Archive for the ‘James’ Category

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ENCOURAGED TO DO – Nov 29

November 29, 2014

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25

long_road-aheadAs the remaining days of adequate daylight dwindled, I abandoned running in preference to cycling. My goal of cycling over 2,000 miles in a year was within my grasp so I filled those precious post-work hours on the bike. I happily pedaled past 2,000 miles until daylight-savings snuffed out anymore evening bike rides.

However, the consequence was a complete lack of running for about a month. It is a common story for me. I will abandon running to the most insignificant of excuses. I am not a person who experiences the runner’s “high”. Therefore, a run does not hold the promise of an endorphin fix. It is just a rather uncomfortable workout.

cold run 1Since the season of outdoor cycling has passed, I have reluctantly returned to running. I am too inconsistent on the treadmill so I decided to do evening runs at a local track. In my new found dedication, I completed a couple workouts but quickly found it hard to persevere in my commitment to running in the dark and cold. I could feel all the excuses sapping my resolve. Inconsistency was once again lurking around the corner ready to devour my motivation.

A runner friend discovered my activities and began to join me. Around and around the track, we run in darkness. I hear his breath and adjust my pace to the beat of his footfalls. I run faster. My lungs burn and my legs sting but I push on just a little longer because… he is still going. These have been some of the best workouts I have had and some of the most enjoyable.

cold run 2I have enjoyed it so much that a polar vortex and snow have not kept me from the track.  I ran in 13 degree F temperatures when, in the past, threatening clouds kept me in?  The question is why?

I have read books and articles on running.
I have listened to running experts.

I know how to be a better runner.
I want to be a better runner.

I could benefit from a coach but knowledge is not my primary need. Knowledge is not what keeps me from being a better runner.

A lack of running has kept me from becoming a better runner.

My greatest need as a runner is encouragement to run – encouragement to do. I went out in 13 degree weather because someone came by my office door and said “you coming?”. It was as simple as that. I would not have persevered in doing what I need to do if it had not been for that simple encouragement.

I tell this story as an illustration of what I believe to be the Church’s primary need.  In my last blog (The Fall of the Homely Handy), I pondered how the Church might want to respond to the information age that we are currently living in.

OpenBibleWe live in a time when the internet delivers into our homes some of the greatest Spirit-inspired teaching of the centuries. We can listen to teachers from across the globe that have been powerfully gifted and called to eloquently preach the Word of God. I can easily research any theological question that might be troubling me. We can maintain a near constant hearing of the Word of God.

I asserted that in the typical Church, the majority of their activities revolve around education – presenting the Word of God to the ears of their congregation.

Yet, is that our greatest need?
Are the ears of the typical Christian suffering
from a lack of hearing the Word of God?

I believe that no Christian has the excuse of inadequate teaching. We live in a wonderful age. We can easily supplement any inadequacies that may come from the teaching of our local Church. Therefore, I don’t believe that true followers of Christ are suffering or should suffer from a lack of hearing the Word of God.

Yet, I do see a lack of doing.
I do see a lack of perseverance.
I see a lot of folks who are hearers of the word but struggle at being doers.

They know what they need to do to better follow Christ.
They want to be better followers of Christ.

I know that every Christian can benefit from Spirit-inspired teaching but I don’t believe that more teaching is the primary need of the typical believer. Hearing the word of God is not what keeps me from being a better follower of Christ. A failure to do is what keeps me from being a better follower of Christ.

Therefore, how do we become better doers?
If this is the primary need of Christians,
then how can the Church better meet this primary need?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

I assert that the greatest need of the typical Christian is encouragement; encouragement to persevere through difficult times; encouragement to love; encouragement to good works; encouragement to DO; encouragement to take what we have heard, what we know, and to actually DO it.

The author of Hebrews is encouraging the Church to come together for the purpose of motivation – to stir one another up and encourage each other to be DOERS.

So, what might this look like in our information age?

