Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This fuels perseverance ...

While going through a particularly difficult time in my life, and feeling quite weary, I corresponded with a great church leader who responded with a letter of encouragement.

I still remember a line from that letter that buoyed me at the moment: "You're tired, that's understandable, but you'll bounce back."

He was right. I was tired at the moment, but God gave me the strength to bounce back, to persevere.

Encouragement is a vital fuel for perseverance. Even the great William Wilberforce found himself discouraged one night in the early 1790's after another defeat 10 years into his battle against the slave trade in England. Tired and frustrated, he opened his Bible and started to leaf through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. It was a letter John Wesley had written to him shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again:

"Unless the divine power has raised you up ... I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that (abominable practice of slavery), which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might."

Great efforts have often come to fruition because someone was encouraged at a moment of weariness. There are people in your life who are tired of the battles they are having to fight; are you encouraging them? Are you a source of encouragement to others, or do you just add to the weight the world puts upon them?

Some of you need to be encouraged, and I want to assure you that your perseverance through the trials you're currently facing will be worth  taking on the struggles to endure.

George Muller gives us a good example of how persevering is worth our efforts. One day Muller began praying for five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Muller persevered in prayer until his death for his fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up hoping he would accept Christ. His faith was rewarded, for soon after Muller's funeral the last man was saved.

Let this word from the Bible be an encouragement to you today: "God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him," James 1:12.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Abusing intimacy to gain influence isn't leadership ...

Long ago, I heard a good piece of advice for leaders, which is really good advice for anyone:

"If you won't love them, don't hurt them."

In the non-stop discussion about leadership among church leaders today, we like to say leadership is influence. So many leaders hold as their key priority the capacity to influence the people they lead. But there's one way in particular that leaders abuse that influence, and that's by building intimacy only for the purpose of gaining influence.

Some leaders are willing to demonstrate a semblance of love to achieve a foothold of influence in a life.

That's not love. That's emotional manipulation.

If you have no intention of truly loving those you lead, don't pretend to care just to gain influence. Just work from your position or title and get as far as you can that way. To pretend to love when you only want to manipulate is to use intimacy to achieve your own purposes among others.

That isn't leadership.

That isn't ethical influence.

And that certainly isn't love.

Instead of being so concerned about "leading" and influencing others, make your priority one of loving them. You might be surprised how great your influence in their lives might become if you really loved them like Jesus loves us. And maybe it's more of that kind of talk we need to hear in leadership circles if we really want to be effective in serving others in Jesus' name.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Jack Benny church ...

Yesterday some people were wishing a friend of mine "happy first annual 39th birthday!"

Someone said he had joined the "Jack Benny Club." Benny (pictured above), a famous comedian of the 20th century, claimed all of his birthdays were his 39th.

As much as my friend may wish some of his future birthdays are really his 39th, he'll never again be able to honestly make that claim after yesterday. With each passing day, he will grow older, and the passing of time alone will bring changes to his mind and body.

There is a church I know of, though, that is really a "Jack Benny church." Although they don't deny how old the congregation is, the church just doesn't get any older spiritually. One of this church's biggest events of the year is its birthday celebration, but if you would have visited this church during its first year of being planted, and then visit it today, you would notice little difference.

Several years later, this church is made up of many of the same people.

The same key leaders are still in the same positions doing the same thing.

These leaders are still leading the same people.

The same people are still living the same way.

The same people are still having the same struggles.

The same people still do the same things.

The same Bible study groups are still meeting, and the participants are still the same spiritually.

Until recently going through a revisioning process, the only additions to this church occurred more in spite of the lack of effort to purposely share the Gospel. Early on, this church gathered a group of people who liked being together, and then settled in to a comfort of just doing the same stuff and being the same way, year after year after year.

It's a Jack Benny church.

I've seen several churches like this all over the country. It's as if they reached a certain point and then chose to freeze themselves there. No more growth, no more service, no more relationship ... no more life than from that point in time when they just got comfortable with themselves.

What they don't understand is, that's when they began to die.

Our following Christ is not a life that looks the same five, ten, fifteen years down the road. When we belong to God, we are living a life that is experiencing continuous change ...

"So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord --- who is the Spirit --- makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image," 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Are you a Jack Benny Christian in a Jack Benny church? Or are you a disciple of Christ, being transformed by the Holy Spirit? Is your church spiritually thriving, or do you look today like you did years ago?


Monday, July 21, 2014

Have you ever been so desperate you had to turn to cardboard?

Have you ever had to put your needs on a piece of cardboard for all the world to see?

This morning I saw a young man sitting at a gas station with a cardboard sign that said, "Ran out of gas. Please help."

For many, the politically-infused mind kicks in and immediately begins to question how this young person failed to the degree they're publicly begging for help.

Last night, a Facebook friend raised the question why some people share their personal needs on Facebook, questioning why they don't talk to real friends instead, and pointing out that all of us need to have a circle of family and friends to go to when we have problems.

What so many people miss when they process their thinking through platitudes or simplistic political positions is the reality of the world we live in. That world is plagued with sin, evil, and brokenness.

Could it be this young man needs help because the high unemployment rate for youth has made him a statistic? Could it be that he doesn't have help, and others turn to Facebook friends because families often are not loyal, and friends who walk in the front door during good times often run out the back door during hard times? Could it be that many have tried to use the governmental safety net, only to be denied there as well? Could it be people are more desperate today because even the church stereotypes them and rejects them, rather than loving them as Christ has loved us?

Could it be that people put their needs and express their desperation on a piece of cardboard for all the world to see not because they have failed in some way, but because others have failed them?

So great is the plight of so many today that sometimes the need is so desperate that they write it on a piece of cardboard and stand out in public, hoping and praying that someone in this world will see them and their need and simply care.

Not judge them.

