My dissatisfaction with where He has me, even if I’ve been disobedient along the way, is ultimately dissatisfaction with His sovereignty. He can do whatever He wants and He’s not out to make you or I rich, famous, or even successful in and of ourselves. If He has me stalled out (which I’ve felt like many times in “full time ministry”), He’s aware of it. There is not a circumstance that has come about in history that hasn’t passed through his fingers. Nothing surprises God.

Side Note:
      Satan‘s very first ploy was to get Eve to believe she was missing out on something. Trouble is… If you’re longing to be doing something else, there’s a good chance the only thing you’re missing out on is what you’re supposed to be doing right now. Read on, and we’ll uncover what it is we’re really missing… 


Did God Allow It or Cause It?
     I’ve been wrapped around that axle before, too. So, let me ask you… What difference does it make? Are you going to prosecute a case against the God who told the oceans how far they could go and no further? In my darker, heavier moments, I’ve tried it. Losing battle. Turn back. 

     Scripture contains enough references to God causing disaster and affliction (e.g. Daniel 9:14, Psalm 119.75) and God allowing the same (just search “God permitted”) that the doctrine of sovereignty ought to put to rest our anxieties over what isn’t, what could have been, and what calamities or shortcomings are yet to come down the pipe at us.


     This isn’t to say that our desires and dreams don’t matter to God. Louie Gigilio recently tweeted: “What you do matters to God and man, but you matter because of what God has done. First things first.”

What’s Really Missing?
      Paul gets it. His unceasing prayers (above) for the church at Ephesus are that they would know God, not see their ends to their desires met. Rather, that through a deeper heart knowledge of and intimacy with the Father their desires would become His desires. How about you?  

     If a dissatisfaction is a holy dissatisfaction, it is the kind that points us toward knowing God, not questioning Him or our circumstance. I would argue that sanctification is about God purifying us from matters of the heart that obscure us from truly knowing Him. Agreed?

Benediction
     I pray today, that you would come do a deeper intimacy with God so that your anxieties, fears, disappointments, and shame over what is not would be eclipsed and replaced with joy over who He is and what He has done. Don’t be robbed of present joy by what went wrong in the past, is missing in the present, or looms in the future.

“We weren’t meant to be somebody–we were meant to know Somebody” 
– John Piper 

in Christ,

AP

Dealing with Angry People

Orphans in Your Heart
     I have a friend on fire for adopting orphans. He once shared his frustration about many orphan relief efforts like building orphanages, wells, and feeding orphans. “Give the kid a place to live and you’ve still got an orphan.” You’ve met a felt need for the child, but haven’t gone to the root issue. 

     Knowing I’m not in any position to adopt (in this current season) makes my heart immediately bleed for the organization that is building the orphanages, digging the wells, or feeding the children. But, deep down, I know I’ve merely given them a fish, instead of planting them lakeside with a fishing pole and proper instruction.

“A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty;
    rescue them, and you will have to do it again. (Prov. 19:19)”


     Some people are just bound to be angry all the time. Don’t hate them. Anger itself is not a sin, it’s what we do with it that gets us into cahoots with God. We’ve all been discipled by our family of origin what “appropriate” expressions of anger are. Some internalize, others explode, still others manipulate, calculate, or plot revenge. Many fail to learn how to “dump” their anger – they hang onto it like an orphan without an adoption plan. We live in a culture that disciples us deeply in personal revenge rather than trusting in God’s vengeance. Just go watch an action movie.

Know Thy Enemy
     Anger is a debt-debtor relationship that happens when someone or something fails to meet our expectations. It says “you owe me”. Holding onto a ledger full of debt is a toxic condition that turns Prov 19:19 into a prophecy. An outburst of anger is biologically accompanied by the release of the hormone cortisol. God designed our bodies to handle cortisol in short bursts, to protect us in fight or flight situations. Long term, it’s toxic. It’s terrible for their health: “fretting” or holding on to “you owe me”s can keep cortisol levels high leading to stroke, heart attack, low bone density… overall, bad stuff. No wonder God tells us not to fret.
 
