Friday, January 5, 2018

Using Your Platform

As writers and leaders, we are constantly challenged to increase our platform, to reach others with the message that we have been given. As an author, I have spent the previous month truly focusing on expanding my platform, hoping the Lord would open new doors, assist in making new connections, giving an opening for the message to reach more people. He did. Now, what do we do with such a platform?

Each day, we come into contact with a variety of people. Co-workers, fellow church members, friends, family members, social media friends/followers, acquaintances at our favorite restaurants and those we have come to know at the local gas station, and even strangers on the street are all placed in our lives and in our paths by the directive hand of God. There are no coincidences and as these interactions take place on a daily and weekly basis, what message are they receiving from our lives?

Having a platform, which we all have been blessed with whether it be fifteen people or thousands of individuals, means that we are responsible/accountable for the message that comes from our lives. What do they see in us? What do they hear from us? The message which our lives tell will live on long after these lives have ended on earth.

Joshua was in a place of leadership. He had a platform. As a leader, he ensured that those following, those who saw him as a leader, knew the direction of his life and the message was clear. In Joshua 24, we read, "Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:14-15 NKJV)

His message was clear. He was going to serve the Lord, and his house would do the same. The people had a choice, but regardless of the choice they made, Joshua would proclaim that there was only one God and that was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He used his platform to proclaim truth and in that truth, to point the people to where they needed to be. He challenged those who listened, he gave them a message that said they could not serve the gods in Egypt, nor the gods of the Amorites, and simultaneously serve the Lord. So, they had to choose. No matter what choice they made, he was not going to change his allegiance, which belonged to the Lord.

Our message must be clear. Our message must point people in an eternal direction. Our message must also be backed by a life of consistency. When we use our platform for such a purpose, when we use our influence for the Lord, then we see the Lord increase that influence, opening new doors and new opportunities for His message to be shared. As we have been given these opportunities, let's be sure to use them for His glory, that others may come to know Him and walk more closely with Him.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Beginning

Morning broke on a New Year, and with the rising of the sun were the hatchlings of the mind as to what could be in this year. For most, we are planning what vacations we will take, putting financial goals for the year on paper, while setting reminders of important dates. Yes, a new beginning is here and as we gaze upon the possibilities, we hope to squeeze every ounce of life we can out of this year.

As we prepare for what will be, we must also ask ourselves the question, "What are my faith goals this year?" To fail to set goals for our faith is to set aside God as we pursue all that which the world has dangled in front of our eyes. Yes, it is important to get physically healthier this year, but becoming spiritually healthier is just as important. It is important to invest our finances for the future but an investment in the kingdom of God is of far greater value. The time spent relaxing, away from the cares of life is necessary, as is time alone with God that is consistent and valued.

Proverbs 29:18 reads, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18 KJV) Without a vision for our faith for this year, we will suffer and those around us will suffer. You may wonder how others will suffer. Think about this for a moment. We are not our best when we neglect to connect with the Lord. What results is that we are not the reflection of God that we need to be to a world that is lost and we are less likely to lead our families and impact our friends as we should. When our relationship with God is not priority, all of our other relationships suffer in some manner.

So, how do we set a vision for this year for our faith? Here are a few suggestions. Making the growth of our spiritual life a priority is a wise decision, so let's look at a few areas that can help us grow in 2018.

1 - Personal Quiet Time - To get alone with God is important. To plan it is even more important. Whatever we do not set aside time for, we will neglect to find time for. Even if it is ten minutes in the morning, any additional time spent with God will lead us to grow in Him.

2 - Family Faith Activities - Immediately, we think of church events. What are we doing the rest of the week? Is there a night each month when we can watch a faith-based movie? Scheduling a time of devotion will also help the family grow in faith. Finding a family ministry activity is also something that will glorify the Lord and help our family's spiritual growth during the year. Some ideas to consider:
  • Visiting widows in your area
  • Family outings to shop for Operation Christmas Child
  • Randomly making dinners for others and delivering them
  • Leading a coat drive/canned food drive
3 - Cultivate the environment - Controlling the environment which we exist in can drastically affect our lives. Our choice in music can lead us closer to God, refocusing our minds on Him, or it can be the noise of the world that fails to lead us to growth in the Lord. What we watch on television, what books we read, and the choice of movies we watch are all things that we can control and if our desire is to grow closer to God, we have to change the environment around us as much as possible.

