Monday, January 22, 2007

Feedback from Chip Ingram...

I've been listening to a lot of archived broadcasts from "Living on the Edge" online lately, & today I was listening to a message: "Trusting God when He doesn't make sense", & Chip Ingram said something that meant a lot to me... Just like Lazarus had to die so Jesus could raise him from the dead, I had to die to my own agenda before Jesus could be the "resurrection" for my life. When I accepted Jesus as my Savior as a little boy, I died to my sin nature because Christ died in my place & was my resurrection for a new life. I still sin as a Christian & have to confess my sin & ask forgiveness (1 John 1:9)-- the sin nature is still there-- but I am no longer controlled by that sin nature. If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, that's what the history of what happened with Lazarus (see John 11) means for you-- that you need to believe & accept that Jesus died in your place for your sin; & in accepting this you have died with Christ & are dead to sin; & as the "Resurrection & the Life", Christ will be a new life for you.
I have been a Christian for over 20 years, but I have realized that there is another application for me now. I am a person who likes to make plans & see them happen, & I had an agenda in mind that I was going into vocational ministry someday. I always felt like I was open to whatever God had for me to do, but I have since realized that I wasn't really as open as I thought I was or needed to be. After settling in Columbus, I always would say that Angie & I were in a period of "transition", & that we were open to whatever God had for us for now; but someday we were going to an unreached place to serve in a church plant. That's all well & good, but it could well be that's not what God wants us to do. I had to die to my own agenda & accept wherever God places us-- & now it looks like God is making things happen. God has a plan for me, & I just have to let my own plans die & wait & see what He will do!
In posting my thoughts on a blog, I hope that people will read this & God will use it to help others to grow; but even if nobody reads it, it's still helpful to me, because writing & sharing is how I think & learn (that's why my posts are so long!)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Smallville "Justice"

Getting out of my comfort zone

I just thought of something else related to a previous blog I wrote. I've heard so many Christian speakers talk about how important it is for us to "get out of our comfort zones". Even though I can't think of any specific passages of Scripture that say that off the top of my head, I do believe it's a biblical principle. The trouble is, whenever this topic is brought up, the context is generally how attached somebody is to their own hometown, job, school, friends, etc.; and how going on a missions trip or something like that would make a big difference in their lives. This is so true for many people, and while it's true that the missions trips I've gone on have changed my life in many ways, I couldn't really identify with being out of my "comfort zone". The truth is, people have different comfort zones that they have to deal with. My wife, for example, has always had a hard time with change; but I have a harder time with things staying the same.
The first time I really felt like I was out of my comfort zone was when I moved to a suburb, got an office job, & started living a "normal" life. Siberia wasn't nearly as much of a change as this-- and the bigger change was my attitude: I had to learn to be okay with not being in the "ministry". I had to learn that my attitude about life & my relationships with others are more important to God than what I "do".
The "ministry" is my comfort zone. God can't use you until He has broken you, because He wants you to understand that nothing good comes from you; so He has you do things that you can't do yourself so you know it had to be Him. I'll try to say it another way: I can preach and go around the world and serve in camps, etc. all by myself, but I can't bear any fruit on my own-- that is only from God! Also, personally I have a hard time seeing my current job as being a benefit to mankind, but I had to learn that having a job to support my wife & future family and to have a nice home so we can show hospitality to others is important enough! God wants me to learn more about the average person's life so He can use me to serve others; & maybe He'll put my wife & me in vocational ministry someday, or maybe He won't. I'm still learning and growing, but I see progress, because I had to learn that "ministry" is my comfort zone, and once I knew that I had to be okay with being out of that comfort zone. I know this makes me different from the majority of the people I've met, but maybe someone who reads this can identify.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Purpose of Prayer

I've always known that it's important to pray, & to pray according to God's will--& I have always prayed out of obedience. I have to admit, though, that I didn't quite understand why God commanded us to pray, knowing that He knows what we need better than we do, & also that He will do His will whether we ask Him or not. God is eternal & in control, & He has known exactly what He's going to do in every situation from way before we prayed for it. (I know that it's more complicated than that, because the Old Testament does talk about God changing His mind sometimes, but that's not the point...) I had thought that God wants us to ask Him to meet our needs even though He already knows them because He wants us to acknowledge our dependence on Him, & I think that's part of it. But I heard something John MacArthur said that I hadn't thought of from this perspective before: We pray because that makes us a part of what God does, & when we see an answered prayer we glorify God! I don't think we have the power to change God's mind or move Him to do something He wasn't going to do already-- He doesn't need us to ask Him before He can do what needs to be done-- but He commanded us to pray so that we can recognize that when our needs are met it's from Him, & so we will glorfy Him; that's what He created us for!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I think I'm backwards!

I've been thinking lately about how the Lord has been working in my life, what He's been teaching me, & what I've been learning-- how things have changed. You know, as a Christian, one of the most important things you need to do is say to God, "Do whatever You need to do to teach me what you want me to learn; to get me doing what you want me to do." If Jesus is your Savior, you need to acknowledge Him as your Lord & live your life His way. "Salvation" & "Lordship" are not the same thing, & they don't happen at the same time, but a godly life is the result of being indwelt by the Spirit, which starts the moment you accept Jesus as your Savior.
I digress (but it's an important digression-- read through the book of Romans & think deeply about it to better understand where I'm coming from). When you ask God to do this, you don't know what He's actually going to do. God's plan is often different from what we expect.
I hear so many testimonies from people who were set in good jobs; & it was a big deal for them to drop them & go into the ministry-- & praise the Lord that He works that way in them! For me, however, it was the opposite. I remember when I first told the Lord that I was willing to do whatever He wanted me to do with my life-- I was 15, & a trainee at Summer Missionary Training School with Child Evangelism Fellowship. The Lord gave me so many opportunities to serve over the years, & He used me & I grew in Him; but I may have also gotten a wrong message because of my own pride & a narrow mind. I was so set on going into vocational ministry, that establishing a career never was on my mind. It wasn't until after I got married that I realized that life is expensive! I was always fine with other people working to make money & being the ones who support missionaries, but I was sure that Angie & I were supposed to be the missionaries whom the "business people" support. I would always tell people, "We're in transition, & we don't know what the Lord wants us to do yet"; but what I was really thinking was, "Our life hasn't started & we aren't doing anything valuable until we are on the mission field." I would tell other people, "Where you work is a mission field, & church plants need lay people to serve there"; but I never thought I was supposed to be one of the "lay people". But now I'm starting to understand that my family comes first over "ministry" (& that "ministry" is not always equivalent to an obedient relationship with God, which comes first over family), & that having a job for the purpose of supporting my family, along with showing hospitality to others, is valuable. This has given me peace that for now I am working for the state of Ohio in a Legal Office, & my first priority is to provide for & develop my family; & God can use me here in my local church for as long as He wants me here. I know a lot about what the Bible says & what the principles mean, but I need to learn about real life to know how the Bible teaching can be applied. My pastor called this process "seasoning", & that's what I need to be more effective wherever God places me.