Intentional Living

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by Brian Sharpe

I have been in ministry, working with students, for 10 years. Over the years there have been themes that God has brought out through teaching or experience.

Over the past couple of years I have been hearing the same theme. On the Evangelical Free Church Student Ministries Council I serve on, in staff meetings, in training seminars, and just as God teaches me through His Word, He has been calling me to intentional living.

The problem is, it is easy getting caught up in what needs immediately to be done — the tyranny of the urgent. You think, if I don’t do it then it no one else will.

I am a doer. I like being a doer. I will help in most situations. If a storage room needs cleaned out, I will help. Martin often says I need to focus. This is a part of intentional living, having in mind the things that are important so you will focus on them. Doing everything in your power to stay on track and accomplish the “big rocks” in your ministry and life. (Big rocks are the most important things that need to be done in ministry and life.)

As a believer in Jesus, in life and ministry I have two main foci. These need to rule everything I do. They are: the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission.

Jesus gets asked the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” And He answers this question. His response summarizes the most important thing that you and I can do with our lives. There is no bigger rock in life or ministry.

Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-40: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

These verses for believers should form the basis for our everyday intentionality. They should be what we live for, what makes us tick. When we are building our lives around them, our hearts and lives will change. We will be different.

What defines you? What are your “big rocks?” If we desire to live intentionally, we will ask these kinds of questions. Then we will be compelled actions. That’s where we need to be. We need to be moved from hearers of the word, to effectual does of the word. This goes along with the beatitudes. When we live as God calls us to live in the beatitudes, and then action will be the result. James says you will see my faith by what I do. We are saved by faith, but that fail compels us to action.

I know I have a long way to go to live intentionally. But I need to start the process. I need to ask the questions and allow the answers to shape the way I live.

A couple of years ago I was listening to a sermon. A statement that the pastor made will stick with me for the rest of my life. He said, the way we live shows us who is on the throne of our life. How you answer these questions defines you. Knowing what your big rocks are will help you see who or what is on the throne of your life. Take time this next week and asks these questions. Evaluate how you are living and be compelled to action.

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Re-inventing Our Worship

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by Brian Waple

No, we’re not going to start singing Gregorian chant during the worship service (although there is some wonderful spirituality found in Gregorian chant…OK, another article). I wanted to talk a little about what’s happening with our worship space, as well as some of the updates we’ll be making to the technology.

First the worship space…as it was, because the overall stage space had several levels, it naturally broke the stage up into several areas. None of these areas was really large enough to accommodate the entire worship team, and a lot of valuable space was lost. When the decision was made to redo the stage, the Elders smartly decided to build a single level stage. So, under the capable leadership of Bob Hedge, the old stage was ripped out and a new, one level stage was built. A couple of advantages to this: the worship team is all on the same level, and we have the space to spread the team out, as well as more space for other types of presentations. Also, the decision was made to use reinforced plywood sheeting on the floor. This makes the stage area much more solid (hats off to Jim Batcheller).

In addition, the team installed power all along the back wall. This will cut down on the need for power strips and extension cords, and allow us to position sound system gear and instruments where we need them on the stage.

Also, we have hidden almost all of the wiring (personal peeve!) Most of the wiring will now be under the stage. Kudos to Steve Weller and Chris Pace for engineering that.

Finally, speaking of wiring, Steve and Ralph are building several sub-snakes (not the slithering kind), which all of the instrument and microphone cords plug in to. These will be located at various points along the stage, rather than everything going to the one large snake under the piano. The overall advantage is the stage will be much less cluttered.