I pray that this year is a year where we will have a vision for growing in the Lord and make Him our priority. We have to remember that if there is no vision, we will fail to grow and all will suffer. Happy 2018! May God bless you as you grow in Him.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Where Do You Stand?

Have you ever wondered where you stand with people? There are times where you have someone who may seem like they love you one minute, then hate you the next. Perhaps you have such wonderings in your job. One day, the job seems secure, but the next week, you are teetering on the edge, waiting for the push off of a cliff into the open air of unemployment. Such an existence leads us to either push too hard to figure out our standing or give up all-together, throwing our hands up in the air, lacking the passion that we once held.

Such was a reality in a job that I once had. The running joke was that we were all cattle, easily replaceable. The tactic, which initially worked, making everyone walk on eggshells and strive to perform at an even greater level, eventually gave way to sheer apathy. Regardless of what we did, we never knew where we stood. What we did know was this - to the company, we were not important.

Anyone who has found themselves in a similar place in their lives knows that such a feeling is horrendous. Too often, that rollercoaster ride ends with a crash and burn that leaves scars for the rest of our lives. As I have grown older, I have learned that the rollercoaster ride is not worth the wait in line. Just as excruciating as it was for us to be in that position, we must wonder how our actions and our decisions affects the One who deserves our best.

I often wonder how Christ feels about our relationships with Him. Does He wonder how important He is to us? Does He know where He stands in our lives? The "Christian" reactive response is to say that the Lord is first in our lives, that He is the centerpiece, the foundation, and the aspiration of all our activity. But is He really? Do our actions, and our priorities tell not only the Lord, but also the world, where we stand?

People argue about what the lost world looks for in the Christian community. The simple answer to that is the same answer to what the Lord is looking for in our lives - consistency. Consistency shows the dedication of the heart, the direction of the soul. Consistency refuses convenience because commitment is more valuable than comfort. Jesus showed us how much we matter to Him - His love seen in the manger, demonstrated on the cross. The cross tells us that we never have to question whether He loves us, that we never have to wonder where He stands. There is zero question about the commitment of the Lord to those who follow Him. He gave His all, for all. Yet when He looks at us, what have we given to Him - who is He to us?

Jesus said, "Therefore, whoever confesses Me before men, him I will confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32 NKJV) The line is drawn. There is no middle ground. Are we standing with Him, confessing our relationship with the Lord in word and in the actions of our lives, or are we trying to straddle a fence that does not exist. When Jesus looks at us, when He looks at our lives, does He know that we stand with Him? If not, we are standing in the wrong place, standing for the wrong things. Be a person of conviction. Be consistent. Let there never be a question of who you are, what others mean to you, what is important to you, and where you stand in life.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Broken Man's Hallelujah

I have always loved the story of Peter. Not only was Peter one of the disciples, but he was the one we can all identify with at times. A moment of glory was followed by an epic failure, his life a kamikaze mission of faith and failure. Pinnacle to valley, he seemed to descend as quickly as he ascended, always doing so with others watching.

Tonight, we were watching a movie (Paul Blart: Mall Cop) and in the midst of the movie, I looked at my wife and said, "You know, I am the Paul Blart of pastors. I always mean well, but always seem to fall flat on my face." Blart constantly failed, but he just kept going. She laughed. I mean, she really laughed! We were in a discussion about certain things and the overwhelming nature of life right now. I chuckled, explained myself a little better, then focused on the next round of work to be accomplished.

My mind kept rolling through the happenings of seventeen years of ministry. Then, I thought about Peter. He was such a soul in his own right. For instance, Peter was the only one of the twelve to answer Jesus' call to get out of the boat and walk on the water. For a few steps, he gave the appearance of super-disciple, having a faith the other eleven could only dream of having. Then, he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink.