Not ignore them.

Not look down on them.

Not see them as deplorable failures.

Not devalue them.

But see them as people who, like everyone else, are created in the image of God and need someone on this planet who simply, plainly, cares.

Jesus saw these people and had compassion for them.

Do you see them? If you do, how do you respond?


Sunday, July 20, 2014

How to be a great lieutenant ...

In spite of the the obsession about making leaders within today's church, not everyone is called to be a leader. The majority of those who are enabled for leadership are not called to a top leadership role, but rather, are selected to serve as "lieutenants," important roles of leadership under a primary leader.

Whether it's in the church, an organization, or a business, there are more lieutenants than generals, and their role and contribution is vital to the body of Christ, an entity, or business.

A sizable portion of these lieutenants are of the "alpha male" type, they're strong men and women who naturally rise to leadership in most of what they involve themselves in. For some, it can be difficult limiting themselves to the role of "just" a lieutenant, while others thrive in a position that allows them to lead while still being led.

What does it take to be a great lieutenant?

If we search scripture for a model of a lieutenant in the Lord's work who is a great example we could apply in such positions, we would quickly be drawn to Joshua, who was the assistant to Moses, and would become the leader of Israel after Moses died. I would encourage you to dig into your Bible and read about the life of Joshua. Looking at Joshua's example of being the assistant, we can see three keys to being a great lieutenant:

1. Committed to obeying and glorifying God. The overarching trait for being a great lieutenant is that, regardless of titles, goals, objectives, opinions, or projects, a great lieutenant is first and foremost committed to obeying God, and bringing glory to Him. Without that, a lieutenant may stray from the mission or not yield to primary leadership. But when he or she is committed to being obedient to God, and their greatest objective is bringing glory to Him, they are enabled to yield their own opinions and desires to the will of God, and direction provided from primary leaders. Joshua was a great lieutenant to Moses because of his commitment to obey and glorify God.

2. Committed to the vision and mission. Chaos ensues when lieutenants attempt to introduce variants to the vision and mission that primary leaders have established. It's the responsibility of the primary leadership to establish the vision and mission, and then lieutenants assist the primary leaders in executing that vision and mission. This doesn't mean that lieutenants cannot provide input and counsel regarding vision and mission, but establishing what those are for the whole body, organization, or business isn't their responsibility. They may have the responsibility of setting vision and mission for ministries within the church, or departments in an organization or business, but those need to align fully with the overarching mission and vision set for the body, entity, or business by primary leaders.

3. Committed to respecting roles. Joshua understood the way things worked: God gave unprecedented access to Himself to Moses, and He would speak to Moses. Moses then spoke to the people on behalf of God, and then Joshua assisted Moses in carrying out all that God commanded. Joshua didn't question God, nor did he challenge Moses' role as primary leader. He understood what his position within the people of Israel was, and focused on doing that well. Joshua had a remarkable understanding of this, as was demonstrated when he had become the leader of Israel and God had instructed him to lead the people in taking the city of Jericho. You probably know the story of the battle of Jericho, a city that was protected by a massive wall thought to be impenetrable. God had instructed Joshua to have the people march around the city one time for six days. Then on the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times, after which the priests would blow rams horns and the people would shout, and then the wall would fall down.

Before carrying out God's battle plan, Joshua is telling the people how God will deliver to them a great victory. Notice an interesting instruction Joshua gave to the people: "Do not shout; do not even talk," Joshua commanded. "Not a single word from any of you until I tell you to shout. Then shout!" Joshua 6:10.

Why did Joshua add this need for silence? They weren't sneaking up on the city, the residents of Jericho would be able to observe their march around the city from atop the wall. Joshua gave this instruction because he knew how easy it would be for lieutenants (and others) to question such a crazy-sounding battle plan.

"We're going to march for seven days, blow some horns, and then that great wall is just going to fall down? I think Joshua has been out in the sun too long!" is probably what many of them thought. But if they said such things to each other, it could fester more than just doubt and result in the people not being obedient to God's plan or following Joshua's leadership. A great lieutenant understands their role of executing the instructions God provides through primary leadership without causing dissension.

Churches, organizations, and businesses all rely on the significant contribution lieutenants make in realizing their visions and achieving their missions; all of them need great lieutenants in order to be successful. If you're a lieutenant in your church or organization, are you contributing positively? How are you doing at applying these three keys to being a great lieutenant? What do you need to do to become a better lieutenant?


Saturday, July 19, 2014

A more determined fight ...

There are a few reasons why scripture exhorts us to keep our minds focused on God, His kingdom, and things above, rather than on the world around us.

One of those reasons is that this world is so terribly broken, so lost, so utterly lacking in hope without God, that it can be overwhelming.

As Christians, all of us know people who are hurting, struggling, suffering, and overwhelmed with the issues of life. All of us could immediately create a list of people we know who need help.

Many of us know tired, overwhelmed, and struggling pastors who need encouragement, support, and even counseling.

And we all know of churches that are missing the mark missionally, and need help to once again (or for the first time ever) to become healthy, disciple-making churches.

We all know of these real, significant, and pervasive needs, but what is being done about them in any kind of substantive way?

Let me share with you what I'm doing about it, and something specific that you can do about it. First, allow me to share this story as told by pastor Bryan Wilkerson:

"Taylor University is a Christian college in Indiana. Years ago, they were pleased to learn that an African student, Sam, was going to be enrolling in their school. This was before it was commonplace for international students to come to the U.S. to study. Sam was a bright young man with great promise, and the school felt honored to have him. When he arrived on campus, the President of the university took him on a tour, including showing him all the student dorms. When the tour was over, the President asked Sam where he would like to live. The young man replied, 'If there is a room that no one wants, give that room to me.'

"The President turned away in tears.

