Wanted: A Few Good Men & Women!

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“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”  1 Peter 2:12

How do we do this as Christ followers?  How do we keep our conduct honorable despite the pressures that seem impossible to resist?  I suppose the question we must ask ourselves first is, “what is honorable?”  If you were to look at a dictionary some of the similes of the word ‘honorable’ are: “Blameless, upright, virtuous, moral, righteous, principled.”   Therefore, if we are to be honorable disciples of Christ we have to possess these qualities as disciplines in our words and our deeds.  The hypocritical notion of “do as I say not as I do” cannot apply to us.

Someone is watching you!

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I love that classic Michael Jackson song “Somebody’s watching me” , it’s perhaps a bit paranoid but the truth of the matter is that if you profess to be a Christian then you better act like a Christian in your actions!  Why?   Because there are people looking at you and looking to you as an example what it means to live an upright life!  If you blow it and display something opposite of what you are professing then guess what?  It’s not just you failing it’s the identity of Christ in you that has been poorly misrepresented.  I hate to point fingers and I rarely will, but when churches like the Westboro Baptist church goes out and spews hatred and condemnation, what they are doing is poorly representing Christ to a lost world.  Their idea of Christ isn’t something I embrace and in fact they do more harm than good with their protests and divisive signs.

You see the world is looking for blameless, upright people!  The world has far too few of them.  I’m not just talking about being an honorable GOOD person; I am talking about godly examples of Christ in our world today.  This may sound harsh but there are a lot of Christians in this world who talk a good game but bring very little of it home with them in the way that they conduct themselves.   My place isn’t to shift the blame on anyone, but if truth be told I too struggle with this in my own life as well.   1 Peter 2:12 tells us that not only ought we be honorable so that others see us do good, but that they too might see God and glorify Him!  It’s a double edged sword here.  On one side we are to live upright principled godly lives for ourselves and because it brings glory to God, and on the other side others are watching and innately they too want to find this truth for themselves.  So that when others see these good deeds displayed in God’s people, they too want what we possess which the indwelling of His Holy Spirit and a transformed life.

How is your soul today?  How is your life?  Are you living for God or are you talking a good game, but there is very little evidence of Him in your life?  I want to first encourage you when I say that God has great expectations for us.   He knows what we are capable of and the potential that we already possess to do good in our own world for Him!  He believes in you!  He loves you!  And our calling as Christ followers is to live this life out loud so that others might see Christ through us.

Secondly, this passage reminds you and me that there is so much more at stake here than just our reputations.  If we’re wearing the cross on our bodies and as bumper stickers on our cars then shouldn’t we be wearing a transformed life as well?  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be another Christian casualty on the spiritual highway wrought with moral car wrecks!  I doubt you do either.

So what?

Live what we say, and say what we live!  And may God be visible in every capacity and fiber of our being!

God is looking for a few good men and women to service Him in the trenches of life.  Are you up to the task?  He believes in you…do you believe in you?  Do you believe in Him?  Get on with it then!  Blessings on you this day and May you live for Him in word and deed!  Amen & amen!

A tale of flight, fright, feast and follow.

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On a perfectly clear crisp morning just as the colors were shifting from the deep purples of pre-sun rise to blinding gold sun streaked sky, Jonah received a message from God.  The message wasn’t preceded by fan faring trumpets or angelic presence with feathery wings whooshing in midflight.  Instead God simply spoke to Jonah and his message was loud and clear.  Messages from God were rare and so Jonah was slightly shaken by the earth shattering theophany.  It took a few moments for God’s word to sink in.  It was a message that Jonah was not happy to hear.  Like a poor poker players ‘tell’, indications of Jonah’s displeasure were clear as the morning sun and written all over his face.  “Nineveh?  Are you kidding me?” He whispers under his breath.  “That’s the last place that I want to go!”   Ruffling the blankets in the now uninviting bed, He gets up and shuffles to the front door.  “I didn’t sign up for this!” He thinks to himself.   Why was God sending him to that place?  It was a wicked city and just thinking about it put a bitter taste in his mouth as if he were sucking on lemons.

