An Accurate Understanding Is Important

It is reported that in 2012 a mid-level Taliban commander walked up to an United States Army checkpoint in Afghanistan presenting himself for a $100.00 “award.” For proof he was carrying a “wanted” poster with his name and picture on it. The poster was advertising a “reward.”

As ridiculous as that sounds, it is reported to be true. It is not any more ridiculous, perhaps not as ridiculous as an emotionally charged disciple who has not really checked in with God’s instruction (the Bible) about God’s expectations. This person may flit around constructing his/her own list of what God surely must want. The apostle Paul said the Hebrew people, his kinsmen, were doing that back in his day.

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:1-3 NIV).

Being “All In” as a follower of Jesus is more than zeal. It is also more than knowledge. It is a living out of both: zeal driven by understanding what the Creator of the Universe wants from His servants. Admittedly, it is a constant evaluation, adjustment, re-evaluation process.

That Taliban commander, Mohammed Ashan, would have done well to check his understanding of the poster before becoming a prisoner instead of a “winner” of $100. You and I will do well to stay busy working on our understanding of God’s Word as we zealously go about doing “good works that He afore prepared” (Ephesians 2:10).

It is time consuming, but that should be no deterrent for someone who is “All In.”

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Answer The Nudge

I had, on short notice, occasion to travel back to my childhood home in order to take care of some business. While there the thought came to me that I should “run by” to see an aging family member in a care facility. Up to that point I was so focused on my reason to make the trip that it had not occurred to me that God might have additional reasons.

After visiting in the care facility I realized He did have additional things in mind and assume it was His nudging that brought the visit to mind. The lady was moved to tears when she saw me, happy tears I should add. She had been so lonely the week before and was overcome that I had “showed up.”

How quickly I forget to ask God what is on His agenda. At least when I was nudged this time I responded. Our task is to be faithful to His calling. It is His to take care of the success of the efforts. There was much success in that visit.

Being “All In” requires an ear tuned in to God’s voice. It is comforting to know that even when I do not listen well, He loves me anyway!
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Complain? Who Me?

Following the lead of another minister I read about, I challenged the congregation to 21 days of no murmuring, complaining, or argumentative interactions. It sounds extreme, but the Apostle Paul said believers should not be doing it at all, much less for 21 days (Philippians 2:14-15).

What does it say about me when I say that I trust God, but complain like a teenager told to clean his room when the weather, traffic, meal, etc. do not measure up to my expectations? It says that I do not trust God’s decisions in this matter. If I do not trust Him in these little things, do I really trust God at all?

If I am to “shine as bright lights in darkness” as believers should, I must stop acting like the people dwelling in darkness! Being “All In” encompasses ALL nooks and crannies of life.

Do all things without murmurings and disputings. That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15 ESV).

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To Vote, or Not To Vote?

In the dynamics of this unusual election cycle in the US there are celebrity types threatening a move if this person or that person is elected as the next POTUS. That kind of drama has become common place among the spoiled, brat-like dregs of society (even if they are in showbiz) we have birthed and reared over the past few decades. Those threats, whether or not they are carried out, are little more than the rants of people who have begun believing the press releases put out by their own publicists.

The knee-jerk reactions that I find troubling are the “believers” who are saying they just will not vote this cycle. While I have no interest in dissuading you if you feel that God expects you to sit this one out, I can’t help remembering a teacher I had in the 1970’s. He had returned from mission work in Italy (I think) a couple of years earlier. While there, he had worked in the campaign for a communist politician during an election cycle.

You can imagine the reaction from red-blooded, redneck Texans he received after that announcement! After he let us vent the excess hostility that had immediately boiled up, he “justified” himself. The main thing that I remember about his explanation is that you must choose between what is available. The candidate he supported was less of a danger than the other one. After all, the purpose of government is to protect and defend the citizens. It is nice to think about governments being “righteous,” but that is not going to happen this side of eternity. There are too many people involved for it to be possible.

May I encourage every believer to vote. Choose from among those on the ballot. Do not murmur nor complain, but trust that God is not napping. You may find the outcome confusing, but do not assume God is not in it.

This is certainly a challenging part of being “All In” as God’s disciple.

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Training Day In & Day Out

“People aren’t born with the innate ability to do what they need to do. Everyone needs training. Training is not a once and done kind of thing. Training takes place day in and day out.”  – a quote from Charlene Notgrass and her blog (It is worth your time to subscribe – http://notgrass.com/dailyencouragement/your-childs-personal-trainer).

Many people these days seem to think that they are designed to “get along” on their own intuitions, premonitions, or some other kind of self-contained “-tion” without relying on others input, instructions, or wisdom. NOT TRUE.

One of the more difficult challenges for me, personally, is that as an “All In” disciple of Jesus, I am to be open to healthy influences from others. “Open” does not, of course mean that whatever is suggested I assume God sent me. I must “try the spirits” (so to speak), but I am to be open AND discerning. One of the more deceptive “voices” I hear with regularity is my own!

It is sooo “not in man …to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23) that the Spirit directed the Apostle Paul to tell Titus to have those folks in Crete look for the right kind of people to be their spiritual mentors. And by the way, in case you missed it, Titus had the right kind of spiritual mentor himself: the Apostle Paul.

