Integrity and Intimacy

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By Beau Leaman

As my wife and I started the new year, we wanted to commit a certain word or phrase that would encompass our spiritual journey for 2015. I thought deeply about a personal vision that I could lean on throughout the year. My thoughts led me to a more personal relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and I wanted this to be the foundation. I wanted to have intimacy with my God, and I was committed to living my life in full relationship with Him. As a result of our discussion the night of New Year’s Eve, I committed to grow in my intimacy with Jesus Christ.

Since that New Year’s Eve night I have met with several men and we continually find ourselves going back to a similar theme. Through continual discussion of our backstage, I’ve realized there is so much more than simply making it a goal of walking in intimacy with Jesus Christ. At my workplace I often make the same mistake. I put the final result before simply addressing the action steps that will get me there. In both situations there are no guarantees if one has a plan, but a combination of knowledge and hard work goes a long way, and I’m discovering this in an interesting way.

I am convinced one of the greatest attributes we can have is integrity. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” The implications of this verse are twofold. One way will give you life, and the other, death. I am convinced integrity starts at the soul and breathes life in intimacy with our God. I am convinced that at the soul of our existence sin can be rooted, grab onto our heart, and dictate the very foundational decisions we make every day. I am convinced that godly integrity brings us close to our God because it mirrors Luke 9:23 so precisely, which says, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

I am convinced that the depth of love we received on the cross should shape our existence, our worldview, and our overall vision on how we approach life. Proverbs 19:1 says, “Better is a poor person who walks in integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” Integrity is won in the heart, and this is where we must take the battle. Intimacy is won in the heart, and this is won during the mundane, in the cancelled plans, in our neighborhoods, at school, and in our homes. We have no idea where and when God will show up in the details of our life, but I hope we will be quiet enough to listen, open-minded enough to have plans change, or calm enough to see Him when things don’t go our way. Each of us are made in the image of our triune God, and this is very special. I hope each of us realizes how special we are and how much He desires us. When we realize how much we’re wanted, our lives are rooted in living for Him. When we live for Him we take up our cross, fight battles in our heart, and walk in intimacy with Him.

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Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart

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By Beau Leaman

As I think about the title of this Last Word, it strikes me as something so easy, yet so difficult. How could I possibly trust the Lord with everything? I’ve failed so many times before, and I wrestle future thoughts of potential failure. What if I fail again? What if I do not know what direction to take? What if I let down my greatest friends? What will my family think of me? What if I disappoint? What if I fail?

On February 11, my grandpa died. In fact, my grandpa died the same day as Helen Eash. Both loved, both missed, and both worshipping and praising Jesus now. The title of this Last Word is the title of Proverbs 3. I read it in the waking hours of the morning, thinking of my grandpa. My grandpa would handwrite me letters or small notes and would always end with mentioning Proverbs 3:5-6. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” The Greek definition of “acknowledge” in verse 6 means “to know thoroughly,” or simply “to recognize a thing to be what it really is.” What a concept this defines. In everything we do, whether we eat or drink or whatever, we recognize Jesus in who He really is as the foundation of that decision we make. If we do this, our paths will be straight. How do we accomplish this? We accomplish this and have success because of one main reason. We have a great High Priest that has done the work for us. My grandpa’s favorite verse that allowed him to live the life Christ wanted him to is found in 2 Corinthians 5:17. It says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” We can trust because we have an advocate, Christ Jesus, who bled so that we can walk with God and have an intimate relationship with Him.

Toward the end of my grandpa’s life there was a small, yellow card he always pulled out and read every day. He would put it back in the same place every day and repeat the process. Part of what he read on the card was, “You are deeply loved.” My grandpa was an extremely active and physical guy. Most folks would rely on this as part of an identity thing, and I’m sure he struggled with this as he began to lose all strength. When he could no longer move, he had a Savior to bridge the gap. At the most difficult time in his life he was deeply loved, and no one would take that from him.

When I read about Paul talking about passing the baton, it seems like an out-of-body experience that is a daily fight. When we think that hope is lost, we have brothers and sisters in Christ encouraging us along the way. I hope you have an experience like I’ve had in this journey we call life, to either be the encourager my grandpa was or be on the receiving end of it like I was. My grandpa means so much to me and I miss him every day. He learned to pass the baton and speak life into people. What a husband, what a father, what a grandpa, what a great-grandpa, what a friend, what a brother, and what a man he was. Thank you for your witness, Grandpa! You are greatly loved!