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Finally, with determination on his face, Jonah puts on his outer cloak and makes his way to the nearest sea port.  If God wanted him to go somewhere, go he would…but it wasn’t going to be to that hell hole called Nineveh.  Instead, Jonah books himself passage on a cruise in the exact opposite direction, destination: Tarshish.  If the destination alone was any indication of Jonah’s stubborn defiance towards God’s wishes, traveling to the furthest destination from Nineveh in the world would give anyone pause.  Yet aboard the vessel headed for Tarshish, Jonah, now travel weary, falls asleep in a bunk below deck.  Soon he is sawing logs like a skilled lumberjack…slow, still and steady.     Hoping the distance from home and Nineveh is enough to get away from God, he rests comfortably…until the entire room tilts sharply to the left dropping Jonah out from slumber and from the warm sheets of the bunk.  The once steady rocking lullaby of the boat is now replaced with a violent rollercoaster, as the sea vessel soars up steeply one wave wall only to plummet sharply down below another.  This pattern repeats over and over again, until the now sea sick sojourner makes his way up to the deck to discard any and all remnants of last night’s meal.

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Looking to the right towards the stern, Jonah sees the ship’s captain tossing luggage and other nonessentials overboard.  The ship’s crew are there also lending a hand in dire desperation.  If Jonah wasn’t alarmed by being rudely awakened and tossed from his bunk in the sudden squall, seeing panic and fear in seasoned sea farers eyes seals it.  He is going to die.  The Captain comes over, clothes drenched and stuck to his frame, he yells something but Jonah can’t make it out.  The screaming of the wind and the crashing of the thunder and waves drowns out all other sounds.  Jonah lets go of his safety and the rail to hear what the Captain is saying; “Pray to whatever god you know so that maybe we will be saved!

His words are like a slap in Jonah’s face.   “to whatever god I know…”  Realization hits Jonah like a swinging pulley from the main mast.  “I can’t run from God!”  A second ephiphanic wave like that of this squall hits Jonah; “this storm is meant for me!”   When his feet finally catch up to his epiphany, he joins the Captain at the stern who is busy again discarding nonessential weight in the hopes of saving them all.  It doesn’t look good.  “Throw me over board!”  Jonah tells the Captain, half to himself and to the deafening tornadic gale.   The ship’s Captain doesn’t hear him, so begrudgingly Jonah attempts to match the pitch of the wind to catch the Captain’s ear.  “THROW ME OVERBOARD!”  This time he hears Jonah and at first refuses to even acknowledge his request.   But another wave crests and washes over the deck, white foam and sea life litter it as if to say ‘you’ll make a welcomed addition to the sea floor!’  Out of sheer panic and no other alternatives, the Captain complies.  He beckons a ship hand to help, and after finding soaked purchase of Jonah’s clothing, they pick him up and throw him into the violent green salted sea.

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Almost, as if on cue, with a stage director behind the scenes, the sea suddenly becomes calm and Jonah finds himself alone atop a measureless abyss of cresting surf with his ticket to paradise sailing smoothly out into the horizon.  He is going to die.  This realization sinks in and soon so will he…deep below a watery grave.  Just as Jonah loses strength and succumbs to the stabbing cramps in his legs and arms something spectacular yet horrifying takes place.  A monster appears from beneath the dark foreboding sea, and in one swift motion, Jonah is swallowed whole.  From one instant Jonah has faced certain death by drowning and now is horrified to consider his certain fate and painful death in being digested by this great fish.  Inside the digestive tract of this creature Jonah prays earnestly to the God he ran away from.  He confesses his sins, and pleads for God to deliver him.  It’s a last minute hail Mary, but it’s all that he’s got left.    He doesn’t know how long he sits there in the muck and the stench, but moments of sleep flash nightmares of terror and dread, so he avoids closing his eyes.  Yet, his prayers continue.  Suddenly, it could have been hours or even days, Jonah never knew, but the great beast lurches.  His involuntary digestive taxi begins to fill with more disgusting fluid and then all at once he is launched along with the spew of vomit out of the beast’s mouth.   He awakens on a sandy beach, covered is filth and reeking of the sea at its worst.  Recalling his persistent prayers and promises while being digested to death by the beast, Jonah gets up, finds his bearings and finally obeys what God had asked him to do all along.  Destination: Nineveh.

No matter where we live, or where we go, we can never run from God.  He wants our commitment, not our excuses or our exit strategies.  For Jonah and for all of us, things will always go easier if we simply obey the first time He asks.  The alternative and consequence of our disobedience is never a desirable notion, and is filled with restlessness, unfulfillment and loneliness.  Just remember this: God will not give up on us!

What do I stand for? (Day 1 of 5 Selfishness/Selflessness)

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What do I stand for?   The music video linked here by ‘Fun.’ asks a very good question, and within the context of living as Kingdom people, followers of Christ, this question begs an answer in all of us!  If we are truly honest with ourselves we have asked this question a time or two.  This question encompasses a whole spectrum of things from political beliefs and ideologies to intrinsic ethical and moral convictions of our personal worldviews.  This question can be a very existential pondering.  For when we ask this solitary question, other questions in the sequence of our lives beg to be asked as well.