"Over the years he had welcomed thousands of young men and women to the campus, and none had ever made such a request.

"'If there is a room that no one wants, give that room to me.' That's the kind of meekness Jesus talks about in the Beatitudes ...

"If there is a job no one wants to do, I'll do that job ...

"If there's a kid no one wants to eat lunch with, I'll eat with that kid ...

"If there's a piece of toast that's burned, I'll take that piece ...

"If there's a parking space far away from the church, I'll park in that space ...

"If there's a service time that's less convenient for people, I'll worship at that service ...

"If there's a hardship someone has to endure, I'll take that hardship ...

"If there's a sacrifice someone needs to make, I'll make that sacrifice."

As I learned about Sam's example, it reminded me of Isaiah's response to the Lord ...

"Then I heard the Lord asking, 'Whom shall I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?' I said, 'Here I am. Send me'," Isaiah 6:8.

Just as Sam was humble enough to take up what others didn't want, and Isaiah was willing to step into being part of the solution God wanted to provide through a messenger, the question rises today of who will care for the hurting and who will help the broken? Who will support and serve battle-weary pastors? Who will help dying churches revive?

I'm grateful that there are many out there who are doing what they can, both in big and little ways. I'm deeply grateful God has used my ministry as a pastor to help some churches, to bring many to Christ, and to help thousands through a counseling ministry.

But times are especially tough, and the need for help is greater than ever.

As for me, I've committed myself to a more determined fight.

I have a great passion for the church, which is why it was difficult for me at first to fully see a new vision of ministry God was redirecting me to recently. That vision is a means to be able to help thousands more people become whole persons in Christ through comprehensive clinical counseling and advanced coaching, to support scores of pastors through Pastor Care services, and provide consulting to help churches become effective disciple-making churches. These are areas I've been serving in close to three decades now, but this new ministry --- the Scott Free Clinic --- is a means of removing the barrier of cost and unleashing the help and ministry so many need.

Personally, I'm committing myself to a bigger, bolder, greater, and more determined fight as I focus on how I can pour out my life for Christ in a greater way to help meet some of the myriad needs. I'm deeply grateful for four other men and two women who have joined this fight with me and serve as the Board of Directors for the Scott Free Clinic.

But to make this happen, we need your help! We need men and women who want to join in this fight to obliterate the barrier cost creates to getting help, and help us be able to provide this ministry so that thousands can change their lives through Christ, and to his glory.

We need men and women who are willing to make a more determined fight to help others through their prayer support and through their financial support. If you would like to join us in a more determined fight to help those who need help, then you may want to view the video below, which provides details about the ministry, as well as a couple of testimonials about lives that have already been changed. Beneath that are specific details about the ministry contained in the video but captured here for ease of access for you.

Step into this fight with us!

Let's be used by God in a more determined way to change lives!

Thank you, and may God bless you richly!
Dr. James Scott, Jr.
Founder and COO of the Scott Free Clinic

Following is key information shared on the video:

The Scott Free Clinic is an independent, non-profit parachurch ministry currently in developmental stages. To support the ability for this new parachurch ministry to be able to move beyond its developmental stage, Hope Christian Church in Fairfield, CA is willing to serve temporarily as a Fiscal Sponsor so this new ministry can receive TAX DEDUCTIBLE donations from sources who are interested in supporting the vision and mission of Scott Free Clinic.

Ministry vision ...
The Scott Free Clinic will be an independent, non-profit parachurch ministry formed to provide counseling, coaching, and consulting services to persons and churches internationally (meaning services aren't provided just locally, but also regionally, nationally, and internationally), without the barrier of cost, so that lives and churches will be changed through Christ, for the glory of God.

Ministry mission ...
Helping people become whole persons in Christ, and churches to become effective disciple-making churches.

Service offerings ...

  • Comprehensive clinical pastoral counseling.
  • Advanced coaching.
  • Couple Communication Training.
  • Fitness consulting.
  • Pastor Care (counseling for vocational and bi-vocational ministers).
  • Church consulting (especially in providing training in equipping people to share the Gospel).
Those who are interested in giving to help make this ministry vision become reality can do so by sending their checks to:

Hope Christian Church
149 Grobric Court
Fairfield, CA 94534
IMPORTANT: All checks should be made payable to "Hope Christian Church" and please notate on the memo portion of the check "Scott Free Clinic" so those funds will be designated only for the Scott Free Clinic. Additionally, you can give online at Hope's website at the following link (click on the "Donations" tab, and make sure to designate any gifts to "Scott Free Clinic"). All donations are tax deductible.
Here are some other ways you can help us gain the resources to turn this ministry vision into a life-changing reality:
  • Pray for this ministry daily and encourage others to pray for the ministry of Scott Free Clinic.
  • Share this blog post with as many people as you can, both personally and professionally.
  • Post the news of this ministry on your own blog site.
  • Connect others to my Twitter and Facebook accounts (see information below).
  • Personally tell others about this ministry and encourage their support.
  • Share this information with your church and send it to your church leaders.
  • Become a "support bundler." We are looking for some who have a strong support of this ministry to help us by "bundling" giving by using their personal and professional connections to help us raise funds to launch this ministry. We especially could benefit from Christian business men and women who contribute significantly to vital Christian ministry.
Contact information ...
Mailing address:
Dr. James Scott, Jr.
P.O. Box 99915
San Diego, CA 92169

Telephone: 541-861-0779

Finally ...
Once the funds are available for this ministry to launch services, ANYONE will be welcome to come and get the help they need! That includes you, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your church family, your pastor ... anyone! All without the barrier of cost! I invite YOU to join me in this journey of helping to changes lives and churches, all for the glory of God!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Could this be why God isn't answering some of your prayers?

John G. Wendel and his sisters were some of the most miserly people of all time. Although they had received a huge inheritance from their parents that made them wealthy, they spent very little of it and did all they could to keep their wealth for themselves.

