Monday, March 31, 2008

Guest Builder: Rachel Smith - Threat

I work at Western Illinois University and this past week all employees and staff were issued a security alert. A note was found near campus that threatened a shooting. As a result many people went through a huge range of emotions, tears flowed, mother's called their children, people ranted and raved and the administration evaluated the best course of action. As the busy pace of a University was suddenly halted I was reminded what a difference faith makes.
I know that this threat, real or perceived, can not change who God is. He is the same today, tomorrow and forever. Threat or no threat, God is still in charge.
I was also reminded of the power of our words. Whoever said, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me," was wrong. Our words can do great measure to help or hurt those around us.
And so I stayed at work. Confident in God and trusting His plan, even if I don't always understand it. And when I had a moment, I wrote this. To use words to build up and not to harm. I think we can all use a reminder of the power of words.

Ephesians 4:29 (New International Version)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Build UP: Such a Time

Esther 4:14
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?

What is your "royal position"? Are you an employer? Are you a leader in your church or in your community? Are you a teacher, a parent, a friend, or a neighbor? If so, then I believe that it is quite possible that God has placed you in that "royal position".

This begs the question, "For what purpose have I come to this position?"

Ephesians 1:11-12
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

No matter where God has placed us, there is a purpose to it, and that purpose is God's.

Achieve His purpose.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Build UP: Defeating Words

James 1:26
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

I hope I haven't told this story too recently! When I was a freshman at a Big 10 university, one of my first compositions in English class was returned to me with an awful grade. If the grade wasn't bad enough, the words the instructor scrawled on the page finished the job. What I remember is that I was told that "I could not write". I eventually dropped the course.

Those words echoed in my ears for over five years! I registered for many freshman English courses and at three different schools, but those words would always haunt me. I was struggling to even finish the remedial classes.

It was the 10th or 11th English class that made the difference. Nancy Krey was my instructor. She took me aside a few weeks into the course and talked to me about my writing. She said, "You write quite well." At that point I believe my draw literally dropped open. She went on to say, "You just need some work on the structure of your sentences."

Two years later while in graduate school, my professors regularly told me, "You need to get some of your work published, because you write so well."

"...because you write so well." Thank you Nancy!

Those words from that first instructor almost scuttled my entire college education.

Mind your words!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Build UP: Encouraging Word

Acts 13:15
After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, "Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak."

I had an awesome phone call today! A friend called to catch me up on the recent happenings in his life. In the course of the conversation he shared that my words to him at our last meeting had been a huge encouragement to him. Further, he told me that after our conversation several other friends encouraged him in the same way. The result is that my friend is launching out into an entirely new line of work.

There is a point to sharing this story. Although our conversation was very positive, I don't really remember the specifics of my encouragement. Nonetheless, for my friend, this was a huge moment for him as he contemplated a life change. Let's keep this in mind as we interact with the world around us. Our words have the potential to make a large impact on the people with whom we interact.

Encourage someone today!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Build UP: Shame

1Corinthians 6:5
I say this to shame you.

Like my children, I often need reminders from my heavenly Parent as to proper behavior. Most often my rebukes come in the form of a sense of guilt related to a recent action. For me, shame is still a pretty useful tool in the hands of the Lord.

I've noticed though, that shame doesn't hold the same rank in our culture that it once held. It shouldn't be too much of surprise that shame has ceased to be an effective tool. After all, the world we live in shouts at us daily to do whatever we want, because you deserve to satisfy your every whim.

A sense of shame has been replaced by blaming others. When shame enters, our cultured response is to blame someone else for what we've done. It seems that every bad behavior is the fault of someone else.

Bottom line, if God can't reach us through the use of shame, then what must He resort too? It seems to me that a tablespoon of shame is much easier to swallow then the harsher medicine that is at the Lord's disposal.

Awake to the shame,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Guest Builder: Rachel Smith - Get Well Soon

Have you ever been sick? I mean really sick where you have to stop everything else and take care of you? I had that kind of sick this past week and it made me realize how quickly my priorities change and how much I take for granted my physical health.

