Wednesday, September 19, 2018

AMBITION


I Was Just Thinking About – AMBITION.

We’ve all met them. There are those who are listless, shiftless and lazy. They are just there. Sometimes they are seen – most of the time they aren’t. They go unnoticed by most. We have also met other types. They are aggressive, demanding, desiring recognition, acting superior to others. They are seen as being highly motivated and ambitious. They resort to whatever means requires so they will receive the recognition they crave. Have you met them? Do you know them? On a human scale, where do you and your thinking place you?

For our purposes, we owe it to ourselves to give thought and response to: What does the Bible say about ambition? A basic definition is: The earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, power, fame, honor, wealth, recognition. It also includes: The willingness to strive for attainment. To achieve, one will resort to whatever it takes to acquire the desired goal. While this is a secular definition and range of possibilities, it has crept into and affected the thinking of some in the spiritual sphere.

What should the Biblical understanding and application be in and for one’s life? Personally, over the years, I have made the Book of Philippians a must read and reference point for my and one’s life. We should never find ourselves measuring who we are or what we do by the secular standards and practices. Philippians 1:17 makes note of those who are motivated by “selfish ambition” and their individual interpretations to gain an audience and support group. To a certain degree, they are successful in their own eyes. Contrast that with Philippians 2:3-4 and the instruction: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…” The admonition is that one should “look to the interests of others.” If this is one’s commitment and goal for life, it will be evidence in the application of First Thessalonians 4:10-11,

“We urge you…to make it you ambition to lead a quiet life; you should mind your own business…so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.” In that process, our sole purpose is the application of Second Corinthians 5:9, “We make it our goal (ambition) to please Him (the Lord).”

The Got Questions Ministry shares this helpful thought about ambition: “The Greek word for ambition, philotim, means literally: to esteem as an honor. Being ambitious, in and of itself, is not wrong, it’s what we esteem or honor that can be a problem. The Bible teaches that we should be ambitious, yet the objective is to be accepted by Christ, not by the world. Christ taught us that to be first in the Kingdom is to become a servant (Matthew 20:26-28; Matthew 23:11-12).” What should one be ambitious to be and do? The disciples had to learn this lesson as hey followed Jesus and learned more about Him and His will. One lesson was to learn how to be a servant. It was not what they thought or said but what they were becoming and doing for the Master, Jesus Christ.

Charles Wesley captured this concept from words ascribed to Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Leviticus: “We have every one of us a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, needful duty to be done, our generation to serve; and it must be our daily care to keep this charge, for it is the charge of the Lord our Master, who will shortly call us account about it, and it is our utmost peril if we neglect it. Keep it that ye die not; it is death, eternal death, to betray the trust that we are charged with; by the consideration of this we must be kept in awe.” Charles Wesley went on to write:

A charge to keep I have, A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save, 
And fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age, My calling to fulfill:
O may it all my powers engage 
To do my master’s will!

Arm me with jealous care, As in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare 
A strict account to give!

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

LEADERSHIP - Is It WAXING OR WANING?


I Was Just Thinking About – LEADERSHIP - Is It Waxing or Waning?

For those who are either called to leadership positions, or those who crave, expect and require it for themselves, there is an important consideration for those who live and function within Christ’s Church. One place where it is prominently mentioned is First Peter 5:2-3, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them, not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” In this new cultural area where mega-churches are a primary focus, the caliber of leadership is based more on personality appeal and popularity than it is on the one who is endeavoring to obediently walk humbly with his God. The personality/popularity appeal seems to dominate within peer groups whereas the one who endeavors to walk humbly is tolerated but dismissed as one who is necessary or relevant.

Dr. A. W. Tozer wrote in a devotional, Reluctant Leaders, “I believe that it might be accepted as a fairly reliable rule of thumb that the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader. The Church of the Firstborn is no place for the demagogue or the petty religious dictator. The true leader will have no wish to lord it over God’s heritage, but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing and altogether as ready to follow as to lead when the Spirit makes it plain to him that a wiser and more gifted man than himself has appeared…History will show that the church has prospered most when blessed with strong leaders and suffered the greatest decline when her leaders were weak and time serving. The sheep rarely go much farther than the Shepherd.”

