Daring Greatly

Former Lead Pastor, Bethel Family Christian Center

 

Teaching how to avoid both complacent and obsessive Christianity.

Daring Greatly…this site is about being no longer limited and bound by man-made limits, but releasing us into God’s limitlessness.
Everyone is looking to be someone special failing to recognize we are only pursuing man-made limitations trading our God-given purposes for the approval and limitations of men. This, unfortunately, becomes our search for significance. Our significance is found in our normalcy of the ordinariness of a supernatural life found only in the personhood of Jesus Christ.

A Study in Declining Churches

In 1972 Dean M. Kelley released the results of a sociological study of religion titled, “Why Conservative Churches Are Growing,” the conclusion was because they were conservative.

But what does being “conservative” mean? It doesn’t mean conservative culturally, socially, ethically, or politically.

A new study from Wilfrid Laurier University and Redeemer University College in Ontario Canada concluded that the reason some churches decline while others grow is largely based on their theological beliefs. If the members of a church and its clergy embrace conservative theological beliefs, they tend to be growing. If they don’t, they tend to be in decline.

What we shouldn’t do is what declining churches do…blame society for the dropping interest in church/religion.

The reality is that growing churches hold more firmly to traditional Christian beliefs/doctrine and are more diligent in, or value prayer and Bible reading. They tend to take the Bible at face value as truth, and believe that God is alive and active in the world. These values are actuated within our churches being demonstrated by reality of demonstration. In other words, we do what we say we do!

This is reveled when asked; 93 percent of pastors in growing churches said they agree with the statement: “Jesus rose from the dead with a real, flesh-and-blood body, leaving behind an empty tomb.”

Declining churches? Only 56 percent.
Many would say: “My goodness! If you don’t believe that, what kind of Christianity are you advocating?”

My main point is…if we water down our faith so that it matches the world’s values and ideals, then we end up having nothing to offer the world that it does not already have.

We won’t get the attention of a post Christian world by voicing the convictions they already hold as true…the voice that gains the attention of the world will be convict them, being clear in its message, substantive, being really-real in its content, and bold in its challenge.

God’s Love is Personal

Colossians 3:12-17; “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Have you had moments when you decided that you were going to walk in love instead of offense or anger? When you make the right choice; it’s a victorious moment.

The phrase “put on” is a translation of the Greek word enduo, a common term that was used in New Testament times to denote the act of putting on a garment or a piece of clothing.

In the same way, Paul says we are to “put on love.” This word for “love” is the Greek word agape — a complex term that I call high-level love because there is no higher, finer, or more excellent love than agape love.

Agape kind of love happens when an individual sees, recognizes, understands, and appreciates the value of an object or a person, causing the viewer to behold this object or person in great esteem, awe, admiration, wonder, and sincere appreciation. Such great respect is awakened in the heart of the viewer for the object or person he is seeing that he is compelled to love. In fact, his love for that person or object is so strong that it is irresistible. If necessary, agape love will even sacrifice itself for the benefit of that object or person it so deeply cherishes. Thus, agape is the highest form of love — a self-sacrificial type of love that moves one to action.

In 1 John 3:16, we are urged to possess agape for each other. It says, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

This plainly means that we are to love and appreciate each other just as fully and freely as God loves us.

The Father loved us to the point of self-sacrifice. In the same way, we also agape our brothers and sisters to such a great extent that we would be willing to lay down our lives for them or forgive them for wrongs we perceive they have committed against us. We are to love others with no strings attached.

So refuse to let anger, frustration, and intolerance rule you — and take this command of God very seriously. Slip on the garment of agape love, and keep it on! God is love; in fact, it’s the very essence of who He is. And just as Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father’s love (see John 15:9), so are you called to be a reflection of Jesus’ love. 1 John 4:17 declares, “…As he is, so are we in this world”!

In contrast: Eros’ love is a self-seeking love.

Stergo’s love is limited only to one’s family.

Phileo’s love is based on mutual satisfaction and can feel disappointed.