     If you have their permission (“can I help you solve this problem?”), you may be able to offer them some help. This can’t be removing the problem or solving it for them – you’ve merely built an orphanage, not answered their deeper need. It must be in helping them understand the debt at the bottom of their heart.  “What does <person/circumstance> owe you?” Understanding that we don’t war against flesh and blood is vital to clearing the emotional confusion surrounding an outburst (or inburst) of anger.

    The deepest need of the person struggling with anger is Christ at the center of their life. A proper understanding of the sovereignty of God equips them with a new Father who is never surprised by their “igniting circumstance”. They need to repeatedly answer through fervent, desperate prayer during many lucid moments: “How does God use affliction to transform us (Psalm 119:75)?” 

     Practical surrender to a sovereign God includes acknowledging He is in the good and the bad, trials are necessary (James 1:3), and it is okay to be angry, but not to sin against others or God.

Power of Prayer?

     Prayer is crucial. While the temple in Israel was rife with the stench of death as thousands of animals were sacrificed daily, the priests would go out with censers filled with incense (representing prayer) that brought a sweet smelling aroma into the outer courts. So, what? Prayer may not change their circumstances, but it brings a sweetness amidst the carnage of unmet expectations. If you can teach them to pray with that understanding, you’re leading them to the answering of their deepest needs.

     The gospel isn’t about “try harder” and “do more” it’s about the impossibility of pleasing God with our own efforts and His unfailing love despite that fact. It’s about what He’s already done. As today’s verse explains, behavior modification doesn’t fix the angry person. Get them out of a bind and they’ll just be angry again about the next thing that goes wrong. Only a new heart can do that.

     Sometimes, a discipleship relationship with another godly man or woman is the critical link needed to help them sort through things on a regular basis. We meet with men, women, and couples often to provide an outside eye and biblical perspective on living the gospel and handling these kinds of issues. Maybe, they just need to grab coffee with a guy like me who’s battled anger frequently, lost often, but found lasting victory in Christ. Give them my card or connect us via a three way email. Aarron at Seasons of Life Ministries dot org.


Pray hard and without ceasing. Love deeply. Forgive thoroughly and often.

Much agape,

AP

So You’re Going to Read the Whole Bible This Year…

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a year out like that, running through Genesis, jogging through Exodus, marching through Leviticus, only to get bogged down and stalled out in the muddy genealogies of Numbers… “Next year…”
 

We attest that we believe scripture to be complete, inspired, and inerrant. We admit that if it’s in the Bible, we can trust God put it in there for a reason. And, when we’re reading Genesis and Exodus, it’s juicy and meaty, but Leviticus is a bit drier and tough. Numbers? Like a mouthful of sawdust, maybe?


From:
http://mikeneglia.blogspot.com/2013/09/3-ways-to-read-genealogies-in-bible.html

What do the genealogies reveal about God? They tell us that He is a faithful Lord, who keeps His covenant from one generation to another. Whoever we are and however far we may have descended from the source of our human life in Adam, we are still part of God’s plan. Over the centuries we have developed differently, we have lost contact with one another, and we have even turned on each other in hostility, but in spite of all that, we are still related and interconnected in ways that go beyond our immediate understanding or experience.
 
Secondly, what do the genealogies say about us? They say that from the world’s point of view, most of us are nobodies. We live and die in a long chain of humanity, but there is not much that anyone will remember about us as individuals. Yet without us, future generations will not be born and the legacy of the past will not be preserved. We are part of a great cloud of witnesses, a long chain of faithful people who have lived for God in the place where he put them. Even if we know little about our ancestors, we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their loyalty and perseverance, when they had little or nothing to gain from it or to show for it.
 

