Is God An Unfinished Project?

Several months ago, well, maybe a couple years ago, my wife asked me if I would refinish the Hutch and table I had built for her the first year we were married, 43 years hutch  ago. She wanted it to look more Amish like. She had ideas in her head of what she was looking for. She attempted to describe them to me and tableexpected me to transfer those descriptions to the furniture. I have resisted for a long time and finally unfinished chairdecided to delay no longer.

I am delighted to say that after a few weeks of work on the “almost antique” furniture the project is nearing completion. And I am glad that it no longer falls into the unfinished project category.

chairsFor several months there has been a line of old chairs along the fence in my backyard. They are chairs salvaged from the cleanup and restoration project of our new ministry center. Since last year it has been my intention to begin restoring these chairs and putting them to use. Finally the project is underway. Two chairs to date have been completed and a third is in the restoration pipe line. Though the  chair restoration project has a long ways to go it is at least moving forward.

Do you finish everything you start? I imagine not. And to be honest, some things are worth finishing.

But don’t think, even for a second, that you can put God in your collection of unfinished projects. For starters, he isn’t a “project.” Besides, he’s not going to sit on a shelf contentedly waiting for you to give him your attention once the kids are grown or the retirement is funded or other task are completed.

The Israelites learned that lesson the hard way. They returned from Babylonian captivity to rebuild the temple. They started strong but in time turned their attention to other endeavors. What was important to God became unimportant to them.

16 years past without any work being done on the Temple. So God allowed drought and downturns and difficulties to come upon them. And he said, “give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 5:7).

God is either the main thing in your life or he is nothing. At the end of the day, each of us are responsible for our own schedule. There is really no such thing as partial obedience. God begins as the priority and then we scheduled time with him and around him. We schedule the things that are important to him. Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33).

The Jews eventually got back to God’s priorities and took part in one of the greatest works of heaven. You can to. There are some things worth finishing. Get on with it.

Taking on the Giants

giant 2Imagine the scene: a scrawny sixteen year old shepherd boy takes out a 9’9” tall giant with one rock and a sling.

You may not have a gigantic giant taunting you to come out and fight. But you are probably facing a few giants of your own. Giants like the stack of past-due bills glaring at you. Like the divorce papers waiting on your signature. Or the depression that looms over you like the Hulk. It could be low self-esteem or insecurity or child abuse in your past. But you have your giants. And so do I. And we would do well to learn from David.

He could face his “giant” because he had spent time in the quiet with God. When he arrived at the place of the standoff between the Israelites and the Philistines, he talked about God. He told Saul that “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1Sam.17:37). He did not hesitate to confront Goliath, saying he came “in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel.”

David was God-focused instead of giant-focused. He mentions Goliath two times and God nine times. He knew the giant was there and recognized his presence. But his thoughts were twice as much on God.

That focus led him to confront his giant rather than run away. For forty days Goliath continued to challengedepression Israel’s army. And for forty days everyone hoped he would just go away. But giants don’t typically go away until we face them. So David stepped into the gap and slung one well-aimed stone at him.

It helps to have someone in your corner that believes in you. David had his Jonathan. You need yours. You need at least one person who believes in you and that also believes in God. Someone who can encourage your faith—give you courage—when you most need it.

And you will need it. Because after you slay one giant, there will be more. You may wonder why David picked up five stones from the river bed. Was he afraid he might miss? Not likely. He was skilled in his use of the sling.

2 Samuel 21:18-22 hints that Goliath may have had four brothers. David was ready. He could take on one giant. You might say he knew how to get a head of his giant. And then he was ready for more.

And you can too. Just follow the shepherd from Bethlehem

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?”

Write Your Life Chapter Into the Story of Life

Image

If you think Genesis is just a band from the ‘80’s . . .

If you think it was Dr. Dolittle who took two of each animal into a big boat . . .

If you think an epistle is a woman married to an apostle . . .

. . . you may need to know more of The Story.

You may be a bit intimidated by the Bible. You’re not alone; many people are. And no wonder, its pages mention odd names like Jehoshaphat and Nebuchadnezzar. It contains accounts from places you probably never heard of, like Sinai and Samaria. And it seems to be made up of a lot of different, seemingly unrelated stories. But it really is one big, exciting story.

You can see it easily if you open your Bible to the beginning and then flip all the way to the end.

The first words found in Genesis 1:1 read: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Then, if you turn all the way to the back of the book, Revelation 21:1, you find, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . .”

In the beginning God is creating the heavens and the earth. At the end he is creating a new heaven and a new earth. So the big question is this: “What on earth happened between the beginning and the end of the Bible?” If you can answer that question you will have uncovered the one seamless story of God.

Why not read God’s story with your family this year? Studies indicate if the extent of your child’s exposure to things of the faith is only a weekly visit to church or Sunday School, the likelihood is very great that when she graduates and leaves home her relationship with the Lord will turn cold.

However, if you as a parent engage your children in the experience of reading and discussing the Bible, chances go up astronomically that they will remain strong in their faith after leaving home. You don’t have to be an expert or have all the answers. You just have to be willing to experience it with them.

Get involved in The Story of God. It will forever transform your life and your family’s life. Every day God is seeking to guide you, forming sentences that flow into paragraphs that over time write the chapter of your life––a life committed to knowing him better.

Will you choose today to take your life chapter and make it a part of the Big Story of what God is doing on earth?

For resources or more information on The Story call the New Venture Christian Church ministry center, 378-7727.

The Story begins February 9, 10:00 AM, NVCC, 530 Courthouse Rd, N Chesterfield 23236

“A” Is For ATTITUDE

money“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.” -William James

 

Let’s talk finances. Now, don’t click on another page. Just take three deep breaths and a couple minutes and read through this post.

