Influencers Weekly Devotional- Abide with ME
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Abide with ME
Embracing and Being Embraced by Christ
Abiding In All Our Ways
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 2: 4-5
I have come to see that abiding in Christ is the most exciting, meaningful and necessary part of being God’s child, after we have come to know Him. And yet, this necessary connection with God is often, if not most often, rarely considered by His Church and its leaders. Why is this? I think it is because “abiding in Christ” is thought of as private, mystical, and out of reach. The question that begs to be asked is why did Christ instruct us to abide in Him as a branch would abide in the vine if it were unnecessary, or unattainable, or wasn’t a needed part of our relationship with Him? As I have begun to pursue Christ with all my heart, especially in this area of abiding in Him, I have come to understand that abiding is more than just a spiritual connection, even though the spiritual connection is the heart of abiding. It is not just a dedicated time of connecting with Him without distraction, such as a quiet-time or extended time of prayer, as some people have come to understand abiding. Although it would certainly include such times, it is not limited to them. Abiding in Christ is not a momentary connection with Christ, for another word for abiding used by other translations is to “dwell in.” This gives us a picture of permanency, not just a visit with Him. Abiding in Christ is a volitional act on our part and something that requires action and priority. We are invited to abide, and it is clear it is necessary. But to do so, we must place ourselves before Christ through our personal abandonment of our life to Him and put our trust in Him in the most absolute way. Otherwise, our connection with Him would be weak with duplicity. He said we cannot serve two masters, and abiding means a faith-connection with no back-up plans. God wants our absolute trust, which builds an intimate relationship with Him.
There are many aspects of a man’s life, but, there are three created aspects that encompass most of them. I want to address these three aspects, as we consider what it means to abide in Christ, completely. For the next several months I want us to explore what it means to abide in Christ Physically, Emotionally, and Spiritually. I believe we all want to know what the Bible has to say about these aspects in our life, especially if they are an integral part of the abiding process we seek. Please realize that I might be invading some areas you might not want to consider, for there might be some changes needed in your life that come to light. If so, please remember our goal, which is to draw near to God to allow Him to make of us the men He wants, who are fully-equipped for every occasion.
I am reminded of a story of an old pastor who was preaching to his congregation. He knew one of his deacons was involved in a wrong relationship with one of the church members, and rather than call the man out specifically, he brought theology to the forefront in hopes the man would become convicted in his conscience. The old pastor’s words started off gentle enough, as he began to teach the “should nots” that most people struggle with, such as overeating, not tithing, cursing and such. With each item, the man whom the pastor was trying to reach would give a loud “Amen Pastor! Preach on!” as he voiced his approval. But when the old pastor began to zoom in on the specific sin with which the man was involved and began to stare at his deacon, it was obvious to whom he was talking. As the old pastor’s words began to sting, and conviction set in, the service began to heat up. Finally, the wayward deacon could take no more. He stood up and shouted, “Now pastor, you done gone from preaching to meddling,” as he walked out of the church. What was surprising was that half of the other men and women did the same, for the preacher had “meddled” in their life, as well.
I’m wondering if some of you might think the same thing, as I invade areas where you might not want to go. However, if there is any encouragement, let me say I have not attained to abiding in Christ completely, and I am just like you. It is my desire to do so, and I realize it will be a lifelong pursuit. For instance, I suffer greatly in my physical stewardship, as it relates to abiding in Christ. I understand the spiritual aspect of abiding with Christ. Although I have not attained to any semblance of perfection in abiding with Christ spiritually, I have made great strides in that area. The spiritual connection is spilling over to the emotional and mental aspects of my life, as it is the promised fruit of abiding. But my physical condition, and my need to come back from where I am, is heavy on my heart and mind. I believe it will require more than personal discipline to make it back, although that will be a key part. I believe it will require that I pursue a physical lifestyle that is inspired from my connection to the Vine. I believe God would have all of his men disciplined in heart, body, mind, and soul. Our bodies are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells within us. But if you are like me, you have not been a good steward of your temple. It doesn’t take long to see that a body, which is not cared for, will debilitate our ability to serve the King.
