Friday, April 20, 2012

CITRT National Roundtable Devotional

Context:
  • What I want to do is to look at two guys: one from the Old Testament in Exodus 31, and one from the New Testament in Acts 6, and see what those of us who have been called to serve in administrative or supporting roles in the Church can glean from these texts.
  • Leading up to Exodus 31, we see Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God instituting the priesthood with Aaron and his descendants, and God setting up the laws and giving Moses a template for the tabernacle, objects of worship, and system of sacrifices.
  • Exodus 31:1-6 (NIV): Then the Lord said to Moses, "See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you..."
  • In Acts 6, we find the apostles who need to focus on their assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God's Word, but they're getting distracted because they're being pressured to manage the soup kitchen.
  • Acts 6:1-7 (NIV): In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
First Point: God can and does call people into practical roles that serve the Kingdom.
  • Exodus 31:2 says that God personally chose Bezalel.
  • God's Word says that God specifically chose Bezalel and others with similar aptitudes to build the Tent of Meeting, the Ark of the Covenant, the priestly garments, and all of the other holy objects to be used in worship.
  • Then in Acts 6, we find Stephen. Now Stephen was spiritually in tune and walking closely with the Lord if anyone was! But the role he was commissioned for was not a glamorous, "spiritual" role. Rather, he was to lead a feeding program for the poor.
  • It is easy to look at Moses, Aaron and his sons, and the apostles' work, and recognize how they were clearly called by God and used by God, just as it might be similarly easy today to look to our pastors, or prayer and care ministry leads, and easily understand that they are called by the Lord and are doing Kingdom work. But God also chose Bezalel and Stephen to serve him too, even if those specific roles aren't glamorous or what we might at first glance think of as necessarily spiritual.
Second Point: God gives us the skills, know-how, expertise, and most importantly He fills us with the Holy Spirit so we can serve Him and His Kingdom.
  • Exodus 31:3-5 says: God gave Bezalel skill and know-how and expertise in every kind of craft; to create designs and work in gold, silver, and bronze; to cut and set gemstones; to carve wood.
  • God filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God
  • In Acts 6, we find Stephen described as a man whom everyone trusted, full of the Holy Spirit and faith and good sense, brimming with God's grace and energy, and performing unmistakable signs among the people. Later, when Stephen was brought before the high council on trumped up charges, it says that his face was like the face of an angel.
  • 1 Corinthians 12 is a beautiful picture of how God has assigned a wide variety of different giftings to each of us.
    • Verse 11 says, "All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when."
    • Verse 14 talks about how each of the gifts we have been given are compared to the various parts of our physical body, described as "different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together."
    • Verse 18 says, "We see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it."
    • Verses 25-27 say, "The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. You are Christ's body-that's who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your 'part' mean anything."
  • Similarly, Romans 12:4-8 says: For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with yourt faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
    • IT is an enabler. We're still serving the Kingdom through what we do.
    • Remember verse 7 of Acts 6? " So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."
Third Point: God did not equip Bezalel or Stephen to work alone. Rather, God had had helpers for each of them.
  • Exodus 31:6 tells us that Bezalel had Oholiab and many other skilled workers.
  • Acts 6:3-5 tells us that Stephen had Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas.
  • From the very beginning of creation, our God has always been about community, both within the Trinity and in the way He created us:
    • Genesis 1:26: Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness"
    • Genesis 2:18: The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
  • And if we go all the way the other end of the Bible where we get a glimpse of eternity, we see that our God will still be about community then:
    • Revelation 21:3: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
  • God designed us not only to be in community, but in community to be in accountability.
    • Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
    • James 5:16: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
  • Be transparent! There is no benefit to putting up a wall or pretending that everything is OK. It will eat you up.
  • Satan can't have us, but he will try his best to take us out of the game, to make us ineffective for the Kingdom.
  • I think we can find that where God is at work, it is not about being a lone ranger.
  • Don't do it alone! Look for those people God has put in your path to serve alongside and be in meaningful community and accountability with. Maybe it is
    • Other church staff—your boss, peers, or people that report to you.
    • Integrating serve opportunities for lay members who have IT skills. From Jeremy Hoff yesterday, "There are guys pulling cables alongside me that can't believe they get to do it for a church."
    • Interaction with vendors, or if you are a vendor, in how you work with your clients.
  • I love Matthew 11:28-30, where Jesus calls out to each of us: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
    • If your burden is heavy, could it be that Jesus has help for you and you've been trying to hold on to too much on your own shoulders?
In Closing:
  • While some Kingdom assignments are certainly easy to see are holy and special, it is comforting for me to see that God chooses, fills, empowers, and calls people to serve Him in roles that we might sometimes be tempted to think of as less "spiritual." We can appreciate every gift and every calling.
Takeaways:
  1. God can and does call people into practical roles that serve the Kingdom.
  2. God gives us the skills, know-how, expertise, and He fills us with the Holy Spirit so we can serve Him and His Kingdom. Let the Holy Spirit work powerfully in us and through us as we do IT for the Kingdom!
  3. Don't neglect community in your Kingdom work—look for the others who God has placed around you and do His work together with the skills and abilities He has empowered you with.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Daily Devotional: God's way of leadership and success

