Saturday, August 30, 2014

Integrity vs. Character - What I Do vs. Who I Am

two paths
Integrity is a good thing. The Promise Keepers movement over the years can be credited for challenging a generation of men to pursue integrity in the way they live. That has had a profound effect on our culture. The problem is that integrity is not the goal, character is. Someone who has integrity does not necessarily have character. On the other hand, a person of character will always have integrity. It is important to understand the difference between the two because if we don't, we get things backwards.

Integrity has to do with what or how I do things. Integrity literally means to have excellence in what or how you do things. There are millions of people all over the world who are excellent in what they do and even do good things. But that has nothing to do with character. Character has to do with who I am. Character literally means holiness. A person of character is a person who not only lives right in front of other people, but lives right when no one else is looking. Integrity focuses on the outward appearance. It believes that what I do determines who I am. This is nothing short of faith based on works. Character focuses on the inward condition of the heart. It believes that who I am determines how I do things. This is faith based on grace.

Are you beginning to see the difference? I am not advocating that we stop pursuing integrity. I am merely pointing out that if we pursue character, integrity will be a natural byproduct of the way we live. Simply stated, if I am a man of character then I will naturally be a man of integrity. I tried for so many years to do all the right things for God hoping that would make me acceptable to Him. Then I discovered that God isn't interested in the work of my hands. He just wants my heart! That changed everything. 1 Samuel 15:22 tell us that to obey is better than sacrifice. Obedience has to do with character and sacrifice has to do with integrity. You see, without obedience, sacrifice is meaningless.

Do you focus on doing the right things or on being the right person God wants you to be? If it is the former then your relationship with God is based on works. I challenge you to live a life focused on who you are so that everything you do naturally honors God.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

God's Prescription For Anxiety

prescription pad
All of us deal with anxiety to some extent. Some more than others. It is difficult not to be anxious, especially in today's fast-paced culture that expects more of us than ever before. To think that we can create a worry-free life is naive, but God has given us a powerful tool to help us deal with anxiety and find true joy even in the midst of adversity and trials. Philippians 4:4-9 gives us six steps to overcome anxiety.

Step #1—Rejoice in the Lord always.
To rejoice means to be exceedingly glad. The emphasis is not on finding joy in what is happening or has happened, but in what God is doing and will do. To rejoice in the Lord always does not mean to be happy, but to find joy in God's future provision.

Step #2— Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The encouragement is to strive to respond in gentleness in the midst of difficult circumstances. It is hard to be gentle when you are stressed. What helps is to focus on what God is doing, not on what is happening. Don't forget that Paul tells us the Lord is near and ever-present. Therefore, you don't have to worry.

Step #3—Do not be anxious about anything.
This does mean not to worry, but it means so much more. It actually means not to fall into the trap of looking out for or promoting your own interests; don't try to make things work out for your best; avoid self-reliance. Let God be your sole source of provision. Make your requests known to Him and He will take care of it for you. Worry sets in when I doubt God's ability to act on my behalf. Peace sets in when I trust that He will even when I don't see it.

Step #4—Accept God’s gift of peace.
The word peace means rest and safety. It literally means exemption from the rage and havoc of war. This step is the result of following the first threerejoicing in the Lord, being gentle, and not being anxious. Steps one, two, three and six are steps we take toward God. Steps four and five are steps God takes towards us in response.

Step #5—Accept God’s gift of safety.
This is the second step that God takes towards us. Paul says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) The word guard literally means to protect by military guard; to prevent hostile invasion. He will keep the enemy from penetrating your heart and your mind. This will bring a peace that doesn't make sense. You can hear the bombs going off around you, but for some strange reason, you aren't worried and you sleep like a baby.

Step #6—Meditate on God’s Word.
It is imperative that I train my mind to keep going back to the truth; what is right and lovely, not ugly; what is good, not what is bad. To think on means to decide; agree with; to focus on facts, not suppositions. Do this and the God of Peace will be with you. He won't just send us peace. He himself, the God who is Peace, will come along side us! What a powerful promise. I want more than just peace. I want the Peace-Maker.

When you are feeling a little anxious, follow these simple steps that will lead you to peace and safety. Remember that you have a choice. You can either be a victim of your circumstances, or you can take action and through Christ, be a victor in the midst of your circumstances.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

5 Things Your Treasure Says About You

treasure chest
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

There are two kingdoms that are vying for your heart in a relentless pursuit of you. In this life we have a choice: we can either pursue Worldly Riches or we can pursue Kingdom Riches. Worldly Riches are temporal things like money and possessions that don't last and can be taken from us. Kingdom Riches are eternal things that only God can provide and can never be taken away. They last forever. You can't pursue both because, as Matthew goes on to tell us, you will hate the one and love the other. Both kingdoms are opposed to each other and have different agendas. The Worldly Kingdom and its riches are only concerned with the here and now. The Heavenly Kingdom and its riches are concerned with your eternity and more importantly, your soul. Read on to discover 5 things your treasure says about you.

#1 - Your treausre determines your IDENTITY.
Worldly Riches define you by what you can or can't do, or what you have or don't have. Kingdom Riches define you simply by who you are in Christ. In God's kingdom your identity is not tied to what you do. Have you ever noticed in the bible that David is called "a man after God's own heart?" He is not identified as the one who killed Goliath, or the one who wrote the Psalms, or even one of the greatest kings of Israel. Nope. His identity is based on his relationship with the Father. In heaven there will be no titles in front of our names.

