Biggest Problem

So often the biggest problem with me is me.

Just me.

I am my own biggest problem.

Not the circumstance I find myself in. Not the choices of others.

But the stuff within me. That seeks to control me.

Fear that stymies courage.

Pain that hinders growth.

Pride that conquers all.

I've seen the enemy. And he is me.

My own evil desires. My sin nature within me. My compulsions toward control, posture, pleasure, image, recognition, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, laziness. These and so many more lurk within. And they lurch for control.

And, bless my heart, I'm stuck with me. You think you've gotta it bad putting up with me sometimes? Well, you don't have to live inside this head. I gotta put up with myself all the time.

Or do I?

Can I somehow replace all that desires evil and ill with something that is better than I can imagine or achieve on my own?

Can I surrender self?

Can I hand-off my biggest problem?

Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored. Romans 8:5-8 MSG

Having made that life changing handoff, let me resist wresting control back again. Or again. Or again and again.

What's your biggest problem?

How do you handle it?

Please share your comments or this post. And, as always, you are most welcome to subscribe.

Ask to Act

How often do we try too hard?

Seek to do too much our own?

Fall guilty of not fully trusting God with the big stuff?

Control versus surrender.

Fear versus faith.

Expedience versus patience.

Leading versus following.

When the need is bigger than our ability.  Larger than our resources. Grander than our imagination.  Then we must call on God.

If we are disciples, Jesus is our Master.

Our place is to follow.  To rely on him.

Stop trying.  Start praying.

Our job is to ask.  His is to act.

Noel

Don't you just love Christmas carols?  Singing to celebrate our Lord's coming to save us from our sinful selves is such joy!

Let's continue our Christmas Carol lessons with The First Noel.  Noel comes from Latin, through French meaning "birth."  This rich carol tells of a one-of-a-kind, first & all time birth.  The coming of God to earth as a human.  This rich carol can teach us lessons today too.

The first Noel the angel did say, Was to certain poor shepherds
in fields as they lay; In fields where they lay, keeping their sheep, 
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.

You're a shepherd.  A societal outcast.  Cast out because you've got a menial job.  Cast out because you got a smelly job.  Cast out, well because your job keeps you out with the sheep & not in town.  But you are doing your job.  Watching your sheeps & hangin with your peeps when... An angel.  An angel appears & God's glory shines round your shepherd band.  Terrified.  Dumb struck.  Frozen.

"Don't be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." the angel says in Luke 2:10.  I'm not a shepherd, but I have a question: Do I fear God’s power?  Do I fear God's awesome power?  His righteousness & justice?  Or do I fear his mercy & grace?  Which do I deserve more?

For all to see there was a star, Shining in the east, beyond them far,
And to the earth it gave great light, And so it continued both day and night.

You're a smart person.  At the top of the societies pyramid.  At least close.  You've got lots of education & enough means to support yourself in pursuits of the mind.  You & your intelligentsia pals notice a new star. One of you connects that star with a new king.  It's a great star.  It must be a great king.  Let's roadtrip.

"We saw his star in the east & we have come to worship him," says one wise man in Matthew 2:2.  We get pretty busy in our hustle-bustle days.  So I gotta ask, do I see God’s signs?  When God shows up, am I paying attention?  When God lights the answer to my prayer up in neon do I notice?  When He points one of those big arrow signs toward his will for me do I see it?

And by the light of that same star The wise men came from country far;
To seek for a king was their intent, And to follow the star wherever it went.

And when I do see God pointing the way - when I am clear He has a plan for me to follow -  do I obey? Do I follow God’s lead?  Do I get up & get moving?  Do I change direction because God has changed my mind? What am I gonna do about it?

Then let us all with one accord Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made heaven and earth of naught, And with his blood mankind hath bought.

If you were a shepherd outcast outside Bethlehem, then were one of the first to know the great news, of great joy for all people.  "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord," Luke 2:11 tells.  Wow!  Lowly me?  The King.  The Savior.  Came for me?!

How good is that news?  How many people would you be telling?  Facebook status.  Twitter tweets.  Texting homies.  Skypin far off friends.  Emailing your entire address list.  Or just plain talking & telling the news.  It hurts me to think, with how much - or how little - enthusiasm do I share God’s story?  A story of salvation for all people.  It's my news to tell!

