Friday, August 27, 2010

Living The Life

Jasper Speaks:

So, in the spirit of sharing what God is showing me in my quiet times this week, I thought I would share this quote from My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers:


   "You may know all about the doctrine of sanctification, but are you running it out into the practical
     issues of  your life? Every bit of our life, physical, moral and spiritual, is to be judged by
     the standard  of the Atonement".

This caused me to think. How many of us really live out our faith all the time? I struggle from time to time with letting other things get in my way. I end up getting focused on me and not God. If we are not careful, these times can snowball and before we know it, we are in over our heads and our witness is being hampered.

This week it seems that God is really trying to teach me so much about the importance of not walking alone. I know that many of us fear transparency. We feel that admitting our struggles to someone else will make them think less of us. I admit I deeply struggle with this. Still, I can not help but think that God's Word tells me that in order to really live out my sanctification in the practical areas, I have to be surrounded by people who make sure I do what I need to do.

It seems that Christian leaders fall when they shy away from accountability. We know a lot about what it means to live the life of a Christ follower but we don't always actually reflect that. When we have others around us, it helps us to stay on track and live out that sanctification in practical ways with greater ease. Putting ourselves at a distance in our own protective bubble will only lead to Satan getting a stronger hold on us.

If we are not living the life in the practical ways, slowly we will begin to not live it in any area. Slacking off of time with God may seem minimal in the list of sins, however, that time of not connecting will fester. It will begin to chip away at us. It will lead to more frequent sinning. It will lead to more complex sin in our lives.

I am examining my own life right now. I am not sure I have the base of accountability that I need. I am a Youth Pastor and summer lends itself to be a time of a huge lack of accountability for me. Often that manifests itself in how awful August is for me spiritually. I want to have people come alongside me to help me not crash and burn. I know it is important. I am learning it is a necessity. So many times we preach the importance of submission in the practical areas of life. How often do we live it?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Take It All?

Jasper Speaks:

One of the resources I use for my quiet time is a devotional abort hymns. It is not one I always go to by on days I need a bit more "inspiration" than my usual devos, I go and see what God might have for me. Today these lyrics came up:

     "Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
     take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love;
     Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee; take
     my voice and let me sing always only, for my King.
     Take my lips and let them be filled with messages for Thee; take my silver and my gold—
     not a mite would I withhold.
     Take my love—my God, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store; take myself—and I will be ever,
     only, all for Thee, ever, only, all for thee."*

Then I saw this on a friend's Twitter. "Christians don't tell lies they just go to church and sing them." ~ A.W. Tozer. Perhaps God is trying to tell me something. I mean I think that I have sung these words a lot. I wonder how many times I really meant them. I mean am I really striving to ever only be all for Jesus? Seems like there is a lot more all for me than all for thee in my life. If we live all for Jesus lives, they would be different. We would put others first. We would be humble. We wouldn't worry so much about having things. Unfortunately, we aren't ever only all for Him. too often we get caught up in all for me attitudes.

Laying everything down for Christ is hard. The Bible is full of people who started off gung-ho about serving Jesus. Matthew 8 speaks of two of these. One disciple who said I will go home with you and Jesus quickly told him that He was homeless. Another wanted to bury His father. Jesus said if he was serious he wouldn't worry about that. Two pretty huge sacrifices were challenged there. I think all too often we say, "I'll go and do whatever you want" while not REALLY meaning it.

My prayer today is that I would mean those things. I want more of Jesus in my life. I want to be strong enough to give up what I have for him without counting the cost. That may take awhile and truthfully, the reality of those words scare me. I do want Christ to be in me. I do want to be living all for Him. I can say that now but wonder what will happen if sacrifice is truly upon me.

So, I continue to pray and seek. I trust that I am growing in Christ daily. I pray that He will help me live a life where I can sing "ever only all for thee" without a hint of hypocrisy,

*Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 256.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Accountability and Staying Clean

Jasper Speaks:
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Ti 2:21.