John was able to influence five of his six sisters to never marry, and they lived in the same house in New York City for 50 years. When the last sister died in 1931, her estate was valued at more than $100 million. Her only dress was one she had made herself, and she had worn it for 25 years. The Wendels had such a compulsion to hold on to their possessions that they lived like paupers.

The Wendels may be more of an exception by the way they lived so frugally when they had great wealth, but their penchant for hoarding isn't uncommon. In fact, it's more common than not.

Many of us live lives of active consumerism, always seeking for and buying more. We fill our closets, stuff things under our beds, clutter our garages, and when our homes are overflowing with the things we continue to buy, we rent additional space in order to keep more stuff.

One of the fastest growing businesses in America is the self-storage industry, which generates a robust $15 billion annually helping people feed their desire to buy and keep more. About one in 11 Americans rents a mini-storage unit, totaling about 26 million such units in use today.

We want a lot, and we want a place to keep it all.

In spite of all we have, we not only keep buying more, we keep asking for more. Every day, we raise our requests for God to bless us with even more than we have.

Here's something to consider: Could it be that God isn't giving you what you keep asking for because you haven't yet given away what He's already given you?

"What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong --- you want only what will give you pleasure," James 4:1-3.

God never intended to continually bless us just so we can accumulate. God gives to us to meet our needs and so we can give to others ...

"For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then provide a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when you take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God," 2 Corinthians 9:10-11.

With as much as you have, why do you continue to daily ask God for more? Is it from need or want? What have you done with what you've already received from God? Are you just wanting to add more to it?

"... And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are wrong --- you want only what will give you pleasure ..."

So what's the right motive?

God encourages us to ask for what we need. He also says, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires" (Psalm 37:4). When we delight in the Lord, what is important and valuable to Him becomes important and valuable to us. That will shape our desires, and aligns them with the will of God. Then our motive matches His!

If you really feel the need to accumulate, learn how to do it correctly from this instruction from Jesus:

"So don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be," Luke 12:32:-34.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The hard road to peace ...

In order to have real peace --- peace of mind and heart --- you will have to make a decision that will disrupt the peace of your circumstances.

"Don't imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 'I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'," is what Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 10:34-36.

Jesus didn't come to bring tranquility to the circumstances we may experience on any given day in our lives, He came to fix the relationship we broke between us and God, and the resulting loss of peace. It is when we choose to accept the reconciliation to God that has been provided through Jesus Christ that we can fully discover peace.

"I am leaving you with a gift --- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be afraid or troubled," John 14:27.

But gaining that peace will mean doing more than just making a decision to be reconciled to God ...

There's a story about three frogs sitting on a lily pad. One decided to jump off. How many frogs were left?


The one frog had decided to jump off, but never took the leap.

It's not enough to make a decision, you've got to take a leap of faith and follow through with action.

To experience that gift of peace that Christ alone can provide, we have to make the decision to surrender our lives to Him, and then actually do it ...

"Then he said to the crowd, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me," Luke 9:23.

Choosing to act on your decision to follow Christ will cause you trouble in this life, possibly even with your own family, or friends, or with neighbors or co-workers. Many of those who have rejected Christ will not appreciate seeing you live out your embrace of Christ; acting on your decision to follow Jesus will disturb the external peace in your world.

But you will, instead, receive Christ's gift of peace of mind and heart.

It's a hard road to peace. It will require you to exchange the "going along to get along" kind of faux peace for a bear-your-cross internal peace.

Have you received the gift of peace that Jesus gives to those who act on their decision to follow Him? Or are you still sitting on a lily pad, having made a decision not acted upon, just hoping for some peaceful circumstances?


Monday, July 14, 2014

How to get your pastor off your back in one step ...

A pastor was leading a group from his congregation on a tour of the Holy Land. He had just read them the parable of the good shepherd and was explaining to them that, as they continued on their tour, they would see shepherds on the hillside, just as in Jesus' day.

The pastor wanted to impress the group, so he described how, in the Holy Land, shepherds always lead their sheep, always walking in front to face dangers, always protecting the sheep by going ahead of them.

The pastor barely got the last word out when, sure enough, they rounded a corner and saw a man and his sheep on the hillside.

There was only one problem: the man wasn't leading the sheep as the pastor had described. Instead, he was behind the sheep ... obviously chasing them!

The pastor turned red.

Does it seem like your pastor is always chasing you about something?

Would you like to get your pastor off your back? Here's a one-step process that should do just that: Live every day of your life fully surrendered and obedient to Jesus Christ.

Do that, and your pastor will likely not be chasing you.

Do that and you'll become who God wants to shape you into, and you'll live a life of loving God and loving others, to His glory.

That's really why your pastor chases you, to help lead you into a fully surrendered life in Christ. If you don't have to be pushed, prodded, externally motivated, or otherwise provoked to live your life that way, then he won't have anything to chase you about.

But when you stray from that kind of life, it's the same as a sheep wandering from the path he should be going, and any good shepherd will pursue the straying sheep.

Are you grazing in the pasture of surrender? Or is your pastor chasing you because you've strayed from a life devoted in every way to God?


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?

Hundreds of rockets are being fired at Israel ...

... ISIS is murdering and plundering its way through Iraq ...

... Russia is threatening Ukraine ...

... Christian churches are being bombed and Christians are being slaughtered in Nigeria and other places around the world ...

... Our government's administration is rocked with multiple scandals ...

... Unborn babies continue to be aborted at whim, to the count of more than 55,000,000 in this country alone ...

... Multiple countries are increasingly giving their approval to same-sex marriage ...

... America is on a quick slide to becoming a post-Christian nation ...

Just scanning the headlines on any given day highlights the fact that we live in a very broken world that is full of evil.

