Sunday, April 27, 2014



Editorial Note:
I will continue the lessons on “strategy & planning,” but it takes more work to get it straight, so I’ll come back to it later.  

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
(2 Peter 1:5–10)

Giving all diligence        (NKJV)
Make Every Effort           (NIV)
Do your best           (New Century)

Jesus showed 12 men how to live.  He taught them with words and by his example to live a peculiar kind of life.  After Jesus had ascended into heaven, he left the future of this lifestyle in the hands of those 11 men.  Teaching people how to live in harmony with God and His will – this is the lifestyle Jesus showed his followers.  He did not found a religion, or “plant” a church.  He did not hand out rules, or take up collections.  What he did was to teach a lifestyle of giving, love and work – or “sacrifice,” for short.

This message of “lifestyle,” as I’m calling it here, was called “the way” by Jesus and his followers.  They were learning to live according to “the way.”  They were learning to “make level paths” for their feet (Hebrews 12.13), and Paul called our lifestyle “the path of peace.” 

Living this lifestyle isn’t easy, but it’s excellent.  It can be heartbreaking, but it’s also the only way to live with contentment or “peace,” as it is usually called in the bible.  Our lifestyle is one of giving, forgiving, generosity and love.  None of us is like this naturally, but we can become more and more like Jesus every day.  To change from our natural state (selfish) to spiritual maturity (teleios) requires growth.  Like growing stronger muscles, we must exercise to grow. 

Truly devoted disciples of Jesus are different than today’s regular “Christians,” because we are people who seek to grow.  We are people who work, who exercise, who train.  Comparing us to the modern Christian is like comparing professional baseball players to folks in a softball league.  It’s approximately the same game, but then again most softball league guys do more “12-ounce curls” than they do hours in the gym. 

To put it bluntly: modern Christians are lazy.  
They have been taught that going to church and being “good” is what it means to be a Christian.  In one denomination’s hymnal I noticed recently they have removed all the songs that have anything to do with “work.”  These days “work” is a bad word.  And if ‘work’ is bad, you can forget about the idea of sacrifice (by anyone but Jesus or a few modern professionals). 

Jesus called his disciples to abandon one’s job and family (Matthew 4.22, 19.29, Mark 1.20, 10.29) to follow Jesus, but today’s Christians are reluctant to give up as little as a family meal or holiday in service to God.  (We will sacrifice them for work or school – but never for the lost or needy)

But then of course we teachers and preachers are always careful to add: “we must be willing to leave these things, but we don’t HAVE to do so every time.” 
          Well, that’s true … but doesn't it seem like some sacrifice would be seen once in a while?

What about you?  Seriously, stop and think for a moment about your own spiritual situation.  Are you getting stronger daily?  Are you sacrificing more today than this time last year?  Are you giving more?  Are you forgiving more?  Are you more committed to understanding God’s word?  Are you becoming wiser? 

If not, maybe it’s because you've quit trying.  Some of us get discouraged and are tempted to quit.  If this is you, let me encourage you to make your time of discouragement be brief. 

Some of us find it easier to rationalize that we need to make money, or have fun, or do family stuff or meet others’ expectations in some way.  If that’s you … then let me encourage you to re-think your situation. 

To be blunt: if you’re spending more time on social media, TV, or other recreational activities than you are in hard work for God … you are lazy.  Churches are full of “good” people whose laziness renders them completely useless.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord’ & do not do what I say?
(Luke 6:46)

Everyone quits

People who know me have heard me say this many times.  I say it because that’s the world I know.  People like the idea of going to heaven when they die.  We like the idea of having a life of peace and contentment as is promised in the New Testament. 

But very few like to work, sacrifice or struggle.  And when we fail (as we all do), most people refuse to keep getting back up time after time and jumping back into the game. 

In life, as in football, the trick is to be difficult to knock down (but understand that it will happen).  The more you have the ball, the more you’ll get knocked down.  Some people get scared and quit, and most people will never play – it’s easier to be a spectator.  And a spectator’s idea of suffering is bad seats or cold or rainy weather.  That’s pathetic!  How can you remotely consider yourself a follower of one who lived an entire life of sacrifice, then died on the cross? 

If you fall, or if you quit – it’s not the end of the world. 
Get back up, and get back in the game. 

God’s grace is sufficient for you. 

One step at a time

If you've been down and out of service, here’s how to get back: one step at a time.  Whether it’s a child learning for the first time or a professional recovering from an injury, we get back to our full-strength by working just a little bit at a time.  If you go too fast, you’ll re-injure yourself or get discouraged.  If you go too slowly, you’ll miss the fun of the challenge and the joy of seeing God working in your life and discouragement will overwhelm you. 

So … decide to get (back) to work today, right now.  Ask for God’s help – He will be thrilled to have you come home to the family business!  Then, one step at a time, get your rehab going.  Patience and persistence is the order of the day. 

Oh, and: be prepared to fail.  You will.  But don’t let that be the end of you.  Just know it’s coming, and then be ready to get yourself back up again. 

Get to work – it’s good for you, and good for God’s kingdom. 

Finally: be aware that by doing this you’ll be weird. 
You will be different than other “Christians,” who are reluctant to break a spiritual sweat.  They will question you and they will try to derail you, just as they did Jesus and all his disciples.  Expect them to give you grief – your “friends” and family are some of Satan’s best tools to derail you.

These are people who give “left-overs,” while we are people who give our first-fruits. 
They give 10% - we’re working & growing to give 100%. 
They won’t sacrifice any of their comforts, will always conform to social convention, and will be rule-followers all the days of their lives. 

WE are people who are people who fear God first and only.  We love and worship God with ALL our hearts, ALL our souls, ALL our strength, and ALL our spirit … and we love our neighbors just as much as we love our own selves!  Yes … JUST AS MUCH! And that’s why we’re compelled to “leave the 99” and go after the one lost lamb (as did Jesus) – because we don’t put ourselves or anything or anyone ahead of seeking and saving the lost, binding up the wounded, and caring for God’s sheep.

To normal Christians who say those words but don’t live them, we will appear extreme and odd.  That’s a good thing – but it hurts, so be ready for their criticism.

Jesus left his village, his job and his mom and family – to serve God 
He sacrificed his life to save us 

The best we can give is so little – 
how can we not give our best?

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must:
  • Deny himself, &
  • Take up his cross daily &
  • Follow me
 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, he is the one who will save it.
 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?
For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory”(Luke 9:23–26)

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