Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, January 27, 2012
Smacks in the Face
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8
Have you ever noticed how radically different the way God does things and the way the “world” does it? Have you also noticed that much of your challenge to follow God is to simply follow Him by doing things His way, rather than the way the “world” tells you to do it? Think about some of the things taught by God and the world that conflict with one another. There are many examples we face in commerce, education, government, at home and everywhere we go. How about the following?
How about Leadership? The way of the world is to dictate, motivate, agitate and aggravate until we get what we want out of the people we lead. We could have good motives, but we inevitably try to manipulate people to get what we want if we use these means. On the other hand, the way of Christ is to be a servant leader and use humility, compassion and understanding as our method to unleash the possibilities of greatness in a man or woman we lead. Quite a contrast in styles of leadership when one would try to set a person free from the limitations that our attempts to control imposes on someone, and by doing so help someone find his or her true potential. Quite a contrast to lift them up rather than put them down, to stand under them, rather than stand over them, to trust them and to entrust important things, such as our goals, to them, rather than playing them like a banjo to get what we want. Servant leadership as Christ modeled and taught it is needed in all areas of life, and it is a rare thing to see. However, what is not rare is the response and benefit seen in those we lead in this manner. People led in this manner join in our leadership, for they sense we are investing our life into helping them be better at what they do. This is what a true leader does, and he is loved because of it.
How about Following a Leader? To follow anyone the way the world teaches us, and especially a ruthless leader, we will do only the minimum but no more, unless we are rewarded, catered to, motivated, or threatened. The way of Christ is to work for this person, as unto the Lord, by giving our best because we are God’s children. Quite a contrast for an employee to serve a scoundrel and help him be successful, rather than sabotage him at the first chance given, would you agree? Sometimes it never changes the ruthless leader when we serve him the way Christ would have us do. However, sometimes it does, for God is delighted in our honoring Him even to the point He makes a hardened heart tender in a person like a scoundrel boss. Maybe this is a reason why God would have us live and act in contrast to the way of the world? It changes people around us, for they see in us a contrast to the system they live and die by.
How about the way we Value others, including our self: The way of the world is to value others and our self by what we have in hand, what we’ve accumulated, what our potential is, whom we know, what we’ve done, where we’re headed, and where we’ve been. The way of Christ is to be valued by Him because He has created us and He likes His work, even though we think ourselves ugly. To be valued by Him, not because of what we have done for Him, but because of what he has done for us in exchanging His life for ours. To be valued by Him based on what we will become, rather than being pigeonholed as someone who can never change, or ever be given a chance to do so? The way of the world is to impose limitations on our value based on a corrupted value system formed by years of a system fostered by the Father of Lies. Our Creator wants to break this system’s rule over our life and restore us to the real humanity He created in the first place. But, we must change the way we value others and ourselves for this transformation to take place in our life.
How about the Way True Life Change Occurs? The way of the world tells us that all change in our life must happen based on our will power and what we are willing to pay for it. This message has even found willing ears in the Body of Christ, as we sometimes hear a message that to become what we want to become is as simple as knowing who we are presently and who we want to be in the future, … where we are headed if we don’t make a change, … and where we desire to be in the future, if we are willing to make it happen. We are challenged with the question if we are willing to pay or give up whatever it takes to attain what we want, and that we must make a plan to attain it, for it is up to us. But, my questions are: Where is the strategy Christ and the transformational plan He gives promoted? How is the plan God has given for change viewed? Is it OK to answer these questions by responding: … “I am God’s child … I am walking with Him … I don’t know where He is taking me, but, I know He has a plan and it is good … I have given my life to Him as the price I am willing to pay, and I still think I’m getting the best part of the deal.”
Would the self-help gurus be willing to accept these answers without thinking of us as being underachievers or space cadets? Probably not if they are committed only to the way the world teaches how life change comes about, for the world teaches“it is up to us to make it happen, not God.” God’s strategy for life change and making a significant impact on our world smacks in the face of the way the world teaches us, and it is just one of many examples of the subliminal thinking of the world value system that saturates our thoughts from the time we are born, until we die.
What about the question “Are there good things that are part of the world for making a change in a life?” Yes! Absolutely yes! There is still a need for coaching and encouraging and helping someone take responsibility for doing their part in their own life change. But, if a strategy excludes God and His work in our life, and it makes necessary life change only a work of man without God’s involvement, you can know the way of the world is being presented to you in its purist form.