If only there was something you could do about it.

There is!

"But I'm just one person," you counter.

Well, there was a time when this world was so plagued with evil that God insisted on a reboot. And He planned on using just one person to make that happen ...

"The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, 'I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing --- all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them'," Genesis 6:5-7.

The world at that time sounds a lot like the world in our time. But notice the next two verses ...

"But Noah found favor with the Lord. This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on the earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God," Genesis 6:8-9.

God would bring about a new start through one righteous person!

He still does that today.

God still uses that single righteous man or woman who walks in close fellowship with Him to change a family, a church, a group of co-workers, a community, even a nation. God can use you, as His ambassador, to bring the change He wants to accomplish to the people you can influence and in the place He has planted you.

God wants to make His appeal to this broken, evil world through YOU!

"And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given US this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And he gave US this wonderful message of reconciliation. So WE are Christ's ambassadors; GOD IS MAKING HIS APPEAL THROUGH US. We speak for Christ when we plead, 'Come back to God!'" 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

Instead of heading to social media and plastering it with vicious and even vile statements against those who do evil things, be the ambassador God has commissioned you to be and start being a source of change where you are. The difference you make through Christ in you, and working through you, could change a life, or multiple lives; a family, or multiple families; a church, a community, or more.

But nothing will change from rants and worry.

God wants to transform lost, broken, evil people into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. His plan for doing that is to use you and me as His ambassadors, to make His appeal to this world through US.

So are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?


Saturday, July 12, 2014

God is passionate about this, and it directly affects you ...

Ignoring important messages can come with a very steep cost.

It did for Colonel Johann Rall.

Rall was the commander of Hessian troops during the Revolutionary War. A loyalist spy appeared at Rall's headquarters carrying an urgent message for him. That message would have informed the Colonel that General George Washington and the Continental Army had secretly crossed the Delaware River that morning and were advancing on Trenton, New Jersey where the Hessians were encamped. The spy was denied an audience with the commander and instead wrote his message on a piece of paper. A porter took the note to Rall, but because he was involved in a poker game he stuffed the unread note into his pocket. When the guards at the Hessian camp began firing their muskets in a futile attempt to stop Washington's army, Rall was still playing cards. Without time to organize, the Hessian army was captured.

Rall may have saved himself if only he had read and acted on the warning provided to him.

In a similar way, James offers a serious warning to Christians that could help them greatly if they only read and heed the message ...

"You adulterers! Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God," James 4:4.

But notice what James writes in the next verse: "Do you think the scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him," James 4:5.

By ignoring the exhortation of scripture, and the message it provides for us, we miss the vital warning it contains: "... that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within US should be faithful to him ..."

Have you made scripture important enough to take it seriously and heed its warnings to you? Or are you too busy with pleasure so that you're ignoring the Word?

God is passionate about your faithfulness to Him ... are you? Ignoring that message comes with a very steep cost.


Friday, July 11, 2014

How Personal Trainers and pastors can share the wrong perspective ...

I knew the day would come, and here it was. The latest Personal Trainer hired by the gym had injured his back lifting too much, incorrectly.

I've had the opportunity to work with some excellent Personal Trainers, but I've worked with more who got into the business with the wrong attitude, wrong reason, or wrong objective. Many of them had a disdain for the out-of-shape clients that made up the majority of people who walked into the gym. Most members were not athletes, and it was rarer still for an elite athlete to walk through the door.

Most of the trainers hoped to at least work with exceptional high school athletes, or preferably college athletes, with the ultimate goal of some day working with elite athletes. But most of those trainers weren't qualified to train an elite athlete, and had no experience doing so.

The reality was, most of the people they would work with would be the housewife who wanted to lose weight now that she was done having children, the middle-aged man who had added a beer belly and wanted to reduce it, the 50-something-year-old who was told by his doctor he was heading for health problems if they didn't improve their fitness, and every now and then the mediocre high school athlete whose dad was convinced they could be a star with the right trainer.

That doesn't mean that sometimes the athlete doesn't walk through the gym door, or even the occasional elite athlete (I've had the chance to train all of the above), but it usually means the training goals of most people Personal Trainers work with will at least start far below the personal goals of many trainers. Most people who hire a Personal Trainer just want to improve their own personal fitness. They aren't interested in training for any kind of competition, slogging through mud with a buddy, or becoming a triathlete. They want to lose some weight, build some lean muscle, and not have any significant health concerns.

That is their version of "fitness."

Other than financial, the reason why so many Personal Trainers leave the industry early after entering it is because they aren't happy providing their clients with what their clients want. Instead, they want their clients to be as excited about getting to the gym as they are, and expect their clients to spend as much time there as they do. They dream of what their client could be if they were as sold out on "fitness" as they are ... but they aren't.

At least, not the idea of "fitness" many trainers have.

Yet, it's those Personal Trainers who understand fitness is an individual measure and who help their clients clarify THEIR goals and then meet them that find a lot of satisfaction AND success in the industry. They also get a lot of referrals from clients who are very happy about reaching their new level of function and fitness. And every now and then, some of those clients are going to be so excited about their fitness gains that they become those weekend athletes who discover a love for competing in various events.

But the guy who gets into fitness because he loves to lift, likes ogling and hitting on the "hot" girls in the gym, and enjoys the camaraderie of other gym rats often finds no joy in helping the soccer mom lose 20 pounds. Trainers like this either need to change their professional perspective or their profession.

Pastors can be a lot like these Personal Trainers. So many pastors today relish the fellowship of other church leaders over spending time with the people who actually make up their congregation. They long for strategy meetings, conferences, and interactive podcasts with other pastors. All of which are more alluring than visiting the 80-year-old shut-in, making hospital calls, or counseling a couple considering divorce. Pastors today are obsessed with making other leaders rather than making disciples.