The lessons Jesus taught His disciples are applicable to His people and servants today. However, we are no better at remembering His instructions than were those who walked in His footsteps as disciples. As an example, in John 13:12-15, after He had washed the disciples fee, Jesus asked them: “Do you understand what I have done for you? I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” In John 15:1-17, Jesus stated particular principles to His disciples: “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me…. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete…My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you…You are my friends if you do what I command…I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” How are you/we doing with this basic instruction of our Lore, Savior, Master and Friend?

Many churches are stuck as though they are in a rut. Someone once defined ”rut” as it applied to the Christian and Church  as being a grave with both ends removed. Is that correct? Do you believe that you and your church is enduring existence in a rut? Most would agree that the Church has become too complacent and desperately needs and would benefit from revitalization. When I mentioned this concept to a man who attends a deteriorating Church, he indicated that rather than “revitalization” it needs “resurrection.” The dying (or dead) church is suffering from years of complacency, apathy and laziness. It has failed because it did not recognize or deal with the attrition that was occurring and the demographic shift that had taken place. The Church is becoming more and more absent of families and young people. They are either going elsewhere where a “Church” is deemed to be alive or they are not attending anywhere? 

Leadership (Shepherds) need to awaken and set aside pride and arrogance. Congregations (Sheep) need to cry out louder and louder Psalm 85:4-6, “Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? Will you not REVIVE us again, that your people may rejoice in you?

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Friday, September 7, 2018

WHAT I NEED


I Was Just Thinking About – WHAT I NEED.

Most of us have a sense of self-sufficiency. We don’t always have the material things we desire but we have enough to sustain us and our family. Some of us can remember what it was like to live during the great depression in the United States, as well as the rationing and limitations that accompanied the nation’s involvement in World War 2. The recollection is that we survived and made it. We learned to do without all of the comforts and extras in life. We made do with what we had because we had to do it. The national focus was that (a) we were to remember Pearl Harbor and the Japanese attack on the American Fleet situated there, and (b) we were persuaded that victory in Europe and the Pacific was the only goal and purpose.

At that time, there was a greater tolerance for religion, especially prayer. We knew that we were ill-prepared as a nation to pursue a war on two major fronts and that God must be sought if we were to prevail. President Franklin D. Roosevelt even led the nation in prayer via radio on the eve of D-Day and the Normandy Invasion. Part of that prayer was:
“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph….Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice…” 

Biblically, when war and destruction by Assyria was imminent and Sennacherib had sent terms for surrender, Isaiah 37:14 records, “Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.” In behalf of the people, Hezekiah sought for the wisdom and protection from the Lord.

When the armies of the Moabites and Ammonites had assembled to attack Judah and Jerusalem, Second Chronicles 20:3 indicates,  “Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord…” The response of God is given in verse 15, “Thus says the Lord to you: Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”

Our needs may vary but with the Lord is no variance. What He has promised, He will do. Joseph Stowell stated in his devotional, titled, Pilgrimage Toward Intimacy – September 7, 2018, “When we forget that we need Him, our Christianity becomes little more than a task maintained by responsibilities and requirements. God really doesn’t need to do much for us. We are pretty well set. While we count on Him for the big things, such as redemption, or bailing us out if life goes in the ditch, we miss the pleasure and wonder of needing Him and being in touch with His presence and power that alone can satisfy, sustain, and secure us as an ongoing experience of life.” 
If only, we would sing more often from our hearts and souls:
I need Jesus, my need I now confess;
No friend like Him in times of deep distress;
I need Jesus, the need I gladly own;
Though some may bear their load alone, 
Yet I need Jesus.
Refrain:
I need Jesus, I need Jesus, 
I need Jesus every day;
Need Him in the sunshine hour,
Need Him when the storm clouds lower;
Every day along my way, Yes, I need Jesus.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.