In the passage above, God gives us a little insight we all need to heed. It might be the smartest thing we ever do to realize that we cannot comprehend God or His ways, and we should simply trust that he knows what He is doing with our life. As long as we struggle with Him for control of our life, as if to say we know best what is needed, we will miss out on the great transformational work God can do in our life. There are a lot of robbers in the world. They steal everything from money, to cars, to identities. You name it and they try to criminally or unethically take what is yours. In the same way, the Thief of Thieves tries to take what is yours by convincing you that you are an orphan who is on your own, and nothing good will happen in your life unless you make it happen. He attempts to steal from you your joy, your identity, your sense of self-worth, and the greatest resource you have for change, which is the transformation that comes through your relationship with Christ. This “Thief” has developed a complex system that overwhelms your thoughts with a message that you need only what his system can give you, and God and His system is irrelevant. Don’t let him take from you what Jesus has given His life to restore in you. Jesus came to restore all that was lost, which includes your soul, your self-worth, your purpose and the pure humanity He originally created in you. These things need to be unleashed in you and only Christ can do it. Let Jesus do His work in you. He knows what He is doing for He operates on a higher plan of understanding than anyone on this earth could ever understand. He wants the best for you, more than anyone, including yourself, can know.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, January 20, 2012
Down to the Nub
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2
I’m starting to understand what happens this time of year and it helps. Still, the lonely nights of winter, the gloominess of trees stripped of their leaves, and an annual occurrence of some sort of surgery that seems to follow me into winter brings on a gray view of life this time of year. Some experts call it SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and it has a lot to do with winter. I might have it, and it passes sooner or later. But, during the dark days of winter, and with this state of mind, it is a place where the Accuser can have a field day with me. Any of you men have the same thing come on you? Come on and admit it if you do, for this is a place you have to stand on God’s promises and be assured that the darkness will pass, and your joy will return.
Last night I was going through the same old routine of feeling like a loser because of feeling so useless this time of year. You see I’m one of those guys who struggle with listening to the Accuser’s voice that asks me “What have you done for the Lord lately.” This is a vulnerable time of year for me with this voice, and it challenges a condition in my fallen nature that tells me that I am unworthy of God’s love, and I must prove my love for Him. It’s a battle to stand against this voice, and the only way I can do so is to rely on God’s promises to me about how He loves me, and how I can serve Him best. I know my instincts will not conquer this voice, and I equally realize my will power to grit it out will not cut it as well. It requires a defense that comes from the Lord. This was the case last night, and I will share it with you in hopes it will bring you some encouragement during a challenging time you may be having right now.
There was a mystical connection of some verses I read and a picture in my mind God gave me that caused me to hear His voice, as He broke through the Accuser’s voice and helped me see things as He does. It was in the back room in our house after my wife was asleep that I could speak privately, and loudly to the Lord. Feeling empty and worthless, and yet experienced with what was going on, I delivered my desire to serve the Lord better, and to not wane in my commitment to Him, as I grow older. All I could say to Him was whatever I have in me whether it is lacking or beneficial to Him, I lay before Him. Then, I accepted His promise to me that this is foremost what He asks of me. I did not give God any personal glory I’ve gained in life, for it is worthless in comparison to what He has done for me. Instead I gave Him the ugly, inglorious hidden faults that others don’t see, and I know still reside in me. What a sorry gift to give to my King, for it is no better than garbage we throw out. But, with assurance to me He took it with a smile. I did not give to God the good fruit I have produced for Him, for even that is His work through a man who is simply abiding in Him. Instead I gave Him a man more like a withered branch desperately holding on to the Vine during the winter days and after the harvest. Dry, shriveled up and empty of fresh fruit, I was also empty of self, empty of hands and empty of illusions that I deserve anything good from God. My gift to Him was this emptiness, and yet I felt His pleasure. How can this be? Why would God delight in such as this? I think it is because it is within this perspective that a recovery from the affects of the Accuser’s voice begins, and some major misunderstanding about God’s love for us is removed. It is a place where the heart gets in touch with reality, and it is this contrite heart that pleases our Father best. It pleases Him for it is when we are honest and empty of ourselves and our illusions, that He is able to complete His pruning. From this point forward, we are within a process that will one day yield its fruit to our King’s glory, and this should bring us encouragement.
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” Isaiah 57:15
I believe it is in this lonely time of being pruned and prepared that our hearts are made contrite, and when this happens, a great fruit producing time in our life will follow. We are prepared for it like a grape vine is prepared for the spring by the gardener. A snip here and there on the vine’s branches, lifting and binding the branch to a brace so that when the fruit that surely comes will be supported, the gardener prepares for the harvest even though it is months away. Likewise, our Gardener prepares us for our part in the harvest. He prunes so that we will bear more fruit … an abundant fruit, for this fruit honors His name. It is because of the gardener’s work that the plant is prepared for the spring, and it is by God’s design that these lonely, SAD times can also prepare us for our next stage of life.