Why shouldn't they be? Much of what they read or hear from rock star church leaders is all about making other leaders, not about making disciples, or helping their biblically illiterate congregation learn and apply God's Word to their lives.

Like the Personal Trainers who need to reassess why they are in their profession, these pastors need to either gain a new perspective about their calling or consider doing something else.

Fortunately, I've had the privilege of working with some fantastic Personal Trainers and pastors who contribute significantly to great, positive life changes, physically and spiritually. But it seems there is an increasing need to more closely examine early on why someone wants to pursue either of these professions.

WHY are you doing what you're doing? Do you have the perspective you need to be the Personal Trainer your clients need, or the pastor God has called you to be?


The church and it's culture of tipping ...

You've probably read the many stories of interviews from servers in restaurants who say Christians are the worst tippers (the photo above is a REAL example).

I've heard the same.

It's not just that so many Christians are cheap, it's that we've developed a cheap "tipping" mentality within the church.

For example, when we read of the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), we see a single person who took on the task of meeting an important need of someone else, in its entirety, all by himself. We don't encourage that very often today. In fact, we take the most simple of needs, such as doing a little painting for an elderly person in the community, and turn it into a huge all-church project. It might take rallying 20 people for a project that would take one person a few hours and $20 to do.

Instead of teaching Christians to serve others in whole ways --- which would be more costly at the individual level --- we teach people to break down service in small enough slices that there's no real cost (and certainly no "pain") involved personally. We look at service as how we might be able to do something for someone and remain in our comfort zones. When it begins to challenge our comfort by costing us, we either pass on the need to others or outsource it altogether to parachurch ministries or state agencies.

Sometimes needs are big enough to require rallying others to help meet the whole need. Not only is there nothing wrong with that, it's something we see done as we read about the early church in the book of Acts. They worked together to the point that there was NO NEED left among them!

"All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God's great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need," Acts 4:32-35.

But even when the early Christians worked together, it wasn't because they were paring down their service to keep themselves in their comfort zones, it was because the need was bigger than their individual resources, which they were willing to give. But notice, when a need that big did come along, a Christian didn't ignore it, thinking it was too big for them to handle; instead, they rallied the church to come together and do whatever was necessary to meet the need.

There wasn't a "tipping mentality" among those early Christians!

That's because they had a mindset more like what Pastor Edward Skidmore of Castle Hills Christian Church describes in this story ...

"Years back, I heard someone talk about the 'faucet principle,' and I've discovered that it really works. If I turn on a faucet at my house, I have the entire contents of the Edwards Aquifer at my disposal. I don't need to worry that if I run the water I'll end up with a trickle ... unless, of course, I fail to pay my water bill. There's more than enough water available for anything I might need. I need not be stingy with my water.

"The same principle works with my giving. I have a spiritual faucet --- connected to the storehouses of heaven itself. When I turn on the faucet to give, there is an abundant supply to meet that need, with an abundance left over. I need not hoard my assets under the assumption that the reservoir might dry up. My heavenly supply is abundant, above anything I might imagine. I can give freely, knowing that God will see to it that I can give again tomorrow."

These early Christians teach us to serve in a way that's opposite of the cheap tipper. Instead of tipping a need, they took on a need and met it completely. If they didn't have the personal resources to do that, they worked with other Christians until the need was wiped out.

Are there people in need within your church?



Thursday, July 10, 2014

How effective are you at understanding the needs of others?

The following series of advertisements appeared in a daily newspaper ...

MONDAY: "The Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale. Telephone xxx-xxxx after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Donnelly who lives with him, cheap."

TUESDAY: "We regret any embarrassment caused to Rev. Jones by a typographical error in yesterday's paper. The ad should have read: 'The Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale, cheap. Telephone xxx-xxxx and ask for Mrs. Donnelly, who lives with him after 7 p.m'."

WEDNESDAY: "The Rev. A.J. Jones informs us that he has received several annoying telephone calls because of an incorrect ad in yesterday's paper. It should have read: 'The Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale, cheap. Telephone xxx-xxxx after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Donnelly who loves with him'."

THURSDAY: "Please take notice that I, the Rev. A.J. Jones, have no color TV set for sale; I have smashed it. Don't call xxx-xxxx any more. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Donnelly. She was, until yesterday, my housekeeper."

FRIDAY: "Wanted: a housekeeper. Usual housekeeping duties. Good pay. Love in, Rev. A.J. Jones. Telephone xxx-xxxx."

Having worked for newspapers, I know that typos can happen. But whether it's getting an ad right, or ministering to someone in need, we limit our helpfulness to others when we fail to understand what the real need is.

These failures happen because we're quick to assume what the needs of someone else are based on very few facts rather than allowing the person in need to define their own situation and their own needs. Even if we have been in similar circumstances, that doesn't mean the needs are the same for everyone.

Fortunately, this tendency for misunderstanding the needs of others doesn't exist with Jesus Christ ...

"This High Priest of ours [Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most," Hebrews 4:15-16.

Jesus has "been there, faced that." He invites us to come to Him and tell Him of our needs, He listens intensely. And He cares.

Jesus never misunderstands us!

When others are in need, do you try to put yourself in their shoes? Do you listen to them and let them define their needs? Do you care? What do you do to make sure you rightly understand the needs of others around you?


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Could I have your attention, please ...

Two psychiatrists meet at their 20th college class reunion. One of the men looks and acts vibrant, while the other looks withered and is worried.

"So what's your secret?" the older looking psychiatrist asks. "Listening to other people's problems every day, all day long, for years on end has made an old man of me."

"So," replied the younger looking psychiatrist, "who listens?"

Attention is hard to come by sometimes.

Some people have more difficulty than others keeping their attention focused on who they are with or on what's important at the moment. But attention is something that should be both sporadic and focused.