Another instance was seen in the Upper Room. He swore his allegiance to Jesus, proclaiming that he would die for Christ before he would deny. Peter went even further by drawing his sword to fight off those who had come to arrest Jesus. Not long after, he denied knowing Jesus and then, the rooster broke the panic of his mind in concealing his identity, revealing his reality that Jesus was right.

A cross held the One he had failed. Three nails affixed his failures, his shortcomings, his brokenness to a perfect Lamb, slain for the sins of the world. The One on the cross cried out, gave up His Spirit, and the wrath of God enshrouded the world in darkness. His death was a result of the choices of Peter, the rest of the world, you and I. The centurion at the foot of the cross, witnessing all the events as they unfolded proclaimed that the One they had executed was indeed the Son of God. But no one needed to convince Peter...he already knew. He had just given in to fear along the way.

After Resurrection morning, the encounter Peter had with Jesus was anything but convenient or comfortable. Jesus, the One he had denied, stood before the broken disciple and began a line of questioning. "Do you love me?" The pain of such a question cannot be trivialized. That hurt. That stung. Peter had dropped everything prior to follow, then failed, and then had to answer a question that he deserved to be asked, but had no desire to be confronted with. With the question, standing face to face with the One he had denied knowing, his brokenness could not be hidden. "'Yes, Lord,' he said to Him, 'You know that I love You" (John 21:15 HCSB). Jesus responded, "Feed My lambs". Again the question came as to whether or not he loved Jesus. Peter replied again, assuring the resurrected Lord of his love for Him. Then, the third question came. His exasperation, his weary and troubled soul, and his heavily burdened heart, weighed down from the past, came out as he responded, "Lord, You know everything! You know that I love you" (John 21:17 HCSB).

At that, Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep, restoring Peter and redirecting a life that had fallen off its course a short time prior. Can you imagine the broken hallelujah that was uttered by his soul? He had blown it, but Jesus had forgiven him and restored him. He had denied. Jesus had welcomed him back. Scripture says that all have sinned, that all have fallen short of the glory of God. That sin separates us from God, but when we are restored to the Lord, we softly whisper a broken hallelujah as our souls enjoy the warmth of the presence of our Creator, the assurances of our Savior, and the One who is our hope and our redemption. "Hallelujah...hallelujah."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

To this earth, He came

Today is June the 25th. Six months stand between where we are and the actual date of Christmas. However, tonight, in my office, someone from our church had placed two Christmas CD's on my desk. Surely, they know me and they know my adoration for Christmas. What causes me to listen to Christmas music when the temperatures are reaching the mid-nineties? The fact that He came. The fact that heaven met earth in Bethlehem, that light pierced the darkness and that light could never be extinguished.

I have often struggled with self-worth issues and loneliness. I am a bit awkward and admit that much of my life, I have felt like an inconvenience to others. I try to do everything myself and do all that I can to help others and stay out of the way. It is Christmas that reminds me that, though I struggle to see myself in any positive way, the Lord thought enough of me to come. That He would willingly give up heaven to walk amongst this earth for me and for all those in need of Savior is mind-blowing. He chose to come, embracing the will of the Father, beginning the trek to the cross.

In every religion of the world, man tries to work their way to their god. For Christians, God came to us, His Son wrapped in cloth and placed in a manger. He came for the rich and the poor, the accepted and the outcast, the man and the woman. He came for the Gentile and the Jew, the young and the old, the hopeful and the hopeless. He came for those who were sick, those possessed, the lonely, the lame. He came for every race.

Christmas reminds me of the Christ who needed not to come in a majestic entrance, but in a humble arrival in a manner no one would have expected. A manger in Bethlehem served as the welcome for the King of kings, the Lord of lords. Christmas reminds me that to this earth, He came. And He came for me. That gives me value, a worth not found in the eyes of the world, but a lasting value in the eyes of the Creator, my God. He wanted to be with me. He longs to be with you as well. As the Christmas hymn beckons us, "O Come, let us adore Him." He certainly proved his adoration for us by coming to the world to die for you and me.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Message

This morning, I received a message from someone I have never met. Today's plan had already been established, a part of a weekly routine that I often times should break from, but the message began to change the course of the day. This person had read something that I had written for a magazine and had taken the time to seek me out and sent this message. She has never met me, but she impacted the course of my day, and for that I will always be thankful.