Agape is a love that has no strings attached. It isn’t looking for what it can get, but for what it can give. It’s awe of the one who is loved is so deep that it is compelled to shower love upon that object or person regardless of the response. This is the profound love God has for the human race, for He loved man when he was still lost in sin with no ability to love Him back. God simply loved mankind without any thought or expectation of receiving love in return.

 

When Your Life Gets Torn Up

Our story begins early in Joseph’s life after his dreams of exaltation. When Joseph arrives where his brothers had gathered, he suspects nothing which is natural considering it’s his brothers. As the scene unfolds we see his brothers tearing his special robe from him (Genesis 37:23).

This scene reenacts itself repeatedly in Joseph’s life. Potiphar’s wife later seizes his garment (Genesis 39:12-13); but by contrast, when God exalts Joseph, Pharaoh provides him the best garments (Genesis 41:42).

So what’s the application…the momentary stripping away of our self-made identity is necessary so that God can provide the “best” not what we at times consider the best.

In Joseph’s and our experiences in life God allows these kind of subsequent scenes to evoke and awaken our understanding of our path before the Lord.

The Scriptures tells us in Psalm 37:23 that “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.”

Today, let the Lord guide your path and provide you with the best of clothing, put on Jesus Christ. Romans 13:14; “Put put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

Put on the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness, Isaiah 61:3; “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Clothing (garment) tells much about a person:

  • A garment of pure white linen showed all Egypt that Joseph was in command.
  • A purple garment was only for a king.
  • A black garment like ashes was for widows mourning for their husband. • A garment of sackcloth (like burlap) was for those in grief & great loss.
  • A colorful garment was provided for each wedding guest by wealthy hosts.
  • A garment for shepherds was made of skins.
  • A garment for soldiers was red.
  • Angels garments were long, white, and shining.
  • Garments for priests were of finest white linen. They had to wear these garments to come into God’s presence to praise.

One last Scripture comes to mind; Luke 15:20-24; “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”

When God puts on you the garment of “best,” He is saying this is my child, this is my beloved who has come home. It is an act of God’s grace covering our naked, wounded souls, covering our sins.

Not only did the father cover his son with the best robe but also put the family ring on him. What does this mean? It is a declaration of sonship, and heirship; a seal and pledge of “you are mine, and I am yours.” (Song of Solomon 2:13; John 17:10)

Lastly, the father puts shoes on his returning son. Feet are meant to represent our outward walk and conversation; we are no longer, barefoot, susceptible to the dangers of our paths. Shoes keeps the feet secure and straight, protecting us from slipping and falling; enables us to walk long distances; directs, guides, and influences walking, and protects from the stones, thorns, and scorpions. These are shoes of God’s protection and empowerment that never wear out because they are the preparation of the Gospel of peace, (Ephesians 6:15). The Gospel is as shoes to the feet; it beautifies and adorns, (Song of Solomon 7:1)

When God exalted, promoted Joseph, Pharaoh provides him the best garments (Genesis 41:42). This is what God does for our lives in the purposes He has ordained for us. Don’t allow the familiarity of difficulty and circumstances to convince you that God doesn’t care or isn’t involved in your lives…God is working in your future to provide the best for you.

Philippians 2:13; “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

Ephesians 1:3-12; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both[a] which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.”

Pride, the Ivory Tower

The ivory tower of my pride, my own (self-perceived) judgments which by our impeccable morality seeing so clearly the gaping pits into which others have stumbled? It is my natural inclination to say, “How could they be so careless, and so stupid? Wasn’t it obvious to them that these decisions were wrong? How could they let themselves get here in the first place?” I mean, is it really that hard?

Have you ever found yourself saying these words?

My tower is pretty high, so high that I am oblivious to my immediate surroundings of my own weaknesses. My whitewashed fortress, my self-righteousness gets me through the day digging a pit of my own, and I am completely blind to it.

Scripture tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah. 17:9).

When I attempt to identify my own areas of vulnerability, my pits, I am pretty shortsighted. Why; because I gravitate toward the places where I am weak, forgetting my strengths can be my weakness.

For example:

Abraham’s great strength was obedience. Where did he fall? Obedience (Gen. 12:13, 16:2).

Noah’s great attribute was discipline. Where did he fall? Discipline (Gen. 9:21).

