June 18: Impact!
I live 14 stories above two busy crossroads. From time-to-time I will hear the screech of tires… silence… and then IMPACT!
IMPACT! Isn't that the effect we are to have with the Gospel upon our lost friends. But the IMPACT is to be primarily through the power of example: Salt that penetrates, and light that illuminates from our life to theirs. (Matthew 5:13, 16)
Paul told the Philippians, "I have given you a pattern" by which to live. (Philippians 3:17) That is, he had left an impression, a stamp, or imprint upon them. He had IMPACTED their lives by the power of his godly example.
I am reminded of missionary martyr Jim Elliot's prayer, "Lord, make my life a crossroads in the life of every person I meet."
Years ago I played racquetball each week with a professional man who had given scant attention to spiritual matters. He did however pride himself on his self-control. Yet, occasionally in the course of a heated contest he would "lose it" by cursing or throwing his racquet across the court.
I can remember praying on numerous occasions during those intense moments of competition, "Lord, help me to exhibit your love and character on this court. Help me to keep my cool."
One day, after six months of intense competition, he asked if we might study the Scriptures together. Today he is a committed follower of Christ. Again, the power of example. IMPACT.
QUESTION: If it is true that the non-verbals do in fact speak more loudly than the verbals, what messages are you sending to your lost friends? To your children?
· Messages of anger… greed… pride… and self-centeredness?
· Or of brokenness… kindness, humility, servanthood, and dependence upon God?
How you answer that question spells the difference as to whether you are penetrating and illuminating them with the Gospel, or impeding them from the Gospel.
August 19: Two Reasons We Resist Times Of Solitude With God
The excuse we usually give for failure at spending time with God is time. "There is not enough time." The truth is, that for the most part, time has nothing to do with it! We make time for what is of paramount importance to us. If we want to play 18 holes of golf badly enough, we will find the time!
So why do we resist times of solitude with God? Let me propose two of many reasons:
1. We don't want to change.
If we are brutally honest, we find "a stubbornness within ourselves. A hardheartedness that will not yield to transformation and change." Because exposure to the Word of God in an atmosphere of solitude discloses our corruption, we find ourselves resisting the pain of truth, and the pain of change.
"His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it—no matter what." (Hebrews 4:12, 13 – The Message)
When we insist on living a marginal Christian existence by dabbling in and out of sin, our appetite for solitude with God can be numbed to the point of revulsion. We do not want Him to get that close!
2. We don't want to give up control.
We are accustomed to being at the center of the action. We seem to need to be around people. Influencing them, managing them, or seeking their approval. We want to feel indispensable! After all, if we are not there for them, they might not grow – or "make it." Remember the parable of the sower? "Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how." (Mark 4:27) God brings the growth! Not us! (1 Corinthians 3:6 )
The fact is, God would have us resign as CEO of the universe in order that we might begin to comprehend the truth that our greatest need is not for pleasure, but for intimacy with Him. Is it not the nervous activity of our lives that reveals our little faith while serving to crowd out those much needed times of seclusion with God?
QUESTION: Are you up to the challenge of choosing to become great with God through a regular pattern of solitude with Him? Then, if He so determines, He can make you great in spiritually influencing others. Be assured that the latter will not happen without the former.
October 10: "What Kind Of Man Is This?"
"Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!" (Matthew 8:23-27)
At 2:30 p.m. I was on the phone with an attorney discussing a legal issue. At 6:30 p.m. his 12-year-old daughter was dead. Icy roads. An auto accident.
Life's storms, like the disciples who were caught in a vicious gale are often:
· "Without warning"
· Overwhelming – The waves "swept over the boat."
Jesus led the Twelve into the boat, and proceeded to fall asleep. An overpowering storm then arose. Surrounded as we are by life's furious and unexpected storms, we often find ourselves crying out:
· Did not Christ lead us (into the boat)? Do we not have the right to a storm-free journey?
· Is He, or is He not sovereign over our lives?
· Is God's timetable different than ours in calming life's storms?
· When Jesus seems to be sleeping, what does it mean? He is indifferent? Or is He stretching our faith?
How we answer these questions will depend upon the object of our focus:
· The storm, which guarantees nail biting. Ulcers. Panic. Or:
· Jesus, who will lead us to inner peace: "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." (Isaiah 26:3)
Why does God allow furious, overwhelming storms "without warning"? I don't know. But I do know that "if God were small enough to be understood He would not be big enough to be worshipped." After Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples exclaimed, "What kind of man is this?" And God's answer? "The Sovereign God of our every circumstance."
QUESTION: Have you discovered "what kind of man Jesus is?" If you have, then your life will be distinguished by an inner peace… whatever your state of affairs.
November 19: Everyone Needs A Paul, A Barnabas, And A Timothy In His Life
PAUL: Yesterday, I had coffee with an old friend who set out a decade ago to affect the business community of his city for Christ. God graciously granted him a reasonably fruitful ministry. Along the way, however, his marriage fell apart. "Dwight, if I had had a Paul in my life, my marriage would not have failed." As he spoke, I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 4:14:
"Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me." (See 1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3:7; 4:9)
QUESTION: Do you currently have a Paul in your life? Someone who knows the real you? Someone who challenges you? Someone who models godly character and discipline, and builds them into your life? Someone who lends a more mature perspective to your life? Someone who has earned your trust enough to probe the sensitive and hidden areas of your life? Someone who is committed to walking with you through the difficult times? In a word, a Paul. A spiritual father.
BARNABAS ("Encourager" – Acts 4:36) was used of God to bring Paul out of Antioch and into a fruitful ministry where the two of them teamed up. (Acts 11:25, 26) (See Acts 11:30; 12:25; 13:1, 2, 14, 43, 46, 50; 14:1-3, 23; 15:12, 22, 34)
QUESTION: Do you have a Barnabas in your life? A buddy with whom you can freely share the good, the bad, and the ugly? Someone who will tell it like it is when you don't want to hear it? (Proverbs 27:6) Someone who is committed to hanging in there with you through thick and thin? (Proverbs 17:17; 18:24)
TIMOTHY: In his travels, Paul ran into a young follower of Christ named Timothy (Acts 16:1-4). For the next decade or so, the Apostle invested deeply into his life. Reflecting back on their friendship, Paul wrote,
"You… know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me… the persecutions I endured… " (2 Timothy 3:10, 11a,c) (See Acts 20:18)
In similar fashion, Paul encouraged Timothy to also invest his life into others: "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (2 Timothy 2:2) (See 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 6)
QUESTION: Do you have a Timothy in your life? Someone into whose life you are currently investing?
Having a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy in our life will indeed play a significant role in (1) fostering our growth toward spiritual maturity, and (2) helping us fulfill Christ's Great Commission.
—Facts of the Matter