Finally, what do the genealogies say about God’s dealings with us? They tell us that we are called to be obedient and to keep the faith we have inherited, passing it on undiminished to the next generation. They remind us that there is a purpose in our calling that goes beyond ourselves. Even if we are not celebrated by future generations and leave little for posterity to remember us by, we shall nevertheless have made an indispensable contribution to the purpose of God in history. So the genealogies bring us a message from God, even if they appear on the surface to be barren and unprofitable. All we have to do is ask the right questions, and their meaning will be quickly opened to us.

Why Me? The Most Important Question…

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15)”

     I’ve often wondered as I’ve read the Gospel accounts of Jesus why He would do a miracle and then tell someone not to make a big deal of it. I mean, he heals a guy of leprosy and tells him – “Just show the priests and offer sacrifices and keep the rest on the down-low. (Matt 8:8, Mark 1:44, Luke 5:14)” What’s with that?

Okay, so Jesus had a reason. I get it.

Why Are You Here, Lord?
     But, he does this awesome, public miracle where he feeds over 5,000 people and comes up with leftovers and then “withdraws” to a mountain. We all know that Christ’s miracles were never done for the sake of spectacle, rather to authenticate the power of God in Christ and for His glory. So, in front of a crowd of thousands – AUTHENTICATED! Your Kingdom come, we’re with you, Lord – now BE OUR KING!

     So, why doesn’t Christ just come out and say it? “I’m the Christ! Repent and come to God!” Instead: Withdrew again to a mountain? Come on!!!

The Core Issue
    The trouble in this scenario is identical to 1 Samuel 8. It is the familiar cry of the depraved soul that says “I want to be like everyone else!” Or, in Israel’s case – “Give us a KING!” The Lord’s reply is similar to the prophet Samuel’s. God told Samuel that the nation hadn’t rejected Samuel, rather God himself. And, so in tragic irony, despite the fact that they wanted to make Christ their king, the people were still rejecting God as their king.

Huh? 
     Though they were asking God in a body to be their king, they didn’t really want to make God their king. In classic Jesus form, Christ knew the motives of their hearts: it wasn’t God they wanted. It was freedom from oppression. But, not as Christ would have it. They wanted freedom from the oppression of man, not the freedom from the oppression of sin, self, and spiritual depravity. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not like the kingdoms of men…

So, Lemme Askya:
     Lemme ask you this day: do you want Christ, right now, or do you want merely His blessings? Paul Washer once said even the devil himself would like to be back in heaven as long as God wasn’t there and he didn’t have to bow his knee to Christ. So, what do you want? An earthly king to provide for you and go out and fight your wars like the rest of the nations, or do you want a Holy, sovereign, and worthy King that you can worship and serve for eternity? Do you want Christ because you don’t want hell or because you want Christ?

     The Bible asks the same question over and over from Genesis to Revelation: “will you trust Me?” So asks the Lord of you right now: “Why Me? Do you want Me for Me or for my blessings?” Let us resolve to answer that question daily.

Jesus is usually sought after for something else, not for his own sake. – Augustine


in it with you,

AP

Voices of Christmas Passed…

Even An Atheist Can Articulate the Gospel
     The mid 1800s were approaching and a church organ in the south of France had recently been restored. The parish priest asked a friend to compose a poem to celebrate the event. That friend was a professed atheist named Placidde Cappeau. His poem was entitled “Midnight, Christians”. It was soon set to music by Adolphe Adam and would later be translated into what we now know as “O Holy Night”.

     It’s been my number one favorite for many years now, although recent arrangements of “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Go, Tell It On The Mountain” by the acapella group Pentatonix now threaten its reign. Cappeau’s original text clearly marks Christmas as a celebration that God sent Christ to the world to eradicate the stain of sin. Wiki it and you may be astounded that an atheist could comprehend the facts of the gospel. Or, you may just be saddened that he, like many, would understand the facts, yet not respond as even he commands his listener:

“Fall on your knees,
O hear the angel voices.”


How Will You Surrender?
     One day, we will all see the Christ, the risen Lord and returning King. The Bible teaches us that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. It doesn’t say “every believer will bow”. It says “every knee”. In other words: whether we hear the gospel message and believe on it unto salvation or reject it as Cappeau did, we will acknowledge Christ as king.

