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August 2003 Archives

August 1, 2003

Making Piles

2 Chronicles 31:5,10
5 As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything.
10 And Azariah the chief priest, from the house of Zadok, answered him and said, "Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and have plenty left, for the Lord has blessed His people; and what is left is this great abundance."

There's a lot of discussion about "to tithe or not to tithe." Most of the concern people have with the issue falls into two categories; it's not a prinicple taught in the NT (I believe that's because it was assumed that believers would be fulfilling thier financial obligations) or that the tithe would really be better administrated by the individual rather than the church (so it doesn't get wasted on bigger buildings and staff. I believe you bring your tithe to the storehouse, your local church). My intrest today is not to discuss whether or not tithing is Biblical. Rather to imagine whatcould happen if God's people really gave according to Hs directives.

There is something so subtle that creeps into our lives about money, the "this is mine" disease. I knowwhat better to do with my money. I will use it as I see fit. I'm all for financial stewardship. But what I also understand is that this is His money that He has given me stewardship over. There is only one thing that He has given specific instuctions about what to do with it. That is to give the portion He has decided back to Him. Still I am digrssing from what todays lesson is really about.

Look what happened when God's peple gave what was asked of them. Ther was so much that they started piling it up in heaps because they had no where to put everything (v.9). If God's people today gave to Him what He asks of them, the church would become Gospel force we are meant to be, spiritually and socially. I've read in a magazine this month about churches that are building health care centers. I want to have a preschool connected to our church one day because of all the working moms in our area. Anyway...I think God's people are still making piles with thier money, but instead of it colecting for the greater good, it's collecting in garages as unused "big-boy toys," in photographs of expensive vacations, and in credit card interest rates. I'm not ranting against these things.ur sight. To be honest, I'd like to have some of them (just not the debt). I'm just wondering what could happen if the church started making piles together -"What is left is this great abundance."

Lord, I want to do what is right in Your sight.

August 2, 2003

Impressive Indescretions

2 Chronicles 32:31
However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.

King Hezekiah was a good king. He loved the Lord and desired to honor Him. Therefore the nation was covered by God protection and experienced His prosperity. Like many leaders, pride found places to live in his heart. Earlier in v.25, hezekah was healed from life-threatening sickness. Instead of being grateful, he became prideful. It goes on to say that God's "wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem." In this occasion,Hezekiah humbled himself and avoided God's discipline.

This wasn't the last time Hezekiah allowed pride to rule in his heart. 2 Kings 20:12-19 provides the background of the story. Babylon had sent some "ambassadors" to visit Jerusalem. And here's where the problem starts. There are many leaders, including myself, who seek for approval or validation by showing off. It's a classic "guy" or male response. We have to prove how succesful or how powerful we are. Prudence requires constraint and humility while pride calls for showing off and sometimes indescretion. I can't begin to tel how many times I have wished I didn't say something or done something because I knew the motivation for saying or doing these things was pride. Yet I try to disguise our words/actions under the auspises of givng credit to God. I'm not fooling anybody, including myself. I need "cheap respect" - that which comes from trying to be impressive and not humbly earned. Cheap respect has consequences.

I've wondered, and felt at times, if God has withdrawn from me. Not that He ceased to love me, but allowed me to know the consequences of my desire to be impress men instead of honoring Him. This is an important test. God, who already knows what is in our hearts, allows our circumstances to expose it to us. With each sitation we continue to allow pride to live and not die in our hearts, we never know which moment of "cheap respect" will have a huge cost. This mistake by Hezekiah led to the Babylonians raiding Jesursalem and taking the nation into captivity. All because Hezekiah wanted to "show off."

Lord, don't want to be a show off. Help me to kill that thing in me that wants to be impressive and leades to pridefu indescretions.

August 5, 2003

In Jeff We Trust

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Relevance. It's the buzz word in the church today. It's the responsibility of the church to connect to eternal truth using communication methods that our culture understands. but there is one thing more important than relevance - power. Movie clips and drama vignettes are helpful tools to communicate the Gospel. Music styles and atmosphere help people to experience God's presence. Accountability groups and recovery minstries help people to face the issues created by the residue of sin. These things are very important and part of the care we should provide for our community. But in my situation, as much as we have tried to meet these needs at NH, I feel like they have been more about human wisdom. What I really want to see is the demonstration of God's power. It is the only thng that can radically transform people's lives.

But for this to happen, there is a weakness that I must embrace. It is the reality that I am not as smart as I think I am as a leader. I must be more committed to knowing Him in the "power of the resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings" (Philippians 3:10) than proving to be an entertaining and impressive communicator. In 3 years, I've tried to convince people to put thier faith in me as a leader. Today I'm reminded that I want them to put thier faith in the power of God.

