Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Resisting the Devil

Days of Praise

Resisting the Devil

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." (1 Peter 5:8, 9)

The devil is far more powerful and intelligent (as well as subtle and seductive in his malignant purposes) than any combination of human enemies we could ever face, and we would be utterly unable to defeat him with our own human resources. Yet God’s Word makes it plain that we are neither to yield to him nor flee from him. Instead, the admonition is: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).

But how can we resist such a mighty foe? As in our text, we must constantly maintain sobriety and vigilance against his enticements, and be careful to remain "steadfast in the faith." Otherwise, the pseudo-intellectualism and social peer pressure to which we are subjected daily could quickly persuade us to compromise the faith, or even to depart from the faith.

We are commanded not to yield and not to compromise. Instead we must "put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." We have "the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the |wicked one|," and also "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:11, 16, 17).

This mighty sword with which we can make Satan flee from us, is literally "the saying of God"--that is, an appropriate individual word from the complete Word of God. This was the instrument with which the Lord Jesus Himself resisted the devil, parrying each temptation with an incisive thrust of Scripture. The result then--as it will be now with us also--was that the devil "departed from him for a season" (Luke 4:13). HMM

Friday, March 07, 2008

Set your clocks ahead one hour Saturday before going to bed.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Essentially from Dr. Dave Rahn

from Dr. Dave Rahn

NSC StaffHave you ever looked at the 5 ESSENTIALS and thought they could have easily been 3 ESSENTIALS, plus 1 OPTIONAL and 1 FORGETTABLE? What is missing in a ministry site where the focus is on only three or four of the ESSENTIALS?

If Widespread Prayer is an afterthought I wonder if it doesn't testify to a pretty significant flaw in the humility chamber of our hearts. I'm a big fan of humility. In fact, I hope to someday win the President's Trophy for Most Outstanding Example of Humility, delivered at a future MidWinter along with the keys to a new Escalade. The truth is, humility puts us in the first fundamentally necessary position to see God work through us. Asking for prayer — lots of it — keeps us humble. Think of this ESSENTIAL as a gift for your heart.

Some might think it's okay to practice a different definition of Loving Relationships. They take their cue from the old song, Love the One You're With, though they mean something different than the songwriters. But unless there is a consistent pursuit of lost kids we quickly wander off mission. Understand that we can still genuinely minister to young people, but we'll begin to look like the community youth group rather than the Rescue Squad we're called to be. And this ESSENTIAL also compels us to love real kids in real time in the real world. That means we sometimes tutor, feed, clothe, intervene… I think the work for some of us at ministry sites is not that we don't love kids, it's that we don't love them aggressively enough. God's love is Big Time, large enough to make a difference in every encounter with a kid.

Likewise, few of us would consider Faithful Bible Teaching to be an unnecessary part of what we do. But some of our preparation practices don't speak well about our convictions. And instead of being so confidently armed with God's Word (2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2) that we move naturally into conversating the Scripture as we coach kids, we can minimize this ESSENTIAL by exiling it to only formal meeting times like clubs or small groups. Don't be misled. I'm not just talking about our schooling here. Practicing this ESSENTIAL may have more to do with how fresh the biblical meals are that we serve kids than how much we know. We'll feed well when our own Scripture feasts are steady and satisfying.

What is there about Collaborative Community Strategy that's truly ESSENTIAL? Argue with Jesus if you want on this, but it seems that His prayer for our unity is directly connected to evangelism effectiveness (John 17:21). Like others of the Big 5, this ESSENTIAL aligns us with how God works rather than asking the Lord to bless our mess. Does He really care if we can credit evangelism results to a particular organization? We can be so caught up in doing our thing that we can't truly partner with others. In that case our thing will lose power fast.

For Adults Who Empower to be a practical ESSENTIAL our vision needs to be crystal clear and we need to anticipate well. If we wait until we need staff to start looking for staff we're missing the boat. Always be looking! God is raising up people and we need His eyes to scout for prospects for the team. When the light switch gets flipped on for this ESSENTIAL it will no longer be tucked away on a back shelf. Like Jesus calling the boys away from their nets, we'll begin to see the hope and potential in every young person (that would make a great national ad campaign!). Nothing disrupts the flow of transformational ministry like the unplanned loss of co-workers, be they adults or students. And very little predicts fruitfulness as well as having a full bus of the right people.

I've gone over this and over this and still can't figure out which of these is not ESSENTIAL to our important work in the Spirit. By all means, let me know if you think differently.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Luke #49 – A Good Habit

Luke #49 – A Good Habit

“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Luke 4:16 – King James Version).