 

The average person doesn’t really believe he has a problem when it comes to finances. He really doesn’t. As long as he’s making monthly payments on time, as long as he has some mad money he can play with each week, as long as he can continue to feed and satisfy those occasional indulgences from time to time, he erroneously believes things are just fine. Unfortunately he’s like the alcoholic, the drug addict, the gambler, or the person addicted to pornography who says, “I don’t have a problem.” But the truth is, the average American has a major problem when it comes to money, Christians included. They are horribly in debt, miserable managers of their money; and gullible beyond belief when it comes to buying things on credit.

 

Can I share a simple principle with you? If you’re paying interest on anything, regardless of the great interest rate you may have gotten or the low monthly payment; if you are paying interest on anything, are you ready for this? YOU ARE LOSING MONEY.

 

In fact, when you see the word “interest,” if you visualize two words in huge, gigantic letters as if they were written in the sky; “SOMEBODY ELSE,” that will help you better comprehend the principle. Why? Because that’s exactly what happens every time you’re paying interest. SOMEBODY ELSE is getting rich off YOUR money. Yet so many people say, “Well, you know, we got a great interest rate.” Or, “Luckily I got the same low monthly payment on this car that I had on my last one.”

 

Christian financial expert, the late Larry Burkett, said, “Christians are now paying nearly 10% of our income every year in interest alone. And yet we give only 2% back to God.”  So here’s the picture. The average Christian in America is miserably over his head in debt and walking in rebellion towards God. We definitely have a problem. But watch out if anyone attempts to discuss it. Why? Because we’re very touchy when it comes to our stuff. When it comes to my money and my finances, that’s a private matter and it’s none of your business. Isn’t that pretty much the way you feel?

 

So if someone suggests we have a problem with our finances, we immediately get defensive and go into money 3denial because none of us wants to admit we have a problem.

 

Does anyone remember Harry Truman? Not the President. The man who lived on the side of Mount St. Helens in Washington? I’ll never forget the guy; He had 23 cats. (Does that help?) Well, back in 1980 he was on Mount St. Helens. TV reporters were interviewing him while the mountain was shaking behind him. Harry’s sitting there with his 23 cats and seismologists were saying, “This mountain’s gonna blow; ” Volcanic experts were saying, “This mountain’s gonna blow.” Harry Truman said, “I don’t believe a single one of your ,experts. I’ve lived here all my life. I know this old mountain better than anybody else. I’m not going anywhere. “ And they’d banter back and forth.

I remember his sister on national television (you may remember watching). She pleaded with her brother, “Please, get off this mountain. It’s gonna blow;” “No, it’s not,” Harry insisted. “I’ve lived here all my life. I don’t have a problem.”

 

On May 18th, 1980, at 8:31 a.m., the mountain blew. It blew with a force 500 times greater than the power of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. Twenty-five hundred feet blew off the top of the mountain. It blackened the sky from Seattle to New York and as far south as Oklahoma. No one has ever seen a trace of Harry or his 23 cats since.

 

Now I’m praying that you are not a Harry Truman. I’m going to assume you want God’s wisdom, God’s guidance, and God’s provision in your life. I’m going to assume you want to be financially healthy and to be free from the albatross of financial burdens, bills, and bondage.

 

lt’s possible for anyone of us. In fact, regardless of how much debt you have today, I agree with Larry Burkett, who says in seven years anybody can be out of debt. Anybody; That includes you.

money 6

 

All of us can be out of debt and financially healthy, or well on our way to it, if we really want to be. But we have to want to. But if we don’t begin with step number one, nothing else we talk about will help. We need to begin withOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD MONEY.

For more on the subject of changing our attitude click on this link:

 http://relaxedchurch.sermon.tv/pa/9792495

(adapted from “The ABC’s of Financial Freedom” by Barry Cameron)

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.

 

Put government in its place.

governmentDay by day and moment by moment we witness governmental activities, decisions and more than anything else dysfunction. We get to the point where we have had about all of it we can take. We want to contact our elected officials and tell them off. Or we want to turn it all off completely. I would suggest that instead, we just put government in its place. Possibly in your mind you have already given meaning to that statement. Here’s the way I intend it. Give government the status it deserves. When you do, this is the larger reality.

God is still on the throne. He is still in charge. He continues to call the shots of the world and universe. Psalms 196:10 says, “The Lord reigns forever.” Forever in this verse means forever. Reigns means he has power over government. He has power over everything. Everything begins and ends with him, not government. “He was before all else began and it is his power that holds everything together.” (Col 1:17 TLB)

Place your trust in God. Those who trust in government will forever be disappointed. Those who trust in God will never be disappointed. We are disappointed only when we place our trust in the wrong place or in our agenda above God’s agenda. Our hope is in the Lord. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:5-6)

Help and pray for those affected by governmental decisions. Not everyone is directly acquainted with someone affected by the current shutdown of the government. But those who are, should be looking for ways to reach out and offer support and resources when needed and possible. All of us can pray for those who are hurt by governmental decisions or lack of as well as for our government leaders who are making the decisions.  “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)

Keep the perspective. It is all about eternity. Focus on the goal line instead of the obstacles along the way. How can we use these circumstances to congresschange perspectives and bring about eternal differences in people’s lives? If current issues are resolved without any thought of life change and eternal success what have we gained? “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18)

So the best thing we can do, in the midst of current climate, challenges and conflict is put government in its place and get on with what’s most important, trusting in God rather than government and devoting our lives to making eternal differences in the lives of those who we are blessed to do life together with. That, my friend, is one thing government can never grant to us nor take from us.