Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Courage, by Lon Alderman

Philippians 1:20
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Paul understood his purpose in life, and that purpose was to "exalt" Jesus. No matter whether Paul lived or died, his role was to point people to Christ. If you knew Paul, then you knew his Jesus.

I don't know about where you live, but around here there is a great deal of fear. It seems that "everyone" is afraid about the current "financial crisis" in this country. Church people don't seem to be exempt from this fear!

What church people don't understand is that we are always pointing people to Jesus. Whether we behave well or behave badly we reflect on our Lord. This current "crisis" gives us an extraordinary stage upon which to tell people about our Jesus.

What will our message of Jesus sound like?

Take courage!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Character, by Rachel Smith

Romans 5:3-5 (New International Version)
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

I am not defined by the situations I am given, but how I react to the situations I am given. This reaction shows my character. Reacting consistently in line with God's will shows perseverance. I have been given some pretty character building situations and must admit I do not always react in a way pleasing to God. But the last line of this verse caught my attention today.

God has poured out His love into our hearts. It is His love that gives us hope. That hope is our salvation. And for that I can rejoice in sufferings.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jarvis responds to: Where is your faith?, by Lon Alderman

I hope you enjoy Jarvis' response to: Where is your faith?, by Lon Alderman

I have found that many people's faith is in direct proportion to the intensity of the storms they have previously weathered. This may not sound like faith at all, but a sailor’s experiential confidence based upon what he now feels he can withstand. Or is it?

If we consider faith being "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" from Hebrews 11:1, my assurance and convictions will fall or stand on one of two premises. Either in the integrity of the One I have trusted my life to, or in my perceived ability (or others) to rescue me. At the heart of faith truly is an expectancy of something or someone to deliver.

There's a revised version of Luke 8 in my head where Jesus says instead of "Where's you faith?", but rather "In whom or what do you place your confidence?" I know it's semantics, but for me that more clearly articulates the core of the issue. Something over the years that has helped me to truly determine where my faith or confidence lies is in my reactions. The disciple's reaction to the storm was very telling. My reactions to life's storms have also been telling. I am endeavoring to purposefully change those responses. I do not steal or lie because I know it would break my Father's heart. But what about fear? Jesus also commanded us not to fear, but how remorseful (and repentant) have I been about that?

My daughter has often had more faith in me as a father, than I have in my Father. If her routine response to the storms over the last 17 years had been fear for lack of belief that I would take care of her, I would have been broken hearted, I can tell you that, knowing how much I love her. What motivates the children of the Living-Loving God to make the irrational decision to fear? My only conclusion is that what we really fear, for the believer and non-believer alike, is loss, and the pain it will cause either us, and/or someone we love. Loss or the possibility of loss can obviously be very difficult. What has proved to be more difficult for me is to remember is that what is truly of eternal value I shall never lose...

So who commands your winds and waves today? And what will be your response?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where is your faith?, by Lon Alderman

Luke 8:23-25
As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!"

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."

I don't know about where you live, but people around here are starting to get a little skittish. Fear about the economy, jobs, retirement, and the general affordability of life has gripped this portion of the world. People look forward and only see trouble!

The disciples must have felt the same way. Looking around them they saw only bad news! They thought, "Surely this is the end!"

Jesus asks a simple, but profound question, "Where is your faith?"

Is our faith in our portfolio? Is our faith in our job? Is our faith in our government? If so, then our faith is set upon things of this world. Nothing of this world will last. It will all fail in the end. However, Jesus, who controls the wind and waters, is the same for eternity. Jesus will never fail!

Where is your faith?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Plans and Steps, by Lon Alderman

Proverbs 16:9
In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps.

Plan, yes, but be prepared to take the steps that God determines. The problem arises when we get so caught up in our plan that we forget to consult with the very God that we're trying to serve. Our plan, conceived with God in mind and for His glory, can in this way become a god.

One of the not so shiny examples of this happens in our churches. We seek God and plan and carry out a very cool ministry and God is glorified, but then something happens. It was such a great success that we decide to do it again, and off we run. Years down the road this ministry that started so purely turns out to be a tradition that no longer gives God glory. We undertake these programs because we've always done it, not because of the benefit that it provides God.

Yes, make plans, but be willing to follow God's leading even if that means abandoning a program that, once upon a time, was a great success. The practical test to apply is to determine the eternal purpose found in every ministry in which we're involved. If a ministry no longer serves to glorify God, then it may be time to abandon, or redirect, it.

Plan and seek God for the placement of your steps.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Response to "Intentionality", by Jarvis

Jarvis posted this great comment in response to yesterday's post (Intentionality). I hope you are encouraged by his thoughts. - Lon

We are told the Holy Spirit is our Counselor. What need is there for a counselor, if we have nothing to consider, nothing to plan, if we don't need wisdom for direction.

