Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Our Second General Order - Part 4

 To be honest, there is nothing general about a general order. They may seem simple and be easy to memorize, but they contain complex details we must pay attention to. This is apparent because it has taken me four weeks to expound upon one small verse in Proverbs chapter 4.
Last week, I referred to this quote by C.S. Lewis,  “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.”
As we think about what it means to really guard our hearts,  we must acknowledge it’s a soul matter. Your Soul, also referred to as the heart or inner man, defines who you are! This part of you has no end. It is eternal and has an eternal destination.
Your soul is compromised of your:
  • Intellect
  • Emotions
  • Free will
  • Imagination
  • Reason
  • Affections
Your soul determines everything. It does not control you, it is who you are! You are not a robot. You are a soul with God given freewill to choose how you will live.   
The Spirit, on the other hand, determines your identity!
Your identity is a choice of your freewill. You can choose to be identified as a child of God or an enemy of God. You can choose to follow man or you can choose to follow God… but you cannot do both.
This is why your soul determines the course of your life! FREEWILL
Once you ask God to change your identity, you are forever His. There is absolute assurance of that, because God can be trusted to do His job, even though we cannot.
So how do we do it? We choose to follow His word, step by step. Take a look at Proverbs 4:24 - 27 and allow it to move you to change:
“Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
  • Crooked speech - can be used to mislead yourself and others…
  • Devious talk - Planning and plotting schemes to get your way.
  • Look forward… don’t be watching what others are doing… don’t roam around
  • Your gaze - this is when we fix our eyes on the prize! Where we look and long for Jesus, so we can look more like him everyday
  • Ponder your path.. Slowly study where you are going to make sure it lies up with God’s will
  • Do not swerve.. Do not waver. Not for one moment or one second - talk about the dangers… others lives are at stake..
  • Turn your feet from evil!!!! Flee from it… don’t even get close… because you will get burned.

During your Pit Time today, take a moment to evaluate how well you are doing in applying Proverbs 4:24-27 to your life. Are we living out the protection of our soul in a way that honors the Spirit of the living God?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Our Second General Order - Part 3

Last week, I began the thought process of our second general order. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23.

Knowing what to do is only part of our battle when we keep or guard our hearts! We must also look at why we should guard I hearts.

The second part of verse 23 says “... for from it flow the springs of life.

Doesn’t that sound so joyful! However, the reality is, it's only joyful if you are doing a good job of being on guard! Remember, your heart determines the course of your life. Here’s another way to think about it... Are you are taking full advantage of your free will and trusting your emotions instead of the facts of God’s word? Have we professed to know Christ, but our walk with Christ shows no signs of life? Understand, the course of your life is determined by the choices you make!

Here is a fact I know all too well to be true, I’ve seen it over and over again. When you put yourself in bad situations, bad things will happen. It’s not a matter of if it will happen, it’s a matter of when!

So how do all of these choices determine the course of your life? Because… it answers the question, Who are you? You are so much more than flesh and bones. In fact, your physical body is the shortest lasting and, most insignificant part of who you are!

C.S. Lewis said it this way, “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.”

During your Pit Time today, spend time thinking about that C.S. Lewis statement and allow God to show you just who you really are. Pray that God will continue to give you a great appreciation of who you are!

The second general order is

The second general order is

In the army our 2nd General Order stated  - "I will obey my special orders and perform all of my duties in a military manner." This two part order covered anything you were ordered to do. No one needed to say please or thank you. When you were ordered to do something, do it. Do it right the first time and do it in a way that honors your squad, company, battalion, base command, the Army and United States of America. Why, because they were depending on you!

One of the parts of our basic training was focused on learning to defend yourself during close hand to hand combat when your weapon wasn't properly functioning or it's out of ammo.

One of the methods of teaching close hand to hand combat is pugil stick training. A pugil stick is a heavily padded pole-like training weapon used since the early 1940s by military personnel.

Much of the weapons training we did in the military required you to remain calm and focuses on your breathing in order to make an accurate shot. The pugil stick battles weren't like that at all! They were gritty, aggressive and required the willingness to do whatever it took to stay alive. You needed to be a skilled defender, an astute aggressor and have an understanding of the key role timing plays in your victory. It was without a doubt one of my favorite parts of basic training.

While thinking about verses for our second general order, over and over again, I kept coming back to Proverbs 4:23 - “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life”
Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at this one verse to discover what it means, why this is so important, who we become in the process and what it looks like to really guard our hearts.

During your personal pit time this week, put some time into thinking about a time you had to guard or defend something or someone with vigilance. Put yourself back in that moment and be reminded of the sacrifice required.