When I'm not feeling well I will try any kind of over the counter or home remedy. When these fail I call the doctor. I beg to be seen and fast. All of my thoughts become focused on my health. All of my finances are reallocated to any type of remedy for my ailment and all of my time is spent on getting better.

Oddly enough before I was sick I didn't have any extra time, money or energy. Yet somehow my schedule has been cleared, my checkbook reallocated and my priorities changed. It occurs to me that if I am not physically healthy I can't use my resources on other activities, I must use them on getting well.

This applies to both short and long term illnesses equally. I once had an ailment that took over a year of modifying my schedule, seeking specialist advice and spending large amounts of money. I am sure you can think of at least one friend or family member whose life has been turned upside down due to medical condition.

How much more important then is our spiritual health? Maybe, just maybe, if I remembered how sick I am spiritually I might make more of an effort to seek out the doctor. I may also be more consistent in my treatment regiment. I forced to face a spiritual illness would I change the amount of time, money and other resources spent on getting well?

Just like my physical health, it is all too easy to take for granted my spiritual health. Please add me to your prayer requests for the "spiritually sick", and I will add you to mine. And if you need it, I can recommend a good specialist.

Matthew 9:12
On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Build UP: Sufficiency

I had a small case of writer's block tonight, so I asked the Lord to guide me to a topic. The response I received was this:

2Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Had I, with a great exercise of will, determined and written a brilliant post, then I would have been tempted to wrestle the Lord for the praise. After all, I put all my mental powers to work discerning and crafting my thoughts.

My sense of my own power gets me in a lot of trouble. I feed my pride, until God takes me to the limits of my power. He takes me to a place where I come to the end of my strength; to a place of weakness.

It is there that the Lord reminds me of my limited power while simultaneously showing me the limitlessness of His. It is then that my pride is surrendered. It is then that I lift praises to the Lord.

And the next thing I knew, God had created this post!

Praise the Lord!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Guest Builder: Rachel Smith - The Door

I have been a little preoccupied with doors as of late. We built a deck last fall and are in the process of choosing a door to lead from our kitchen to our deck. I never knew I had so many choices in a door: French, sliding, single entry, double entry. So I have started to really look at all the doors I go in and out of. This morning I opened my bedroom door, closed the bathroom door, locked the house door, opened the garage door, slid the van door and pulled out of the driveway. Five doors and I hadn't even gotten to work!

All these doors have different appearances but the same purpose. They serve as a swinging or sliding barrier intended to keep us safe, to let in friends and keep out burglars, to protect us from the cold and wind. With out a door, I will just have a huge gaping hole in my kitchen! As I shop for a door that is functional and beautiful I am reminded of the one door that never wears out and always protects, a door that fills all of my huge gaping holes.

I will try to see Him in every door I use today.

John 10:9 (English Standard Version) I am the door. If anyone enters by me he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Build UP: Forgiveness

Psalm 51:4
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight...

When I sin I tend to focus on the person toward whom I acted inappropriately. Yes, I've done that person wrong, but the hurt of my action doesn't stop there. When I sin, I sin against God. I cause Him pain.

I heard of an activity once where the participants were given the opportunity to write their sin on a piece of paper. Next, they were instructed to step up to a wooden cross and literally nail their sin to it. Pretty dramatic stuff, but it gets the point across!

As we approach the cross of Christ this next week, let us remember our sin. Let's remember with humility that we are not guiltless. However, let us also more deeply embrace the forgiveness purchased for us by Jesus on that very same cross.

Grace and peace,

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Build UP: Who?

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Easter is fast approaching! If you're a leader in a church, then you are likely experiencing a great deal of busyness! And there are a lot of unanswered questions:

How should I organize the coming services?

What shall I talk about in my message?

When will I find time to prepare?