Automatically, when thinking about what we stand for, we will recall the ‘golden rule’; “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”.  And certainly this is applicable, but what is it that we would like others to do unto us?  Love us?  Yes.  Treat us fairly? Check.  Be honest?  Certainly.  Be kind?  Absolutely.  All of these qualities and more is what we would have others do to us.

Enter Selfishness:

We hold to those truths listed above for others, but what about the way we treat other people?  Do we treat others the same way?  All too often we peer through rose colored glasses in how we treat others but if we were to look harder at our motives and intentions, we would quickly realize that many times we do things that will benefit us.  If there isn’t something in it for us, then we quickly lose interest and pursue things more self-involved and self-fulfilled.  Selfishness is our down fall most of the time.  If we aren’t fulfilled by the things we do, then no one will be fulfilled.  This is our old sinful self that is rearing its ugly head.  If there was a weakness in the Christian armor, the chinks in the armor would be selfishness and pride.   If we let our selfishness reign supreme in our decisions and in our lifestyles then we aren’t fulfilling our calling as Christ-followers.   Selflessness and Selfishness cannot take up the same space within our hearts; it’s either one or the other.   This is the crux of our world today, many of our sin issues that is crumbling any sense of morality comes from our pursuit of selfishness.

What Does Selflessness look like?

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV) 

If we stand for Christ and for what He seeks to do for the lost in our world then we must become servants and serve!  Becoming a servant of Christ isn’t easy, and it never will be if we still operate from our old selfishness.  Before we knew Christ we were consumed by this selfishness.  Now that we know Him and identify with His suffering we too must stand for more than just ourselves.  That old operating system of self cannot and will not lead others to God.  It will only perpetuate that sinful selfish cycle that this world is so used to.  What Christ did, was turn selfishness on its head.  What He asks of us as Sons and daughters of God is to follow in His footsteps as we fulfill that great commission:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

When we ‘go’ we are called to leave our selfishness behind.  This, from the start is where we begin this journey of what we stand for!

TO BE CONTINUED….

Like a television series, imagine the old announcer say, “Tune in tomorrow, we’ll explore ‘Standing for God’s justice’.”

“Who do you think you are?”

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Who do you think you are?”  I heard this from one of my sons just the other day as he was sent to his room and was expressing his outrage at the sentence that I had just handed down to him.  He yelled it at the top of the stairs just after stomping up each step like a charging Elephant.  His comment kind of brought me up short, who was I?  In a moment of tears and anger, my son had struck a chord in me.   It wasn’t so much the situation at hand, he certainly needed to be sent to his room (consequences of poor behavior), but it was an existential question that got me thinking literally “who do I think I am?”

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In order to answer that very basic question, the Lord gave me His response that question.  A moment of epiphany took place within me in my preparation for Good Friday.  I was to bring the message that evening and so my study of God’s word became focused on the crucifixion story.  Prior to the crucifixion story is an amazing yet brief expository examination on the identity of who Jesus was.  Matthew 16:13-16 records this event.  Jesus asks His disciples “who do people say the Son of Man is?”  His question is first what does the common person know about the identity of this Son of Man?  And their response to His question is essentially the Son of Man is a good person, maybe John the Baptist, maybe Elijah, maybe Jeremiah or some other prophet.  It’s a response that essentially declares the people didn’t know who the Son of Man was.  They truly didn’t comprehend what God’s plan was within the identity of the Son of Man.

Then, after Jesus hears their responses He asks them a more directed question…this time it’s personal, intimate, unguarded; “But what about you?”  He asks them looking into their eyes as if He is looking directly into their souls, the very fibers of their created being.  The moment of truth is hovering and hanging upon the completion of Jesus’ question, and slowly He asks it almost as if He’s concerned what their answer may be; “But what about you?  Who do you say I am?”  Imagine Andrew glancing at John, as John frowns and exchanges eyes contact with the others and then finally looks at Peter, who always seems to be the boldest of the group.  Peter, as if prompted by the non-verbal exchange looks back at Jesus and makes his declaration of faith, identity and purpose; “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”

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In a single solitary sentence, Peter makes a statement so bold that to speak it in the wrong place at the wrong time with Pharisees or priests within ear shot would have meant a death sentence.  Peter declares Jesus to be Messiah and God’s Son!  Jesus’ identity is revealed in scripture, confirmed to His followers, and this epic redemption story is about to unfold for all of humanity.   All because that question “Who do you think you are” is answer by Jesus.