Now, to the technology upgrades. Our current sound mixer has reached a point where it is becoming too expensive to repair. A request was made to the Elder Board, and they gave us funding for the purchase of a new sound mixer. This past Saturday Steve Weller, Ralph Hirschfelder, Chris Pace and I attended a demonstration of a new, 16-channel, digital mixer, which we’ll be buying in the next two weeks. What this means primarily is that we will have much more capability and flexibility when planning and running our sound. We’ve decided to wait to install the new mixer until after all the construction is complete (this will keep the dust out of the system). There will be a bit of a learning curve with a digital mixer; but, as part of the purchase, the mixer manufacturer will be providing on-site training to get us up and running. We expect to be using the new system by the middle of August (by the way, now would be a great time for anyone interested in running sound to contact Ralph).

So, there you have it…a new stage, a new sound architecture, a new mixer…all for the glory of God as we offer our sacrifice of praise to Him. I want to thank you for your patience as we are going through this “re-invention”, and I pray that you will be pleased with the outcome.

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Faithful Pray-er

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by Steve Kearns

In June of 2009, 95 year old Emma Gray died. For over two decades, she had been the cleaning lady in a big house. Each night as she did her work, she prayed for blessings, wisdom, and safety for the man she worked for.

Although Emma worked in the same place for 24 years, the occupants changed every four years or so. Over the years, Emma offered her prayers for six US Presidents: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter.

Emma had her personal favorites, but she prayed for them all. She followed the instruction we read in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for “all who are in authority” (v.2).

When I read this in the Daily Bread last month I was convicted of the fact that I was not praying for our President as I should be. It was easy for me to get and forward jokes, slams on his character, questions about his citizenship, and a ton of other e-mails of how bad a job he is doing. Was God pleased with my attitude towards Mr. Obama? No, I don’t believe He was! God’s word does not say we are to pray for our leaders only if we agree with their politics. It simply says we are to pray for “all who are in authority.”

As we just celebrated our independence I have to wonder what would have happened to this country years ago had God’s people not been involved in its founding? Is it not our responsibility to continue to pray for our leaders and God’s will for our Country?

Because God “hears the prayers of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29), who knows how He used Emma’s faithful prayers? In Proverbs 21:1, we read “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

Like Emma, we are to pray for our leaders. Is there someone God is calling you to pray for today?

No leader is beyond God’s grace

When righteous people pray;

For when God’s children intercede,

The Lord will have His way.

To influence leaders for God, intercede with God for leaders.

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Does God respect us?

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By Larry Short

If you would have asked me that question a year ago, I think I would have had a much different reaction. “Respect us?” I would have asked, perhaps scratching my chin thoughtfully. “Wow, I don’t know. I guess He respects our right to make decisions for ourselves. But how could He REALLY respect us? After all, He is God, and we are not. We are utterly depraved, He is utterly holy. What’s to respect?”

I might have even secretly wondered if the question itself was a bit blasphemous!

But two things I have studied in the Word recently have caused me to drastically change my perspective on this question. And the implications of what I have learned have both frightened me and given me a new and profound respect for our Creator. I hope I can share these impacts with you here.

Job, God, and Satan

Several months ago, the Young Adults Ministry finished up a very interesting study in Job. I confessed to them that there was something about this story that had always bothered me … and that is the apparently unfettered access Satan has to the throne of God.

And more than that, the apparent respect with which God treats Satan in the story! In Job 1 He asks Satan two questions as if He really cares about the answer (and, by extension, cares about, respects, perhaps even loves Satan himself): “Where have you come from?” and “Have you considered My servant Job?” He listens patiently to Satan’s answers, then tells him: “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” He speaks with authority … and respect. To the devil!

This has always troubled me deeply. God abhors evil, right? And no single created being more fully represents evil than Satan himself. If I were God and saw Satan hanging with the angels in Heaven, I think I would throw a major thunderbolt and watch him plunge in smoking flames! I certainly wouldn’t ask respectful questions, listen patiently for the answer, and then give him (nearly) free reign to torment the man Scripture says was the most righteous person on the planet at the time! What on earth (and in heaven) is going on here, anyway?