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Doers of the Word

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By Beau Leaman

When I think of being doers of the Word I am reminded of Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works lest anyone should boast.” I am reminded of a hero in the faith when pondering this. His name was George Mueller, and you can read about his amazing life below:

“George Mueller was a native German who lived to see most of the 19th century. He was a father, husband, and a preacher. He was a man revered by many. At his funeral tens of thousands of people left their work places, left their houses, and left their orphanages to pay their respects. George Mueller opened 5 large orphan houses and cared for 10,204 orphans in his lifetime. One of the great effects of Mueller’s ministry was to inspire others so that fifty years after Mr. Mueller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone. He did all this while he was preaching three times a week from 1830 to 1898, at least 10,000 times. And when he turned 70 he fulfilled a life-long dream of missionary work for the next 17 years until he was 87. He traveled to 42 countries, preaching on average of once a day, and addressing some three million people. He had read his Bible from end to end almost 200 times. He had prayed in millions of dollars (in today’s currency) for the orphans and never asked anyone directly for money. He never took a salary in the last 68 years of his ministry, but trusted God to put in people’s hearts to send him what he needed. He never took out a loan or went into debt.” George Mueller, A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings with George Muller

George Mueller was a humble man who did not take the back seat when living out the Gospel. He not only trusted God to supply all things, but he was also a meek man while doing it. 1 Corinthians 12:9 says, “to another faith by the same Spirit.” George Mueller thought of himself not as someone who had a gift of faith, but rather as one having the grace of faith. I believe there is a stark difference between the two, and the main point is intriguing. God gave George Mueller the ability to wait on him. God gave him the ability to depend on Him. George Mueller praised God for the mercy he had been given to trust God for everything in his life. George Mueller never asked for donations, but rather prayed that people would be led in their hearts to give and be transformed through that giving.

George Mueller lived a life not only as a hearer of the word, but as a doer of the word as well. I have been challenged this week to ask God to supply all my needs. I often times find myself just hearing the gospel, but never having heart transformation. God desires a relationship with us, and he desires our heart. May God give us the strength as a body of believers to be likeminded, acknowledging that the ability to trust Him is a gift, something we have neither achieved nor earned.

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Starting Point to the Kingdom

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By Beau Leaman

Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” (Matthew 5:3). I believe all Scripture to be intentional, persuasive, and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). It is for this reason that Jesus intentionally started the Sermon on the Mount with this key phrase, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.” What exactly does this phrase mean? Does it mean the Spirit of God inside us must be poor? Is it talking about our own spirit? Does it refer to our personal happy barometer in how we’re feeling? Does it refer to our hope and endurance? Does it mean that those feeling thankful in the moment are blessed? I believe in order for us to ask the question we have to understand two points. These points are both fundamental and foundational if we’re to ask the question, “What exactly does this phrase mean?” Let’s begin discussion.

The first of two points we must ask ourselves in answering this question has to do with the awareness of our depravity. As fallen creatures, we often stumble around keeping clear of the “major sins” of today’s evangelical Christianity. For some of us (depending on where you’re at), I think it’s easy to get caught in the feel-good bubble because we have not committed adultery, engaged in drunkenness, or are in a homosexual lifestyle. We often replace these “major sins” with “respectable sins.” Examples would include: gossip, gluttony, outbursts of anger, lust, slander, etc. Later, in Matthew 5:8, He continues with saying, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God calls us to purity and holiness and the more we are pure and holy, the more we shall see God. Our depravity fits perfectly with this analogy. The more we realize what separates us from God, the greater the realization of our depravity. Oswald Chambers says, “The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, ‘Lord, I cannot even begin to do it.’ … The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Chris accomplishes His work.” This leads to the second point.

In Matthew 4:17 it says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus starts his initial preaching with a call to repentance and starts the Sermon on the Mount with a call to realize our need for God’s help. What a point to be made! Repentance is the natural follow-up once we realize the proper place He holds in our life. This repentance cries from a genuine heart of poverty and genuine trust that He will and has the power to forgive us. This forgiveness frees us to do His work without any footholds restraining us to doing His work.

May God grant us the wisdom to realize and acknowledge those areas of our life we’ve held back from having a genuine and heartfelt relationship with Him. May God grant us the power to talk with Him no matter how big or small the circumstance may be. May God open our eyes so our faith and trust in Him would increase all the more for His Kingdom’s sake.

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Pass the Baton or the Remote?