Ironically, I suggest that we learn from the example of David Dickson in his book “The Elder and His Work”, first published in America in 1883. He provides practical advice of an elder’s call to the ministry of shepherding Christ’s flock, which is really a description of how we are to practically encourage one another to be DOERS.
Here is how I will summarize this example from the late-1800’s that I think we can learn from:
  1. TEACHERS SHOULD TEACH: PreachI am not suggesting that pastors should abandon the preaching and teaching the word of God. That would not be Biblical. Our Lord has gifted and called teachers to speak the word of God to our ears. They need to be faithful to their calling. Our local pastors have the opportunity to speak from the Word to the direct needs of their congregation. That is something that no podcast can do. In addition, I believe that teachers have a responsibility to teach the Church how to wisely and safely use the resources that we have available to us in this informational age. We know that all that is on the internet is not good. Therefore, we need to be shown where to go and how to discern the information that we might come across.
  2. SHEPHERDING SHOULD BE VALUED: shepherdI am suggesting that the shepherding of the congregation should be valued as much, if not more than, preaching and teaching in this informational age. I am arguing that the greatest need of today’s Church is for followers of Christ to become better DOERS. I believe that will be best accomplished by practical encouragement – shepherding. Therefore, local Churches should evaluate how they are doing the ministry of shepherding. They should be particular and specific in dedicating resources to this desperately needed ministry. They should be practical and organized so that people in their congregations don’t fall through the cracks and be overlooked.
  3. SHEPHERDING IS A TASK BEYOND THE PASTOR: IS4086RF-00038636-001There is no pastor that has enough time to practically shepherd a congregation. I believe that shepherding should be the primary task of the Elders. It seems that the primary task of many elders has become the purveyors of budgets and bylaws. This is where we can learn from our past and the example of David Dickson. In the 1800’s church in Scotland, the families of the congregation were divided amongst the Elders. Each elder was responsible to shepherd specific families. He regularly visited those he was shepherding. He knew them personally. He knew their struggles and trials. Therefore, he was able to give that needed word of encouragement and when necessary a word of admonition or correction that might be received. He was able to see where additional teaching would be beneficial because he knew where they were spiritually. He was able to effectively disciple which requires an involvement in people’s messy lives beyond what can be accomplished by a Sunday morning greeting. By this organizational structure and division of responsibilities, the elders were able to practically shepherd a large congregation.
  4. SHEPHERDING IS A TASK FOR EVERYONE: I have focused on elders in this discussion because I believe the Church needs to be organizedEnglish: A man helps a friend along at the 200... so that shepherding actually happens for the entire flock of Christ. However, I hope it is clear that the ministry of shepherding is something every follower of Christ can provide to each other. It is not a ministry that is reserved for the elder or the pastor of our Churches. We should all be encouragers. We all should excel at stirring each other up to love and good works. Imagine the draw of our gatherings if when we came together our primary purpose was to encourage one another. I cannot help but to think that our Churches might be closer to meeting our primary need – encouraging one another to finish the race and to persevere all the more as we see the Day draw near.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the church.  Thank you for our pastors and elders you have called to their specific ministries.  Thank you for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  That you for those who are encouragers.  Help me to be an encourager.  Help me to be an encouragement to my family and friends.  Help our churches to be places where we are encouraged to persevere.  Lord, form our churches so that all of our needs are met.  Don’t let us forget our own faces.  Give us the strength and motivation to faithfully follow you through anything.  Give us encouragers.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

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“WORLD CLASS” – Oct 16

October 16, 2013

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22

The moniker “world-class” has a very specific connotation to me.  It gets bandied about with other titles such as phenomenal, genius, and awesome, but just like those adjectives, it often loses its meaning due to a lack of context.  To be described as world-class, one has to be among the best in the world at a given activity.

There are some activities whose practitioners are world-class and I can appreciate what they do.  However, I cannot grasp the level of their achievements because I am a mere observer.

Jascha Heifetz is generally considered the greatest violin performer of the modern recording age. English: Russian violinist Jascha Heifetz in T...He is one of the very few players who was capable of hitting the high note at the end of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto .  I don’t play the violin, I don’t have a practical concept of how hard it really is.