I mentioned I was given a picture in my mind that God used to encourage me. Don’t think me weird for saying this, but also do not doubt either that God speaks to a man in many mysterious ways, even through a snap shot to our thoughts. What I saw was a grape vine with nubs where the branches had been cut off. I felt God asking me what I saw in this vision. I replied, “It is not what I am seeing, it is what I am not seeing. I see no branches.” “Look closely again,” I felt the Lord say. I looked more closely and in doing so I could see on the nubs of the vine, there was a softness and tenderness forming around the scars where the pruning occurred. From my experience with the way grapes grow, I could tell the vine was about to erupt its vital nutrition around these nubs, and branches will grow forth through these nubs, and fruit will follow. To my heart God spoke, “It is the same with you My child. You have been pruned. You now have a contrite heart. There is a softness and tenderness that has replaced the hardness that had crept into your heart. You have been made ready for the harvest that will surely follow. Have I not assured you that this will happen? Does not my word promise this to my children who abide in ME?
What good medicine I received that night, as God assured me that this present darkness will pass, it will do its work, and days of great fruit and joy are ahead. I hope you too will receive this assurance, if you are going through a similar season of life. But remember, there is a reason that spiritual winters occur in our life. If we respond to them correctly, they will lead to a contrite heart, and God is delighted when this heart forms in us. He can do a great work through a man like this. He has promised this, and we can take Him at His word.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, January 06, 2012
The Real Struggle
By Bryan Craig
Are you struggling? The struggle could be with something or someone. It could be financial. It could be relational. It could be situational. It could be emotional. It could be any number of things, but the truth is: there will always be times of struggle. In light of a recent, personal struggle, God reminded me of Ephesians 6:12:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Wow! God helped me put my struggle into perspective. This struggle involved a person, someone who seemed to always bring darkness into my world. In my flesh, I wanted to reject this person, yet with this scripture, I began to understand the source of the darkness which was emanating from this person. It reminds me of the time when Jesus was telling his disciples the fate of His crucifixion, and Peter blurted out,
“Never, Lord! This shall never happen to You!” Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:21-23
Jesus recognized the resistance coming out of Peter was not Peter, but rather, it was from Satan. Likewise, our struggles with men and our struggles within ourselves, have dark sources. Satan is a real being, and he is working in this world. In John 12:31, he is called, “the prince of this world.” So, he has been given temporary rule and dominion in this world. In 1 Peter 5:8, it says he “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” It also appears that his organization and his reach is quite large, as it talks about rulers, authorities and powers in this world, as well as forces in the heavenly realms, all pitted against us. The real struggle is a spiritual one.
Thankfully, God tells how to fight the battle.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Ephesians 6:13-18
This battle plan spoke to me the following:
#1. Belt of Truth: We must have Jesus, who is the truth, at the center of our life, first and foremost.
#2. Breastplate of Righteousness: We must guard our heart, for it is the wellspring of life. We must purify ourselves of anything unholy which we are allowing to reside in our hearts. We must also remember that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. With Jesus at the center and with clean hearts, we will know how to engage with fellow man.
#3. Readiness: We must always be alert, with our spiritual radar up, looking for opportunities to be ambassadors of peace. We must also be on guard against the devil’s schemes.
#4. Shield of Faith: We must be in community with fellow believers. As we give ourselves to the needs of others, pray for one another and bear one another’s burdens, we are less vulnerable to the enemy.
#5. Helmet of Salvation: We must guard our minds, just like our hearts. We must take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. We must think pleasing thoughts and look for the good in others. We must remember our salvation, never forgetting what Christ has done for us.
#6. Sword of the Spirit: We must be self-feeding in God’s Word. If we are seeking the Lord in His Word, He will give us the scriptures we need for every battle. Also, the more we are in the Word, the more we will be able to recall the scriptures when we need them most. Remember, when Jesus was attacked, He always fired back scripture. God’s Word is mighty. God’s Word is God (John 1:1)!
#7. Pray: We must pray continually. In prayer, God undergirds all of the rest of our armor and weaponry. He reveals the mind of Christ to our fleshly bodies. He even helps us pray for those with whom we thought we were struggling, and He helps us pray about those inner struggles. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
Next time you’re feeling a struggle, remember that there is a spiritual component somewhere in the background. Satan is actively working to divide us from God and to divide us from others. He is also constantly trying to discourage us or tempt us to fall. We cannot change other people, and many times we cannot change our circumstances.
However, you can stand firm, in the midst of difficult circumstances, donning God’s armor, ready with His Word, fervent in Prayer. God is with you.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
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Links & Resources
Influencers- Bakersfield, CA
Influencers-Bayside Church, Northern California
Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest"
Tulsa Men of Christ
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