My plan is to write a devotional series over the next few months with myself as the main target. I might be “meddling” in things I don’t want to hear, but I am asking for discoveries that God will reveal to me. You are invited to look in and grasp what might be spoken to your own life. I hope you will. The three segments will be entitled Abide with ME Physically - Abide with ME Emotionally - Abide with Me Spiritually. This will be a holistic view of abiding in Christ. In case you need some enlightenment on the word holistic, it means:
Holistic: “Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.”
Abiding in Christ is an intimate connection with God. Our entire life, including relationships, aspirations, interests, thoughts, the physical, mental and emotional, should be connected with Him, as we abide with Him. Our life is not to be segmented as part mine and part God’s. It is to be completely His. We are to be completely His. But it requires that we give ourselves completely to Him. The intimate connection of completely abiding in Christ will bear fruit, and this fruit will work its way into every aspect of our life. This is a beautiful thing. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to take our relationship with Him to the deepest and most thorough completion in our life. Sometimes we put roadblocks that get in the way of His work, and it is through His pruning, that we learn to breakdown those roadblocks so He can go deeper in our life. Over the next few months, as I explore what it means to abide in Christ completely, don’t be surprised if you say, “Now Rock, you done quit preaching and gone to meddling.” We all cry out sometimes when God concentrates His convicting truths on those areas of compromise to which we have given ourselves. But if we are committed to stay with Him and allow him to lead us out of those compromises, we can become His man in every way, by being built up like a spiritual house. Will you join with me? Will you help me get to where He wants me to be, if I will help you? Let’s let Him build us up and become complete in every way, so we can serve him the best we can the rest of our days.
To His glory we will walk this path,
Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Influencers Cabinet Introductions
“I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth
from the great assembly.” (Psalm 40:10)
Without a doubt, there are few things more powerful that can make an impact upon a man’s spirit, soul, or conscience than to hear actual life stories (testimony)…the kind that clearly explain and give credit to the divine presence of Christ active in our circumstances through the Holy Spirit. (i.e., ‘Christ in you’ from Colossians 1:27)
I just finished experiencing this kind of impact as a part of attending two separate “life celebration” events. One marked a 54-year old father of seven’s entrance into heaven after losing a 2-year fight with Multiple Myeloma. The other was a 60-year old’s surprise birthday gathering, having just won his 1 ½ year battle with Leukemia.
Both events were well-attended by those related to, associated with, and impacted by each man. Both showed slide shows covering childhood memories, adolescent activities, young-adult adventures, marriage, family, trips, hobbies, and those ‘funny good times’. Both had spouses speak, relatives expose, and friends share.
Both men had touched numerous people in their respective spheres of influence in positive ways, having encouraged an excellence of attitude, achievement, and accomplishment. Both were known to have inspired and impacted many, but…only one gave the testimony spoken of in Psalm 40…only one turned the gaze upward, giving credit to the source of all life experiences, abilities, outcomes, and blessings.
For me, this has become one of those rare moments of convicting clarity that can only be associated with major “life events” when truth, revelation, and perspective all collide to explain in a way mere words can’t. Which one would I have been? Who would get the credit as people looked back on my life? Have I concealed, hidden, kept quiet, or just simply avoided talking openly about how ‘Christ in me’ has made and is making a difference in the direction of my life path?
We are encouraged to “always be ready to give an answer” when asked about “the reason for the hope that is in you” in I Peter 3:15, indicating we recognize and know why we have hope in this life. So, here are just a few examples from my story covering the last 59 years of being alive here on this earth that I want to speak of as outlined in Psalm 40:10…
· Your righteousness in my life – first appeared in 1972 as a counselor at Kanakuk Kamp in Branson, Missouri where my lack of it was exposed (big time) as I was around authentic and committed guys that really knew Christ personally and were unashamed to express humility, joy, love, etc. Being exposed caused me to realize my need, and having one of them (Bob) pursue me as if I was ‘the lost sheep’ allowed me an opportunity to rededicate my heart, soul, and life to Christ…and even though it took the whole summer, it was my new beginning of His life being lived in and through me.