Arrogance is a powerful tool Satan uses against people everywhere. It comes with a huge price tag, the wrath of God (Romans 1:18). Arrogance is especially deceitful when used against “All In” disciples. Becoming prideful moves us right out of the category of disciples of Jesus and plants us firmly in the category of self-centered, without our even noticing the shift.

Humility is the key to our “All In-ness.” Just don’t become proud of it.

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What To Do?

Sometimes it is not easy to know what to do, even as an “All In” disciple. The principles are clear:

  1. Everything I do is to be focused upon God’s Will and His Purposes;
  2. My interactions with other people are always to be focused on the best interests of the other person(s).

But it is not always easy to balance the best interests of others. As a parent, do I punish or immediately release the stress on the child? It is a judgement call. It is certainly easier on the parent and child to release, but is that in the best interest of the child in the long term? After all, wisdom is birthed in “pain,” whether physical or emotional. Do I cheat my child the opportunity for wisdom because it is easier for me, the parent?

The same question arises in holding adults accountable for wrongs, whether lies, thefts, or assaults. When to show grace… before accountability… or after? It requires judgement, and your judgement and mine will not always be the same.

What is ultimately important is not that you and I agree on each situation, but that you and I are always motivated by the principles, both #1 & #2. God is gracious regarding matters of judgement. He’s not so gracious in matters of self-focused rebellion.

What to Do? Love God and His purposes and focus on what’s ultimately best for others. Then do the best you can with those firmly planted as intent. Let God do His work after that.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

 

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Swift to Hear, Slow to Speak and Attack

It is reported that flags were armies’ identifiers before technology changed that reality. During the American Civil War the flags of both North and South were often so similar that troops sometimes attacked men on their own side!

We can become so caught up in our enthusiasms (whether nationalism, political parties, food preferences… well it could be anything) that we end up destroying something with which we actually agree.

In moments of stress, whether induced by excitement, fear, or pain, we must slow down and listen. We must listen, not only for the voice of others, but mainly for the voice of God. After all, we are not our own but the Master’s. At least we are if we are fully committed, “All In.”

James 1:19 – “Be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.”

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God’s Person and the Election Cycle

This is a tough one because so many are passionate about their politics. I too, have strong opinions about some issues, BUT… since I am God’s servant and not my own… Wow, what a pivotal perspective: God’s servant and not my own.

As God’s servant, I will stand for faith, justice, and mercy (among other things) but must keep a strong focus on God’s will and purposes, and the best interests of others. I have watched strong opinions that cross the line into personal defamation and belittling. That is not good no matter who is doing it.

Excepting God Himself, Jesus, there has not been a human, politician or not, that was all he/she should be. Nor has there ever been (including now) anyone operating with God’s full wisdom in pointing to THE one who was God’s choice to rule, without God revealing His choice to that prophet.

Since I am “All In” as God’s servant I will not have my voice for God be muffled by differences in political opinion. I may state mine, but I will also honor others to do the same. I will vote when the time comes and then sleep soundly because:

  1. I have confidence that God knows what His plan is;
  2. I have been obedient in voting (as God’s servant) for the person I think is the best choice among the rabble.

What I must not do is alienate people with whom I disagree politically, so that they will ignore me when I speak the name of Jesus into their lives.

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Landing Kites

As a youngster I loved to fly kites. By the time I was 12 or 13 I had become an accomplished builder of the same. I recall kites 5-6 feet tall with scraps of bed linens as the surface, heavily starched to provide more wind resistance for lift. We even flew lesser kites, attached to the main line to lift the sag. We flew with heavy twine and it needed the lift once the kite was 30-50 yards out.

Getting the kite up and out so far was not the thrill or main challenge. I was in Central Texas where the wind blows most of the time anyway. The real thrill was to reverse the process and land the entire collection of kites and line without any of the kites touching the ground. Retrieving them to hand was a huge ego boost and claim to superiority in my little world of 12-13 year old kite aficionados.

As God’s “All In” servant, I can still be easily drawn to such a focus on completion that I miss God’s re-assignment“We are through with that, Wayne. There is something else I need you to do now,” He may whisper.

Sometimes I respond hesitantly, but follow His lead and allow the “kite” to hit the ground. Other times I discover that I was so focused on my goal of seeing the project through that I forget that His priority may not be the same as mine.

I have found that being “All In” is a daily challenge (and sometimes an hourly challenge).

Do you have any special challenges in your “All In” discipleship?

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Capturing Every Thought

“Capturing every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) sounds overly optimistic, if not impractical… or does it?

Living for a purpose begins with our thought processes. Since we are expected to live for God’s purposes and the best interests of others, it must begin in our thoughts. Our perspective, goals, decisions are birthed and processed as thoughts.

James 1:13-15 makes it painfully clear that living for ourselves also begins in our minds. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

To avoid that “death” James predicted, every thought must be Jesus’. Otherwise it is impossible to be “All In” as His follower.

Jesus does give His disciples “rest” (Matthew 11:28). That is not the same as “time off.” If we are “All In” then we are just that, “All In.”

Are you?

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