We are creatures of habit. Our weekly schedules are often near replicas of a week prior, our focus set on the same things from days before. All the while, life is passing by us and opportunities are being wasted. I had intended to do those things that "needed" to be done. In truth, most of what was planned was fairly unnecessary, but I deem some things are part of the job and carry on with it as if it had to be done. Then, a message came, and that message reminded me of Scripture.

In 1st Chronicles, chapter 4, there is a list of names, a continuation of the roll call from previous chapters and a prelude to more names being listed thereafter. In verses 9 and 10 of chapter 4, there is a pause from the roll call and these two verses say, "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother named him Jabez and said, 'I gave birth to him in pain.' Jabez called out to the God of Israel: 'If only You would bless me, extend my border, let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm, so that I will not cause any pain.' And God granted his request." (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 HCSB)

In the middle of the list of descendants and generations, a prayer is contained, spoken by a man who sought more in his life. God wanted such a prayer to be read by others, such a prayer a reminder that God hears and God answers us. Jabez was more than a name because he called out to God and God answered him. Notice what Jabez asked for. He asked that his borders be extended. Each day, we can reach beyond what we know and who we know to reach out to a greater/wider audience, praying that the Lord will use us in ways we never imagined.

Today, we all had a plan, but so does the Lord. We can focus on what we think "needs" to be done or we can ask Him to show us what He wants us to do and watch as He expands the borders of our lives. A message from someone I did not know came to me today. God used that message to remind me to focus beyond what I see, beyond what I know, and let Him work through me to reach more people. I had reached that lady with something I wrote. God used her to reach me to trade in my plan for this day and ask what His plan for my day contains.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Focused on heaven

The debate is tonight. Well, that's great. As millions of people tune in to see what the two candidates have to say, and which questions they will dodge, I wonder why our focus shifted. I say this not from some lofty peak of holiness, reigning down wisdom upon the masses. I say this as I caught myself drawn to watch the debate myself tonight. Ten minutes in, I realized that this is a colossal waste of time. Two people stand in opposition, not only to each other, but in all honesty, they stand in opposition to what values we hold dear. If our children acted like this, there would be consequences, repercussions they would not forget. I had to turn it off.

The election this year is a hot topic. I get it. The buildup has been astonishing and the impact of this election can have a great impact on the future of our nation. I believe we all should vote. However, watching the flood of posts on social media about the election, I believe we have lost focus. Satan has used this circus to distract Christians and Satan is winning. How can I say such things? Let's take a moment to look at Scripture.

Paul wrote to the Colossians, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on things on the earth." (Colossians 3:1-2 NKJV) What does that tell us? Those who are followers of Christ are to focus on the eternal, with the eternal guiding the temporary. Regardless of who the next President of the United States may be, our job as Christians will not all. We will still be called to be the hands and the feet of Jesus Christ, proclaiming the coming of Christ, and reaching out to the lost souls who need salvation. We are to be focused on Jesus, consumed with Jesus, and pointing people to Jesus with every word we speak.

Yet, we are focused on politicians. We are listening intently to lies that are spun and neglecting to listen to the voice of truth, the voice of God who is calling out to us in the midst of this noisy season of nonsense. If we are truly raised with Christ, we understand that Presidents will come and go, but Christ remains! What Christ has done for each of us far exceeds anything that a politician can do for us. We can spend all day trying to defend these politicians but to what end? Neither of these candidates can save a soul.

It is beyond time for the church to refocus its attention in America. Throughout the world, we have Christians being tortured for what they believe. In the states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, we have people in despair after the hurricane unleashed its force on the coast. There are people trafficking other humans. There are children being beaten, abused, and going hungry. There are addicts looking for something to break the shackles of addiction. There are innumerable problems on this earth and the solution will not be spoken in the course of a debate. The solution is the cross and it is time for Christians to point people in the right direction. We are not to point to a Presidential candidate, we are to lead them to the King of kings. With such a focus, lives will be changed for eternity, which is a better focus for Christians than focusing on just the next four years.