Friday, June 29, 2012

Strength Out of Weakness

"And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Charles H. Spurgeon said, "It is not our littleness that hinders Christ; but our bigness. It is not our weakness that hinders Christ; it is our strength. It is not our darkness that hinders Christ; it is our supposed light that holds back His hand."

Surprisingly, we Christians sometime develop the wrong idea about who needs what.  Don’t misunderstand.  Certainly, we should obey God’s commands, we ought to take seriously the work God has given us to take the gospel to all people, everywhere, and surely we ought to be involved in doing good in this world so full of things that are bad.  We ought to make a positive difference.

The trouble is that we sometimes get the idea that God can’t get along very well without us.  We develop the attitude that it is through our strength, our ingenuity, our talents and effort that great things are done.  Actually, while we should offer Him all of these, our offering is really pretty puny.
Charles Spurgeon understood something about God’s greatness.  It works best when we don’t hamper it by getting our puny little selves in God’s way.  In fact, we end up accomplishing more and better things when we allow God to work in and through us.

When you think about all the great things that God has done throughout man’s history, you’ve got to be impressed with how He used the least expected resources.  Take the nation of Israel.  Compared to other nations, it never was really much at all, yet God used Israel to bring the Messiah into the world.
Getting more specific, who would have picked an isolated shepherd, keeping a flock out in the middle of nowhere, to be the guy to lead God’s people out of Egypt?  Yet that’s exactly what Moses was at the time he was called.  King David was just a young man, probably rather small, yet he took on the giant Goliath when Israel’s army shook in fear of him.  And, who really expected a handful of Galileans – former tax collectors, ex-revolutionaries, and fishermen – to change the world?  No, you just have to stand back and be amazed at how God has chosen to do things.  He picks the weaknesses in humans and turns those weaknesses into great accomplishments, all to display His own power and might.

The question for us, though, is how to get out of God’s way.  It’s not always clear.  God certainly can and will use us for His purposes.  What isn’t so clear is when we are effective tools and when we are a hindrance to what God wants to do.  Perhaps the answer is to keep recognizing that it doesn’t depend on us.  Maybe the concern is one of our faith in God.  When we realize that it’s not our strength that matters, but God’s, then we’re ready to become as useful as possible in God’s hands.  It doesn’t mean we should sit down and refuse to act.  It means that we act with the knowledge that God will use us.  That, by the way, is really the only way you’ll ever take on things that look bigger than you, and sooner or later, you’ll run into a few of those. When you do, let God make you strong.

Scripture to Claim:
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD. 
Psalms 27:13-14

Thursday, June 28, 2012

“Do what I do.”

Parents are often in attendance at workshops with pen and paper in hand ready to hear what they need to do to their child to equip them for success and safety.  They are shocked to find out presenters do not spend a great deal of time listing things to do to the child, but to the parent.  Why?  Because that is who the parent has control over. The most effective training is based on this simple principle:

                                          80% of all behavior is modeled behavior.

I can change my child by changing me!
How do you handle anger, depression, rejection, weariness, frustration, failure, financial setbacks, death, job loss or other life issues?  Do you turn immediately to chemicals for relief of stress or pain?  These life realities are the times when we provide some of the most important life lessons our children will ever learn.  If these life crisis points cause us to blame, become physically or verbally violent, insulting, or turn to chemicals for relief, it may not be too surprising to see the same behaviors in our children.  Children are receptors and reflectors.  Recognizing that, every parent becomes painfully aware that some of the very attitudes and actions we don't like in our children are the same that we don't like in ourselves.

Athletic stars are condemned when they fail to be proper "role models" for children today.  The truth is, they are really not the important role models that teach children how to handle life and its success or setbacks.  They are heroes.  Parents, teachers, neighbors, uncles and aunts, grandparents, coaches and others who spend time with them daily are the real "role models" for living.  These teach them how to handle life by example.

Watch a child's eyes when a parent is confronted with a crisis point in life and the lesson is quickly driven home.  They watch their parent – intently observing their every action and emotion.  This is a "teachable moment" for certain.

The powerful lesson for parents in regard to the issue of modeling is simple.  Live what you want them to learn.  Parents often wonder why children pick up negative traits such as a "bad temper."  They often do not realize that children indiscriminately imitate what they see.  Parents may know that they model responsibility and other positive behaviors but are unaware that they model some negative traits as well. 

There is one person in the equation of parenting that you do have power over and that is yourself.  If you do not desire for your child to be rude when angry, hold your tongue.  If you want your child to set goals, share yours.  If you don't want your child using chemicals to change their moods, bolster their courage, or kill their pain, then don’t behave in that way yourself.  Children learn what we live.