Rembrandt: Self Portrait (Altman)I love Dutch Realist paintings.  So, it is not surprising that I have a deep appreciation of Rembrandt and his use of reflected light and shadows.  One of my favorite paintings is the Night Watch .  I am not an artist.  Reproducing a Dutch Realist painting is beyond my wildest optimism.

There are other world-class practitioners who I find incredible, precisely because I HAVE tried to do what they do.  I understand their level of achievements because I can compare it to my achievements in the same activity.

Mal Booth / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The Ironman World Championship was held in Kona, Hawaii this last weekend.  Mirinda Carfrae won with a course-record time of 8:52:14.  She ran a marathon in just 2:50:35.  That was very close to the 1971 marathon world record, but Carfrae’s marathon was after swimming 3.8 km (2.36 miles) and biking 180 km (111.85) miles.  I have never done an ironman distance triathlon but I do know my times for those separate distances, except for a full marathon.  She is awesome because I know the context of her speed;  she is world-class.

Chris Froome wins the 17th stage in the Vuelta...

Chris Fromme won the Tour de France this year.  He won the Stage 16 time trial by averaging over 20 mph on a course with two category two climbs and a very twisting, technical route.  Based on my personal riding experience, I am under no delusion that I would have been anywhere close to Chris Fromme on that stage of the Tour (or any stage for that matter). His performance was simply world-class.

rphipps75 / Foter / CC BY-SA

Mo Farah is the current 10,000 meters Olympic and World champion and 5000 meters Olympic, World and European champion.  The time it takes him to run 10,000 meters is just slightly longer then what it takes me to cover half that distance.  C’mon, that is ridiculous.

Until you try an activity, it is difficult to appreciate how special world-class people really are.

We can be deceived into thinking that everything is fine by simply reading the Bible.  Many listen to the Word, don’t apply it to their lives in practical ways, and convince themselves that nothing needs to change.

It is not until you become a doer of the word that you realize the importance of grace and the long road of sanctification.

It is not until you try to forgive someone when you realize you have an unforgiving heart and need the Spirit’s help to forgive.

It is not until you try to keep your mouth shut that you realize you have a problem with gossip and need the Spirit to tame your tongue.

It is not until you go to give your money away that you realize that you’ve got the green monster of greed and need the Spirit to help you surrender the idol of money.

When the instruction of the Bible is academic, we can convince ourselves that we are a good people.  It is in the doing the commandments of the Word where we see all the unrighteousness that still is within us.

Being a doer of the Word reminds us of who we are;
Sinners in need of a Savior.

Being a doer of the Word allows the Spirit to do His work:
To be living and active in our lives.

Being a doer of the Word opens our eyes;
To reveal our self-deception.

We need to remember that we are world-class.  Those who are in Christ are world-class because they are children of God.  We are world-class because we are the only ones in the world who can please God.  The only way to please God is by living in the Spirit; that is possible only for a child of God.

That makes us world-class.

Being a doer of the Word reveals to us what being world-class means.

We are to be world-class in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  The good news is that we do not have to be born with those characteristics.  They are gifts.  Therefore, all we have to do to be world- class in pleasing God is to abide in Him,  to set our minds on things of the Spirit, and be led by the Spirit of God.

May we open our Bibles and actually do what it tells us.  Through that act of obedience, we will experience what it means to live as a world-class child of the King of kings!

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for making very special people in this world.  Father, I praise you for the world-class abilities of the exceptional people in this world.  Thank you for allowing  exceptionalism to exist because it points to you.   Thank you for making me world-class in an activity that matters more than anything else – pleasing you.  Thank you for adopting me as your child.  Lord, create in me a desire to live by the Word that you have given us.  Help me to remember who I am and what you are doing in me.  Continue your work in me.  Help me to set my mind on you and to be a doer of your Word.    Help me to please you in all that I do, say, and write.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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