When I was growing up there was absolutely no discussion about whether we liked the food that was put in front of us. If mama cooked it and put it on that table, we were going to eat it. For some reason I used to abhor lima beans. One time I tried to hide them under the edge of my plate; on the side opposite of my dad’s eyes. That didn’t work. I had to eat them and another helping before I was allowed to leave the table. You may think that was cruel, but I am actually thankful for those lessons. To this day I am not a picky eater. Eating what is put in front of me became habit.

This little verse fills in a lot of Jesus’ childhood years. We know that on the Sabbath Jesus was in the Synagogue because the Scripture says that was “His custom”. As I said in an earlier devotion, a lot of folks think there are a great many missing years in Jesus’ childhood, but that’s not entirely so. This Scripture takes care of about thirty years of Sabbath days.

There is something to be learned here. Making congregational activity a habit on the Sabbath is a good habit to get into. It will never be that if we don’t discipline our lives towards that. I hear too many parents today tell me that they give their children a choice about Sunday worship. That’s a bunch of mess! Teach a good habit! Have one yourself! A little personal testimony: if my family goes on vacation, one of two things are going to happen; we are either going to a worship service wherever we are or we will be home by Sunday morning. That’s that; end of discussion. You may say, “That’s different Tim; you work for the church.” So what? I didn’t always and that was our habit then and it will remain so. Weekend getaways? No problem; the same applies for our family…end of discussion. It is our habit and I believe it is a good one.

Another thing to be learned by the example of our Savior is participation. Christ got up to “read” Scripture during the worship time. Too many folks simply go to worship service on Sunday mornings without participating in the mission and ministries of the church. We need to be involved. We need to take part in ministering to others and take part in Kingdom work through our local church. Just sitting on the pew from 11:00-12:00 won’t cut it. If participation was good enough for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me!

Without reservation or condition make regular attendance and participation a good habit in your life. Good habits are usually tougher to begin, but begin they must to become a habit. What do I suggest? Let nothing outside family emergencies (real ones, not Aunt Gertie stumping her toe) or bad sickness stop you from going to worship service each week. Set a goal to not miss for the next six months. Most likely, you will have a habit that will stick after that. Also, research the ministries of your church; pray, asking God which He’d have you participate in; ask someone how to become involved. Bad habits are a dime a dozen. We need some good habits. Make attendance and participation good habits in your life.

Volunteer Newsletter

Just click on each section to enlarge:

Youth For Christ Newsletter

Just click on each part to enlarge (I think!)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

As things might appear...

Sometimes God uses strange things to tenderize me...

I think quite often about Matthew 9:36; it says, But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd (KJV - emphasis mine).

I want to tell you a first it will seem like I am judging someone, and perhaps I was. I don't feel like I was; I feel like I was simply being observant.

I was in a neighborhood store called Roseville Grocery. I stopped to get some gas. As I pulled up a man was walking over from the license office, which is beside that store. I noticed he had a little girl with him; she might have been 5. They got inside the store before I did. The man pulled lots and lots and lots of change out of his pocket. The little girl had a dollar bill in her hand. It didn't take long to determine what was going on; the man was broke and needed to renew his driver's license. He'd gathered his change to do just that; rather than going to the bank, he asked the store clerk if they could use the change because he'd like bills. So, they began to painstakingly count change as I waited a bit impatiently for my turn. (All I wanted was to pay for my apple juice and gas and move on; I had places to be.)

I noticed the man's clothes; work clothes. The shirt had a trite southern phrase and a Confederate flag. He had a matching flag and trite saying tattooed on his inner, right forearm. I noticed the little girl and thought, "Wow, she's cute. That's a home haircut." The little girl was patiently holding her dollar. I think her dad had told her that he might need it if he didn't have enough change. She pensively offered it to him several times. He patiently, tenderly said, "Wait honey" or "Just a minute, baby..." She had stains on her shirt. Her shoes were too big.

The little girl had beautiful eyes. She looked at me several times. Of course, I smiled and winked. I was a bit worried that she would have to give up her little dollar and was wondering if it would be okay to give her one; I realized I had NO CASH. Wow, I felt bad, but I almost felt relieved because there was no possibility to become involved if I had no way to help. Then I felt guilty that I was in a rush. Then I felt powerless again, except this time I was said because I realized that I WANTED to become involved.

I've been known to complain. I noticed this little girl and her dad. Obviously they were poor. I began to imagine scenarios. Did they drink it away? Did they waste it on dumb stuff? Were they the "working poor" that I know so intimately from my own experience? I don't know.

The change counted, the dad had a nickel extra and gave it to the little girl to bring her total to $1.05. I stepped aside and chose to wait a little longer. I wanted to watch the rest of this scene unfold. Would she pick chocolate? Gummi worms? Chewing gum? None of that; she chose a $.65 package of cheese and crackers -- you know the type with the little, flat red stick that you use to spread the cheese. She paid and the total was $.69. She looked at me and this time she smiled back.

