Thursday, March 21, 2013

Convictions To Live By

by Tim Howard

If asked to state one of the most powerful things in a person’s life, I would say ‘attitude.’ It has the power to create or devastate. For some, their attitude finds opportunity in every difficulty; others find difficulty in every opportunity. Some face problems with a positive attitude, while others fall and fail because of a negative outlook.

The good news of the Bible is we can choose the attitude that will best serve God’s purposes. To do this, however, you must establish ‘convictions’ because attitudes and actions are built upon the convictions you hold. 

Some good advice in 2 Tim 3:14 is given to a young Pastor who wants to successfully oversee a Church in a city called Ephesus. It says this: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of because you know those from whom you learned it.” NIV

Convictions grow over time. They are learned through instruction, thought, decisions and experiences. They represent the way you view life. 

Convictions need to be evaluated to ensure they’re founded upon truth. When based upon truth they produce soil for good attitudes to flourish but when founded upon a faulty bias the soil of your life gives rise to rotten fruit. 

You become an odor to others rather than a sweet fragrance. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Your future looks bright when the attitude is right and it makes the present much more enjoyable too!

The people who have made the greatest impact on this world, for good or bad, are those who had the deepest convictions. They weren’t necessarily the smartest people, the brightest people, the most educated, the wealthiest, or even the most famous. That should make a lot of us happy!

I’ve established many convictions that have helped me stay the course. Here’s 5 of them.

1. Life Is All About God!
It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s not about profit, politics, or anything else. It’s all about God. Until you understand that, life will never make sense fully.

2. People Matter Most!
Rick Warren said: Projects and programs are great but we are to be driven by purpose and that purpose puts people first.

3. You Can’t Do Life Alone!
It’s not enough just to love God. You must love His people and connect - despite all of our differences. Jesus is our example and He connected with people.

4. Everything Is Possible With God!
 ‘…With God all things are possible.’” Matt. 19:26 NIV. We tend to say: “I can’t ” when the opposite is true.  Don’t quit believing in people because God doesn’t quit believing in you. Miracles still happen! God is pleased when we trust Him to do those things beyond our abilities.

 5. God Expects Everyone To Love Everyone.             
Matt. 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. NIV. 

When something bad happens, you have three choices: 1. You can either let it define you, 2. let it destroy you, or 3. you can let it strengthen you. Don’t let anything stop you from loving everyone.

True Convictions develop the condition of your attitude and this in turn affects the quality of your relationships with other people; whether you can turn a problem into a blessing or whether you become a victim or victorious. What are your convictions?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Driving Ourselves Nuts

by Andrew Cromwell

Life is busy. No one argues that point. Actually, it has become one of the things we talk about just to fill the time in conversation, a lot like we talk about the weather. We shake our heads and say things like “boy this year has flown by quickly” and “will things ever slow down?” The other person just shakes their head and agrees that they are just as busy as you and their life just as hectic.

And while people are busy, I sometimes wonder if our “feeling” of being rushed all the time is made far worse by the way we are choosing to live our lives. I’m beginning to think we are driving ourselves nuts and we don’t even recognize the source of the problem.

It seems that at any moment in between the normal activities of the day, we do our best to fill the time — we pull out our phones and check facespace, email, text messages, words with friends or whatever game you’re currently playing. Instead of taking a breath, enjoying the people around us or staring blankly into space, we have trained ourselves to reach for the closest electronic device.

We are like hopped up hamsters, continually seeking for the next hit of catnip which is served up by those little blue-light emitting squares in our pockets and purses. We can’t even sit down at a meal (be it at home or at a restaurant with a friend or loved one) without pawing at our phones. We stare at them as if they hold the answer to the deep questions of the universe and ignore the people next to us.

And the more we do it, the more scattered and rushed we feel. We are training ourselves to be distracted and unsatisfied with the present. We are continually seeking for some other contact out there and we cease to be able to be content and calm right here, right now.

We are losing our ability to step back and breathe and center ourselves. Instead of looking up, we are looking down and we are losing our perspective. As a parent, I find myself complaining about how much time my kids want to spend on electronics, and then I realize that they are only doing exactly what I am doing!

So, I think it’s time we get serious about setting boundaries. It’s time we start being present in the moment.  It’s time we started turning off the devices (yes, that is possible) and enjoy the people we are with. And if we are not with people, maybe take some time to actually breathe and think without scrambling to find out what so-and-so ate for lunch today.

Maybe we’ll find we’re not as busy as we feel. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Leaders and Followers

by Tim Howard

If you choose to do everything alone, you don’t need leaders but if you choose to do life - with a team mentality, you will need quality leaders and committed followers.

Paul the Apostle was undeniably one of the greatest leaders in the New Testament. His credentials were impeccable. He was courageous, creative, consistent, educated to the highest level and committed to doing whatever it took to succeed. If you want a picture of a driven, demanding, strong and determined leader, then study the life of Paul.

 There was one major weakness, however; Paul wasn’t a good follower!  At least until he had an encounter with Christ on a narrow, winding, dirt road in route to an insignificant place called Damascus.  That’s not surprising because God is like that. He meets you when you least expect it, when you least deserve it and when you’re on a road to nowhere…

The account reads like this in Acts 9. When Saul got to the outskirts of Damascus, a blinding flash of light suddenly dazed him. Being stopped in his tracks he fell to the ground and heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?” He said, “Who are you, Master?”  “I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down.  I want you to get up and enter the city… While Saul was picking himself up off the ground, he found himself stone blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus.

This man had vision! He saw what he wanted in life and was in hot pursuit of it. He would not be deterred or denied. But then... God engaged him and everything went black. Lights out?  He couldn’t see. He needed help. It was so dark he had to follow the lead of someone else.

If you are too big to follow you will always be too small to lead! 

The best leaders are the ones who have learned to follow well. A Roman soldier understood this concept. He said in Luke 7:8, I am a man under orders and know how to obey. I also give orders. I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ and he goes; another, ‘Come,’ and he will come.

The first thing Jesus asked His potential leaders to do was: “Follow Me” Why? Because when you follow, you learn if you listen.

The word ‘Disciple’ in the N.T. means: learner or follower. Jesus didn’t recruit members for an organization; He invited people to have a relationship by following Him.

In ancient times, there were few higher learning institutions. Instead, those who wanted to learn a skill or a philosophy attached themselves to a journeyman or a teacher and spent significant time with them to learn the trade. In the case of those learning a philosophy, the student would follow the teacher for years, traveling wherever they would go, and the teacher would expound as they walked, teaching the intricacies of the faith. The disciples of Jesus did just that. Wherever Jesus went, the disciples would follow, and Jesus would show them things and teach them as they moved across the land. The disciples listened, learned and as a result, became great leaders.

 We’ve all heard variations of that old idiom: “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” “Too many bosses and not enough workers.” That may or may not be true in certain situations but I do know this for a fact. If you want to be a good leader, you must first become a good follower. We need both, quality leaders and committed followers.