For example, while working, we shift our attention to what is important at the moment, but change focus as we interact with different customers or co-workers. We need to shift our attention to various people, priorities, projects, and things throughout the day.

But there is something that we're taught in scripture to keep our attention focused on all the time, anywhere, with anyone, whatever we're doing ...

"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need," Matthew 6:33.

"Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace," Romans 8:5-7.

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise," Philippians 4:8.

"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth," Colossians 3:1-2.

Does God, and His kingdom, permeate your thoughts so that He and his kingdom always have your attention?

What's got your attention?


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What's the big deal about giving?

Why is it that at least once a year a pastor needs to preach on giving, and that's not often enough?

What is the big deal about giving, anyway?

Let me answer that with the story of a preacher who announced from the pulpit one Sunday morning, "I have good news and bad news. The good news is, we have enough money to retire the mortgage on the church building."

A sigh of relief went through the congregation.

The preacher continued: "The bad news is, the money is still in your pockets."

God's way of providing for the needs of the church and others is to bless us so that we can be a blessing to others. The Apostle Paul describes this concept like this ...

"For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving --- the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ," 2 Corinthians 9:10-13.

God hasn't stopped performing miracles. But instead of providing manna and quail and clothes that can last 40 years, He more often meets our needs through how He blesses all of us. God blesses us so that we can give generously to meet the ministry needs of the church and to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We talk about giving in the church because the money needed for the church to function, and the money needed to help others who are in need, is still in our pockets.

Do you use the blessings you receive from God to be a blessing to others?


Friday, July 4, 2014

Freedom, sacrifice, and the American spirit ...

Happy Independence Day!

The 4th of July is the quintessential American day, truly a day worthy of being celebrated by the people of this great nation. We live in a land that not only provides us with freedom, but still to this day remains the greatest beacon of liberty and hope of freedom for people around the world

Being so greatly blessed with this freedom, it's important we not forget the price originally paid to gain our standing as a country of free people. The signing of the Declaration of Independence by our founding fathers did not immediately, or easily, establish a great republic. It was, instead, the start of a fierce struggle to forge a nation that would become the United States of America.

Kenneth L. Dodge, writing in Resource, highlights just a few of many sacrifices made by our founding fathers:

"Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. Their conviction resulted in untold sufferings for themselves and their families. Of the 56 men, five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army. Another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in poverty.

"At the battle of Yorktown, the British General Cornwallis had taken over Thomas Nelson's home for his headquarters. Nelson quietly ordered General George Washington to open fire on the Nelson home. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt. John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she lay dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and mill were destroyed. For over a year, he lived in forests and caves, returning home only to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died of exhaustion."

This willingness to sacrifice for the sake of freedom would become a hallmark of the American people throughout our history. While the sacrifices were real and great, those who pay such costs often don't look upon them as being sacrifices in the same way we observers of those sacrifices do. Famous Scottish missionary and explorer to Africa, Dr. David Livingstone, had a different take on this spirit of sacrifice, seeing it instead as one of service ...

"People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life --- these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waiver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father's throne on high to give Himself for us."

But times have changed. We're a long way from the fiery debates that raged in Philadelphia's Independence Hall in 1776, when 56 men risked their "lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor" for a great vision of a free people. We are now free, and a great people, because the vision of our founding father's has, through great sacrifice and service, come to pass. We remember and celebrate that today.

But let's not leave such great passion in the past, let's keep it alive today!

How is the spirit of sacrifice and service demonstrated by our founding father's part of your life and your contribution to our nation and this world? What do you stand for? Even more, what are you sacrificing for today? What great vision are you willing to risk your life, your fortune, and your "sacred honor" for?

Have a fun and safe Independence Day. May God bless you, and may God bless America!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

The danger of a proud freedom ...

How much can we accomplish without God?

That question has morphed into an attitude by which many live today, even those within the church. Instead of humbly walking with our God, we live our lives with self in control, intent on discovering just how much we can achieve on our own. Of course, we maintain a loose connection with God because, should we get ourselves into trouble out in the world on our own, we might need to call on Him to bail us out.

Living such a proud freedom will always get us into trouble!

In his book, "The Pressure's Off," Christian psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb tells this story from his childhood ...

"One Saturday afternoon, I decided I was a big boy and could use the bathroom without anyone's help. So I climbed the stairs, closed and locked the door behind me, and for the next few minutes felt very self-sufficient.

"Then it was time to leave. I couldn't unlock the door. I tried with every ounce of my three-year-old strength, but I couldn't do it. I panicked. I felt again like a very little boy as the thought went through my head, 'I might spend the rest of my life in this bathroom.'

"My parents --- and likely the neighbors --- heard my desperate scream. 'Are you okay?' mother shouted through the door that she couldn't open through the outside. 'Did you fall? Have you hit your head?'

"'I can't unlock the door!' I yelled. 'Get me out of here!'

"I wasn't aware of it right then, but dad raced downed the stairs, ran to the garage to find the ladder, hauled it off the hooks, and leaned it against the side of the house just beneath the bedroom window. With adult strength, he pried it open, then climbed into my prison, walked past me, and with the same strength, turned the lock and opened the door.

"'Thanks, dad,' I said, then ran out to play.

"That's how I thought the Christian life was supposed to work ... God shows up. He hears my cry --- 'Get me out of here! I want to play!' --- and unlocks the door to the blessings I desire."

That's the mentality of those who, from a position of a proud freedom, try to live with the attitude of, "How much can we accomplish without God?"

Jesus has a different message for us: "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing," John 15:5.

Instead of wanting a savior who sets us free to walk with Him and serve Him, we really only want a lifeguard to stand by as we wade with pride into our freedom.