I wanted to cry.

She was happy!

Here I am, in touch with the God of the universe and I wanted to rush through my day. This little girl was happy with cheese and crackers. I felt shame for me and joy for her.

I began to think about a lot of things in life. How many people are struggling every day to pay for license renewals and buy cheese and crackers for their precious little children? How many people wear work clothes everywhere they go because that's all they have? How many people are struggling in general? Many, I know, make bad decisions. Many suffer under the hardship of foolish parents. Many are socially decent people simply struggling to live in a tough world. Many young people are holding their little valuables (sense of decency, self-esteem, etc.) wondering if their parents will require that they give what they have. How many people could use a heart of compassion and all the receive is a look of judgment?

When Jesus looked on the world, it was with a heart of compassion. Tim, not so often.

Lord, change me! Give me the heart of Jesus that I might see the world through Your eyes and discern it through Your heart. Help me to, not only UNDERSTAND my world, but to be moved with compassion when I see what's going on. Help me point people to the Good Shepherd.

This little writing might not make sense to you, but it does to me. What a great way to get the bulk of my day started; just watching a family work through a little of life awakened my senses to the compassionate heart of God. I stopped thinking about my wife's broken down car, my cramped schedule, my feelings of insufficiency, all the things I am running behind in...I began to talk with God, hear from God and a parade of faces came into my mind and I sensed God saying to me..."Tim, be moved with compassion today." I was. Thank God what He does in me.

What might be different in our lives if we are moved with compassion more often?

GIG #1 - The Opening Gun

GIG #1 - The Opening Gun

"You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen" (2 Peter 3:17-18 - New American Standard Bible - emphasis mine).

As a group activity our youth all planted a flower in a small pot. For several weeks we cared for those little flowers, with the exception of a few teens who were not so diligent in their attendance to youth group and a few who were diligent in attendance, but careless in tending to their plant. After several weeks one teen lamented over the fact that their plant had sprouted and then died. I said, "It's your own fault." To wit the teen replied, "It's not my fault! I can't make something grow!" I said, "You're right; that's God's business. What I do know is that you didn't do your part. He left you to tend the plant."

That sounds like the beginning of a stewardship lesson; rightly so, because in a way it is. God intends to grow each of us in our faith and a good portion of the work is up to Him; I believe He desires we do our part.

I am not talking about becoming more secure, more pardoned, more saved...all of those things are complete the moment we surrender fully to Jesus, for "in Him you have been made complete" (ref: Colossians 2:10). With equal strength I am not talking about sitting around waiting for God to drop a new bucket of grace on our heads as if we can do nothing to participate with Him in the work of growth. Let me be clear...what I am talking about is best described by Dr. J. C. Ryle who said, "When I speak of a man 'growing in grace' I mean simply this,--that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more marked. He feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He manifests more of it in his life" (Holiness, page 122).

Growth in grace is a real thing: Peter said some are "babes" (2 Peter 2) and John said some are "little children", some are "young men", and some are "fathers" (1 John 2). We know growth is what God wants; our Lord Jesus said, "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:8 - NASB - emphasis mine). As a tree cannot bear fruit without grow neither can the child of God. Not only does God desire we grow, but He "delights" in our progress (ref: Psalm 35:27).

The point of today is simple; God desires growth, expects growth and will empower growth in His children. We not MUST NOT get in His way of growing us but MUST ALSO desire that we indeed do grow in grace. Do you desire growth? Are you the type of Christian who puts on his faith like he does his Sunday clothes...once a week? Carefully notice the words of Peter above he commands, and as it is in God's holy word I believe God commands, that we indeed do GROW IN GRACE.

In the coming days we will look at some measuring marks of growth and also at ways that we can grow.

Let me close with this warning by way of an illustration about a little boy. This certain boy fell out of bed every night. His parents put a guard at the edge of the bed; he still managed to fall out. His parents strapped him to the bed; he still found some way to fall out. When a family member asked the little boy why he thought he fell out each night his theory was simple: "I guess I sleep to close to where I got in." The warning is simple, if we don't move away from the edge of our faith by GROWING IN GRACE we will continue to slip and fall. Growth does not mean we will never slip, but it does mean the likelihood decreases and it does mean the severity of the fall is made less.

Yes, God is in charge of growth, but He expects us to cooperate with Him in the tending of the plant that is our life. We are stewards of the fields of our minds, hearts, and hands. Have you been a good garden helper?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Luke #48 – Our Nazareth

Luke #48 – Our Nazareth

“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up” (Luke 4:16a – King James Version).

