Nov 28, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: Comparison is the thief of joy

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4

It can be dangerous to put up a single verse, I always worry that I am taking things out of context, but this one struck me. It left me asking, “What am I toiling for? What drives the achievements in my life? Is it envy?” 

I don’t want my work to be meaningless. I believe God has a bigger plan than that. The verse and these questions reminded me of a phrase that my wife shared with me:  

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” 

I believe that the Holy Spirit within a person could shift our focus. We could leave this spirit of comparison and envy. If we obeyed the greatest commandment, to love God first, His love in us would overflow to others.  

What drives you, comparison and envy, or the love of Christ?
What are you toiling for?
Is comparison stealing your joy?

The Challenge: Instead of comparing on a temporal level, take a step today to compete in sharing the love of Christ. Instead of holding your neighbors as the standard, let’s put Christ where he belongs and strive to honor him.

Nov 13, 2012

Wednesday in the Word - The Circle of Obedience and Healing a Nation

Leviticus 26 -

Reward for Obedience

26 “‘Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God.
2 “‘Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord.

3 “‘If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, 4 I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. 5 Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.

6 “‘I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove wild beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. 7 You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. 8 Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.

9 “‘I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. 10 You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. 11 I will put my dwelling place[a] among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.

Punishment for Disobedience

14 “‘But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, 15 and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. 17 I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.

18 “‘If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. 19 I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. 20 Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit.

21 “‘If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. 22 I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted.

23 “‘If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, 24 I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over. 25 And I will bring the sword on you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands. 26 When I cut off your supply of bread, ten women will be able to bake your bread in one oven, and they will dole out the bread by weight. You will eat, but you will not be satisfied.

27 “‘If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, 28 then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. 29 You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. 30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies[b] on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you. 31 I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. 32 I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. 33 I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. 34 Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35 All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.

36 “‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them. 37 They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies. 38 You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you. 39 Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.

40 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. 45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’”

46 These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the Lord established at Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses.
Leviticus 26 (New International Version)

That is some powerful language! I love the words that we read about regarding God’s blessing:

Rain in its season… good crops… eat all you want… live in safety… I will grant peace in your land… your enemies will fall… I will look on you with favor… I’ll make you fruitful… I will dwell among you…

The negative words are a bit more depressing.
I listened to a sermon by John MacArthur this weekend and he painted a great picture regarding obedience. Imagine a circle drawn on the ground. It is a rather large circle and it represents the O in the word Obedience. In order to be in the circle we must be near to God, understand His will and His Word and we have to obey his commands. Inside the circle of obedience God desires to bless us and lavish on us all of the things in the first part of this passage. God pours living water and healthy rain inside of the circle to supply for our needs.

If we are not close to him and we do not obey His Word and honor His will, we are outside of the circle of obedience. This is the land of disobedience. Here, the bad stuff from the latter part of the chapter is more inclined to happen, perhaps as a punishment, but more likely as consequences of bad choices.  

I loved this image by John MacArthur. It left me wondering…

Does our nation stand inside or outside of the circle of obedience?

Did this only apply to Israel or would God bless our nation for obedience or curse it for the lack there of?

Do I stand inside the circle of obedience?

What could happen if I were to move into a place of complete obedience to God?

If I were to do this along side of others in my community, could we begin to get right with God?
Would He heal our nation? 

Nov 8, 2012

Guest Post - Compassion International & Miracles All Around

The following is a guest post from a friend I met through a Journey of Generosity event. I wanted to invite you to read along as she shares a story of generosity in El Salvador. You can read more about the life changing work of Compassion International here.

El Salvador Team: Miracles All Around

Posted by Heidi Baker on October 9, 2012 by

“Dios le bendiga, hermana" (God bless you, sister). I’ve heard that many times since arriving in El Salvador to work alongside our Compassion brothers and sisters. And the thing is – they mean it, and in a way many of us have not experienced before.

The past 24 hours have been filled with rich fellowship with our Salvadoran hosts, and by many recounting of the miracles God has worked in their lives. We listened as a pastor remembered how a gang tried to poison him when he couldn’t pay the bribe they demanded, how he pursued the gang leader to invite him to church and how he wept when the gang leader was shot in the head just two blocks from his church reportedly on his way to take the pastor up on his offer.

We’ve been awestruck as people have told us about times they have fasted and prayed for God’s provision of food when there was nothing to eat, for healing when they were sick and there were no other options, and for changed hearts just when all hope was gone. And God provided miraculously for them.

My first reaction was simply to acknowledge that God is working more miracles among the poor in the Majority World than He is in my neighborhood. And that might be true. But I’ve also been convicted that it is just as possible that the people we’ve been spending time with simply have the spiritual eyes to see and the faith to believe the miraculous works that God is doing all around them. They consistently talk about the Lord being all they need, and really in many cases they have nothing else.

This reality was cemented on a visit to the home of a Compassion-sponsored child. Veronica joined the Compassion project 3 months ago, about the same time her father was put in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Her mother, Marlena, has high blood pressure, but still works as a vendor selling candy on the public buses. On a good day she earns $3 profit which pays for the children’s daycare, some food for them and a little extra to drop off at the jail for her husband, and maybe enough spare change to pay for some electricity to light the one bulb in their home.

At the end of our visit we asked if we could pray with her and asked for her prayer requests. She did not ask for a house that was not damaged by the earthquake, or a roof that does not leak, or a neighborhood without gangs. Instead, she thanked God for the miraculous blessing of her children, and simply that He is the Lord of her life and the one thing she can count on each morning when she wakes. The only thing she asked of Him was to keep her alive long enough to raise her children and that He would protect them.

We gave Veronica a coloring book as we were leaving. Marlena took it, hugged it to her chest, and with tears rolling down her face said, “I thank God that my daughter now has something I never had – her very own book to keep as her own.”

The Miracles of God – children to love and care for, health to live another day to praise Him, a book….

I’m thinking now about the miracles happening all around me and asking the Lord to give me the spiritual eyes to see them. What miracles are happening all around you?

Heidi Baker for the team
It doesn't take much to make a life changing difference for children around the world. Check out the great work that Compassion International is doing and get involved.

TED Video: Want to be happier? Stay in the moment. - Sounds like age old wisdom.

I really enjoyed this TED video by Matt Killingsworth. He suggests that if we want to be happier, we should stay in the moment. Matt shares his studies, using modern mobile technology, and the interesting results he found.

I am totally guilty of not living in the moment, even as I type this I am stressing just a little bit about upcoming travels and the busyness of my day. I thought it was beautiful that the results echoed this age old wisdom:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6: 25-34

Matt shared the graph to the left. When we let our mind wander, we are less happy. When we stay in the present (like Jesus commands) we are more happy.

Today I will try to live in the moment. Instead of letting my mind wander. Instead of worrying about what I will eat or drink or wear, I will try to live in the moment. Instead of passing folks on the street that God loves, to accomplish some lousy task, I will try to love Him and love others. I will try to seek first His Kingdom.

What distracts you from living in the moment and focusing on His Kingdom and His righteousness?

Is there a step you could take to cut out these mind-wandering distractions?

Who can you engage with today instead of passing them by?  

What matters most now and for eternity?
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