Scripture
Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat--I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self."
Luke 9:23-24 (The Message)

Observation
God's way is not for me to help myself, lead myself, and make my life comfortable. He wants to be in the driver's seat, with me willingly allowing Him to lead me. God's way involves suffering, something I shudder to really extrapolate its connotations, but realizing that He has His best for me. Laying down my life as Jesus laid down His is plan that God has for me to carry out.

Application
Willingly let God lead me--let Him be in the driver's seat, and follow Him. Be willing to embrace suffering rather than running towards comfort. Follow Jesus' example and lay down my life for others in a way that will honor God.

Prayer
Lord, this is one of my favorite challenges but one of the most difficult. Please lead me. I choose to follow You. Please make me aware of how the world's model of leadership and success differs from Yours, and help me to embrace Your ways unashamedly and wholeheartedly.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Daily devotional: God's plan and sovereignty

Scripture
What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind.
Job 23:13b-14 ESV

Observation
Job said this of God in his distress and anguish because he felt that God was causing the ruin in his life. And God did have a sovereign plan for Job, but Job could not see it or understand why bad things were happening. In the end, God proved a point and returned Job's life to prosperity, but He reigned in sovereignty throughout and was in control.

Application
Rest in knowing that God will complete all that He appoints for me. Know that He is sovereign, even when I do not understand how His plan is unfolding or why He is allowing or directing things to happen that are far from what I would choose.

Prayer
Lord, Your ways are not my ways, and Your thoughts are much higher than my thoughts. I praise You and worship You with my whole being. Thank you for completing all that you appoint for me, and for having many such things in Your mind. Please give me perseverance when times are difficult and keep my faith in You strong. Help me be a witness to others of a life lived fully trusting in You. I love you!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Daily devotional: Dedicated to Jesus

Scripture
Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."
Acts 21:13 ESV

Observation
Paul was totally devoted to Jesus. His whole life revolved around living the mission that Jesus had given to him. He could say that he lived his life before God in all good conscience (Acts 23:1). He could tell believers to practice the things that Paul had taught and said and behaved (Philippians 4:9). To him, to live was Christ, and to die would be gain (Philippians 1:21).

Application
Follow Paul's example in complete dedication to my Lord Jesus Christ. Follow Him wholeheartedly in a way that I can honestly say I have lived in integrity and challenge others to follow my example as I follow Christ.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, You are holy and mighty, worthy of all praise and glory and honor. To you alone belongs my worship and allegiance. Thank you for blessing me so richly, not only for providing for my needs, but for leading me to faith in Christ Jesus, for the gift of repentance, for the gift of salvation, and for the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives in me. Thank you for transforming me from the inside out to grow more like You. Please lead me to an ever closer walk with You, keeping me focused and dedicated to You wholeheartedly. I love you!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