· Your faithfulness in my life – can always be traced to prayers being answered in every area and circumstance over my whole life…foremost one being His guiding the choice of my wonderful life partner, Bette, with whom these last 37 years of marriage have brought us countless special memories together along with two daughters, one son, and four grandsons; persevering through a family business failure, several health scares, financial stress brought on by poor decisions, relational challenges, etc., He has continued to prove He Knows, Cares, Is Willing and Able to direct and guide my heart and steps in His ways as I continue to seek Him in every decision.
· Your salvation in my life – understanding that I am to ‘work out my salvation’ (put forth effort to be transformed and changed from the inside out) as long as I am alive, The Journey’s process of becoming intimate with Christ has added so much more fulfillment and depth, simply based on being close to Him, learning what it means to abide, and continuing to say ‘Yes’ to His call and purpose for me.
· Your lovingkindness in my life – knowing that this is not only a description of His nature but also something He delights in extending His children (Jeremiah 9:24) has been a real challenge for me to begin to ‘feel’ His love…my tendency has always to be driven by and focused on performance-based activities, looking for positive feedback from those around me, not necessarily looking to Him.
· Your truth in my life – the first thing that happened at Kanakuk Kamp after my rededication was being given a Phillips N.T. Bible by Greg (who then suggested we move out of the fraternity our senior year ‘to get serious’…which I did). My initial reaction was to ‘run’, filled with uncertainty, nervousness, and apprehension. Yet, God has faithfully (for the past 38 years) and persistently provided a reading guide called Bible Pathway (Murfreesboro, TN) and ‘Word warriors’ (men who knew and lived by the scriptures daily) in my life who have been able to encourage and guide me to dig deep, learn, memorize, and ‘do the Word’.
My hope for you is that you come to or continue to know Christ in a real way each day, see His Spirit at work in and around you, and be able to speak about Him as your source of hope, joy, peace, love, etc. whenever the opportunity shows up.
Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Monday, February 07, 2011
Influencers Cabinet Introductions
Over the last four years of my life, God has done an incredible transformation in me through the power of His Holy Spirit. I am amazed how being in the Word of God can truly change us into vessels that can bear much fruit for his glory and cause us to be men of influence he can use profoundly to further his Kingdom here on earth. How he can raise us up to be mighty men of God who can influence the world around us for our King amazes me.
For most of my adult life I had been living the typical American Christian life. I had been doing what I like to call “dating” Jesus. Some call it Religion and others have their own interpretation, but for the most part it is what I and many others have been raised to believe is true Christianity. Whatever you may call it, it is a hard way to live. It is selfish, powerless, disheartening, and deceiving. I believe God himself calls it “fruitless”. I attended church regularly, prayed every day, attended bible studies, paid my tithes, sent my children to Christian schools and gave money to help the missionaries. I believed that Jesus was the son of God, that He died for our sins, that He was raised from the dead, and that He lives to intercede for us. I had said the “sinner’s prayer” and had been baptized. I believed that if I had done all of these things and avoided the major sins, He would love me and God would bless me and prosper me.
In all truth, I believed Jesus was my ticket to the American Dream and my fire insurance, should I die. I opened the Word of God on Sundays during the sermon at church and every now and then, on my own, when I was in a bind or really needed something desperately. In comparison to others, I thought I was really living right. I knew many verses in the Bible, and if I needed my beliefs supported, it was easy to pick out a verse that seemed to confirm what I believed. I was a nice guy, compassionate and caring, and always there to help others out. However, there was still something missing in my life.
I knew there must be more, but I honestly did not know how or where to find it. I wanted to know Jesus more, but I didn’t even know how to do that. I felt I knew about Jesus, but I did not know him personally. I did not have a true intimate relationship with him. I had gone to all the bible studies available to men: Promise Keepers, How To Be a Better Husband, How To Be a Better Father. I went to classes and even found out what my love language was! All these taught me how to relate with others, but none of them brought me into a real personal relationship with Christ. I decided that I was giving up on men’s bible studies. They were not working for me. My wife had been doing a lot of Beth Moore bible studies, and she seemed to be falling in love with Jesus and getting revelation from the Lord. I decided I was going to try that route. Then one day, the day I was heading to buy the women’s study titled, "A Woman’s Heart; God's Dwelling Place," the Lord brought an Influencer into my life, and everything in my life changed forevermore!!