     From that point, we will either know Him as Savior King or Supreme Judge. The question is, will you surrender to the truth of the former while there is still time or surrender to the latter after time runs out?

     As we approach the “New Year”, I want to encourage us all to remember – Christ is returning. Some say as early as this week. Others say years or generations off. Regardless, the gospel call is this: fall on your knees in surrender to the Lord as redeemer, savior, brother-slave, and coming King today. Celebrate His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection not only at midnight on a day that’s not even His real birthday, but everyday. 

What Is Surrender?
     I’ve long believed the Bible to be a collection of inspired and inerrant (in their original manuscripts) books that all ask the same question from the perspective of God: “Will you trust me?” That’s what this kind of surrender is all about: full time dependence on and trust in Christ. Not just uttering niceties one day or a few weeks out of the year…  

     We all have a tendency to be event oriented rather than process oriented. Salvation is both an event and a process – depending on how you understand “sanctification”. We err when we spend so disproportionately our money, time, and effort on one event when the eternal Lord is Lord of our process. Christmas shouldn’t be relegated to just one day or even a season – ransom from sin and death should be an everyday joy. I pray that now that “Christmas” is past (or approaching in another couple of months, depending on what sources you believe) that we (myself included) may begin to celebrate our Savior more fully regardless of the day of year. 

Merry Christmas today, tomorrow, and everyday.

On our knees before the Savior,

AP

My bad – here’s my favorite arrangement. North Point Community Church’s ten year old recording has held my #1 spot for a decade now. Thanks, to everyone who made it possible and Jeff Scott for the “money note” at the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC4lOHFCnq8

Would You Leave Paradise? – Favorite Christmas Song #2

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Gal. 4:4-6)

Got Plans?
     Pregnancy and adoption – these are not emotionally neutral topics in our culture. Most of the time, it’s not attached to the word “unplanned”. But, even planned pregnancy is a game changer for the family involved. There’s preparation, baby gear, decisions to be made, sleepless nights, doctor visits, ultrasounds, and then, the baby actually arrives

     Adoption – this never falls in the “unplanned” category, does it? But, it’s a big deal to all parties involved. Someone “loses”, others “gain”. The stories are typically tearjerkers, but the life of the donor mom, the child, and the adoptive family is never the same. Having met my own biological sister for the first time when I was 30 years old, I know what it’s like to “lose” a family member to adoption, to have family secrets, shame, wonder, and a life changing reunion.

Your Past and Future
     God says that because of Adam, we’re stuck under the law. Law says “do this/don’t do that” and you’re on good terms with God. But, these laws were impossible to keep. The written code said “don’t commit adultery”, but Christ would explain that even thinking lustfully breaks that law. How could anyone keep up? Worse, how could a good God expect anyone and everyone to jump over a bar that high?

     In Genesis, Adam discovered permanent separation from God was possible with merely one sin against a God who is both holy and eternal. To fix that problem, he’d need an eternal sacrifice – an eternity of second chances. Ever feel like him? If he (consequently we) were ever to be acquitted, he’d need a perfect, eternal, blood sacrifice – because without the shedding of blood, there’s no forgiveness of sins. (See Heb. 9:22)

     A baby changes everything.

Leaving Paradise… For What?
     Can you imagine you’re on some island beach sipping a fruity drink and you get a call from me that says “I need you to come to Alaska so I can bash your thumbs to smithereens with a hammer. Can you help me out?” Would you hope on the next plane? Me, either. Yet, Jesus left more than a tropical shore and came to earth to be brutally beaten and murdered on a cross. Why? Because, His birth, death, and resurrection make our “adoption to sonship” possible.

     I’m from New England. There are two kinds of music I can’t stand: “Country and Western”. But, as a father of four, with a sister who was given up for adoption before I was even born, and as a man adopted into the family of God by the shed blood covenant of Christ, Faith Hill got me on this one. So, here’s my number 2 favorite Christmas song: “A Baby Changes Everything”.