YMCA McKinney Falls devotional notes

1. Jesus pursues us (John 4:3-8*)
When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 
  • Jesus was headed from the Judean countryside to Cana in Galilee, 60-70 mile walk. About half way there was Sychar in Samaria. He was tired but went out of his way to meet her.
  • Eagerly seeking us is the pattern we see in Jesus!
    • Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
    • Luke 5:32: Jesus says, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
    • Luke 15 parables
      • v.4-7: shepherd with 100 sheep will leave the 99 to go after the one that is lost, until he finds it.
      • v.8-10: woman with 10 coins loses one, she sweeps the house and seeks diligently until she finds it.
      • v.11-32: man saw his prodigal son from a far way off and ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
  • The point is that the woman wasn't looking for Jesus. He came looking for her.
2. We're never too far gone, damaged goods, or beyond help (John 4:9-19)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.
  • Most people went to the well in the morning or evening when the sun was not at its peak, since carrying water was hard work. She went to the well at noon (6th hour), which implies that she was an outcast, ashamed and not welcome at the well when respectable people were there. 
  • It wasn't even socially acceptable for a Jewish man to talk with a Samaritan woman, who was considered the very bottom of the social cast.
  • Satan would lie to us and tell us that we are damaged goods, and too far gone for us to come back to Jesus. 
  • But not true. We see other examples too of "damaged goods" that Jesus reaches out to
    • John 8:3-11: Sinful woman who Jesus didn't stone. Instead of condemning her, he told her to "go, and from now on sin no more."
    • Luke 23:39-43: To the criminal being crucified on the cross next to Him, Jesus says, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
  • There are girls here who will get weighed down by shame, disgrace, guilt, feelings of inadequacy. Dads, this applies to you too. Jesus wants to take those things away.
  • You may have made bad decisions, or someone else may have taken advantage of you, or both. You are not damaged goods. Jesus calls to you to turn away from your guilt and He will replace it with His love.
3. Jesus calls us to repent and eagerly seek after Him (John 4:25-26, 28-30, 39)
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”
  • Jesus called her out on her behavior. It is not OK to come to Jesus but continue in sinful habits.
    • We have this image of Jesus that He is a push-over Jesus. He's not.
    • We think of Him as gentle, with kids piled on his lap. But He is also holy. 
    • Revelation 1:12-17 when John sees Jesus in heaven: His eyes were like a flame of fire, His voice was like the roar of many waters, His face was like the sun shining in full strength.
    • Revelation 19:11-16: In righteousness He judges and makes war. The armies of heaven follow Him on white horses. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
  • American gospel would tell you that we're basically good, and God loves you. And He does--that part is true, but if you just take that gospel, you'll be left with emptiness, shame, and guilt, because you have to deal with your sin.
  • You will never experience abundant life if you take Jesus but don't repent and turn from your sin.
    • Romans 2:4 says that "God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance..."
  • Repentance means to turn away from sin and turn towards God
    • NIV Study Bible notes (Matt 3:2) say, "Repentance is not merely a change of mind but a radical change in one's life as a whole that especially involves forsaking sin and turning or returning to God."
    • NIV Study Bible notes (Mark 1:4) say, "Repentance involves deliberate turning from sin to righteousness... God always grants forgiveness when there is repentance."
  • Repentance is a gift from God
    • 2 Timothy 2:25 talks about how the believer should treat his opponents so that "God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth."
    • Acts 5:31 talks of Jesus, "God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."
    • Acts 11:18 after God gave the Holy Spirit to Gentile believers, "...And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.""
  • 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • Psalm 103:12, "as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."
  • (favorite verse) Romans 8:1: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
  • So don't hold on to your guilt and your shame. Eagerly seek Jesus.
    • Psalm 86:5: "For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you."
    • Hebrews 11:6: "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."
    • Matthew 6:33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
    • Acts 17:27-28a NLT: "His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist."
So what:
  • Jesus is eagerly seeking after you.
  • You will never be damaged goods, too far gone to turn to Him.
  • Get rid of your shame and guilt. Turn from your sin and turn to God.
    • Romans 10:9, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
  • Eagerly seek Jesus. He will give each of us living water, that is the Holy Spirit. Nothing else will satisfy us.
    • John 7:37b-39a: Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive..."
  • Take hold of what God has given you, not just His love, but rest that is found in repentance. Confess your sins, turn away from them, and turn to God through Jesus Christ where there is abundant, everlasting life. Let those shackles go, fall from you, and run the race with freedom in Christ. There is freedom in Jesus Christ, and Jesus wants you to have and experience that freedom.
*All Scriptures are ESV except where otherwise noted.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Daily devotional: Dependence on God

Scripture
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God...
Psalm 146:5 (ESV)

Observation
When it comes to earthly maturity, Stephen Covey rightly taught that dependence is a stepping stone to independence, which is a stepping stone to interdependence. However, when it comes to our relationship with God, dependence is the right place to stay. God is worthy of our dependence. He is mighty. He lifts up those who are bowed down and loves the righteous (v.8).

Application
Put my hope and my dependence on the Lord my God. Trust Him to be my help!

Prayer
Lord, I just want to pray Psalm 146:6-10 to affirm Your amazing power and love and worthiness of my dependence. You made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them. You keep faith forever. You execute justice for the oppressed, You give food to the hungry, and set the prisoners free. You open the eyes of the blind. You lift up those who are bowed down; You love the righteous. You watch over the sojourners, You uphold the widow and the fatherless, and You bring the way of the wicked to ruin. You, O Lord, will reign forever. Praise the Lord!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Daily devotional: Trust and be faithful

Scripture
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes."
Nehemiah 4:14 (ESV)

Observation
Nehemiah realized that the Lord had called them to rebuild Jerusalem. When they faced opposition, he instructed the people to trust in the Lord and to be faithful, not to give up or shrink away. In v.20, Nehemiah adds, "Our God will fight for us." God will see through that which He wants to accomplish.

Application
Do not worry about foes or obstacles. Just trust in Him and be faithful to running the race He has set out before me. He is great and awesome—fully capable, and He will see his plans carried out.

Prayer
Lord God, You are great and awesome. I recognize Your power and ability to accomplish all that You have set out to do. Instead of worrying about foes or obstacles, I choose to trust in You fully and to stay the course, being faithful to what You have called me to be and do. I love you!