Lord, would you please visit our lives in your grace and power? Let it be according to our faith.

August 7, 2003

Who(se) Am I

1 Cornthians 3:23
And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.

Such a simple concept. I would have to admit I don't think about this very much. "Christ in me..." (Colossians 1:27) is often at the forefront of my mind. But I often identify with others more than identify with Christ. How many times have I quoted Joyce Meyer, Jack Hayford, or some other teacher who has prompted some thinking. Today I'm wondering if I have allowed the messenger to become a substitute for really engaging Jesus myself.

In v. 21 it says, "let no one boast in men..." For me that would include boasting about myself. Often my bringing attention to myself is some kind of validation to men of who I am (or what I want them to think of me). I don't think I would be so concerned about if if I really embraced the truth of "being Christ's." I don't have anything to prove (even to myself) if I have this perspective.

Lord, help me to know what it is to be Yours. I want to live in that reality and identity.

August 11, 2003

Thoughts from Nehemiah 1-3

Here's some observations that jumped out in today's reading:

1:6 - ...I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned.

Sometimes as a leader you have to take responsibility for things you may not have been directly involved in. I learned a great lesson from Nehemiah in this regard. Instead of expressing his frustration with God for allowing Irsael to remain in capivity, or making his request for favor from God for his project, Nehemiah too on the responsibility of acknowledging the consequences of the disobedience of his people, even including himself personally with thier fault. Withou placing blame or accusations, he acknowledge the fact of sin and humbled himself on behalf of the people to set them right before God.

2:10 - ...a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.

A year ago I had heard Matthew Barnett fo the Dream Center in Los Angeles speak about thier ministry in the inner ity. He used this passage to call pastors to "seek the well-being of the people." Reading today, I am reminded that is my assignment. Not to be concerned with being hip, not to be "big," not to be concerned with recognition or innovation. Only to be concerned with the "well-being" of the people entrusted to my care - to serve them and meet thier needs as together we build the Kingdom of God.

2:17-18 - Then I said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach." 18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king's words that he had spoken to me. So they said, "Let us rise up and build." Then they set their hands to this good work.

When you take care of things in private (confession - 1:6) and you motivation is pure ("well-being" - 2:10) then a compelling vision has substance. People will engage because tey can trust the leader. This is not something tangible that can be documented by strategic plans and mission statements. But there is something communicated sub-conciously by the integrity of the leader to the people. They sense that they are not being used or taken advantage of. They fel that the leader has thier best interests at heart. When this kind of trust exsists, then people will respond with, "Let us rise up and build."

August 20, 2003

Craftsmanship

1 Corinthians 12:28-31
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

I've been challenged in my assumptions of what a pastor is - what a pastor does, is responsible for, etc. Althought I haven't quite sorted it all out to my complete satisfaction, today I am reminded if this important fact: God decides who is and who isn't. He appoints these. My greatest asset personal as a leader is the fact that I have been chosen by God to serve His church in this function.

Obviously this is not something to use as a sledgehammer when facing conflict or challenge. It is though a solid foundation upon which the confidence to fulfill my role rests. So then there seems to be this whole spiritual toolbox from which we are able to choose from. Like most guys, I am infatuated with power tools - drillls, saws, air hammers, etc. - what ever tool can to it the quickest and most powerfully. These are the other "gifts" that I desire. But it isn't always about fast and big. At some point quality, craftsmanship, becomes the issue. This is the more excellent way.

I watch the care and attention to detail that is the real "tool" of artisans and craftsmens, whether they be potters, furnituremakers, homebuilders. It's not only the eventual product that is important. It's thier love of the materials they use, thier love of the process, that is thier motivation. Pastoring is hard sometimes because the process can be hard. The materials you are given to work with (in yourself as well as those you shepherd) may not have been your first choice. But the skill, the excellence is shown in the way it is handled and what is produced more that the raw material you begin with.

I want the best gifts, to have the best tools and best materials. But that doesn't guarantee what is produced is excellence. Excellence is produced when love, for the product and the process, is the motivation.

"...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:7-8

Lord, don't let me fail in what you've appointd me to do.

August 21, 2003

Accepting Adversity

Job 2:10
But he (Job) said..."Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?"

Job 1:22
In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

Every fall my reading schedule brings me to the story of Job. Every fall I feel like Job. I'm not whining. It just that when things get tough, I get frustrated. And a little whiney. So this time through Job, I don't want to whine, or try to justify my trials as Job-like. I want to learn what it takes to persevere through challenges.

