Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Compromise

Compromise. Is it ever right to compromise?

Main Entry: 1com·pro·mise
Pronunciation: 'käm-pr&-"mIz
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, mutual promise to abide by an arbiter's decision, from Anglo-French compromisse, from Latin compromissum, from neuter of compromissus, past participle of compromittere to promise mutually, from com- + promittere to promise -- more at PROMISE

1a: settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions 1b : something intermediate between or blending qualities of two
different things
2: a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial

1a happens all the time in marriage. Mutal concession. In my opinion, this is usually a good thing.

What about definition 2a. Is it ever right to compromise like this?

Let me ask you this question first, then we'll look at the Bible story behind it.

Suppose someone comes to you, seeking God. You pray with them and something very powerful happens. They find God. They now know the God that you love so much. As they leave, they make a small request of your approval. They will be humbling themselves before the icon of a false religion in order to show submission to those in authority over them. But in their heart they will only be thinking of their love toward God.

If you give them your approval are you leading them astray? If you don't give them your approval are you placing too much of a weight on someone so young in the faith?

Here's what Elisha did...

2 Kings 5:17 "If you will not," said Naaman, "please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD. 18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this." 19 "Go in peace," Elisha said.
Go in peace? What? If someone asked you for permission to go and bow down to a false god, would you tell them Shalom?

What this says to me is that sometimes things aren't as cut-and-dried as they seem. I believe that Naaman's heart was now given to God. He would not offer and offering to any other God but Jehovah from now on. But out of respect for the king who needed Naaman's strength, he would enter the temple and bow. Naaman asked for permission and Elisha, I believe, Elisha gave it to him.

"Concession to the derogatory" or "mutual concession" - sometimes it's a fine line. With the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as our Guide may we find the discernment to know when to say "Go in Peace" and when to say "You man of God, flee these things".

Wash and be Cleansed

Talk about getting hit right between the eyes. After another enlightening discussion with a good friend, I see in myself desiring to see God move around me. I want to see lives changed and souls crying out their love for Christ in worship, and in obedience.

The problem is this: I think I know how God will do it. Then I don't understand why he doesn't act as I expect. Why doesn't God work my way? So then comes 2 Kings 5. Awesome. Naaman, a great man learns that he can be healed of his leprosy. He is told that the Great God can cleanse him, but he must obey His servant.

Naaman expects that God will allow the prophet to wave his hand over the spots and he will be immediately healed. That's how God works after all. We all know that. But what does the prophet do? He tells Naaman to go take a bath in the Jordan river, of all places. Naaman is irate. Why would He do it this way. I won't stoop that low. Thankfully his servant has some sense. If God told you to do some great thing wouldn't you do it? Surely, is the obvious answer. So if he asks you to wash and be cleansed why not do such a simple act?

Here's the scripture...

2 Kings 5:8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: "Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel." 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed."

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?" So he turned and went off in a rage.

13 Naaman's servants went to him and said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!" 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.


I'm so like Naaman. God, I need your help. I want to change my community. I want to see lives transformed by the power of your gospel. Everybody knows you use (Revival Meetings, Celebrity Speakers, Fancy Outreach Cards, Servant Evangelism Events, Crazy Gimmicks, A slick Children's Ministry, a fabulous Youth Pastor, Evangelistic Drama, a Good Band, a Good Choir, put the latest church growth strategy in here) to change lives and change communities.

So what does God tell me to do - pray the Lord's prayer. Yep. That's right. Our Father, who art in Heaven. Hallowed be THY name. THY kingdom come. THY will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Then he has me read 2 Kings 5. If I told you to do the "great" things wouldn't you do them? So why not spend time in prayer like I ask you. Trust me.

Our Father. Please, help us to trust you. Help us to dip in the muddy Jordan even when we wonder why you would work that way. Let us not desire to succeed. But desire to do your will, O God.

Long Time No Blog

I was afraid this would happen. At least I lasted longer than I thought I would at first. My blogging has slowed down to a crawl.

Whenever I blog from my devotions I remember so much better. But usually it works out just like tonight. I've had another good scripture reading, but it is 11:10. Lately, I've been giving in and just going to bed, but tonight - with the Lord's help - I'm staying up.