Watchman Nee tells a story of one of his experiences as a Christian leader in China. A group of young Christian brothers gathered to go swimming in one of the many creeks that run throughout the countryside there. Since most were not good swimmers, they were careful to remain close to the banks so as not to get in water over their heads.

One of the brothers got out a little too far and began to struggle in the deep water. Realizing his predicament, he began to cry out to his neighbors, who by now were out of the water and drying off.

"Help! Save me!" he yelled, all the while thrashing his arms and legs in a futile attempt to keep his head above water.

Brother Nee knew only one man was experienced enough at swimming to provide any assistance, so he turned to him for help. But strangely enough, the would-be rescuer calmly observed the man's plight but made no move to save him.

"Why don't you do something?" they all screamed in unison. But the man just stood there, apparently unconcerned.

After a few moments, the drowning man could stay afloat no more. His arms and legs grew tired and limp, and he began to sink under the water. It was only then that the slow-moving lifeguard dove into the creek, and with a few quick strokes reached the victim and pulled him to safety.

Once all was well, Brother Nee was beside himself. "How could you stand by and watch your brother drown, ignoring his cries for help and prolonging his suffering?" he questioned.

The man calmly explained, "If I were to jump in immediately and try to save a drowning man, he would clutch me in panic and pull me under with him. In order to be saved, he must come to the end of himself, and cease struggling, cease trying to save himself. Only then can he be helped."

How much can we accomplish without God?

"... For apart from me you can do nothing."

But we still try, thinking God will quickly pluck us out from getting in over our heads, like the good lifeguard we think He is.

Don't be surprised if God waits until you come to the end of yourself, when you finally cease struggling and trying to save yourself --- when you finally reach that point where you can be helped --- before He responds to your pleas.

Jesus died to set you free, to provide you with real freedom. But not a proud, self-sufficient, freedom. Rather, the freedom to be able to humbly walk with Him ...

"No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God," Micah 6:8.

Instead of trying to see what you can accomplish without God, why not enjoy the great freedom of exploring all you can accomplish by walking humbly with Him?


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Does God expect results from you?

After a preacher died and went to heaven, he noticed that a New York cab driver had been given a higher place than he had.

"I don't understand," he complained to the Apostle Peter. "I devoted my entire life to my congregation."

"Our policy is to reward results," Peter explained. "Tell me, what happened when you preached a sermon?"

The minister admitted that some in the congregation fell asleep, and many of the others were tuned out.

"Exactly," Peter said. "But when people rode in this man's taxi, they not only stayed awake, they prayed fervently and sought the Lord!"

Of course, that's just a joke. With all the overt focus on grace that we have today, surely God doesn't really expect any results from us once we surrender our lives to Christ, does He?

Actually, He does.

At least that's what the Apostle Paul writes ...

"Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear," Philippians 2:12.

There are results to be shown for the redeeming love of God in our lives, and Paul says those results are obedience demonstrated from a reverence and fear of the Lord.

But before you freak out at the idea that God really does expect something of you, read the next verse ...

"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him," Philippians 2:13.

With God Himself supplying both the DESIRE and the POWER to do what pleases Him, He expects the results of reverent obedience to Him. God did not offer His son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for our sins just to rescue us from the consequences of sin; He did so to purify us so that we could have a restored relationship with Him.

What does a restored relationship with God look like?

Reverent obedience on our part.

Obedience and reverence are the natural results of being redeemed, adopted, and transformed by God.

How are you "working hard" to "show the results of your salvation"?


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A place at the table ...

The people I'm sitting around inspired my writing this morning.

At one table is a leading officer with the local police department, surrounded by three younger officers, who appear to be hanging on his every word, as if they're honored to have been selected to have this time for a veteran officer just to pour his experience into them.

At a different table is a senior officer in the department. Unlike the officers at the other table, he isn't wearing a uniform, but his badge and gun are prominently displayed on the right side of his belt. He's having a more philosophical discussion with a city leader who is decked out in an expensive suit.

It can be exciting when you're working up the ranks of whatever you do. These young officers are excited they've been invited to the table with this veteran. But it's likely none of them will make it to the "bigger" table with the other two, where the most pressing executive decisions are made.

I remember the first time I made it to the big table. The regional directors of the national company I worked for were presenting their numbers to the Chairman and President of the company. It was exciting knowing the work we did earned us a seat at that table.

I also remember when I first earned a place at the head table. Working for a large, national healthcare organization while living in Hawaii, I had taken our offices there and developed the numbers one and three revenue generating offices in the country for this big company, and my area had become the top revenue-generating area within the organization. When we were honored by the CEO at a special President's Club event, the CEO talked about how he was astounded that little Hawaii --- the most remote islands on the planet --- beat all the major markets on the mainland and out-performed everyone.

It took a lot of work. And by that work, we earned a seat of honor and our own table.

Such experiences at the differing levels can be fun and exciting, but they're fleeting. Sooner or later, someone else comes in with a better number. If you make it just about the table you're at rather than the people you're with, it will be a very empty experience.

But there's another table --- the biggest of all --- that we each have an opportunity to be a guest at. None of us can earn a place at this table; unlike the other accomplishments we might earn, and thereby deserve a place at the meeting, there's nothing we can do to earn a chair at this table. I'm talking about the wedding feast of the Lamb ...

"Then I heard what sounded like a shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: 'Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.' For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God's holy people. And the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.' And he added, 'These are true words that come from God'," Revelation 19:6-9.

That's a meeting you won't want to miss!

You've been given an invitation by the Lamb to this dinner. Your RSVP comes in the form of surrendering your life to Jesus Christ, putting your faith in Him, confessing Him as your Lord, and repenting of your sins. You enter into a covenant relationship with Him as you're buried with Christ in baptism, and raised to walk in newness of life.

A life that will some day lead to your place at this biggest of all tables.

Will you be there?