The first chapters of Genesis make the act of creation sound like the beginning of God's activity. However, He would have had eternity to plan every detail about our lives, the layout of the earth, what animals to create, etc., and how all of these details would co-exist, within man's free-will, and even once sin has entered the world. I believe if you look around you will realize there must have been some extensive planning involved. The bible also tells us that during all of this, Wisdom was there.

Having said all of that I know how you feel, Lon. Honestly at times I have thought, "What's the point? He's going to have His way anyway, right?" Yes, but, I believe the creation story also teaches us something else here. God wants us to [participate] in not just the process, but the experience. Too many people are just going through the process; that sounds so cold, and lifeless. "Life," someone said, "is not a problem to be figured out, but an experience to be lived" (loosely translated). Are there things to be figured out? Absolutely! But, that's not the point. You don't get a prize for figuring it all out. I don't have to be MacGuyver and rescue myself from this life with a piece of duct tape, some chewing gum, a ball point pen, and my Swiss Army knife.

I believe the opportunity (I didn't say 'task') we have been given to plan is part of this life experience God wants to share with us, and be a part of, because it is also something He Himself does and wants to share that wonder, that creativity, and joy in creating something. The next time you have to plan something out, remember that is an opportunity and ability given to you by God, for your enjoyment. I think we fail to understand all of the experiences available to us when we sit back and don't exercise our ability to plan and create. God certainly would like to be a part of this experience with you, but I fail to see in scripture where He has declared our plans to be a joke, or not worth conceiving. At least that's not the Father I have come know. My experience has been and still is of a father who loves to be with and encourage his children when they play on the floor with their building blocks. As a natural father I derived so much joy doing that with my daughter. In some small way that helps me understand how mu joy God takes in doing the same with us throughout my life.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Intentionality, by Lon Alderman

Luke 9:51
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

Jesus had only recently come down from the mountain upon which He was "transfigured". There Jesus spoke with Elijah and Moses about His "departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:31). It appears to me that Jesus knew what would happen to Him when He went to Jerusalem, and Jesus went anyway.

I've been struggling lately with the appropriateness of planning, particularly making plans in ministry. I've asked, "Isn't it arrogant to make plans when God is sovereign?" You know the old joke: "If you want to make God laugh, then tell Him your plans!"

Then I reread this passage. I'm struck by the intentionality with which Jesus approached Jerusalem. It seems clear that Jesus had a plan (to enter Jerusalem at which time He would be lifted up). And, that Jesus carried out that plan "resolutely"!

This puts planning in a new and positive light for me. I hope it encourages you to seek God and make good plans. And, to carry them out resolutely.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Eight Percent, by Lon Alderman

Matthew 19:23-24
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

This will come across as a strange encouragement, but please see it through to the end. This thought was inspired during a conversation with my friend Jason Woolever. Actually, Jason, thanks for messing up my week!

I've always dismissed this passage, because I didn't think it pertained to me. After all, I'm not rich! Then Jason shared this statistic with me: "only 8% of the world owns cars". Even if that statistic is off, I mean WAY off, like 50% off, then only 16% of the world owns cars! By my math, that makes me, who owns two cars, in a word; RICH! Just because I don't measure up to the Jones family (nothing personal, Dale!) doesn't mean that I'm poor.

I've spent the last five days recognizing the amazing blessings that God has provided for me! I praise God for clean water, a safe neighborhood, schools for my children, a home to live in, safe food to eat, electricity, indoor plumbing, etc., etc., etc.

Friends, if we can access the internet and read this blog, then we are rich. Let's recognize our prosperity and the challenge that comes with riches. Let us sing God's praises for the wealth He has lovingly given us. Let's take our minds off of what we don't have and focus on what we already possess.

The result will be encouraging!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Living in the Clouds, by Rachel Smith

Some days I feel like a cloud has settled over me. Actually, in hindsight, some YEARS I feel like I was living in a cloud. Just kinda going through the motions of life and doing life but not actually living life. In tragedy or great stress our bodies begin to shut down as a coping mechanism. We often go through the routine of life without much thought or feeling as to why.

I spent most of last year in this cloud due to so many losses and tragedies in our family. It's only now that the clouds have cleared out of my head and I feel normal that I realize what a dazed state I was in. It sounds sad, I'm sure, to think I was in such a haze for so long

But I rejoice because I know this cloud was God's protection around me. He kept me safely close to home to give me time to heal and now that the cloud has lifted, it's time for me to obey and pick up my tent and follow. Perhaps you too are in God's protective cloud.

