Archive for: September, 2013

People, People, People

Sep 30 2013 Published by under Church, Family, Life, Ministry

By Rev. Rodney Burton

RodneyRecently, I have been thinking about this strange verse found in the book of Proverbs:

Where no oxen are, the manger is clean.  Proverb 14:4

This statement causes me to realize and remember something very important.  Where animals are gathered, there will be messes to clean up.  Fair enough?

It also causes me to realize that as a pastor, when you deal with people you will also have messes.  The reality is that relationships with people can be the most difficult thing in the world through which to navigate.

There are two very important promises I have tried to make to myself regarding my interactions with people:

1. I will do my best to live at peace with all men by speaking the truth in love, by giving and receiving correction and instruction, by working through messes in a timely fashion, and by striving to hold short accounts in difficult situations.

2. I will blow it trying to fulfill promise #1.

I would love to say that I have mastered the art of interpersonal relationships and the dynamics of being a pastor, friend, family member, etc., but that is simply not true.  Very few things in life cause struggle quite like interpersonal relationships.  Some things are inevitable.

— Feelings will get hurt.  I have been on both sides of that.
— Misunderstandings will happen.  There are too many to recount here in this blog.
— Apologies only go as far as actions support.

Day in and day out dealings with people can turn hair gray or, like mine, make it fall out.

From a natural standpoint we are bent toward being people pleasers.  From a spiritual standpoint we are created in the image of God who fully embodies love.  Therefore, most of our relational lives are built between these two tensions.  We want to please people while loving them as God does.  I find more and more that this requires full reliance on God’s Spirit.

So, I have summarized below a few points that I God has been speaking strongly to me regarding relationships.

1. I will grow in loving myself so that I can fulfill God’s call to love my neighbor as myself.  My issues with and toward others stem from issues within myself.

2. I will work to always speak the truth in love.  When the pendulum swings too far either direction, it is not beneficial to anyone.

3. I will not assume anything or tie anyone to their past.  When you assume the worst about someone you will never bring out the best in them.

4. I will hold short accounts.  There is no reason for me to continually revisit things I say are over.  If I revisit these things, I have neither truly repented nor forgiven.

5. I will see the potential in everyone.  Several people saw potential in me and therefore everyone deserves to have someone believe in them.

6. I will not base my opinion about someone on what others say to me about them, but will take the time to get to personally get to know them.

7. I will be willing to invest into the lives of anyone who will allow me that privilege, never taking for granted how precious that opportunity is, and never taking that person for granted.

8. I will celebrate victories with people and never become jealous or upset when those I have invested in surpass me in recognition, position, honor, etc.

9. I will allow others to correct me, hold me accountable, and tell me “NO.”  I do not need “YES” men surrounding me.  I will welcome confrontation when I need it.

10. I will guard my tongue and watch my cutting sarcasm, knowing that there are passive aggressive tendencies in my life and at times behind my words.

None of these will be easy.  Yet, all of them are absolutely necessary.  I love people.  I love relationships.  And I value them enough to do my part to make them the best they can be.

Rodney Burton serves as senior pastor of Calvary Church in Carthage, Illinois. Rodney is also a published author.  To find out more you may visit www.calvarychurchag.com or www.rodneyburton.net

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Comfort is Caustic

Sep 23 2013 Published by under Family, Leadership, Life, Ministry

By Pastor Aaron Cole

PastorAaronFullHeadShot_C“Break up your fallow ground!” Ring the words of God through the prophet Hosea. Two hundred years later the voice of Jeremiah cries out with uniform urgency, “Break up your fallow ground!”. As you can imagine, this was a striking illustration for a nation so intimately familiar with the infinitesimal details associated with agronomics. The people of the Northern and Southern kingdoms must have understood this warning in its fullness; after all, this is language they can understand. They knew that neglected plots of land yield only thistles and thorns. They knew that hard packed ground did not plow itself; that the birds of the air would devour any seed that may by chance fall before it could take root. These farmers understood the analogy all too well. This was their livelihood. The people of Israel and Judah understood what was being demanded of them.

As followers of Jesus Christ we too adhere to the same command. We must harrow the ground of our hearts. Remove the rocks and debris. We are asked to clear the brush, pull the weeds and prepare the soil for the planting of the Word. As we allow God to water the seed that has been planted in our hearts, it is our duty to be vigilant against the worries of life, deceitfulness of wealth, and the desire for other things that can choke the Word and result in unfruitfulness. It is paramount that we cultivate good soil so that we can reap the harvest. This transformation is often dramatic in the life of a newly devoted follower of Jesus, and then once first fruits have bore, the workman becomes complacent. Success has been achieved and a harvest has been brought forth.

The foolish rest and trust in their achievements, quietly deceived by the illusion of righteousness in their own lives. I understand it; I’ve been there. We have all been there. Then, in the blink of an eye, the tempest roars and we brace ourselves against the memory of our past success, only to discover after the tumult has ceased the devastation bestowed upon our once beautiful estate. What was once a perfectly manicured parcel has become overgrown and neglected. The little foxes have spoiled the vineyard.

What you and I have learned by heuristic means, the original audience would have gleaned intrinsically from years of agricultural experience. The people of Israel and Judah were aware that even though they had meticulously plowed their field one season, the next season the same plot would require an equal amount of work to yield an identical harvest.  “Break up your fallow ground.” The word “fallow” denotes an uncultured plot of land with the implication that at one point the land had already been cultivated. A verse often relegated to those in the early stages of their faith is actually a call to action aimed squarely at the seasoned disciple. A requirement of our perpetual pursuit of righteousness is the constant upkeep of every area of our hearts. An area that I have plowed and seeded may in time become overgrown and revert into a state of neglect. We who know the Word and study diligently are constantly reminded to stay vigilant, to be watchful and to sow righteousness. We are the ones most susceptible to the vitriol of complacency. After all, comfort is caustic.