May the Christ child, his life, death, and resurrection change everything for you. For good.

in Christ,

AP

Best Christmas Songs, Ever?

My “Final Four” – #4 The Little Drummer Boy
Trivia Fun
     Nothing you can’t find in a quick Wikipedia search, but noteworthy enough for holiday chit-chat around the egg nog bowl. Written in 1941, first recorded in 1955 by who? The Trapp Family Singers. Yep, that quaint little family who brought you “Doe, a Deer, a Female Deer”, made Julie Andrews a household name, and currently has Carrie Underwood looking… out of place. Based on a Czech tune and originally published as “Carol of the Drum”.

Theological Significance:
     Though Jesus isn’t the main character, I’m still okay with playing and singing it because Christmas is the season when Holy God became incarnate: the earthly merger of the magnificent with the mundane. The story juxtaposes wise men from far off with the Wisest of all, who would now come nearer than any earthly man would have ever known. Great men, great gifts, cow dung, and a precious and Holy King in an animal’s feed trough – magnificent, meet mundane. Perfect, meet profane. Yet, God ordained it all.


Enter, Scandalous Child
     The religious people of Jesus’ time had become so emphatic about the law, they were drifting from true relationship with the Law Giver. They’d begun to call worthless many of the things that God truly valued. Women and children in this time were “to be seen and not heard”.

     Yet, the scandalous Christ would later scold (in three different gospel accounts… OUCH!) His own disciples:  “Let the little children come to me!” Mt. 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16 So, what an insulting scandal that a little boy, bearing no tangible gift would be given audience with the King of Kings? Isn’t it already scandal enough that His birth to a virgin mother was proclaimed first to lowly shepherds (not exactly the top of the socio-economic ladder of the day) and his birthplace a barn?

     Hallelujah, yes! Bring on the scandal.


     And, so the scandal of the gospel is proclaimed in this song – that a little child, in the face of the wise who offered great, majestic gifts, would bring but a humble song, yet would garner the smile (favor) of the child born to live, suffer insult, and die to erase the scandalous sin of the rich, the poor, the wise, the foolish and all in between! Wow. Majesty amidst the mundane.

Scripture Snack:

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor. 1:20-21)

Here’s My Favorite Version – What’s Yours?

     I’ve been through a few favorites on this song – first time I heard Candi Shelton (then, Candi Pearson, on North Point Community Church’s first Christmas CD) do her acoustic version, my jaw dropped. “Who does that to that song?!” If you look around the iTunes store, Grooveshark, or even Pandora, you might get yourself a listen

     When I heard these next two versions, I thought the exact same thing. “Who’d have thunk THAT?!” The following videos are my #2 and #1 favorite versions of this song for obvious reasons. Alicia Keys at Rockafeller Center in ’09 and my new favorite – Pentatonix.


     Drop us a comment below with your favorite version, will ya? Merry Christmas, and may Christ be at the center for you this season and all year long.

Pray for the Cheerleader and Fisherman

…”Put out into deep water, 
and let down the nets for a catch.” (Luke 5.4b)


Sportman vs. Professional
     If you fish for sport, you know your gear, the boat, the weather, and how to find the good spots and how to find a good spot when all the good spots are taken. If you fish for a living, you not only know where the good spots are, you also get there before anyone else does – it’s your livelihood, isn’t it?

Sound Advice:
     What Jesus told Peter to do made no sense. It sounded “foolish”. A carpenter turned rabbi telling a fisherman what to do? Are you kidding? If anyone else had commanded him to do it, Peter would have rebuked them on four logical, well reasoned grounds. After all, he’s a trained professional.

  1. Availability: We’re not going to catch anything, because we’ve been out all night and have already caught nothing (which Peter reminds Jesus, anyway).
  2. Exhaustion: We’re not going to catch any fish because we’re exhausted – these aren’t butterfly nets we’re cleaning. They’re made from strong, heavy rope, made heavier by the weight of the water within them, and we’ve already labored all night to place them, pull them in, and clean them.
  3. Timing: We’re not going to catch anything when the daytime sun is high because the fish are all hiding in darker places.
  4. Location: We’re not going to catch anything in the deep waters because fish are caught where the water is just deep enough and not too deep.


