Married to a Seducer

HEARING gODVerizon Wireless created one of the most memorable marketing campaigns ever in 2005. In their commercials a so-called “test man,” accompanied by a crowd of network engineers, travels the country asking the simple question, “Can you hear me now?” in an ongoing exercise to determine the reliability of the mobile phone carrier’s network.

The “catch phrase” caught on. The company’s market share went up and employee turnover went down. It seemed people could relate to the struggle to connect. Folks were tired of dropped calls and unreliable communication systems. And Verizon sent a message that they wanted desperately to connect with its subscribers and wanted its subscribers to be able to connect with each other.

PROPHETS

At the risk of selling him short, God has done the same. Even when the Kingdom had split in two, he kept sending his message. He gave the people of the Divided Kingdom some 208 years to decide whether they would “accept” or “reject” his call. He sent his own “technicians” to get the message out. We call them “prophets.”

PROSTITUTES

The job of the Verizon technician is unique. But not nearly as unique as the task given Hosea. Hosea, himself a prophet, appeared in a down time in the nation of Israel. The reality is that people often hear best when things are at their worst. So Hosea signed on with God. But God gave him a most unusual assignment. Hosea’s life would be his message. He was to marry a prostitute named Gomer and love her. What an incredible request! (Just imagine a young man with a sePROSTITUTEminary degree in hand trying to explain that one to a pastor search committee.)

The tough assignment was made even more difficult as Gomer left Hosea. She would conduct her ‘trans- actions’ with customers and all the time in her mind believing they were the ones supporting her. In reality, though, it was Hosea who continued to care for her and provide for her necessities even during her times of unfaithfulness.

PIMPS

God tells Hosea to go and demonstrate his love for her, so he does. Now picture this scene, as ugly as it is: Hosea pays some Hebrew “pimp” for some time with his wife, Gomer. When she enters the room expecting her next customer, she comes face-to-face with her husband. It is then that Hosea tells her again he loves her and wants her to come back home.

PICK IT UP

It’s the lived-out message that Hosea later gives in words. And it’s the same message God sends today. He loves us—even in our extreme unfaithfulness. And he wants us to come back home, even though we have abandoned him. But much like a call on your cell phone, you can hit the “accept” button or the “reject” button. You have the power to send God to voicemail and make him wait. Or you can answer his call today. The people of Israel had 208 years to pick up and they never did. The network is clear. The message is reliable. Can you hear him now?

Pay Attention To The Ripple Effect

ripple effectThe decisions you make and the actions you take affect those around you.

Rehoboam learned that lesson the hard way. Rehoboam followed his father Solomon to the throne of Israel. Solomon had exacted harsh labor on the people. A delegation, led by Jeroboam, went to the new king and asked him to take away the harshness.

In private, Rehoboam asked his elder council what he should do. They advised that he become a servant to the people, lighten their load, and the people would always be faithful servants to the king.

His circle of younger friends gave him just the opposite advice. They told him to work the people harder. He liked that idea, told the delegation his plans, and wound up with a divided kingdom.

At one time or another all of us are impacted by someone else’s decisions or actions. When we suffer the negative consequences of another’s wrongheaded decision, God can redeem the situation. Although Rehoboam wound up ruling only two tribes—Judah and Benjamin (as opposed to Jeroboam’s rule over ten tribes)—it was through Judah that Jesus came to us. God can work, and often does what seems to us as his best work, in situations that seem the most difficult.

We should always consider how our decisions and actions affect those around us. In “systems thinking” it is said that “you are the highest leverage point in any system you are in.” More simply stated, you can make a difference. You are more “powerful” than you think you are––no matter your station in life.

Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s use of the South African rugby team to help heal a nation divided by apartheid. In one scene of theripple effect 3 movie he explains to a team member, “Reconciliation starts here. Forgiveness starts here.” He knew his actions would have a ripple effect on those around him. Eventually the blessing of that “ripple” washed across the nation.

Rehoboam made a bad decision, but it was really his father Solomon’s actions that divided the kingdom. He forsook the one true God and chased after other “gods,” he neglected to serve the people and instead forced them to work harder, and he was focused on himself, as reflected in his accumulation of wives, gold, and horses in direct disobedience to God’s counsel. His son Rehoboam was merely living out consequence of those decisions and actions.