 

Aaron Cole is the Senior Pastor of Life Church (www.lifechurchwi.com) in Wisconsin. You can follow Aaron on Twitter at (@aaroncolelc).

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Big Bright Yellow Sprinkler

Sep 16 2013 Published by under Family, Life

By Steve Handy

SteveHandy20130905I like to reflect on memories from my childhood every now and then. I remember on hot summer days, my dad would hook up the big, bright yellow sprinkler to the garden hose. My sisters and I would run, jump and play in the refreshing water for hours. That bright yellow sprinkler shot a wall of water in straight lines high up in the air. Then, it oscillated back and forth, soaking the ground and anyone else in its path. After we had our fun, dad would detach the yellow sprinkler from the garden hose and rinse off the mud and grass from our little bodies before sending us in the house to report to mom.

Perhaps you have a childhood memory like this one?

As I reflect on this fond memory, it paints a picture in my mind of the reality of God’s love. God’s love is central to John’s theology. John makes three declarative statements regarding the nature of God: God is spirit (Jn. 4:24), God is light (1 Jn. 1:5), and God is love (1 Jn. 4:7, 16). Only the last statement he declares twice. For John, love is the key to knowing God (1 Jn. 4:8). Love is at the core of God’s nature.

What kind of love are we talking about?

The concept of love is tossed around carelessly like a rag doll in the culture of a lost world. It is often passed off as either an emotional-tingling feeling that ebbs and flows or some kind of standard of tolerance which overlooks sin for the sake of acceptance. But John defines love as what God accomplished through Jesus. John writes “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). God the Father sacrificed by sending his one and only Son to us. Jesus, God’s Son, gave up His life as a sacrifice for us. “He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 2:2). This divine accomplishment reveals two aspects of genuine love. First, love is self-sacrificing. Proven love comes at a cost. The effects of real love makes a person place others needs first. Love does not insist on its own way. Love is not only self-sacrificing, but it seeks for the benefit of others. The Son’s sacrifice gave us a chance to have our sins forgiven. His willingness to lay down His own life favored us. True love is self-sacrificing for the benefit of others.

This kind of love is at the very core of God’s nature. No wonder John declares “God is love.” However, he is not implying the opposite is true: “Love is God.” The grammatical construction John uses in verses 7 and 16 refute this line of thinking. John’s point is this: God is the source of genuine love. He writes, “…for love is from God” (1 Jn. 4:7). Love flows out of God. It is like a big, bright yellow sprinkler. As the water flows from it, so love gushes out of God.

What do you need from God today? Do you need relief from the heat of life? Do you need to be refreshed? Or perhaps the world kicked-up its mud on you; do you need the Father to wash it away and make you clean again? If you do, why don’t you run, jump and play in the love He has for you!

 

Steve Handy serves as the Department Chairman of Global University’s Berean School of the Bible.

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Dedication – At Any Cost!

Sep 09 2013 Published by under Leadership, Life

By Dr. John G. “Jack” Nill

JNill2009PhotoThere is an interesting story told about Alexander the Great. During one of his campaigns, Alexander was leading his army to victory, conquering city after city. The army’s fierce reputation preceded it, and most cities simply surrendered rather than fight. But as Alexander approached one particular city, the king stood on the city wall and yelled out that he would not surrender; he was prepared to fight.

 

Alexander’s answer was to give a command to one column of his men: “Forward, march!” and he marched them directly toward a cliff several hundred feet deep. The first soldier in the column reached the edge of that cliff and never hesitated, never turned aside, but marched right off the edge and plunged to his death. The next soldier in the column reached the edge, never wavered, never looked to the right or left, but took another step and plunged to his death. The same with the third soldier. At that point, Alexander yelled, “Halt!” and the column stopped.

 

Alexander turned on his horse and looked at the king, who had watched this event unfold. The king thought for a moment and then turned to the people inside the city walls and yelled, “Throw open the gate!” and turning to face Alexander, he said, “We surrender!”

 

What changed that king’s mind? He knew he could never defeat an army characterized by that kind of dedication – that kind of total commitment. Those soldiers had marched off a cliff just because their captain said to. They weren’t even fighting yet – – what would they be like in a real battle? You can’t beat an army with that amount of devotion and loyalty to their leader.

 

Jesus calls us to that same kind of dedication – that same kind of loyalty and commitment. Not to an earthly king with material ambitions, but to Himself, the King of the universe and the Lord of eternity. You see this call whenever He challenges people to go beyond the ordinary. It is evident in Luke 16: 25-35, when he challenges a large crowd with the sacrifices needed to become an authentic disciple. You see it in Matthew 5-7, the “Sermon on the Mount,” where he challenges a crowd with the meaning of being a true follower. You see it in His teaching on the bread of life in John 6:25-71, when many desert Him because of the challenge of those words.

 

Passages like this demand my best for His cause. I cannot be satisfied with the status quo. My captain is directing His army, and I am absolutely committed to Him. What He says, I’ll do, because I know everything He does has eternal value. I’ve read the end of the Book, and I know who wins! Knowing that, I can face any battle today!

 

Dr. John G. “Jack”  Nill serves as the Provost for Global University. To learn more about Global University, visit www.globaluniversity.edu.

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