Identity Revealed:

Because of who Christ is, revealed to us, we are then able to be identified with Him, who was crucified for our sins and also with His resurrection which is our door by which eternal life is opened to us!
But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12 ASV)

We now have the right to be called sons and daughters, children of God!  That’s who we are!  If we are members of the body of Christ, then we ought to no longer struggle with this identity crisis!  We are His children!  Christ has been revealed to us, His identity is real and His power as the Son of God has conquered sin and death for us!  When people ask “who do you think you are?”; we can humbly and confidently reply that we are children of the Most High!  Our identity doesn’t give us license to lord it over the world, or judge the world either, but I hope it does provide a measure of peace for our souls.  WE ARE HIS!  If we identify ourselves as Christians, and we also claim that we too are crucified with Christ then our identity is also answered and we ought not to live in crisis over who we are in this world!  (Galatians 2:20)

Who do you think you are today?  This question isn’t asked in a condescending tone, but simply inquiring whether or not you know who you are and more importantly WHOSE you are!

Amazing Grace…showing love when love is barren.

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Some thoughts on grace today…after all, isn’t that what Christ’s redemption story is all about? We are those who spurned God, rejected Him, sinned and fell hard…we damned ourselves.  We held the match while the bridge burned all the while smelling of gasoline…so to speak.  Christ came so that we might once again have hope of Eternal life.  When Christ died, the bridge called grace was built and lowered for us once again.  Did we deserve this gift?  No!  But grace is still given to us, despite our stubborn, stiff-necked attitudes.

Turning the tables:

Who in your life needs some grace today?  If we are to receive grace from God, then aren’t we to in turn extend that grace to others?  Extending grace to others isn’t for the weak of heart…it takes real guts, courage and fortitude. Extending that grace to those who have spurned you, mocked you, disliked you, ‘un-friended’ you, doesn’t mean you should expect that grace to be reciprocated back…it simply means you love them despite their indifference, and act as Christ would act…you may be the only reflection of Christ that they ever see. Extending grace, means you live consistently within that love and grace regardless of who it is that grace falls upon.

 

Holiday Christians

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Written a few years ago:  

Easter Recap
Our church had a great Easter Sunday this past Weekend. Our SONrise service began at 8:00am, and we had about forty minutes of worship and a devotional. The power of the Holy Spirit was so wonderful to experience. After our Son-rise service, we had breakfast which was followed by our Traditional Easter Service . We were wiped after yesterday but God was awesome, hearts were touched, mine as well.

In reflecting on what Easter means to me, I have come to the conclusion that even though there are those who come to our churches only on holidays like Easter it still gives us the opportunity to plant seeds in their lives. At first I used to be very judgmental towards them, but the more and more I have been reading and praying the more I see that it isn’t about church…its about daily life. Sure we could look down on the “occasional church goer, we could confront them, make them feel guilty about not coming; but what will that do? Maybe some would get that message, while most, if not all would never returm (or take years to come back)

Now I know going to church is important for spiritual growth, but it takes sometimes huge steps for people to even grow to that point. Many are still (to quote one of my favorite movies: What about Bob) baby steppin’ it. They haven’t quite gotten to the point of seeing the need for weekly fellowship with other believers. So in their baby steps coming to church even on a holiday is a huge step.

As Christians who are maturing in the faith. planting the seed is our part (not putting on a guilt trip)…the Holy Spirit does the work, we just need to be consistent in our ministry and in our lives.  And therein lies the paradox sometimes. Our lives and ministry can’t be divided where one ends and one begins, they are the same, it’s just that the hours intersect between work and home and that makes the difference. But within those segments of our lives: work, home, leisure: is there consistency? I would say sometimes it’s a fifty/fifty toss up. But we certainly have room to improve, and within those improvements the seeds that the Holy Spirit allows us to plant are so much more fertile. 

Of course three things that I have continually been convicted on are these:
1) It’s the Lord’s Ministry – not mine.
2) When Victories come – He gets the credit.
3) I need to be thankful in ALL things – even the rough times.

