Monday, November 27, 2006

Galatians 6:2

Galatians 6:2-“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (NKJV)

In the context this verse is given, it speaks specifically to helping another Christian brother or sister bear their burdens of life. It also means to restore them from a sin (see verse 1 of the same chapter). It is one of the ultimate verses that speak to me of loving and caring for my neighbor.

Wait a second, though. Who, exactly, is my neighbor?

Hmm…that’s quite a conundrum, isn’t it? Now as Christians, we are very quick to pick and choose who our neighbors are, aren’t we? We want to pick nice ones, who will bring over cookies, and swap recipes with us. We want ones who will meet at the fence line over small talk.

We want ones who live by our golden rule: “If you don’t delve too deeply into my life, then I won’t delve into yours. We’ll just be superficial and shallow. And best of all, we won’t have to say or do anything that might be considered offensive or inflammatory.”

I mean, for goodness sake, we don’t want someone in our lives that will CHALLENGE us or ENCOURAGE us to evaluate ourselves daily. Do we? Do I?

I have a new neighbor. He’s a new friend. He just moved into my neighborhood. Actually, one of our mutual friends introduced me to him. She asked me to talk to him and love on him, because he really needed to see Christ’s love.

He’s different. He’s different than ALL of my other neighbors. He isn’t a clean cut Christian man like me. He smokes. He drinks. He is not someone you would normally associate with if you saw him.

But that’s because you have never met him. See, I don’t think I have ever seen God’s finger placed on someone’s heart so deeply and so tightly since…..well, since He touched me. (There are still some people in Oak Ridge who knew me BEFORE God touched me. You should talk to them about the old man. )

I mean this neighbor of mine, he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is real and He is moving. But He has questions. And anger, and discontent, and rage, and all sorts of other negative things bottled up inside of him.

He needs a friend; a neighbor. And God had the trust to introduce him into MY life. This neighbor of mine is walking a razor edge in his life; and God trusts me to walk with him.

So, do I help him bear his burdens? Or do I insist that he get cleaned up and make himself presentable? Get his act together and come correct before I’ll talk to him about God?

Or, do I show God’s love and mercy to him, just like God did to me? Do I walk this thing out with him, and show him truth and grace wrapped in love and acceptance?

As my parents used to say to me and my siblings as we were growing up, “Remember your home training”. Don’t forget how you were raised up in this world.

My Father, God, raised me up to see that no one, NO ONE, is beyond needing Him. And no one, NO ONE, is too far beneath me to help. I am not good enough to look down my nose at ANYONE.

I was there for him last night. I’ll be there for him today. He knows that I won’t help him in anything wrong, or enable him in negative actions. But he is also learning that with trust comes acceptance. He is learning to trust me, so I need to continue to earn his trust.

Help me by praying that I will not do anything that will reproach the name of Christ. Pray that I will continue to be open and attentive to what God would have me say to him, and not what I would say. Pray that I will continue to have the opportunity to speak the truth of Christ into his life.

Help me bear this burden. And understand this; if you won’t help me, then God will find someone else who will. And you will lose a part in something so wondrous and magnificent to happen in a person’s life.

Bear this, so someone will bear yours with you. It might even be me.

Oh, and that new neighbor I have; he doesn’t live on my street. That doesn’t make a difference to you, does it?

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Matthew 11:29-30

Why is there a disconnection between what we KNOW and what we DO? Why is it so much easier to “talk the talk” than to “walk the walk”? You know what I mean don’t you? Let’s get honest about this day to day Christian walk just for a minute.

We all know what we should do; how we should be toward each other and toward those on the outside. We know we are called to be salt and light. We are called to be a guidepost for those who are in the darkness; to lead them to Jesus.

Why can we watch people dying all around us, and not be fazed by it? Why can see those who are looking for something that we KNOW we have, and hide it under a basket? How come we can go to church and strut and do all manner of things in front of the people, but we cannot make a simple sacrifice for a God who sacrificed His own Son to bring us back into reconciliation with Him?

Why can’t I just do it?

Who am I kidding, right? I’ve got it all together, don’t I? I’ve got this wonderful ministry with the verses; I’m part of the greatest ministry Faith Promise Church has to offer, the High School Ministry. I’m married to a wonderful wife, and I have 4 wonderful daughters.