Learn from Solomon’s mistake. Love God first. Love others second. And serve those that do not yet know God. You will be surprised to see how far your ripple will travel

Fasting From Spending For A Year

buy buyAfter much thought, discussion, soul-searching and prayer my wife, Sharon, and I have decided to take a fast from spending for twelve months. As daunting and impossible as it might seem we are committed to shutting off the spending flow and sticking with it no matter what the urge, temptation or challenge might be.

EXPECTED REACTIONS

For some this might seem to be an insane decision. Such ones cannot even fathom the remote possibility of denying yourself the luci surprisedprivilege of spending for an entire year. Who would ever want to do something like that and why, why, why? We live in a culture of affluence. I mean, spending is what you do in America. Americans are the biggest spenders in the world. To fast from spending for an entire year is not only insane, it is just UN-American.

THE REASON: FOCUS SHIFT

So why in the world, or at least in America, the land of buying more, are we embarking on an adventure of fasting from spending? To begin with, this is going to provide an extended time of taking our focus off of stuff. It seems that most of life revolves around stuff and material possessions. From the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we go to bed at night, much of our time is devoted to stuff. And much of that time is all about getting more of it. So our decision to go an entire year without getting any more of it gives us a whole new focus, at least for that year. Who knows where it might lead from there.

Materialism is the acquisition of stuff. It is get, get, get. It has been described as get all you can, can the rest and then sit on the can. What better way to break the grip of materialism then to take an extended time of not participating in the insanity of it all?

MORE IMPORTANT THINGS

Taking our focus off of buying and stuff will then enable us to focus on more important things. We can have a transfer of focus from buying to, most importantly, God. Fasting is for the purpose of turning our attention from one thing to another. In the case of eating it is to take our attention from food in order to place it on God. In the case of stuff, spending and buying, it is for the purpose of taking our attention off of these things and placing it on God for an extended period. It lowers the importance of stuff so we can draw close to him. It is a time to hunger and thirst for him rather than more of whatever.

no spendingTaking our focus off of stuff and spending also leaves us with more time to devote to other things that are far more important, like relationships. Instead of spending we can be serving. Instead of buying stuff we can to be devoting that time to being a better husband, better wife, better parents, better neighbors, and better friends. Buying is time-consuming. Not buying leaves us with more time to invest in others.

Then fasting from spending and buying will leave us with more resources to use in loving God and loving others. According to Jesus nothing in life is more important than loving God and loving others. And one of the most significant and practical ways we can express that love is through the resources we have acquired. A spending fast will provide resources that can be used to bless others and meet their needs. We serve others by transferring some of what we would spend on ourselves to meeting their needs.

And finally, fasting from spending will immediately leave us with more resources to give to God, his church and his mission in the world. Wow, what an eternal difference that will make for so many.

THE INVITATION

So, I would like to invite you to consider a similar fast, whenever the time might be appropriate for you. It might be for these reasons or for your own. This could be the most awesome and transforming year of your life. This could be the breakaway you have been needing.

Sharon and I went away for a few days and worked out some *guidelines that we will follow for our fast in order for both of us to be on the same page. I would love to share them with you, if interested.

The Power of Model

One more thing to consider. If you have kids still at home or even ones that have moved out of the house, imagine how much your model could communicate to them in a year about what is most important in life. Instead if it being stuff, spending and materialism they would see self-denial, self-sacrifice, generosity and service to God and others. This is one teaching opportunity they will never forget.

*As our personal guidelines will reveal, our fast is from new spending. Providing for upkeep and necessities is permitted, but only as detailed in the guidelines and agreed upon by both parties.

Your view of God

distorted picture 3Ever since Peter Stuyvesant visited the Palace of Versailles the world has had a distorted view of itself.

Peter was the governor of New Amsterdam—later to be renamed New York City—beginning in 1647. He was visiting France to discuss colonial land agreements. While at Versailles he was awed by the Hall of Mirrors.

Peter was determined to bring a similarly amazing showcase to his city. In 1651 he founded the Peter Stuyvesant’s House of Mirrors. He charged one Dutch gulden for admission.

This house of mirrors eventually morphed into what we know as a Fun House of Mirrors seen at many carnivals. For a few tickets the fun begins by walking into a maze of mirrors, both convex and concave. We amuse ourselves by looking at distorted images of our figure.

Today you don’t even have to go to the carnival for this experience. A laptop with a webcam and a silly photo feature will allow you to take a picture of yourself that you can manipulate to look odd.

