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July 2003 Archives

July 1, 2003

Self-governed or God-covered

Proverbs 1:31,32
Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
For the turning away of the simple will slay them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them;

After years of reading Proverbs every day it's never ceases to amaze me the stuff that I still find in this book. There seems to be this theme for me beginning in May of warnings about not fearing God and following your own way. This is another one of those passages.

The section begins with with people calling out to God, but He does not answer. It says they seek Him didligently and do not find Him (v. 28). This appears to be in contrast with one of my favorite passages where God syas, "You will seek my and you will find me when you seek for me with all of your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13). But there is something different here. Vs. 24-25 says that God called out to these people and was ignored. That He offered His hand to help and was refused. That God's counsel and His insructions were viewed as irrelevant. I think this describes many people, and myself at times, who respond to God with, "I can figure this out. I can do it myself." Eventually this kind of thinking lands us in situations that are over our heads. Then we are left to suffer the consequences of a life that is self-governed instead of God-covered.

It's like a story my dad told me about when his dad caught him smoking as a kid. My grandfather did not get mad or upset. He just got a whole pack of cigarettes and gave them to my dad. The catch was my dad had to smoke the entire pack in one setting. Needless to say, that experience kept my dad from developpng his habit. I'm not trying to say that God in His infinite wisdom disciplines us us this manner. I am saying that He loves us enough to let us tastelife without him. Like the people in the passage, my dad was "filled to the full of his own fancy," so full in fact that it became repulsive.

This passage also warns agains the wisdom of other men. Vs. 32 seems to talk about when we place our confidence in the opinions of others above the counsel of God it wil lead to destruction. It's kind of like a rookie stockbroker who pitches a stock to a cold call, selling this unknown client on the company's "pitch of the day" that the broker has no personal inestment in - either the stock itself or the relationship with the client. His only goal is a sale. If the stock does well, he makes money. But if it does badly, then you are stuck with the loss. Continuing this analogy, if you aren't willing to do your own research, complacent to depend on the "wisdom" of others, destruction may be lurking.

Lord, let me be a man who responds to the call of wisdom. Pour out Your Spirit and make your words known to me (v. 23).

July 10, 2003

When I Consider...

Psalm 8:3-5
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
4 What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

The last two weeks haven't been full of a lot of contemplation. The kids have been out of school so we're spending some time at the pool and the park. I've been taking every other weekend off from preaching at the church and even gone from the church a couple of Sundays. My daily routine has loosened to include a few mornings lingering in bed and watching cartoons with my kids, Joyce Meyer with Jayme, and ESPN just for me. This will soon change as school starts again in two weeks and our family's life boundaries tighten again. But for now, life has been a little laid back and I haven't really pressed in to anything recently.

But last night I visited one of my pastor friend's church and worship was awesome! I didn't realize how thirsty I has become for God's presence. My devotions have been very dry. My prayer life has been dispassionate. So it's like I have just downshifted and set things on cruise control. But I don't do well when the RPMs of my life are down. So I being to consider....

I think about what an honor it is to be a dad. I think about what a priviledge it is to have friends. I can't even begin to explain how blessed I am to be a husband to the wonderful woman God has given me. I think about the trust He has placed in me in calling me to shepherd. God has truly crowned me with glory and honor. And I'm left to wonder why I have recieved this attention. So again I drawn into worship, my only response to the contemplation of God's goodness. How excellent is Your name in all the earth.

July 13, 2003

Foolish Thinking

Romans 1:19-21
19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

One of the major objections to Christianity is the question of what happens to those who have not had a formal presentation of the gospel. The thinking says that it's unfair for God to condemn people who haven't had a chance to hear and respond. It seems to be a logical question. The problem with this kind of thinking in my mind is the premise it seems to begin with. That premise seems to be that for an individual to be able to aknowledge thier need for God is dependant upon being exposed to Him by another person or set of circumstances. It's like you get a recommendation from someone else about some appliane that makes thier life easier, so you go out and get one to. So if that was the case, I understand the dilema that these people are in. But I think its the ultimate example of how mankind's mind has been darkened, our thoughts being futile.