     Any logical, wise person would hear the counsel of this seasoned professional and intelligently decide not to ask him something so foolish. Yet, the Lord asks Peter to do something utterly counter-intuitive. Scarcity of fish, exhaustion, wrong timing, bad location.

     Have you ever sensed the voice of God calling you to the wrong place, at the wrong time, when you’re discouraged and spent, and there’s no logical hope for accomplishing what He’s asking you to do?

Who am I?
     I’m adventurous, with a moderate to high tolerance for risk. Right? I’m strong in my faith – after all, I’ve been called to “full time vocational ministry” for the past 6 years, right? I mean, I’m a trained professional, right?! I cheer on fisherman for a living! Uh, oh… You can see where we’re headed here, can’t you?

     Yet, over the past month, I’ve heard God call me to cast my nets into the deep. When I look at my assets: high risk tolerance and previously held beliefs about the strength and depth of my faith, I’d normally say “sure, Lord. You say so, I’m in.” If it were someone else asking me what to do, I’d pull out my pom-poms and cheer them across the finish line: “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!!! Go, team, go!!!” But, this is different.


So, What’s the Problem?

     But, this time… This time, I’ve heard God calling me to do something, trust Him with something so big, so dangerous, so counter-intuitive, that if He doesn’t swoop in with a miracle, dozens of people are going to be impacted negatively, including my family. This is deep water – not someone else’s life, calling, boat, or nets… Not only does my boat look too small, but my pom-poms feel like they’re 100 lbs a piece. When I realized the fisherman I’m to cheer on is me, God exposed the shallowness of my own faith when I, a mere man, began to weep and tell the sovereign of the universe: “I’m going to trust you in this, but you’d better come through!” Can you imagine such arrogance?

     Yet, Peter wrestled with the soundness and depth of his own faith so much that when the Lord did what Peter expected could only fail, he was brought to his knees by his own lack of faith. “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! (Luke 5:8)”

Prayer:
     So, today, I ask your prayers – that I will trust God in the area He’s asking me to. That I will not rely on my own senses, wisdom, will, or nets, but on Him who calls me to the deep. That I will not be overwhelmed by the fear of men who would later say “why would you have done something so… foolish?” Today, I encourage you as always by allowing God’s faithfulness in my past afflictions and faults to overflow to you as a testament to what He might do in your current circumstance. But, this time, I’m doing it before the fact… With sweaty palms on heavy pom-poms.

Be encouraged: fisherman’s boat nearly sank with the catch… And, he later walked on water.

in Christ,

AP

The Number 1 Lie About Doing "MORE" for God

Painful Lies
    On October 26th, we staged our fourth local performance of a one man show called “That Day”, about a man who receives his rewards at the judgment seat of Christ as promised in 2 Cor. 5.10. As I listened to feedback from those who witnessed the performance and read through comment cards, I was struck by the number of times I heard people say “I realized tonight that I could be doing more for God.

     It was painful lie to hear.

As “Dan Matthewson”, Aarron describes his experience
at the judgement seat of Christ in “That Day“.

     They weren’t lying – they sincerely want to do more for God. It was only painful to hear because most people have been brainwashed into thinking one of their greatest problems is that they’re not doing enough (at least in American culture). 
     The lie is: “You’re not doing enough.” The truth is, God is not the God of “enough”. God’s will for us is that we do His will for us. It’s not about doing all of the tasks on our list – it’s about doing only the things that God has ordained for us to do. The truth is often that we’re doing too much – that we’ve heaped extra things on our plate out of guilt or fear (guilty, and guilty as charged), things that are good, but not the things assigned to us in a particular season. 