I have recently been reminded that the most important question doesn't begin with how, what, when or even where. NO, the most important question as we prepare for Easter begins with the word "who".

Who died that I might be saved?

Keep your eyes on the Who!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Guest Builder: Rachel Smith - Chosen

Do you remember what it feels like to be chosen?

Picture this: a playground of ten year old boys and girls standing around, anxiously looking at the dirt and shuffling their feet. One holds a muted red kick ball. The team captains are choosing sides for the big game. You hold your breathe, close your eyes tight and secretly cross your fingers behind your back.

"Please pick me, please pick me, Oh God please just let them pick me", you mutter a secret silent prayer.

I'm glad Jesus always chooses me to be on His team.

I know He wants to pick you too. (Oh and guess what, we win!)

Ephesians 1: 11-14

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Build UP: Confidence

Philippians 1:6
...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

One of the many issues that the Lord hammers me on is my self-reliance. It's not really my fault. After all, God gave me these gifts! How can I help the fact that I draw a significant level of confidence from them?

All kidding aside, God gave us every one of our gifts. And its the Giver of the gifts that we should look to for our confidence, not the gifts themselves.

God started a "work" in each of us. The cool message in this passage is that God will see us and that work through to the end. God is perfectly worthy of our confidence.

Be confident in the Lord!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Build UP: Wrecking Ball

James 3:8-10 man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

I see it in the eyes of my daughter. Even though I only wanted to correct, I see in her defeated expression that I did it again! I crushed her. My words were meant to guide and teach, but when I'm not careful those good intentions amount to nothing but hurts and wounds.

I've seen the other possibility, too! On occasion I'll compliment a dance move, a new drawing, or a particularly creative outfit and the results are awesome! She gets a puffed up, proud, and confident.

We have the same power to inflict pain or build up adults, too! We can be a big old wrecking ball to everyone we meet. Or, we can be the person that encourages and strengthens those around us.

Speak building words!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Guest Builder: Rachel Smith - Attitude

The speed limit on the highway between our small town and the next major town is 65. It’s the law to go 65, however, most people go 70 to 75. I do it too.  I justify this in all kinds of ways.

“It’s only 5 miles over the speed limit. They expect you to go at least 5 miles over”

“If I don’t go 70, I could actually get hit for going too slow”

There are all kinds of justifications for my breaking this law. In fact, most of us think of the speed limit as more of a guideline. The bottom line is if the law says 65 and you go even one mile over that, you break the law.

However, we all realize there is nothing magical about the number 65 in keeping us safe. Safety is the intent of this law.  You can’t change an attitude with a law. You change attitudes by affecting people’s lives. Case in point, if you have ever lost a loved one in a collision due to excessive speeds, you are more likely to drive the speed limit.

God knew we would not be able to adhere to the law, that our stubborn attitudes would not change just because we were given the “do’s and don’ts.” Our attitudes are changed, when our lives are changed and we understand the intent of the law makers’ commands. When someone we know and love dies because we broke the law, then our attitudes change.

Philippians 2: 5-8

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:   Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Build Up: Praise

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Thank you for your prayers as I traveled to Manchester, Iowa.  What a weekend!  The leaders of the United Methodist church there invested over 10 hours seeking the Lord for His direction for their church.  The Holy Spirit moved in a mighty way and revealed a compelling vision for the future of their ministry.

My role in the retreat was to guide the group through a process of discernment. We prayed, sang, studied scripture, and worked in small focus groups.  In the end the group gave a huge ovation and many compliments for my work.

This is the kind of work the Lord has me doing.  My purpose for sharing this is found in today's scripture: "let your light shine before men".  Typically when we share such things it is for our benefit.  My motivation here is to give God the glory.  Every scrap of "my good deeds" came from the Lord.  I could have accomplished nothing without His guidance and wisdom.

I'd be very curious to know how God has accomplished good deeds through you.  Please leave a comment on this post, or send me an email, that describes how you let your light shine.  I'll post them so we can all praise our Father in heaven.

Praise God!