If mankind has been truly created in God's image, then "what may be know of God is manifest"in us. God has shown Himself to us. Without going into a long list of evidence that would try to prove the point, I want to point people to God's nature. God's nature is love. His purpose is to reveal himself to men; to be known. His love for mankind is what motivated him to create us in the first place. His love for mankind is the reason for our free will. His love for each person calls out for each one to respond to His grace. It is these things that cause people to reject God - "although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful..."

The problem with mankind is not God's sovreignty, but our own "foolish hearts." Our hearts and minds that have to choose to ignore our conscience and our own spirit's yearning for a connection with our creator. Our problem is the fact that we are not thankful, instead we choose to accuse God as being powerless and uninterested. To blame God for the horrific actions of mankind while refusing to accept responsibility shows the foolishness of our refusal to aknowledge man's need for God.

God doesn't have anything to prove, nor does he have any position to defend. Instead, He had made every provision to be known. This truth leaves man without an excuse to respond.

July 14, 2003

What Is Good

Romans 2:13-15
13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)

There's so much to bite off in Romans that it sems a little silly to make a short devotional comment. I really need to do some deeper study in the book. Nevertheless, I'm intrigued by this passage.

I need to remove the issue of "the law" to the orginal audience to process what is being said. I think we're talking about all men having a natural inclination to please God. This would account for the "good deeds" of those who do not know God, but have actions that honor Him in thier charity. And that man's concsience seves as a compass that points to God. I'm not talking about an "inclusion theology." The question is how to use this natural inclination to help people see thier desire to please God and thier need for God. Since God has written His law on the hearts of all men, and mankind has been created in the image of God, then there exists an inner confirmation of that which is good and right and true. The inherent goodness of mankind only exists because of these factors.

It's so interesting that mankind so easily takes credit for our own goodness, but blame God for his disinterest in and even causing the trouble found in the world (war, famine, etc.). Really, it's the opposite that is true. This is another example of how our thinking is futile and our hearts have been darkened (1:21).

Lord, help me to help those around me see that what is good in thier lives is what is most like you. And that this understanding would open thier hearts to respond to reconcile with you.

July 16, 2003

Captain Backfire

Proverbs 16:23
The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, And adds learning to his lips.

I was invited by one of the young guys in our church to play on his softball team. It's been a lot of fun. I'm getting to know all this guy's buddies and they are getting to know me. But it seems like every week I come home frustrated. Not because of something done or said by someone else. Because of something I said or did stupid. Thirty-six years old and I still can act like an arrogant/ignorant fool. I'm still concerned wih being cool or macho. It just looks stupid on me. And 99% of the time it shows up in something I've said.

This past Sunday I came home so embarrassed and disappointed in myself. I was asking for a ruling on something from the ump and one of the players on the other team (probably about my age too) made some comment to me from the dugout. So I had to "defend my manhood." After the game as the teams shake hands, I intentionally did not shake his. He started making more comments about my poor sportsmanship. So again I had to say something smart back. It's not that what I said was so bad. The issue for me is why do I let myself walk right into these traps that let put my flesh on display.

If I would let my heart teach my mouth, my life would be really different. Instead of being concerned about how I am percieved, I want the Lord to beclearly evident in my mouth. John Mayer has a song called "My Stupid Mouth." I has a great lyric that describes how I'm feeling -

So maybe I try too hard
But it's all because of this desire
I just wanna be liked, I just wanna be funny
Looks like the jokes on me
So call me captain backfire

Well, I don't want Captain Backfire anymore. I want my heart to teach my mouth. Lord, help me. My desire is that "the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight" (Psalm 19:14).