Our Second General Order - Part 2

Last week I began the thought process of our second general order. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23.

One of the things I love about scripture, are the wonderfully descriptive words used by God’s inspired authors. Over and over again, I am driven to my dictionary, thesaurus and ‭Strong's Concordance to discover the meaning of these gems! Today, we are going to dive into the deeper meaning of three of these nuggets in order to mine out the truth they hold for us.

Keep your heart with all vigilance” Proverbs 4:23a ESV

  1. Keep - to watch, to guard, to protect
  2. Heart - your inner man, mind, will, intellect, emotions, imagination, affections
  3. Vigilance - Be alert and watchful especially to avoid danger
  4. The NIV version says “Above all else, guard your heart”

What does this mean for us? Here is my expanded interpretation based on the research I did. “Watch, guard and protect your intellect, emotions, imagination and affections! While you stand guard, be alert because there is danger ahead.”

In the first part of this one small verse, we are told to keep watch on our heart in two very different ways. I guess the writer was trying to convey this is very important. It’s not enough for us to guard our hearts, we must do so with a sense of urgency, understanding our enemy is trying to steal who we are for his purpose. For each of us there is danger ahead, of that we can be certain. Sometimes it’s easy to identify the danger, but at other times it can be more difficult.

For those of us who are chasing after God and pursuing Him with all we have, our dangers may not be the obvious pitfalls of life, but our failures may be mistaking business for the Lord with faithfulness to Him. I once heard “God doesn’t need you to be awesome, because He is awesome! What God needs is for you to be faithful.”

During your personal Pit Time this week, take time to confess areas where you need to be more faithful and areas where you have become just too busy.

My first general order, part 2

My first general order, part 2

As I was marinating on my thoughts for Pit Time this week, I recognized both our Army and Biblical general orders have two distinct parts.

Army - “Drill Sergeant, my first general order is ‘I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.’ Drill Sergeant.”

Biblical - And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt 22:37-39

The first part of each order speaks to the requirements of the job we are given and the second part of each is about our willingness to stay the course until the job is done. Let me explain:

Last week, we looked at the first part of general order one in detail, so I won't dig into that any further. However, I do want to show the parallel between guarding our post and loving the Lord with all we are! To guard your post means you put the needs of the post above your own wants. In the same way, when we agree to love the Lord God with all our hearts, souls and minds, we are agreeing to put the needs of the Lord God above any personal desire we may have. As a result, over time, there have been many martyrs for our country and for the Lord God. This is what service above self really looks like.

In order for us to walk out the second part of general order one, we must live out the first part. To see a plan through to completion means we accept the assignment and are committed to it. To love yourself or others without loving God is impossible. We can enjoy people, we can enjoy ourselves, we can be entertained and experience a full range of emotions but without God real love is really impossible.

According to Barnabas Ministries, there are two main verbs in the Greek New Testament that are normally translated “love:” agapao (agapaw), phileo (filew).In verses 37 and 39 of Matthew 22, the same Greek verb is used for love agapeo. This word agapeo demonstrates a love that is shown or proven. It is a love that we long for, desire, place first in one’s affections. This is no ordinary love. It is not an emotional state. It is a love requiring our availability and desire. In other words, it is a love that we can only give after we have received it.

During your personal Pit Time today, take some time to think about the ways you are receiving love from God and giving it to others. God’s love is the irreplaceable foundation by which all our general orders are formed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My First General Order Is

As a young private in the Army, we were required to recite our general orders upon command. However, it wasn’t enough to just say the order, you needed to say it with the proper military decorum. For example, “Drill Sergeant, my first general order is ‘I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.’ Drill Sergeant.” Some of the military decorum seems silly to me these days, but to this day, I can recite my general orders, so they must have done something right!

To scan the scripture and narrow down all of the general orders gems God gives us into the top three has been harder than I originally expected. However, the first general order is a no brainer. So without further delay… Our First General Order is:

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt 22:37-39 (see also Deu 6:5, 11:1, 11:13, 30:6, 30:16, Joshua 22:5, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27)

This idea of loving the Lord God with all we have is not a new idea, it’s the first idea. God, in the beginning, made us for relationship with Him. The first relationship of record was established between God and man. God imagined us in His image and likeness, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Gen 1:26, before He ever formed Adam from the ground. From the moment God thought of us, He loved us and formed a relational bond with us, His dearly loved children.

To love God with all our heart, soul and mind is the truest, most intimate form of worship. This act of worship was important enough for Paul to reemphasize in Rom 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The word body Paul uses here in the Greek means, “the body as a sound whole”. In other words; your heart, soul and mind, all of you!