So read the next couple of posts with this in mind - my mind is sleepy, but stepping ahead anyways. :)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Leaving for Love

I started devotions in Ruth yesterday. I am amazed at her love for Naomi. After losing her husband, she chooses to return to Naomi's homeland and forsake her own. Her level of compassion is amazing. When she gets to the fields in chapter 2 to glean the grain, Boaz takes special note of her sacrifice...
Ruth 2:11 Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

Ruth leaves her parents and her home to come to a strange place and a new people. Boaz encourages her in her faith by praying for blessings to come to her by the LORD under whose wings she has taken refuge.

Lord, let me be willing to show compassion even when it means leaving the familiar. Let me be reminded that I am always under your wings.

Dear Jesus.

When preparing for the "Teach Us to Pray" series, I was reminded about something I had heard a while back. Is it proper to pray to Jesus? If you'll notice the model prayer, we are instructed to pray to the Father. We pray to the Father in the name of Jesus. Is it improper to pray to Jesus? Well here are some other scriptures that might answer that question...

The Words of Jesus… John 14:13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

The Words of Stephen… Acts 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

The Words of John and the Church… Revelation 22:20He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

So while it is our model to Pray to our Father in Heaven. Praying to Jesus is also biblical.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Local Bar or The Local Church?

The Local Bar or the Local Church?

In which place do people feel more welcomed?
In which place do people think they are less likely to be judged?
In which place are they more likely to find a listening ear?
In which place can they really be themselves?
In which place will they be able to find hope?
In which place will they find more hypocrites?
In which place will they find their needs met?

Just recently we went through a study on the second birth. Regeneration. We were reminded of the words of Jesus, "You MUST be born again." I think this is the difference in the local bar and the local church. The local bar says you can remain in your sins, we'll love you anyways. The local church says, we'll love you by showing you that Christ can lift you out of your sins.

This is such a fine line. We must be accepting of sinners (we are still sinners) and yet we must push away from the sin. How can we foster an environment at our place of worship among our churches that welcomes the sinner, that doesn't judge them, but offers them real hope? How can we create a place where they will find a listening ear and have their needs met? How can we build a place were they can see real people changed by their relationship with Christ?

Our message should say, "Come as you are." But our lives should say "Don't stay in your sins." The heart that has been regenerated has a love for the things of God. This heart begins loving what God loves and hating what He hates. Sometimes I wonder how many "unregenerate" hearts sit in pews week after week.

If all we ever do is allow people to come and feel comfortable wallowing in their sins, then we are no better than the local bar. But if all we ever do is judge and condemn people so they never make it into our lives then we will fail in our mission. Pray that we can find the balance and walk even as our Lord did.

A friend of sinners.

A lover of God.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Creativity and Effectiveness

I recently read something that Rick Warren said at a church growth conference called "Q". You can read it here. (Thanks to Jon Cannon for pointing this out)

Mr. Warren had a quote that has really stuck with me.
"The problem with a lot of churches today is they would rather be creative than effective."

Is this true? I think that often times creativity works WITH effectiveness. This may just be semantics. It really depends on how you define the terms. I have a great appreciation for creativity, and I admire creative people. I also desire to be effective, practical, and solution oriented. I'm not sure there has to be a disconnect between the too.

I can understand that sometimes we may get so wrapped up in making the song beautiful, or the building beautiful, or coming up with the "great" illustration that we can forget to spend time on what works. So what works? What is effective?

My next question is this: Is there any difference regarding this idea by size or philosophy of churches? Are small churches more creative and less effective? Are large churches less creative and more effective? Some would say that small churches are both uncreative and ineffective. Are "emerging" churches - I hate to even use the term because it means so many different things to so many - are they more creative and therefore less effective?

Take a look at this article from Out of Ur and see if it weighs in on this discussion. Let me say up front - I'm thankful for large growing churches - I wish that our local church was growing by leaps and bounds. But I also enjoyed this article because it reminded me that reaching people with gospel isn't easy.

So is it...
Creative = Effective
Creative OR Effective
Creative AND Effective

What do you think?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Intentional.

Intentional. That's one powerful word. Intentional foul. That's two shots and they get the ball back, Baby! It may be the difference between murder and manslaughter. Intent. What the Lord has been reminding me lately is that we should live all of our lives with intent. We should be living on purpose.

It seems like whenever I hear missionaries speak these days they are talking about how they are trying to reach their culture. For the most part they aren't just putting up a sign outside a building and saying come and see what we're about. They are picking places, and people who they think may need the love of Christ. They go to these places with the intent of making a difference in that space.

I'm hoping that I can do the same. This summer I'm going to be working especially hard at living intentionally as it comes to the places where my kids will be playing sports. Pray that I will be able to truly show the love of Christ to the people that I will be meeting.