The Influencer's name is Jim Hyde, and he is a pastor at my church. He came into my office needing healing in his physical body, but God used him to influence me and guide me on the Journey that brought healing to me spiritually! He handed me the book entitled, "The Journey to the Inner Chamber," authored by Rocky Fleming. He simply asked me to read it and then, go to a book review the following week. Within the first few pages of the book, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that this was going to be the path I must take in order to come into a real relationship with Christ.
I went through the entire Influencer’s nine-month Journey, and it was the most incredible journey of my life! Through it, I discovered that having an intimate, abiding relationship with the Lord is the greatest treasure to be found. I discovered that daily intimacy with Jesus is what transforms us. Only in His presence can we be made new through the power of his Spirit. Only by the Spirit’s enabling us can we bear much fruit that will last. Lastly, by bearing this fruit, we can Influence the world for Jesus Christ.
When I look back over the years that I “dated” Jesus, I see that I allowed the Holy Spirit of God to lead my life at certain times, that I would trust him when I couldn’t do something on my own and I needed him. I was directing my own path and inviting God to come with me. I would surrender to His will only when my way was failing. The destination of my life was the focus, and daily, I worked hard to get to where I thought I needed it to end. Through Influencers, I have learned that it is all about the Journey. We must abandon our own will and follow Him daily. We must place our absolute trust in Him and know that wherever He takes us, it is for His glory.
One of my favorite scriptures is Matthew 7:7-8. It reads “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” God is the greatest treasure we could ever find, but like any treasure, we have to be looking for Him. We have to search and seek diligently with all our hearts. I believe many people are looking for this great treasure, but they don’t know how or where to look, just like I didn’t know before Influencers. We get close, we are in the right vicinity, but we just can’t find the treasure.
So, what do we need? We need a map that will guide us directly to the treasure. This is what the Journey really is to me. It is the map that will lead us straight into the Inner Chamber of God. No more wandering about aimlessly, working in vain, losing heart, and growing weary. Simply follow the map and find the treasure. It is a Journey worth taking that will transform you and change you forever. Then, once you know the way, you can give others the map and help them on their Journey and watch God as He grows his Kingdom here on earth.
You see, we must be searching and seeking daily in order to find God. We must believe with all our hearts that knowing Jesus is the greatest treasure. We must be willing to surrender our all and abandon ourselves, in order to find Him. We must have absolute trust that He is all we need, and He alone is our source. Once we find Him and enter into that intimate abiding relationship, everything changes. We are no longer “dating”; we are ready and willing to forsake ourselves and all others and surrender our all to Him. It is then that we enter into a covenant marriage relationship with Him and become His bride. The intimacy begins and as we abide with Him, we begin to bear fruit. We no longer live to please ourselves. We live to please Him, which in turn, leads to serving and loving others.
I started on this Journey in March of 2008 and since then, I have been so blessed to guide four other men’s groups and one couple's group through it. I thank God every day for allowing me the privilege to see people’s lives change as they find their way to the Inner Chamber of God and find their treasure. I am amazed at what we find when we follow the map and see the treasure produced, in and through our lives, which is, of course, MUCH FRUIT!!
I have been married to my lovely wife, Regina, for fifteen years. We have two small boys: Braegan, who is nine and Blayne, who is 6. We have lived in Springdale, Arkansas for the past 13 years. My wife and I are both Doctors of Chiropractic, and we own and operate a private practice in Springdale. We love the Lord and do our best to be be lights in this world and to share the love of Christ with all he puts into our paths.
Mark A. Sewell, Influencer for Christ
Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Important Meeting for The Journey for Inmates
Friday, February 04, 2011
An important meeting is taking place this Sunday in California as The Journey for Inmates continue to move forward. Please read below and Pray!
This Sunday, Wayne Leffler & Chaplain Bruce Cunningham will be conducting 2 services during which they will be presenting The Journey to approximately 105 inmates who are a part of the 900 men in the West Yard. It is Chaplain Bruce's vision to have The Journey in each of the 7 Buildings that house the 900 men in the West Yard.
We are asking for prayer before & during this time!