During your personal Pit Time today, think about your relationship with God and how you can truly worship him in your everyday, ordinary life.Our relationship with God is much different than our relationships with others, but without a doubt they affect each other. Next week, we will dig into the depths of the second half of our first general order.

Monday, July 17, 2017

On Guard

On July 14, 1991, the day before I entered basic training, I took an oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

With this oath, I became a part of something much bigger than self and I gave up many of my personal freedoms, to protect the freedoms of this country. All these years later, I am still proud of my military service and I am glad I got to be a part of the United States Army.

Once the craziness of inprocessing our company (there was a lot of screaming and breaking of our personal will) subsided, then the real training began. The first part of learning how to be a good soldier centered around 3 general orders. These orders had to be memorized, recited upon demand and were our creed to live by. For those of you who have not served in the military, these orders probably hold little value, but for me and soldiers like me across this nation, these orders symbolize how we keep ourselves and our nation safe.

The US Army General Orders:
  • 1st General Order - "I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved."
  • 2nd General Order - "I will obey my special orders and perform all of my duties in a military manner."
  • 3rd General Order - "I will report violations of my special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in my instructions, to the commander of the relief."

Over the next three weeks, I will be breaking down a Biblical take on these general orders and my hope is we will leave this process with a creed to help us be on guard and serve on the ready.

During your personal Pit Time today, take some time to think about our 1st General order as followers of Jesus - And he said to him, Matthew 22:37-40 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

I look forward to giving you my personal thoughts and insights on this passage next week.

Do Your Best

“Do your best…” you've probably heard that, said that, been told that, or if you are an overachiever like me, you've done all three.
This phrase is very subjective and requires a different levels of effort based on education, talent and individual skill sets. When I was a child, this phrase meant “Try harder”, or “I know you can do better”. Anytime this phrase was used, I knew I needed to give more effort to accomplish the task. In our modern day culture, this phrase is viewed much differently and sends the message, “Your best is good enough” or “Don’t worry about doing better, your best is good enough.”
So, where do you stand on this issue? Do you believe that we are witnessing the degeneration of this phrase or are we becoming more loving and accepting of individual performances? My work with the Center, my church youth group and my personal beliefs cloud my ability to really share my opinion with you. So, aren’t we glad that God’s word addresses it for us?
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
Here are a few truths God has been revealing to me about doing my best:
  • The effort we give is associated with the person asking you to “do your best.”
    • In the case of the passage in 2 Timothy, Paul, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, is teaching his apprentice and son in the faith.
    • I imagine Timothy was willing to give his all because of the deep relationship he shared with Paul.
    • Timothy also witnessed Paul’s suffering and understood, what the “best” standard meant.
  • The cause, because and why
    • The cause - This passage gives Timothy a colossal and specific reason to do his best… You Timothy, you are presenting yourself to God!
    • The because - As any good parent would do, Paul gives Timothy reasons to do his best, and might we note, it’s not “because I said so”. Paul reminds Timothy to be one approved and a worker who has no need to be ashamed. Do your best because there is nothing worse than standing before God, unapproved and ashamed.
    • The why - The eternity of others is at stake! Once we come into relationship with Jesus, we receive His Spirit and are given the responsibility to rightly handle the word of truth. God’s plan for others starts with His plan for us. When we are always on the ready, God will readily send us those who are desperate to meet Him!
So, on this issue, where do I stand when it comes to doing my best? I stand with Paul, who stood with God and was inspired to teach Timothy. I also stand with Timothy ready to be taught, inspired and even willing to be corrected. It takes both of those attitudes to grow as a follower of Jesus.
Our culture, country and world, stands in a precarious place, not because of God but because of sin. God did His job, Jesus did His job, the Holy Spirit is doing His job, but what about you? Are you doing your job? Are you representing the Body of Jesus Christ in a way that woo’s others to Jesus? Are you really doing your best in your efforts and attitudes toward God and the world?

During your personal Pit Time today, think about how you view doing your best and begin to pray about finding a Paul and Timothy to walk out this faith journey with you.