I read this verse as part of my quiet time today. It made me think. Sin sucks. I know that is not a profound statement. Sin can cripple us. When we let sin into our lives it is like we are telling God we don't want to be used by Him. The most wonderful times in my life have come from service. I get energized by the times I can really sense God using me. Sometimes I let sin get in the way of that.

When you look at it, it does not make a lot of sense. When we sin there may be momentary pleasure but in the long run, it weakens us and makes us weary. I get tired and run down when I let sin take the reins. I find my self lackadaisical and impotent. Why then would I be drawn to it?

It goes back to our enemy and his mission statement. He wants to steal, kill and destroy. For all of time he has been convincing people that sin is attractive. He has gotten very good at what he does. He is bold in his deception. Remember that he even tempted Jesus to sin. What arrogance! That same pride is in his approach to us. He wants us to believe that sin is good. He understands that if we are not cleansed from the dishonorable that we cannot be used for the honorable. So, he does all he can to steer us off the right path.

That is where the need for others in our Christian walk comes in again. We need brothers and sisters to walk beside us. We need trusted people to speak into our lives and ask the tough questions. We need people who will not pull punches and tell us when they see sin in our lives.

I want to be a vessel for honorable use. I want God to use me to the utmost. I realize for that to happen I have to pull away from the lies of Satan and live a pure and holy life. I need to seek more accountability. As pastor that can be hard. There is the pressure that if we are transparent we could hurt God's message. I think that is why it is invaluable to have other men surround me. I seek out men who love me and have nothing to do directly with my ministry. I can be transparent. I can share my heart. Even though this is a hard thing for me, I know I must pursue it to remain holy.

Satan wants us to walk this path alone. His best lies are told in private. I pray that my path is littered with godly friends who will keep the conversation loud and strong toward holiness so that I may avoid the whispers of my enemy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

We're All In This Together

Jasper Speaks:

Being a student leader can be a lonely road. We often are the misunderstood person in our church. How could anyone in their right mind ever want to spend endless hours with teenagers? Who would be willing to sacrifice sleep, good food and even sometimes comfort to pour their lives into the next generation? Even fellow staff members and church leaders can often give us that condescending, "bless your heart" look. Sometimes this lone ranger mentality affects the way we do ministry. We try to convince students on a regular basis that they need to find friendship and accountability to thrive in their walk with Christ. Many times, however, we do not make these relationships a vital part of our lives.

When I preach on the importance of relationships I am often drawn to Ecclesiastes 4:

    "I turned my head and saw yet another wisp of smoke on its way to nothingness:
    a solitary person, completely alone—no children, no family, no friends—yet working
    obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more, never bothering
    to ask, "Why am I working like a dog, never having any fun? And who cares?" 

   It's better to have a partner than go it alone.
   Share the work, share the wealth.
   And if one falls down, the other helps,
   But if there's no one to help, tough!

  Two in a bed warm each other.
   Alone, you shiver all night.

  By yourself you're unprotected.
   With a friend you can face the worst.
   Can you round up a third?
   A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped."

We are not ever meant to go this life alone. Still, I have felt like I am working like a dog and no one cares a lot of times. Just as our students need others along the road, we need people coming alongside us to strengthen and encourage us. I think it is all too easy to get caught up in doing what we feel God has called us to do and letting our focus narrow to a point that we do not see the need for others. I think that is exactly what the enemy wants.

Satan knows that a saint on his own is vulnerable. We have no one to share are burdens with. We have no one to hold us accountable. When we are weak there is no one to remind us of the Truth. The enemy's attacks can be strong then and he wants to kick us when we are down. This can result in discouragement at the least and major spiritual failure at the most. I really believe the enemy wants to steal our joy, kill our witness and destroy our lives. I think when we try to do ministry alone, we make his job easier.

I think as Christian leaders we need to do our best to seek out people to walk this road with us. We need to find friendship and accountability with fellow believers. Student ministry is not a solo event. In order to be successful and see a Kingdom difference, we need to establish an army of close friends to walk alongside us down the road of life.