#2 - Your treasure determines your OWNERSHIP.
Not what you own, but who owns you. The pursuit of Worldly Riches leads to enslavement because possessions have a way of controlling us. The more you get, the more you have to work to keep them. The pursuit of Kingdom Riches leads to freedom because God is the one who not only owns us, but owns everything we have. In fact, we wouldn't have those things if it weren't for Him in the first place. The Worldly Kingdom seeks to own you to make you dependent upon it. On the other hand, the Heavenly Kingdom seeks to own you to bring you freedom from dependency upon things that don't last.

#3 - Your treasure determines your VALUE.
Worldly Riches actually devalue us because they place value on what we have. In that kingdom life is limited to 2+2=4. Kingdom Riches increase our value because, once again, our value has nothing to do with what we can or can't do, but on our relationship with Christ. Whether I have a million dollars or am homeless, my value doesn't change. In this kingdom life is unlimited because God is not limited by human math or our economy. In his Kingdom 2+2 might equal a million.

#4 - Your treasure determines your TRUST.
Worldly Riches lead to worry because there is no real guarantee. We are left to rely on the economy, other people and ourselves. Those will disappoint us. Kingdom Riches lead to peace because God is our source of provision. We can trust Him because He never leaves us or forsakes us and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. You can't say that about anything else.

#5 - Your treasure determines your REWARD.
Worldly Riches lead to hopelessness because there is no guarantee for the future. Banks fail and markets crash. When they do, they take our stuff with it. Kingdom Riches lead to hope because our future is secure. In God's kingdom his word is backed up by a 100% guarantee and his record through the ages proves it. Any reward we receive from the Earthly Kingdom is short lived but our reward from the Heavenly Kingdom is eternal and nothing can take that away, ever.

The pursuit of Kingdom Riches requires letting go. You have to let go of Worldly Riches if you want Kingdom Riches. You can't grab on to what God has in his hands until you first let go of what you have in your hands. He has so much for you but you will never acquire it as long as your hands are full of Worldly Riches. Once you let go, He will fill your hands with Kingdom Riches that will last forever.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Keep Calm And Turn On The Lights

Here's a fact: You can't "turn off" darkness. Darkness is not something that you can turn on or off. The law of physics prove that darkness is simply the absence of light. That is why there is only one switch in your closet - a light switch. There is no such thing as a dark switch. When you turn on the light switch, darkness can no longer be present because light dispels it.

Our culture today is much like a dark closet. The evil that pervades our society brings a heavy darkness and subjects people to the stark coldness that comes from the lack of warmth that light brings. People are groping in the darkness of our world trying to find their way only to continually run into the unseen walls around them.

In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." He is referring to his Church - the Body of Christ. God's will for us, his Church, is to bring the light of his presence into a dark world.

We are the "switch" in the dark closet that is our culture. Unfortunately, the switch is failing to come on and it is not God's fault. It is ours. We focus our attention and energy on the darkness and how to get rid of it rather than simply being the light that dispels it. We assume that darkness is evidence of the presence of evil. While that is partially true, darkness brings a much greater indictment - the absence of light. Instead of screaming at the darkness to go away, we must allow God to manifest his light in us. When we do that, the switch is flipped and darkness begins to flee.
I am not saying that we should not deal with evil. What I am suggesting is that before we can address the darkness we must first and foremost become the light of the world Jesus commanded us to be. I suspect that God is much more concerned with our lack of light than with our culture's darkness. Could the rising darkness of our present culture and the evil it brings be a warning that we, God's Church, are not the light of the world like we should be? I wonder if we spent our time and energy on that rather than screaming at the darkness in our culture, perhaps we would have a much greater impact for the Gospel of Christ. Maybe we would start seeing dark places suddenly being filled with the light of God's presence and power. When you have the light of God's presence reflecting in your life there is no need to yell at the darkness around you.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Refuge of Stillness

man sitting in window
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge." Psalm 46:10-11

I have noticed that it seems the pace of life has dramatically increased. People seem busier than before and they are dealing with increased stress. There seems to be a level of anxiety that has blanketed our culture like a hot, steamy Texas summer day. You can even see it in the air giving the appearance that you are looking through a thin curtain. It's tough to be still when life is like that. Being still seems to exacerbate the unsettled feeling that is pushing you to frantically work to somehow make it go away, only to discover that it makes it worse. Being still gives the impression of doing nothing, of even giving up. Men especially find it difficult to just be still.

As I studied this verse a little deeper I discovered that it doesn't mean to be at rest or idle. The actual meaning of that word in Hebrew is "to be feeble; to fail; to weaken." (Vines Expository Dictionary of OT Words) To be still means that we have to come to an end of ourselves. We have to acknowledge our inability to help ourselves and accept the fact that only God can help us. Coming to the end of myself is realizing the ability of God's power to deliver me from trouble. To be still is the only way to know that He is God. When I am strong, I don't see His strength. When I am successful, I don't see what God has already done for me. When I am in motion, I can't see Him moving in the midst of my problems. The moment I stop moving, stop relying on my success, and stop trying to be strong, that is when I suddenly understand that He is God.

We need to learn the art of being still. It is an art for it doesn't come naturally or easily. We have to practice it. Be still today. Be feeble and weak so that you will know that He is God. Come to the end of yourself so that you come to a new beginning in Him.
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