Take comfort in your rest, but be watchful for when He tells you to set out. Obedience is our expression of love to God. Obedience is a way to thank God for His protection and guidance.

Numbers 9:17-23 (New International Version)
Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the LORD's command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the LORD's order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the LORD's command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the LORD's command they encamped, and at the LORD's command they set out. They obeyed the LORD's order, in accordance with his command through Moses.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Numbers, by Rachel Smith

Have you ever seen that tv show? Basically all these mysteries can be solved by following some numeric pattern or equation. Well, I have been a little stuck in Numbers myself. Not mathematics, but the book of Numbers.

Admittedly, I tend to skim this book rather than read it word for word. But lately I find it fascinating. There is so much detail and care given by God to the people of Israel about how to organize the work of the people! God truly cares what everyone's job is. He sets apart specific families for specific tasks and determines exactly where they are to live.

He does this with you and me as well. You are placed exactly where you are for a purpose! Try to find out why- maybe look in Numbers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Story Telling, by Lon Alderman

Matthew 11:1-3
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables...

I have two ways of telling my story about life as a missionary. One way is full of self-pity. This telling involves the specters of future financial obligations and our inadequacy (translated "fear") to meet those demands. It includes hand wringing and a droopy countenance.

The other telling is full of God's glory. In this story I focus on God's amazing provision today and the sufficiency of His grace (2Corinthians 12:9) for today. It includes uplifted hands and a joyful countenance.

How are you telling your story?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

House on the Rock, by Lon Alderman

Matthew 7:24-25
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

We are emerging from yet another storm! This one was a whopper! The wind howled and the rain battered!
The storm grew from our anxiety about future things. Stuff that hasn't gotten here, yet! Oh, but what a storm we brewed up!

We, my wife and I, headed for the basement.
We finally found real shelter by returning our trust to God. As soon as we changed our focus to trusting God today, then the storm subsided. Even more, the blessings started flowing!

Where's your foundation?

Matthew 7:26-27
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

In the Dark, by Lon Alderman

Matthew 10:27
Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.

"Don't keep me in the dark!" That's a plea to be included; kept in the loop. Sometimes in our relationship with Jesus it feels like He's keeping us in the dark. During these times our attempts to communicate with God seem fruitless.

I find Oswald Chamber's ideas regarding this passage very interesting:

"Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and God puts us into "the shadow of His hand" until we learn to hear Him (Isaiah 49:2)...darkness is the time to listen. Don’t talk to other people about it; don’t read books to find out the reason for the darkness; just listen and obey. If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying. When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else once you are back in the light." [View the entire article: Chambers]

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Habit Forming, by Lon Alderman

Psalm 85:7-9

Show us your unfailing love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.

I will listen to what God the LORD will say;
he promises peace to his people, his saints—
but let them not return to folly.

Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

I'm currently taking a 40-Day virtual journey with 9 other men from around the country. We are investing time, energy, and prayer (for 40 days) in the development of healthy habits in the area of our spiritual and physical life. A theme is emerging related to our efforts to hear God speak.

One of the men presented the following passage. I am taking the liberty of passing it on as today's Build UP. This comes from a book entitled, "The Practice of the Presence of God"


Brother Lawrence insisted that, to be constantly aware of God’s presence, it is necessary to form the habit of continually talking with Him throughout each day. To think that we must abandon conversation with Him in order to deal with the world is erroneous. Instead, as we nourish our souls by seeing God in His exaltation, we will derive a great joy at being His.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Details, by Rachel Smith

Are you a crisis prayer-er? You know when things are going bad we throw a prayer up for some help. I did this for many years. Part of it was because I felt God was really too busy to hear about every little detail of every persons life and I know I was too busy when things were going good to stop and chat with God.

Then I reread Exodus. There are all these very detailed directions on how to do things. God is most certainly concerned with the details of our lives. He cares so much about how we do every little thing.

My prayers have turned more into daily worship. Praise to God.

Exodus 25:10-16
“And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around. You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side. And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Listen, by Lon Alderman

1Kings 19:12-13 (NKJV)
and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Have you ever watched children when one child doesn't want to hear what another child is saying. The non-listener sticks his fingers in his ears and shouts, "I can't hear you!"

Take away the sing-song chorus and the fingers in the ears and you'll be left with a very common adult phenomenon. Us grown up adults spend a great deal of our lives pretending not to be able to hear God. We spend too much time talking and plugging our ears. Then, we wonder why we haven't heard from Jesus lately.

God is always with us! If we're not hearing Him, it may be because we've got our fingers in our ears and we're talking too much!

Listen for "the still small voice".