So the next time you start to get annoyed as we all sometimes do with the “Holiday Christians” remember your job is to plant the seed, let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Just be consistent in your faith journey and see what happens.
-Just a thought.(written and re-edited by me (scott strissel) taken from my web site on Xanga: Salarmy -2007)

 

 

Enjoyment or Disappointment (I think It’s time)

We bite our nails

Pluck strands from our crowns

And dream we were someone else

Somewhere else

Anywhere but here

But underneath it all

Under the grit

The grime

The labor, the time

Under our fingernails too short

And the receding of our hair

Is that spark

That vivid hope

That longing to breathe free

Like our lady of liberty with torch

Bearing light to the lingering masses

We live, yet seldom

Live to enjoy it…

We drink in disappointments

Yet seldom stop to bathe

In the ineffable laughters

Of the moment

It all falls down

Below the expectations

Below the frustrations

And then we wake up

With nothing

But our fears

Why?

For what?

Perhaps we shouldn’t

Let moments pass like that

Perhaps we have dined

On the ugly for far too long

Perhaps it’s time

Time to change that

Time to reinvent

Ourselves

Our minds

Our hearts

Time to refrain

And begin again. 

 

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Soaring Like Eagles or Falling like paper weights?

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

I’m not sure where you’re at today in your spiritual walk with God, but I do know that there are days when I feel emotionally and spiritually spent.  My hope in God isn’t where it should be. There are days in which my compassion level is at an all time low and my apathy level is at an all time high…and that scares me.   It’s in those moments that I am reminded of the Eagle:Image

On a number of occasions, while driving, I have looked out my windows of the van and seen amazing sights around me…on a couple of instances as I’ve looked out into nature on such a drive, I have glanced up at the trees and witnessed the majesty of soaring Eagles.  Eagles don’t flap as much as other birds, their wing spans are very large and because of it, once they reach a certain height in the sky, they let the wind currents do all of the work as they spread out their magnificent feathered wings and glide high above it all.   But how do they get up there?  First, of course there’s the leap from their nests or perches, then the initial exertion of flapping broad wings to reach the necessary altitude for soaring.  These Eagles know where to find the wind currents, they understand it will be there but they have to do the initial work of getting there first…

As followers of Christ, if we want to be mature Christians, reaching new heights and allowing His Holy Spirit to ignite us and spur us onward into our world, we first have to do the initial work of faith and belief.  There can be no doubt left that God will be there for us.  He is constant, He is faithful and He wants us to soar…but we have to make the climb.

Isaiah 40:31 is a powerful verse, one of my favorites, but did  you catch the initial sentence?  But those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength.  When we launch outward and up, there has to be an element of faith and hope that the Lord is there for us.  If we launch out and up with grains of doubt, tinges of mistrust in Him, we most likely will launch, fall and land flat on our faces.  To be empowered, ignited by God and His mighty strength, we have to first believe and place all of our hope in Him.  Then the soaring can take place.  Only after we Hope in the Lord can we achieve such heights.

Before we can soar, before we can be renewed the initial work of stepping or launching out and up  we have to make a decision, to play it safe – remaining in our nests or perches and eventually starve spiritually; OR – Hope in the Lord, trust in His mighty power and leap out there knowing He will be there to help us soar.

So what will it be?  Will we play it safe and never expand, grow or even soar?  Or will we launch outward and up as we confidentially and boldly trust in His mighty power?

May we all find our soaring altitude…thanks be to God!

Community…love it or hate?

Let’s be honest, living in community isn’t easy. We all know it, but we don’t say it because it’s kind of a sensitive subject…it effects you and me. We live in community with a lot of people whether we know it our not. Your co-workers – community. Your family – community. Your church – community. Your Neighrhood – yeah still community.

How we interact sometimes depends on how a particular relationship is at that time…if there’s been a falling out or disagreement that community might be strained or awkward. But no matter how you slice it we live in community…unless you’re a hermit in the woods.

With that being said, community can either be a positive or negative experience. Just look in the bible at Acts chapter 2 for an excellent example of a positive experience in community. After the day of Pentecost the early followers of Christ began an amazing house church community in which things thrived and exploded. They shared everything with one another such as food and financial resources. There was harmony and the sense of love was overwhelming. This was and still is one of the most amazing examples of community working, active and thriving in all of history.

I could give examples of unhealthy, negative communities but all one has to do to see this is to flip on a reality television or even experience it (possibly) in a co-worker dispute or family disagreement. It happens.
We are all susceptible to selfish ambitions and pride…the question is do we want to change? Is change possible? Can we grow?

Community isn’t easy, blow outs take place…but is it possible to exist in an Acts 2 community in our world? I believe it’s possible, but in order to get there we have to take off our mantles or pride and selfishness and adopt an attitude of Christ-like selflessness and humility…when or if we ever get there watch out because THAT community will be a magnet to many who witness it.

But first…compassion, selflessness and humility. -Micah 6:8

Just a thought.

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