Why can’t I just do it?

Where is the switch, so I can just flip it “on” and get my walk in order? Where is the path that I am missing so I can get through all this stuff and quit floundering around in life? Where am I not getting it?

Why can’t I just do it?

Matthew 11:29-30-“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Before John Deere tractors, fields were plowed with oxen. The animals were yoked together, and hitched to a plow. You had to be careful, because you didn’t want two completely different oxen yoked together.

You wanted them to work together. And when the time came, you used more experienced oxen to train younger ones on the plowing. When you plowed, you wanted nice, straight furrows for your crops; not zigzagging lines all over your fields.

Okay, so who am I yoked to right now? Wait; you mean I’m actually supposed to be yoked with Jesus? But if I’m yoked to him, then I’m most likely in training. Also, if I’m yoked to him, then…..I’m not so completely different from Him after all. I mean, you don’t want to be unequally yoked…

But if I’m not so different, and we are plowing the same field, then why is it so hard for me? Why is my burden so heavy? I wonder what I’ll see if I look back at the line I’ve been plowing…..

Oh boy.

Exactly when did my line start trying to go crooked? Where did I go wrong?

Why can’t I just do it?

Then I look next to me, and there stands Jesus, still. Smiling at me; grinning from ear to ear. He doesn’t have to say a word. I just know that I’ve drifted and He has been there to keep my course. He doesn’t want me to go astray, but sometimes, we have to learn.

The yoke chafes when you strain against it, doesn’t it? It rubs and scrapes away at you. But when you put it on and follow the example we have been given, it’s much easier to pull.

Why can’t I just do it? Maybe I am trying too hard to do it, instead of allowing the One who works THROUGH me to do it. Maybe I’m going about this thing all wrong.

Maybe this yoke thing isn’t so bad after all.

You always get a chance to learn to plow. The fields are white with the harvest. Don’t just get disgusted with yourself and throw down your yoke. Don’t give up. Allow Jesus to pick you up, and dust you off.

Then grab that yoke, and pull with all your might, following the lead of the One who knows exactly where He wants you to go.

Hey, I’m doing it.

Be blessed in the Lord today, as He helps you plow your own field.

Bo J.

Monday, November 13, 2006

1 Samuel 12:23

1 Samuel 12:23-“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.”

So, let’s set the stage here, shall we? Samuel has just anointed Saul as King over the Israelites. In a nutshell, the Israelites wanted to be just like all the nations around them. They wanted a King.

They ignored the fact that the LORD had taken care of there needs in Egypt and afterwards. Not to mention the fact that throughout their rebelliousness and outright disobedience, He had saved them from themselves at various times by using the Judges.

And let’s not forget that Samuel came along and spoke truth to them at a time when they really needed it. Nope, let’s just ignore all that and get us a King. We don’t want God to rule over us; we want a human King.

Oh, and if you really want to know…Samuel even told them how much of a creep that Saul would turn out being. He explained exactly how the King would use the people and put them in bondage. “We don’t care! We want a King like everyone else!”

Shift.

What does it mean to you to pray for someone? What is your prayer life like right now? I know mine needs some work; I don’t ever want to be just satisfied with it.

When I read that verse during my morning devotional, it spoke something to me completely different probably than most of you. It makes me think of my prayer life in regards to the life I live in front of my God.

See, when I read it, I saw my prayer life as not only my petitions to God FOR YOU, but how I live my life IN FRONT of you. I see that the greatest prayer I can give to you is to be the open book you need to see. It shows you that Christianity is not about being perfect, it’s about being PERFECTED.

I look at that verse, and I realize that sometimes my prayer life involves telling you something at sometime that you REALLY don’t want to hear. And sometimes, you as a leader have to tell me something that I REALLY do not want to hear either. It doesn’t matter; it’s our job.

Students, sometimes we, as your small group leaders, are obligated by the Lord, to make insights into your walk that will go contrary with the path you are following at the present time. It doesn’t mean that we don’t love you; it means that we love you enough to put our relationship on the line and correct you in love.

And sometimes, as an adult, we have to be corrected by the Lord through someone else as well. Do we take correction well? The answer for most of us is a resounding “NO!”