As I began my journey with Job today I'm struck by his integrity (so is his wife, or frustrated by it as expressed in 2:9). The book begins with a description of of Job as being blameless and upright. Whenever I face tough times, my whine is that I'm blameless. Whether or not that is the case, that is not for me to determine. That's for God to determine. What I can do is to be how Job is described next - one who feared God and shunned evil. Three things tend to happen to me in difficult times. the first is that I whine about being blameless, "This shouldn't be happening to me! I don't deserve this!" The second is that I really feel the pull of my "cherished sins" - those things that I fall back on that don't hoonor God, but bring momentary relief from the stress of the moment (only to compound it later after the fact). But in his tough times, Job shunned evil. That's a good lesson is not to allow the gravitational pull of sin to suck you in.

The thrid thing I do in challenging times is to question God's goodness. That what Job's wife was doing. But Job understands that in life the good and the bad live together - "Blessed be the name of the Lord" (1:21). We often take His goodness for granted in good times, and question it during hard times. I feel like Job is challenging me today in 2:10. It's a challenge that I need to hear. It's a challenge that I need to respond to with my fear for God intact and an increased commitment not to fall prey to sin.

Lord, in this season, let it be said of me that I "did not sin nor charge God with wrong. "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

August 23, 2003

How is it?

1 Corinthians 14:26
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

I havent had time to pull out my greek NT and exegete this passage. This journal isn't the place for that kind of study (although it may prompt it). It's a place to look at things from different angles; to process them in my imperfect way that the Lord uses to bring understanding.

As a person who comes from a traditional Pentcostal background and theology, the issues of "tongues" and the other spiritual gifts has not only been settled for me, but is an important part of my daily Xian life. As a pastor who leads a local church, I have found that the issues in chs. 12-14 cause a lot of confusion,producing a lot of different views. So I felt like Paul was asking me this question when he said, "How is it then?" - how should the gifts be facilitated in a corporate gathering?

I have two takes on this passage today in answer to this question. The first response is that order leads to edification. As I see 1 Corinthians (epecially these chapeters) as corrective, not restrictive, it seems like this church was just a free-for-all each time they got together. Each person "competing" was using thier gifts as thier proof of thier spiritual aptutide. Paul could be saying here, and I paraphrase, "Come on! You mean every time you get together every person has something to contribute? Get serious. If you don't have anything to contribute that will build up those around you, that's OK. You don't have to make sure you get your two-cents in at every gathering to prove how spiritual you are." I've been in places like that before. It's self-serving and contributes to the confusion of how the gifts really function.

The other way to look at this passage is that participation contributes to edification. 12:7 says that "the mainifestion of the Spirit is give to each one for the profit of all." It is the HS that distributes the appropriate gift to each individual for each situation. Too often (in my opinion) the church have become content to sit back and let someone else to the work of building the body - the pastor teaching, the worship leader, etc. This spectator mentality can keep people disengaged from the things of the Spirit and how He may want to use them in the building of the church.

"How is it then" in NH? I desire for it to be a place where people have the permission to use thier gifts to build the body without having the pressure to use thier gifts to prove thier spiritual worth or find affirmation.

Lord, let us be a place where your Spirit is manifest in power and in order.

August 25, 2003

Staying Right Here

1 Corinthians 16:9 (The Message)
For the present, I'm staying right here in Ephesus. A huge door of opportunity for good work has opened up here. (There is also mushrooming opposition.)

Jayme and I keep talking about the opportunity here in Irvine. It seems that just now,after 3 1/2 years, that the opportunities to impact people's lives are clear and opening. But there is also the sense of opposition. It is so tiresome to keep repeating myself about the challege of leading a church here. To be honest, it's the only thing on my mind 24/7. How do we breakthrough? What (or who, primarily myself) needs to change? The opposition doesn't seem to be coming from people as much as it is spiritual. But we keep hearing "perseverance." We keep believing in the Word that brought us here. And for the present, Lord, we're staying right here.

August 26, 2003

He Knows The Way

Job 23:8-10
Look, I go forward, but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; 9 When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.
10 But He knows the way that I take...

There are plenty of times in one's life when it is difficult to discern what God is doing. I don't think that this occurs only in seasons of hardship. Sometimes it's hard to know what God is doing in the good times too - it's just that we don't ever stop to ask. We just ride that wave for as long as we can. In either circumstance, the question of "why" is rarely answered to my satisfaction. So we must cling to what we know: His plans for us are to bless and not harm us (Jer. 29:1); In all things God is working for my good (Rom. 8:28); His Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Ps. 119:105); etc. So my obedience is not based on my ability to "see" Him, only to have heard Him. For He knows the way I take..."

Lord, let me come through this season tested and purified like gold.

About August 2003

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

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