When I surrendered to a call for full time Gospel ministry I never imagined that God would have me serve so close to home. I honestly thought I would be a traveling evangelist or a missionary. I remembered talking with my wife, getting her prepared to move away from home. It didn’t happen that way; not even close. My home church is Clement Church and I was called to serve at Berry’s Grove Church; they are only eight miles apart. At this writing I have been there over three and a half years. Moving away from home to some other area or another country has a lot of challenges; being away from family and friends, loneliness, cultural adjustments and a host of other difficulties that must be overcome. Being at home has a great amount of challenges as well; people seem to only see the kid they knew growing up or the pre-salvation fool that I was rather than the forgiven Christian and called servant of God.

God must have known the passion He would build in me for the people right around me. Recently someone asked me, “If you could go anywhere in the world to serve God, where would you go?” With all seriousness, I replied, “Right here; in the area where I was brought up.” This is a very religious area, but not an area that has a great amount of people of faith. This is my Nazareth, and this is where I want to minister more than any other place.

I believe with all my heart that we are supposed to be on mission all over the world, but it seems we neglect the area around us all too often. The people around us are the hardest people to minister to it seems. We don’t want to upset anyone and we want to be accepted and be thought of in a favorable way. We definitely don’t want to be ostracized because of our faith. Those may be the very things that happen if we witness and minister where we were “brought up”.

What also will happen is that some lives will be changed. Granted, Jesus words weren’t that well received in Nazareth, but He tried (Luke 4:28). We should not ignore those around us. We should keep giving to global mission efforts and we should keep going on global mission trips, but let us never forget to serve God in the place where we were “brought up”.

Further, Jesus commanded the disciples to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and all over the world (Acts 1:8). If I were to put that in language to fit where I am it might read something like this: “You will be my witnesses in Person County, the United States, Mexico, and the rest of the world as well.” The principle is this; do not ignore evangelism and ministry opportunities right around us. Sure, it may be the hardest mission field, but we still must serve in it. Sure, we may not be accepted, but we’ve got to try.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Luke #47 – Children Go Where I Send Thee

Luke #47 – Children Go Where I Send Thee

“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all” (Luke 4:14-15 – King James Version).

My pastor is a pastor’s son. He grew up knowing full well the pressure and time consuming ministry of being a pastor. He has often commented on how tough it was being a pastor’s son. Craig has told me that he used to say, “I’ll never be a pastor!” HAH! Little did Craig know what God’s plans were for his life. Craig left home, attended and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He moved out into Orange County and began going to a little country church. He would probably say he was going to church and minding his business when God issued the call. Here’s the thing…I believe Craig was being led all along. He grew up in a pastor’s home, got a degree in psychology, and the Spirit issued the call; Craig had two choices…cooperate or rebel. The first sentence of this paragraph will tell you that Rev. Craig Willingham did not rebel. That degree in psychology? Well…even God will let someone go to Carolina if He wants to use them…Craig is one of the most gifted counselors I have ever met and I must believe that course of study was no coincidence. Growing up in a pastor’s home gave Craig experience that no one can teach in school. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Craig said “Yes” to God, took further education at seminary and is still following the Spirit’s leading today. Would Craig have chosen to be a pastor? I doubt it, but Craig has chosen obedience, so he follows where the Lord leads…whether he likes where God leads him or not.

Jesus was led of the Spirit into the wilderness and now He is led of the Spirit into Galilee. Take it from someone who knows, it’s tough to minister in the place where you are from. Jesus goes to the region that He is from to begin His public ministry in earnest. Jesus wholeheartedly supported the will and plans of the Father so He was simply being obedient by following where the Spirit led.

If we are to be obedient to God today, we must follow where the Spirit leads. That automatically means that we may be sent to places or become involved in ministries that we’d never choose if it were totally left to us. We may have to do a lot of difficult things if we follow the Spirit, but wherever the Spirit of God leads us to we can be sure that the Spirit will be there with us.

I believe that there are many Christians that are completely miserable today because they are in rebellion to the leading of God. I cannot help but think of several specific individuals that I know who said God called them into ministry, but they have not yet to act upon that call. I can also think of many Christians who God has called to a deeper level of service who are miserable because they have not responded. I think there are entire congregations that are miserable because the Spirit is leading them to places and ministries that they refuse to act upon.

Are you miserable because of rebellion today? Has the Spirit spoken to you, calling you to serve, go, or give and have you failed to respond as of yet? The Holy Spirit may lead us places that we do not want to go, but the Holy Spirit will not leave us alone. Whether it is the wilderness or your own hometown or some rotting jungle on the other side of the globe or to open your checkbook wider…respond to the leading of the Spirit.