Scripture to Claim
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  James 1:22

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Listening and Significance

Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.  Psalms 143:8

God longs for relationship.  Salvation itself is the recovery of relationship for God after man sinned against God and destroyed the original relationship with Him.  Can you imagine what Adam experienced as he walked with God in the Garden of Eden?  Uninhibited, unrestricted access to the Creator had to have been an incredible experience.

What is amazing about this is that Adam had God’s undivided attention.  Just consider how we feel when someone we respect and love stops to listen solely and fully to us.  How must that have blessed Adam!  The truth is God listens to us the same way He listened to Adam.  The restriction on our communication is not His inattention but our distractions.  God longs for us to seek Him and find our significance.

Giving a child our undivided attention is a significant act that builds significance.  Children and adults need to know that someone is listening.  The power of words is amazing.  Think right now of the last person that gave you more than two minutes of uninterrupted opportunity to talk about what was happening in your world…and LISTENED ATTENTIVELY!  I am sure you see that person as special to your life. 

Talking cures many an illness. Our own words reentering our own mind through our own ears can give a new perspective to a situation, relationship or emotion.  Remember…

What We Don't Talk Out, We Act Out!
Children who have ONE significant adult who will listen and respond to their feelings and life situations are much more likely to avoid negative consequence behaviors.  Sometimes, our children are fearful or inhibited in talking with us as their parents.  That is why it is imperative that we introduce them to other concerned adults who they may choose to open up to.  If we fail to help them find significance in a positive manner, they will find another way to get it.  Unfortunately, they will seek “attention” as a replacement for “significance” through a variety of behaviors (few of which are positive).

HOME: Where I can admit my greatest weakness
and failure and still feel accepted.

If there is a definition of what "HOME" feels like, this has to be it.  When I am in this place I am secure.  When I am in this place, I am safe.  When I am in this place, I am loved. We all seek this place. 
If we do not find this in the midst of our physical family, we will find a "home" somewhere to talk about all the "stuff" that is going on and be accepted...weaknesses, failures and all.  Accepting someone with their weakness does not mean we accept their weakness.  It merely positions us to help them overcome it.  Children have enough places that evaluate their behavior and criticize their choices.  Every parent and caregiver must remember...

Kids flee from people who consistently tell them
what they are not and flock to people who share
with them who they are and who they can be.

Take the time today to give your full attention to someone you love or one who desires to have your ear.  Seek someone out who you know everyone else ignores.  God can use your ear to bless someone today.

Scripture to Claim:
The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The LORD has made both of them.  Proverbs 20:12

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Are You Contagious?

But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. Acts 8:3-6

I watch as the office personnel wipe down their desks and other office furniture and equipment during the flu season.  Precautionary action is not to be disdained when the viruses begin to take aim at us.  Anything we can do to protect ourselves from contacting the germs which bring some illness is worth time and effort.

Have you ever noticed how when one member of your family gets the flu, it tends to become contagious and spread throughout the whole family.  The horrible part isn't that it spreads through the whole family; it is that after it has cycled through the whole family, it tends to start back at the source of the original infection and go through the whole cycle again.  Often it makes you wish you would have just quarantined the infected party to begin with.

The underlying principle is that if you are infected, more than likely you can become contagious.  Of course, to become contagious you have to be infected.  Acts 8:4 reads, "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went."  Something had happened to these people that was so powerful and impacting they could not keep silent.

In this scenario, the disciples didn't make a decision to go out and share the good news. Rather, they were persecuted and were forced to scatter into different directions.  This wasn't some great journey they took; it was an escape.  Still they preached the word!  Why?  Because they had been infected by God.  There was no way to turn it off. 

You can't say to a sick child, "Stop being contagious!"  It just doesn't work.  You can't say to a bovine with Mad-Cow-Disease to stop infecting other cows.  Nor could anybody say to the disciples to stop preaching.  It would be futile and impossible.

In Acts 4:19-20, Peter and John stood before the Sanhedrin and said to them, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."  Basically they said it was impossible for them not to preach the word which had been woven into their hearts.  You would be more likely to kill them than to stop them from infecting the lives of those around them.

As a Christian, we have been infected.  For some reason however, we don’t have the enthusiasm and mission focus that thrust those early Christians out of their comfort zone and into the streets.  We shouldn't need impact teams to get us going and spreading the word.  We shouldn't wait on mission trips.  Rather, we should need corral teams to hold us back a bit. 

Have you ever noticed how a frog sits back and waits for his food to come along.  Then as his prey lies before him he quickly swipes it up.  A lizard, on the other hand, is always on the prowl for its food.  My question to us is, are we lizard Christians or frog Christians?  (OK. Maybe that’s a bit out there but you get my point.)  Do we impact the lives of the people we come in contact with on a daily basis?  Or do we wait for someone crushed by the world to stumble into our presence before we share the good news of Christ? 

Let’s spread the virus!  Let’s see if we can infect the world with Jesus!

Scripture to Claim:
...but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;  1 Peter 3:15

Devotional Archive