Jesus and Judas

Recently I was reading the New Testament and was struck by this verse, right between the eyes. I realized quickly how similar the situation (or, at least my reaction to it) was to the God and Satan story in Job 1. This is from John 6, shortly after Jesus has given a difficult teaching about being the Bread of Life. Verse 66 says that “Many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” as a result, and He asked the 12, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” But Jesus replies, in verse 70: “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” And John offers this footnote: He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.

And that’s when it hit me: Long before Judas actually betrayed Jesus, Jesus knew he was going to betray Him! How long? I asked myself. And I realized there really only was one answer: For as long as Jesus knew Judas, even before the day He selected this scumbag to be one of the 12, He knew.

If you and I were in Jesus’ shoes, extending the honor of apostleship to 12 individuals who agreed to follow us, and knew that one of them would ultimately stab us in the back … would we do it? Not me, no way! How could I work shoulder to shoulder with that person, day after day, in my most intimate and troubled moments, and look him in the eye, knowing that? I have a hard enough time just tolerating the coworkers in the cubicles around me when they talk too loud on the phone!

The enormity of the chasm between me and God

It was at this very moment that I realized anew the terribly vast gulf that separates me from God. God truly loves even His most vicious enemies. That love is demonstrated in respect. The One who told us, “Love your enemies” treated Judas no differently than He treated all the other disciples, even though He knew of the pain and destruction that would come from Judas’ choices. And God created Satan, knowing full well that he would become the devil. Scripture teaches that Lucifer was the highest of God’s creations. It seems to be in God’s nature to give His creatures, whom He endowed with free choice, a wide latitude to make decisions even if those decisions are bad and harmful.

Why is the need to show such respect for people’s freedom of choice so difficult for me? I think the real reason is that it is much easier for me to hate people than it is for me to hate evil. For God, the very opposite is true. And with that realization, you see how enormous the chasm between me and God truly is.

The implications of profound respect

So, does God respect me? Absolutely He does, more than I ever realized before or probably ever could realize. I am His precious creation, just as Judas was. His love for me is infinite, and this infinite love manifests itself in respect.

So, what is the practical implication of this respect? When you truly respect someone, you give them complete freedom to live in accordance with their own choices. They are an independent entity. They can choose to accept you, to love you in return, or they can choose to reject you. You certainly don’t “weight” things by coercing or forcing them to do one or the other.

I’ve heard it said that God is ultimately pro-choice, and I realize now what that means. He respects our freedom to choose to such a great extent that He will even allow us to make life miserable for others (as Satan did for Job). In fact, one of the most heinous evils I can think of is a person who would hurt, or even kill, an innocent child (born or unborn). It’s hard not to wonder, Why does God allow that? Why doesn’t He stop the person who commits such terrible atrocities? Why did God create Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin or Osama Bin Laden? I think the answer relates to respect. Each of those has the freedom to choose, and that freedom entails the power to choose to hurt others.

So, ultimately, what will come of this freedom? I think the final story will be very sobering, but also very good news, depending on how you look at it: Ultimately, there is justice! As we choose an evil path, Scripture says we are hardened in that path, and that hardening ultimately results in separation from God. The evildoer will not always have the power to hurt others with his evil. In God’s good timing, in this life or the next, there will be justice. A lake of fire is coming for Satan and his angels. People ask: “How could a loving God create Hell?” The answer is, Hell is the only logical possibility when you couple our freedom to choose evil, with the fact of God’s ultimate love and respect for us and our choices.

That hardening and condemnation is bad news for the person who chooses it. But the one who will choose life, who will choose God, who will choose the good, God will also confirm on that path of choice. We will be softened to God and the journey will lead us away from injustice, away from the pain wrought by evil, toward willful submission and obedience, and ultimately to Heaven. To borrow C.S. Lewis’ terminology, that is the “great divorce” that is coming, the separation of evil from righteousness, Heaven from Hell. History is the process of God using His winnowing fork to work out the balance between absolute love and absolute freedom of choice.

On which side of His winnowing fork will you fall? God’s respect for you means that you alone, in all of Creation, can choose the answer to that question.

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