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!

The Consequences

I once heard it said, “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choices.”
When we talk about Living in a Declining Society, we must acknowledge, as stated last week, there is a cost to be paid. During my personal Pit Time, I took a moment to think about how different Adam and Eve’s original relationship with God was from my personal relationship with Him. Adam and Eve had a closeness with God which I cannot fathom. Yes, Jesus has restored our relationship with God, but the Garden experience Adam and Eve were given is far beyond what I can imagine today.
Their sin, my sin and your sin resulted in physical death and created a spiritual distance between us and God. Both death and distance can be summed up in one word- consequence.
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
Consequences are not punishments doled out by a mean or unforgiving God. Consequences are simply the results of our choices. That’s a hard pill to swallow! The truth is most of us began to learn the life lesson of consequence at an early age.
  • Don’t touch the hot stove our you will… get burned
  • Don’t talk back to your parents…. Or you will get a spanking
  • Don’t be a tattle tale… because nobody likes a tattle tale

In Chapter 14 of Genesis, we can clearly see the consequences for Lot’s choice of where to live in Genesis 13:11. The moment Lot chose the finer land for his family, he put into motion the scene where he is captured and becomes a prisoner of war.
  • I wonder at this moment, in the chaos, as the battle rages around him, can Lot  fathom, he is a prisoner because of where he chose to live?
  • I wonder if the Kings who were fleeing to save their lives understood that death awaited them, in the tar pits beyond the battlefields?
  • I wonder do we, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Jesus… do we realize the magnitude of our choices?
Yes, our choices have personal consequences, but do we account for the collateral damage of the war we are engaged in? Most of you like me, have never fought in a physical war, but everyday we fight and wrestle. We wrestle temptation, unseen forces, principalities and spiritual darkness (Kelly’s paraphrase of Eph 6:12).
The battle we fight has eternal consequences and the souls of the unsaved hang in the balance. Those who don’t know Jesus are watching us and we may be all that stands between their eternal life or death.

During your personal Pit Time today, take a moment and think about Micah 6:8 and then grade how you are standing in God’s requirements for how to live. “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you Except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]? Amplified version

The Cost

Over the next four weeks we will be taking a journey together based on living in a declining society. These devotions are based out of a teaching I did a couple of years ago from Genesis 14. Reading this passage will prove helpful in following along with the devotionals during the next few weeks. We will start our journey today by discussing the high cost associated with living in a declining society.
There is a cost associated with everything in life… Homes, cars, food, children and their toys, husbands and their bigger toys, women… with their hair, makeup, nails, handbags and shoes…  
There is even a cost for things that seem to be free. For example, my dog Hazel was a rescue dog and we got her for free off of the side of the road. This dog is without a doubt the most expensive free dog that ever walked the planet earth. She has a skin condition, requires special food and well you get the point. The truth is there is a cost associated with everything! -
I joined the US Army on July 14th, 1991 at the age of 19. When I met with the recruiter, (who's nickname was REV, because he was a pastor at a church), I explained to him, “I am joining the Army, so tell me the truth and help me get the best job possible.”
Rev listened to everything I said and he said he could help me! He took me to Ft. Jackson, had me weighed, measured, tested and tested and tested. At the end of the day, he said, “Your scores are great. You qualify for one of the best jobs in the Army and one day you will thank me. You scored high enough to become an X-ray tech.”
He went on to say, “You only need to join for 8 years - 6 years active duty and 2 years reserve. In addition to getting the best job in the Army, you will be getting paid to learn, given a safe place to sleep, three square meals a day and on top of all of that, you can earn money for college. Doesn’t that sound great?” And without considering the cost I said sign me up!
When I was 19, getting out of the Army at 27 didn’t seem like a high price, but y'all know, life can change a lot in 8 years and change it did! I went from single to married, from lost to saved and by the end of my 8 years, the cost felt pretty high.
You see that's the thing about the COST. When something looks good, sounds good, or feels good we get caught up in the moment and we rarely think of the long term outcome or even the short term implications.
Sin has a high cost and whether we are tricked by Satan or willfully rebel against God, there is a cost to be paid. Romans 6:23a  says - For the wages of sin is death…
In Genesis 14 we read about a war. This war, like all war, is a result of sin and part of the price we pay for living in a fallen world. Our peace with God and others was forfeited by sin and to this day, we are paying the price.
In 1969, Motown produced a record with the following lyrics:” Oh, war, I despise, 'Cause it means destruction of innocent lives, War means tears to thousands of mothers eyes, When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives.”
Some of you may recognize that verse it’s from the song, “ War, war, what is it good for?” It would be so simple for us to skim over this battle in Genesis 14 because the names are hard to pronounce and we don’t know the major players, other than the kings.
Every war, inflicts loss and pain on both sides. WWII is our best modern example of a similar conflict. There were two major alliances formed:
    • The Axis - Germany, Italy, Japan, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria
    • The Allies - Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, United States and China.
We are currently losing a great generation of Americans who know full well the cost of WWII. If we would lean in, listen and learn they would tell us stories of great loss and destruction. “War war what is it good for”?...is a great question and although I may not be able to see the good in war, I can understand it is a part of the cost! The high cost of our sin and of all sin.

During your personal pit time today, take some time and reflect upon the high cost you have/are paid/paying for sin in your life. Are there things God would have you confess and turn from today? Jesus paid a high cost for us so, let’s choose a life of restoration, repentance and rendezvous with God!