Blessing Follows Obedience

Now for the answer you have all been waiting for- Who is this Melchizedek? To be honest, if you’ve read the passage, you know exactly what I know about this Melchizedek. What we know is exactly what God gave us and I believe that is enough!
      • He is the King of Salem
      • A Priest of the God Most High
      • He Blessed Abram
      • He Honored God by giving Him credit for the victory
      • He Provided Nourishment of bread and wine
      • He is a Priest forever
      • He has no genealogy
      • He has no beginning or end
      • He lives on
      • He was a priest before there were Levites
      • He was greater than Abram
      • He was given a tithe
      • and His name means King of Righteousness and Peace

When it comes to answering the question, “Who is Melchizedek?”, you know as much as I do and for that reason, I refuse to draw a conclusion or form an opinion based on the information I have. However, this will be one of the questions I ask when I get the opportunity in Glory.
Even though we cannot clearly answer, “Who is Melchizedek?”, we have been given a beautiful story to explore about the relationship of Melchizedek and Abram.
Abram returns from battle victorious, but I can only imagine, at his age, he was weary.
As a veteran of the Army, I trained for battle on many occasions, and even though I never fought in a war, I know that  even training is exhausting. The reality is we’ve all been there. You do what’s right, God shows up, there is victory, but at the end of the day… you're exhausted.
Then you are met immediately by someone who obviously wants something, in this case the King of Sodom. You are tired, worn and find yourself in a vulnerable condition.  
Then God does what God does. He sends what He knows you need. In this case, he sent Melchizedek with the bread, the wine and the blessing! He met Abram's immediate needs and gave him a hope for the future! At the end of the day - when we are victorious - it’s not about us or because of us, but it’s about the One who created, gave and saved.
As a side note… the King of Sodom was there and witnessed this communion, and blessing. I seriously doubt he and Abram were friends, even though they may have ended up on the same side of the battle this time. In fact, I would say at some level they were enemies and it reminded me of:
    • Psalm 23: 5&6 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord  forever.
      • We should never forget God is faithful to his promises!
So why tithe? And why tithe to Melchizedek? Did you not just see and hear what the man, God sent, did? This tithe given to Melchizedek is given to honor God and the One God sent. This should be the same reason we tithe today! Because God is faithful to His promise.
Blessing always follows our obedience to God, in the big things and in the little. I know very well the power contained in God’s blessing because I have seen Him show up time and time again. From His work here at the Center, to His work in my life! God is always blessing our faithfulness to Him, even when we can’t see it’s immediate fruit.

During your personal Pit Time, make a list of those times you obeyed God’s plan and then list the blessings that followed. Over and over again God shows us and shows out!

The Opportunity

As Christians living in a fallen world and surrounded by a declining society,we have a great opportunity to be like Jesus. In fact part of our challenge is to be “In the world, but not of the world.” Our world, this planet Earth, is more than water and land. It and all of it’s inhabitants are God’s own creation. The downward slide of this world will one day end and Christ will return in all of His glory and when He does, then our job is done. However, until then, we need to be on mission.

There are a multitude of scripture I could share with you in relation to today's topic, Opportunity, but I’m going to keep it very simple.

First let’s visit Matt 5:13 - 16 ESV,  You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

As believers, followers of Jesus, we must take our rightful place in the world. This means being different, standing out and adding value to a lost and dying world. To be salt and light in a unsavory and dark world means we are giving the world exactly what they need. Love, compassion, truth, hope and encouragement. The source of all of these is Jesus and when we give him our lives He gives us His Spirit. As a temple of the living God, you are salty and light. You are exactly what the world needs, so be confident in God’s ability to continually use, improve and renew you! I’m discovering this never takes place on the sideline, but in the game, taking action is the only way to activate our salt and light DNA!

The second scripture I wish to encourage you with is Luke 6:31 which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Now, Look back at Genesis 14, and discover the heart and mind of Abram. When he  heard of Lot’s capture, he didn’t hesitate. He went into action and by doing so he extended grace, showed mercy and put his life and the lives of his men at risk. Look how Abram’s love of Lot caused him to move:
    • Abram didn’t pray about what to do. He didn’t seek God’s permission. He just did.
    • He didn’t half way do it either. He took 318 of his trained men, born in his house; the best of what he had, those whom he had personally invested in and had a stake in.
    • He went into a situation where he knew he would be outnumbered and out armed, however he went anyway.
    • He went with a plan and applied strategy, meaning he had counted the cost!
    • He returned victorious. Bringing back everything and everyone,
    • Did I mention, Abram didn’t ask permission and he didn’t pray…

As believers, God has empowered us to do the right thing and because he gave us the power,  we have permission. Am I saying we never need to pray and ask God about specific situations, no, but there are some situations, when God has already giving us the “Yes!”  At that point, we just need to be faithful and go.
    • Here are a few examples:
      • Share the Good News about Jesus with the lost
      • Tell your story - always have you 60 second elevator speech ready and look for those who God places in your path.
      • Help those in need
      • Protect the widows and orphans
      • Speak for the mute
      • And always follow the golden rule - do unto others

In any of these situations, Go and be victorious! Because when God gives you the opportunity to do the right thing… be like Abram and just do it!