It’s all fun. But sometimes distorted pictures can cause trouble. It did in Israel during the time of the prophet Samuel. One of the major distortions was found at the Tabernacle, that portable place of praise for God’s people.

It was parked at Shiloh and was meant to be a clear picture of God’s holiness and grace. A system of sacrifices had been established that foreshadowed the coming sacrifice of the Messiah. Yet anything but holiness was found there.

Eli the priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who dishonored God in their treatment of the sacrifices and also engaged in immoral sexual activity with women at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:16, 22). Because the picture of God they were giving was distorted, these two were killed in battle against the Philistines. When news of their death reached Eli, he fell over in his chair, broke his neck, and also died.distorted picture 4

Just like Eli and his sons we are representatives of God. We represent Jesus to others. You may have heard it said that you may be the only Bible those around you will ever ‘read.’ The question is, “Are you giving a clear or distorted picture of the One True God?”

Trading in your dreams for another’s

dreams 2People nearing mid-life often crash into some startling and unexpected observations. For instance, we all dreamed big dreams when we were younger. But as we move at a break-neck pace through our twenties, thirties, and forties, we eventually slam head on into the realization that some of our dreams will never be realized.

That observation throws some people into a mid-life crisis. Some don’t make it that far with their aspirations, having already given them up somewhere along the way. Some run into conflict that makes them weary and they settle for less. Still others make bold decisions to trade one dream in for another.

That’s what Joseph did. Talk about dreams! He had some big ones. At seventeen he dreamed his ten older brothers would bow down to him. It’s enough he dreamed that dream. What makes it worse is that he told his brothers about it.

The older brothers already had issues with the younger son. Their father favored Joseph. He had even given him a valuable, multi-colored coat. That’s the modern-day equivalent of a parent of four teenagers giving one an iPhone and the other three a stack of quarters each for a pay phone (assuming they could find one on their travels). The brothers banded together and tossed the dreamer in a ditch, eventually selling him into slavery at the first opportunity. The next thing Joseph knew he was waking up in Egypt.

From there his life was a rollercoaster thrill ride. One minute a slave. The next in charge of an Egyptian official’s house. The next in prison. The next in charge of the prison. Then he found himself in front of Pharaoh, called upon to interpret the leader’s dreams. With God’s help he was able to warn Pharaoh he would have seven years of abundant crops that he should be put in storehouses in anticipation of seven years of famine. Recognizing his wisdom, Pharaoh put Joseph second in command of all of Egypt.

And because of God’s personal involvement in his life, he was was able to save his family. The same family that God was building dreams 3into a nation. Joseph was in position to bring his family to Egypt and give them the most fertile land to work. And it was definitely fertile. In the time they were there they were “fruitful and increased greatly” (Exodus 1:7).

Joseph could have lost his life getting caught up in the details of his life, chasing his dreams and desires. Instead, he chose a better story. God’s story.

You can do the same. If your life’s dream has stalled, look to God. If your dream now realized is not all you thought it would be, look to God. He can give you another dream. A better one, not according to the world’s standard but God’s criterion. Just like Joseph’s. Then you’ll have a story to tell.

EXCELLENCE

excellence 4Whatever you do work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Col. 3:23

 

If anything, those words call for excellence in everything we do, especially when it comes to working for the Lord, because, after all,  all we do is actually for the Lord. Excellence should be the passion of our heart-all the time.

 

Daisy Hepburn writes in “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” “Good, better, best, never let it rest—until your good is your better and your better is your best!” Nothing but the best should characterize what we do for the Lord, all the time.

 

Bob Russell, long time Lead Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY says…

·           In everything-excellence.

·           Excellence is not valuing one ministry above another.

·           Excellence is not perfection.

·           Excellence is not being judged by the standards and opinions of others.

·           Excellence is doing your very best in whatever you do, especially for the Lord. Excellence is quality ministry. Excellence is going the second mile. Excellence is planning and preparation ahead of time. Excellence is first class ministry. Excellence is ministry flowing from a healthy, full relationship with Christ. Excellence is refusal to cut corners or just doing enough to get by on. Excellence is God’s call to every Christian.

Whether you sing a song…play an instrument…serve communion…greet…usher…teach a class…preach a sermon…read excellence 2Scripture…participate in drama…serve in the nursery…change diapers…change light bulbs…mow grass…facilitate a group…lead a ministry team…whatever you do, do it “with all your heart”.