July 18, 2003

Something out of Nothing

Romans 4:16-18
17 God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did (NKJV)

Abraham was first named father and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do.
(The Message)

There are a couple of television preachers that Jayme and I like to listen to (Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and TD Jakes are examples). These teachers/pastors would generally be catagorized in the "word of faith" camp. Having been exposed to many leaders in this segment of the church over a number of years, one of the verses that is often referenced as an encouragment for every believer to hold on to God's Word/promises in faith is found here in Romans 4:17. It affirms the power of God that can bring something from death to life, to make something our of nothing.

I believe in this. I have to or I wouldn't be a "believer." I have passed from death to life as a new creation. He has made me "light" when I was once "darkensss." Everyone shares these same basic beliefs. But how does this apply to my circumstances? More specifically, as someone who believes I have recieved a promise about God's "destiny" for my life (like Abraham), what do you do in the times when I doesn't seem like anything is happening?

I want to "dare to trust God to do what only God could do." I have a daily choice to make - "deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do." I didn't become a pastor because I thought it would be a good career move. I didn't plant New Horizons because I wanted to live in Irvine and the city needed another church anyway. Like Abraham, I believe in what God had spoken to me about my life and the future of our church body. I believe in the promise of his provision. I believe in the reality of fruitfulness. More importantly, I am "fully convinced that what He had promised He was (and is) also able to perform. (4: 21)

There are times that I look at this season as being filled with nothing. In my heart I know this not to be true. But there are people who question why we are sticking this out. I struggle with my own doubts and frustrations. But more than what I see, I believe in God's Word, and His promise to me.

July 19, 2003

Making Successful Plans

1 Chronicles 28:11,12,19
11 Then David gave his son Solomon the plans...
12 ...and the plans for all that he had by the Spirit...
19 All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, all the works of these plans.

Proverbs 19:21 says there are many plans in a man's heart, Nevertheless the Lord's counsel - that will prevail. In my life the challenge is knowing what plans are my plans and what plans are the Lord's. David has made plans to build the temple and even had intially recieved godly counsel to "do all that was in his heart" (2 Samuel 7:3). David was obedient to the Lord, coming to understand it was not going to his assignment to build the temple. Nevertheless, David made preparations for the future to set Solomon up to succeed.

One of the hardest things is determining which of the things I want to do is really the right thing to do. I do think that God is interested in all the choices in my life. I know He is honored when my plans are submitted to Him. What is really rewarding is to know that the plans you are making that have thier origin in your heart have been initiated and developped by the Holy Spirit. I think that this is when we feel most fulfilled and sence the greatest favor from God.

Some challenges I have to be aware of. First is allowing my desire to do something override God's restrictions. David had the resources to move forward with the construction of the temple. We know him to be a man passionate about worship. Yet he subjected his noble and right desire to obedience to the Lord. Sometimes that's harder than it sounds. Emotional investment in an idea get tied in to personal identity issues and it becomes hard to let some things go. But I must if it doesn't have God's approval. Another issue is that God will allow us to do what we want to do in some circumstances because He knows that's what we're going to do anyway. I can have the tendancy to confuse God's permission to be His blessing. That's not always the case. There have been times that He's allowed me to experience the consequences of my own decsions. He helps me to learn from them and move ahead.

As I'm getting older I don't want to be as presumptuous of His favor. I won't sit around using lack of direction as an excuse for my fear of taking steps of faith. Neither do I want to be as quick to do something just because I have a jones for something. I want my plans to have thier initiation and directions to come from the Holy Spirit.

July 22, 2003

No Broken Bones

a personal Word for this season

Psalm 27:1, 13-14
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. 14 Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Psalm 34:4, 17-20
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken

I called a friend today. A man who had many years of very successful ministry under his belt. A very high profile within his circle. A man who today is experiencing some of the greatest fruitfulness a pastor could pray for. A man who also planted a church - a church that died.