Fear God's grace.

See God's signs.

Follow God's lead.

Share God's story.

It's CHRISTmastime.

Rejoice!

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel.

It's Not About Me

You gotta love this picture: The James Family Four jumping for joy.

The grinning Mom is a friend I'd never met.  Beth James is the wife of a college buddy, David.

Beth James is battling cancer.

That word.  The C-word.  Stirs each of us.  Deeply.

Strong images & emotions within.  Fear.  Sickness.  Pain.  Sadness.  Suffering.  Death.  Anger.  Uncertainty. Hope.  Survival.  Faith.  Future.  Eternity.

Beth is in the midst of the battle of her life for her life.  Read about its unreal beginnings written by David here.

And then do not miss reading Beth's amazing perspective just two months into her battle here.

Join me in praying for Beth & her family.

And, as you read their story, be strengthened.  Be encouraged.

No matter your battle.

It's not about you.

God knows.

God loves.

He will carry you through.

Faith & Faithfulness

I am pleased to share a guest post from a wonderful church planter friend, Aaron Loy.  He posted Remembering 30 Days to recount the audacious faith of his new church.  Be inspired as you read, Friends...

 

In ancient times, altars were often constructed by God's people to commemorate what God had done during a particular time. It served as a reminder of who God was and what He had done. It was meant to prompt remembrance and worship. You could say that this blog post is an altar of sorts.

Just over a month ago, twenty or so people sat in a basement in Lincoln, NE. In their hands sat a single piece of paper presenting a radical idea: videos, vision, stories and a website all culminating in $30,000 in 30 days. One could say it was a rather ambitious undertaking for our small, developing community. And you could feel the tension in the room.

Some openly wondered, What if we don't make it? What if the videos don't connect? What if no one visits the website? What if no one cares? What if people don't give? Are you sure this is such a good idea? What would the consequences be of failing so publicly so early in the game? How discouraging would that be to our team? Could we recover the momentum we would inevitably lose? Besides, is it even okay to pray like that? Can we ask God for something so specific? What if He says 'No'? WHAT IF...?! 

Looking back, it was a defining moment for our little band of revolutionaries. We had talked a lot about mission and risk. Now it was time to put our money where our mouth was. We knew we couldn't make this happen. We couldn't make people pay attention or care or give, we could only be faithful with what God had given us. Despite feelings of fear, uncertainty, reservation and doubt, we chose to move forward in faith anyway. We committed to fast together, to band together in prayer for our city and our church, and to invite others to help us do what we believe God has called us to do. 

Just over a month later, here is what we have seen happen:

  • The 30in30 website has had over 12,000 hits from all over the world
  • We have had 3 churches (two of them local) partner with us financially - a huge kingdom win!
  • Our launch team has more than doubled in size (and with some incredible, quality people!)
  • A number of people who are connected to our community who do not know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior are being shaken up and moved by the gospel
  • Buzz about Mosaic Lincoln has spread throughout our city
  • Our associate pastor, Kevin, and his family moved to Lincoln from Pennsylvania with several thousand dollars of support from their church (not included in the thirty day total) to help them relocate and to free them to invest in our city and church
  • We received a gorgeous, $2100 guitar in the mail a few days ago from another ARC couple currently planting a church in MT who told us that God wouldn't let them alone about it and that they wanted to sow into us
  • And, praise God, we had over $30,000 donated in just 30 days! 

During all of this, our only expenses were $50 spent on a Wordpress template for the website and $52 on a kite that wouldn't fly! Not too bad for a group of thirty five people meeting in a basement.

My point is certainly not to toot our own horn as if we deserve credit for this. Quite the opposite. My point is to turn your attention to Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, and his exceeding goodness and faithfulness to provide for our needs and answer our prayers when we ask Him to help us do what He has called us to do. We do not deserve any of this. And in looking at the list above, I hope you will join me in acknowledging that there is no way our little tribe could have pulled this off on our own.

God is good. Christ promised to build His church, and he is doing just that. Here. Now. In our midst. And we are honored, humbled, and deeply grateful to be able to play a small part in it.