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By Beau Leaman

God has a sense of humor with these things. As I began to write this I violently choked on the glass of water I was drinking. Self-examining my heart is often difficult, but when writing about a subject like this it is intriguing the way the Spirit nudges oneself to examine their heart before talking on specific subjects. Oftentimes I have a sense that the closer I get to Jesus Christ, the more the enemy wants to turn up the heat. Living our lives in bold action is a dangerous and risky lifestyle. At the end of day we all attend the track meet, but some choose to run the race, while others choose to be spectators.

One of my favorite passages comes from 1 Corinthians 9:22-23. It says, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” Paul lived his life through confidence in the power and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul knew what it meant to draw near to God, and be a fisher of men. Today, we have an even greater gift in the life-giving nature of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit walks with us to conquer our greatest fears, and all too often His power is forgotten. Tertullian said, “The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him. He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless. He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit. This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit. A Christian is fearless.”

Part of Elim’s Mission Statement is too know, grow, and go. These three keys all go in succession. When we know God we will grow. When we grow we will want to go. There is an important key here that I want to communicate. We cannot pass the baton on the couch, and passing the baton is not the first step. The first step is knowing and drawing near to God. We do this by loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. How do we do this? We pray, we read his Word, we involve ourselves in life-giving community, and we cling to Ephesians 2:8-9. Through this process God begins to open our eyes and rip off the calluses, and we begin to have encounters with God.

Passing the baton must be a work of the Spirit. In John 14:17, it says, “the Spirit dwells in you, and will be with you.” Also, in Mark 13:11, it says the Spirit helps us speak in difficult situations. J.I. Packer says, “The Christian’s life in all aspects—intellectual and ethical, devotional and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness—is supernatural; only the Spirit can initiate and sustain it. So apart from Him, not only will there be no lively believers and no lively congregations, there will be no believers and no congregations at all.” The Spirit bears witness to the fact that we are sons and daughters of the Most High. We receive our boldness from the Spirit and He walks with us in our most difficult circumstances. To pass the baton, whether it be in the mundane or the crazy, we must draw near to God and fight for what Paul found most precious, the furtherance of the Kingdom and the fellowship of the saints. May we trust God in our encounters with others, live life in bold action, and answer in a firm “YES” when the Spirit beckons on this day, and forevermore.

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Pride in the Face of Insecurity

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By Beau Leaman

How do you define pride in both its literal meaning and in the way it plays out in your life? If we’re honest, I’m sure we have all been guilty of watering down the effects and severity of pride in our lives. I know I have, plenty of times. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” I know this verse, but do I truly believe it? If I were honest, I would say I believe it when it is convenient for me. For me, pride creeps up when I don’t look to Christ as my security. When I believe the world offers something better, and Christ’s all-powerful mercy is not grounded, I become a ship tossed by the waves. As I’m being tossed, I still want to think of myself as good, and I try to find Christ on my own terms. Through this insecurity I begin to develop pride because I no longer see myself as sanctified and righteous. Pride and insecurity go hand in hand. The foundation is insecurity, and the result is pride.

How important is the issue of pride in our lives? More importantly, what value is this topic of pride to Jesus? Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In the first pronouncement of the Beatitudes, Jesus calls us to be poor in spirit and assures us that the kingdom of heaven will then be our own. Why did Jesus mention this one first? In my opinion, it’s because it is a posture of helplessness. It is the foundation of our need for God’s help. The kingdom of heaven is for those who confess their spiritual bankruptcy. Proverbs 16:19 says, “It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Also, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In the earlier passage Paul was speaking of a thorn in his flesh. Although Paul was going through many things we have not gone through, there is truth in that God is glorified and made strong in our confession of weakness and heart posture of lowliness.

At my workplace, my coworkers and I are often praised when we voice confidence in our own leadership, communication, and knowledge. Upper management would think that if you cannot speak about yourself highly by putting yourself on an alter, then you cannot be considered a leader. Do you wrestle with similar things? Whether it’s in our neighborhoods, our marriage, our school, or at our workplace, I think our society wants us to praise ourselves and exalt ourselves into a form of God. If any of us are searching for “our best life now,” this should sound familiar.

Is there such a thing as a righteous pride? Is it wrong to have confidence in something? Is boasting the end result of confidence? I want to leave you with these questions, as I myself have wrestled through them in many seasons of life. Galatians 6:14 says, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” May God grant us the wisdom to discern righteousness and understand the rich value in being poor in spirit.

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