I wonder why I keep feeling frustrated - why not only are my expectations not met, but everything I try as a leader seems to fail. I just had to talk to somebody who knew what I am feeling. So I called Dan. As he was telling me about he and his wife's 4-year ordeal I felt like he was reading my mind. The weight of "failure." The emotional depression. The personal attacks to thier health. That he didn't even feel like the same person he had been, full of passion and the Holy Spirit's power. Most of all, the crisis of his own theology. I knew he had been where I am. And I recieved from him exactly what I needed.

I was hoping for some advice, a magic trick that could change everything, or at least a prophetic word that could keep me propped up for a while. Instead, there was a passing comment that combined a couple of scriptures together that ended with Dan saying, "Jeff, you need a deliverance." Not a deliverance from here to somewhere else, or a freedom from some kind of bondage to sin, but a deliverance in my own soul (in my wife's soul) from the opression that keeps us from truly being who God has made us to be.

It seems we've been crying out forever, asking for His intervention. All the while fear continues to press in. Yet I'm holding to the promise of deliverance from it. There are so many things that are lurking deep in our soul in this dark time. Fear has found many little places to settle in. In fact Jayme still worries about tripping and falling and breaking her arm. It was so traumatic when it happened at the start of the church in 2000, the idea that an accident like that could happen again and incapacitate her still haunts her. these fear are trying to permanantly become past of our psyche.

Yet, the Word of God says there is nothing to be afraid of. I am to not lose heart for I will experience the fulfilment of God's promise. There is the call to patience and perserverance in this season. He not only hears us, but He has drawn near to us in our broken condition. He will deliver. He even protects our bones! So I guess I'll have to keep waiting...and waiting...and waiting...and He will deliver.

July 29, 2003

Building a House

2 Chron 24:4,8,10,11
4 Now it happened after this that Joash set his heart on repairing the house of the Lord.
8 Then at the king's command they made a chest, and set it outside at the gate of the house of the Lord.
10 Then all the leaders and all the people rejoiced, brought their contributions, and put them into the chest until all had given.
11...Thus they did day by day, and gathered money in abundance.

My heart is set on building a house for the Lord. A spiritual house (2 Peter 2:4-5) as lives are being linked together. It can seem like it is need of repair, but an unfinished home isn't ever attractive. But I do know that this "house" will never be finished without everyone making a contribution. Not only financially, but each member in our church family jumping in. It's this picture like an Amish barn raising where we all come together to do what on one can do for themselves. Or like a Habitat For Humanity project where everyone offers thier ability. When the effort of many is combined with the expertise of a few, it's amazing what can be accomplished. And there is the incrediable sense of satisfaction/fulfillment that comes from "good, old-fashioned, hard work."

The building of a church is not a Sunday by Sunday process; it's day-by-day. When it happens this way, there is rejoicing. When God is being honored, there is abundance.

Lord, help me to father our "family" that lives in your abundance.

July 30, 2003

He Restores Me

Psalm 23:3
He restores my soul...

Sandwiched between the tender ways God leads (besides still waters...in the paths of righteousness...) is this thought, He restores my soul. My health - not just spiritually, but emotionally and physically, my complete wellness, is important to my Shepherd. He does not want me functioning at less than 100%. He also realizes that there are many things that drain me. Piled up, they become things that wear and break me down. So with attention and affection He has placed in my life some things that are restorative to my life.

One of the largest contributions to my restoration is friendship. To feel God's acceptance and enjoyment of you expresed through the hands and smile of a friend is very restoring. Creativity is something thatis also refreshing and restorative for me. Writing a piece of music, or messing with my blog site brings something of significant value to my life. In my personal list of life values, creativity is very high - "creativity is when I feel most 'like' God" (in His image).Solitude is also important to me. There is a reason why solitude is considered to be a spiritual discipline. It doesn't happen by accident. But in a quiet moment of the day, like right now, my "system" is being flushed of the residue that clogs the flow of His life in me.

My wellness is important to my Heavenly Father. Not just my "health," but my wholeness. Lord, thanks for restoring me today.

About July 2003

This page contains all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in July 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2003 is the previous archive.

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