But, far be it from me that I sin against God. Far be it from me to see you doing something destructive or negative and not open my heart to you and pray for you. Far be it from me to take the things God gives you for me, and throw them to the side like garbage.

See, I think (and this is just my opinion) that sometimes the prayer is the petition, and sometimes the prayer is admonition or example. I have a responsibility, as a Christian, to not only not cause you to stumble with my actions; but to speak truth into your life and actions, as well.

I know that someone may believe that I am talking out of both sides of my mouth. You know what? That’s okay. I can only speak to you my convictions, and use what God is telling me.

Let’s make a deal. If you think I need correction, then don’t sin against the Lord; teach me the good and the right way, as the Lord speaks to your heart. And I’ll do the same for you. We need to show each other love so that the world will see what we have and want it. If we are no different than everyone around us, what good is what we have?

Let’s pray for one another, without ceasing; however that manifests itself.

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Joshua 24:15

Who do we serve? A more important question at this time may be who do YOU serve? Do you serve a god of stone, wood, or metal? Do you serve a god of money, power, and greed? Or do you serve a God of limitless compassion, mercy, grace, and peace? Who do you serve?

If you listen to or read the news this week, you know this question is coming into sharp focus. I really believe that with this election year, and everything else occurring we are at a crossroads in our country’s history.

The story of the evangelical leader allegedly falling into sexual immorality mirrors the downturn of our society. It shines the light onto our mission and mission field. Many will look on this as an indicator of failure of Christians to live up to the standards God has set for us. They will see it as one more reason for them NOT to accept God as their Savior. I mean, after all, we (Christians) are no different than the lost, are we?

But is that true? What sets us apart? What is our driving force and passion?

Last night, I was with a group of freshman boys in small group. It was particularly trying at one point, and I asked them a question I have asked my own small group. Why are you here? What are doing at this service tonight?

I got the pat answer, “Learn about God, grow closer to Him…” blah, blah, blah. My boys will tell you, don’t blow smoke. When I ask in small group, I expect honesty, not what you think I want to hear. It was interesting to hear their answers.

So, I’ll ask you-why are you here? What is it that you are doing? Who are you doing it for? Are you doing it for the man God has elevated to leadership over you local fellowship of believers, or are you doing it for God Himself?

I’ll tell you this, I love Pastor Chris Stephens. I love the way he interacts with the members, and how he has a heart for his ministry. I love the High School Ministry. And I love the students. But I don’t do what I do there, or here, because of my love for him.

I do it because of my love for Him.

Joshua 24:15-“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. BUT AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.” (The emphasis here is mine.)

I don’t do what I do for Pastor Chris, because if the truth is told, he is only a man. I do what I do because of He who died for my sins and rose again. (Don’t tell Chris, he still thinks he’s Super Pastor…I don’t want to hurt his feelings.)

If you are crushed because a man of God falls, it’s okay. We are supposed to hurt when others hurt. But don’t let it dissuade you from your service. Don’t let another human determine if or how you will serve the Living God.

Last night, Larry Llanusa said something that really struck me. He basically said that we need to be careful about using someone else as a crutch or a reason for our NOT serving. We need to determine that we serve a mighty, awesome God. We need to examine our lives if one person can turn us aside from doing what God has called us to do.

Many of you reading this may or may not be doing anything to serve God. Why not? I can get mad, upset, crazy, or angry about it. I can even say, “Well God, if they are not going to serve, why should I?”

Or, I can remember that as for me and my house, I choose to serve the Lord. I can make a conscious decision to do what God has not only empowered me to do, but given me a heart to do, and do it to the best of my abilities.

In football, there are a lot more people on the team than play in a game situation normally. Some are there, and they never see an active play in a game their entire career. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t on the team, or that they don’t play a role.

They have a choice as to how they take what they have been dealt. They can either make the best of it, and realize they are on a team; or moan their fate and make everyone around them miserable.

You’re on the team, if you’ve accepted Christ. You have a part to play in the game. Some have big parts, so have not so big parts. But if everyone who has a part plays, the whole team wins.

Who do you serve? Why do you serve? Think about it hard. It could be the biggest decision you make in your life next to accepting Christ.

Be blessed in the Lord.

Bo J.