 

I can think of two enormously important reasons why excellence is needed in everything we do for the Lord– all the time.

 

BECAUSE JESUS GAVE US HIS VERY BEST.  

 

Philippians 2:5-8 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!”

 

Why? Because His ministry on our behalf was a ministry of excellence.

 

Leonardo Da Vinci was once at work for a long period of time on a great masterpiece. He had labored long to complete this work of art and it was near completion. Standing near him was a young student who spent much of his time with his mouth open, amazed at the master with the brush. Just before finishing the painting, Da Vinci turned to the young student and gave him the brush and said, “Now, you finish it.” The student protested and backed away, but Da Vinci said, “Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?”

 

Because He gave His very best he deserves the very best from us.

 

PEOPLE’S ETERNITY DEPENDS ON IT.

 

Everything we do in ministry and for the Lord effects the eternity of people who come our way. How you do your ministry will oftentimes be the factor that determines whether they will return or you will get a second chance. We are influencing people all the time. And that influence reaches all the way into eternity.

 

Darren Walter wrote a book called The People Magnet Church. Some of what he addresses applies to the first impression people, but much of it applies to everyone who serves the Lord.

 

“The good news is that because of the blood of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for me, I’m going to heaven by God’s grace, regardless of how people treat me in any church. The bad news is that there are people who do not know God’s grace and are unaware of Christ’s sacrifice. They are going to Hell. And they will make a decision to accept or reject God based on how they are received in His House, by you and me. I’m not trying to be over dramatic here. I truly believe that eternity hangs in the balance when a guest walks through the doors of your church. Those who volunteer their time to greet, welcome, usher, and answer questions of those visiting have some of the most important challenges in the entire church body. Many times we only have one chance to make an impression, one shot at showing our love for people.

 

The fact is -most guests make up their minds whether they’ll return for a second time in the first few moments of their visit. Long before they hear the sermon or the solos, they’ve decided if they’ll ever come back based on how we treat them.”

 

·           How we treat them is the first factor.

·           The second one is the quality and passion with which we do our ministry. How well we represent our Lord. If He really is the most important person in life to us then it will be seen in the excellence of our ministry.

 

In effect, people come with two foremost questions in their mind that they want an answer to.

1.         Do these people really care about me?

2.         Are these people really serious about this thing called Christianity?

 

excellenceThe quality with which we serve the Lord and do our ministry influences others and that influence can touch eternity. Never forget that. Engrave it on your soul

 

I know it is highly likely that you will not receive the response or recognition from people that you anticipate or desire or think you deserve. So what do you do? Do it anyway. Do excellence anyway.

 

Robert Schuller wrote. (I have altered it a little.)

 

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.

LOVE THEM ANYWAY!

 

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

DO GOOD ANYWAY!

 

If you are successful you win false friends and true enemies.

SUCCEED ANYWAY!

 

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

DO GOOD ANYWAY!

 

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY!

 

People favor underdogs but follow only the top dogs.

FIGHT FOR SOME UNDERDOGS ANYWAY!

 

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

BUILD ANYWAY!

 

People really need help but may attack you if you help them.

HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY!

 

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY!

 

From “Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do” by Robert Schuller

 

Do it anyway because it’s not the response of the people that we are doing it for. It’s our love for Jesus that moves us.

 

So do it. Do it with all your heart, with your very best. And keep doing it regardless of the response we get.

 

Excellence Glorifies God and Inspires People.

 

A Quarter of a Million Dollars

Before you go any farther take a minute and watch this video clip of the revealing of the Capital Campaign totals on Sunday, May 26.

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
X-NONE
X-NONE

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”,”serif”;}

Thanks be to God, NVCC has had $245,581given or committed to date to our capital campaign. What a tremendous response we have seen.  Though this is short of our overall goal it is enough to continue with the plan to purchase the 5.9 acres of land and begin the process of developing our own ministry campus.

 

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you to everyone who has given or committed to this faith venture. You are so appreciated.  

 

Gifts are still being sought and are still coming in. Since this morning the total has increased to $250,011. We especially need gifts toward our down payment due in by July 31. Anyone who would like to help us push on to the overall goal of $300,000 is greatly appreciated. Gifts can be sent to NVCC, PO Box 73311, Richmond VA 23235.

 

Thank-you again. Please continue to pray for us as we use what God has provided for HIS glory.

 

Overjoyed!!!