What Do You Call an Underachiever?
     Most people would refer to that person as “lazy”. And, they’re probably right. But, someone who consistently does less than what is required is in violation of God’s order and commands, specifically whem it comes to the first command given in the garden – “take dominion”, but also references such as Col. 3.23. Ultimately, God calls underachieving sin.

What Do You Call an Overachiever?

     The painful truth is, God doesn’t discriminate when it comes to eternal rewards – “I desire obedience, not sacrifice”. When someone does more than what’s called for, it’s often labeled “overachiever” or “zealous”. But, can we be honest? All time is spent doing something. If we’re spending it doing something God hasn’t called us to do, we’re using time He set aside for us to do something else He ordained for us to do. What does God call an overachiever? Same thing he calls all who do iniquity: wicked, sinner.


In Their Defense
     I understood what the commenters were saying – most of the people at “That Day” had a massive epiphany while watching the show: that God is watching us, recording our every deed, word, and private thought. Even better than that, He’s not doing so to shame us, punish us, or squash us for being lowly worms. He’s promised us rewards. So, their desire to do more of the things God was calling them to do naturally increased. Good for them and glory to God.

“Right” vs. More

God wants us to “do the right thing”… all the time.
This is abiding… Not sprinting on a never
ending treadmill.

     Ultimately, God desires us to walk in obedience, “by the Spirit”, in His ways, not to the left nor to the right, obeying all of His commands and statues, because they bring life. He wants us to “do the right thing”… all the time. This is abiding. This is total surrender, total obedience. Not sprinting on a never ending treadmill.
 

     But, in a Genesis 3 world, we’re assured both that we’ll never do this perfectly and we’re not given license to stray from the path for “good reason”. There is no “good reason” for disobedience. It’s still disobedience. The litmus test for all of our actions is: “is this what God is calling me to do right now.” The pivotal matter is not that we do more, rather that we do more of the right things – not merely good things, but the things God has specifically ordained for us to do at this time.

May God teach us to use our time to do all He designed us to do, nothing more and othing less.

in Christ,

AP

Intimacy with God in Four Simple Stages

The Train Wreck:
     Everytime I pick up Chuck Swindoll’s “Intimacy with the Almighty”, it’s a spiritual train wreck… but a wreck that needs to happen. This book first exposed me to Paul’s mission statement in the Amplified version. This is a translation I very rarely pick up, but it seems to tease out Paul’s greatest desire as also captured in other epistles:

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]
That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. (Phil 3:10-11 AMP)

     If you’re so inspired to do, read that again. Paul desires God – the whole package: good and bad. The bliss and that sanctifying affliction that leads to it.

     Sounds like quite an awesome quest on a grander than “Fellowship of the Ring” scale, yes? 

     So, how do we get there?

Psalm 1 reads:
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked 
or stand in the way of the sinner or 
sit in the seat of mocker.
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and he meditates on his law day and night.”
 4 Minutes, 4 Stages
     Here’s a great key to that intimacy – meditating on the law of the Lord day and night. “Quiet time” or “time with the Lord” is often one of the places where languishing faith gets stuck in the mud. Many having never “learned” to have a quiet time simply find themselves wandering. Other times, I’ve found the tyranny of the urgent crowding out my time with God at precisely the time I should be leaning into it.

     So, here’s a touch of structure a mentor once shared with me. I challenge you to try it first with a four minute block of time and see how fast it begins to grow to over an hour. Divide the time up into four stages and commit to using it in these four ways:
1. Read in Psalms or Proverbs
2. Praise and thank God
3. Listen silently
4. Present one BIG request before Him

     Don’t aim for great length, rather consistency. If you find one of the stages getting longer (which you will), do everything you can to keep the others the same length as that longest one. You will find the time expanding rapidly. It’s okay, this is the work of the Spirit drawing you to the Father.
    I have discovered my appetite for the word to be growing deeper and desire to be in His presence greater in just two times through this structure. I hope you will share this with someone who is in a dry season or stuck in second gear in their faith. But, most of all, I pray that He will catch you heart on fire for Him as Paul describes in Philippians.

in it with you,

AP