Isaac’s great asset was truth-telling. Where did he fall? Truth-telling (Gen. 26:7).

Moses’ great strength was meekness. Where did he fall? Meekness (Num. 20:10-12).

David’s great character trait was integrity. Where did he fall? Integrity (2 Sam. 11:3-27).

Elijah’s great attribute was faith. Where did he fall? Faith (1 Kings 19:3-13).

Uzziah’s great strength was adherence to God’s Word. Where did he fall? Adherence to God’s Word (2 Chr. 26:16-21).

Peter’s great asset was courage. Where did he fall? Yup. Courage (Luke 22:34-62).
Boasting about Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9; “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Why would Paul rather boast about his weaknesses instead of his strengths? Because God’s power is perfected in my weakness…it shores up a defense against our enemy, the flesh, the world, the devil in the area’s of my life where I am most susceptible.

We ignore the area’s in which we are strong, Why, because we assume these are the areas we will never fail so they are often ignored, and we fall into a pit of susceptible to the weakness of our strength.

Do you ever remember saying; “I will never do that, or fail in this area?”

Where are you strong? Inspection of those areas ensures you are on guard.

Many times weaknesses of our strengths are only seen after our failure. How else will we find the weak-link of the armor of our self-righteousness?

Proverbs 4:23; “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”

1 Corinthians 10:12-13; “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 5;8 to be sober and diligent…the why is found in the preceding verse 6-7; “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Humility is the ultimate “self-awareness.” It tears down our Ivory Tower of pride enabling us to see the reality in our lives where we are susceptible to temptation and failure, even where we think we’re strong.

1 Peter 1:3-6;Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Attitude Adjustments

With this title you’re probably ready to or not to read or perhaps just gloss over this article. Why, your attitude most likely stinks; or you’re trying to figure out why someone else’s attitude is the way it is.

Many of us are employees or employers and all at one time or the other have possessed bad or poor attitudes, and we’d like to be enabled to change, one way or the other, attitudes.

So…let’s take a deeper look.

2 Corinthians 22:21-27; “I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that! But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.”

If anyone has a “right” to have negative attitudes the Apostle Paul does!

Now let’s move this conversation to our lives, culture, using Paul’s life to compare our situations to Paul’s situations.

This makes us, if we are one of those who constantly complain about small annoyances look really bad. I know the mirror of God’s Word sometimes is very uncomfortable. That will explain why we are so hesitant many times to engulf ourselves in the Word.

If it’s possible to fix those little inconveniences, then fix them. But if the little things like the temperature of the air can’t be adjusted to your liking or if you can’t have an office with a window, it’s time for you to put a smile on your face and do a good job for your employer with a happy attitude. He didn’t hire you to grumble and complain. He hired you to be a blessing!

The fact is, sometimes we don’t get to have everything just the way we’d like to have it. Yet even in those moments, you and I should serve with all our might. If we are being paid to do a good job and to be cooperative with our employer and fellow employees, then we need to do what we are being paid to do! The day we give up that servant’s attitude to become a source of constant complaining is the day we cease to be a blessing and become instead a hindrance that is no longer needed on the team.

You can do your job with joy, no matter what circumstances surround you! You can be victorious in any environment, even in working conditions that aren’t exactly what you wish they could be. Besides, if you can’t handle tiny inconveniences such as the ones we talked about earlier, how in the world do you ever think you’ll be able to stand against the devil and the strategies he will try to use to assault you when you step out in faith?

As the apostle Paul continues telling us about his experiences in Second Corinthians 11, he lets us know that he has faced all kinds of inconveniences in order to obey the will of God. I’m sure he didn’t enjoy those inconveniences, but he didn’t allow them to affect his attitude or to keep him from fulfilling the task God had given him to do.

Let’s look at a few of the inconveniences Paul endured as he marched forward to obey God.

In Hunger and Thirst

In Second Corinthians 11:27, he tells us that he endured “hunger” and “thirst.” The word “hunger” is the Greek word limos. The word “thirst” is the Greek word dipsos. These words refer to being hungry from a lack of food or thirsty from a lack of drink.

Paul is recalling times of inconvenience when food simply may not have been available to him and his fellow travelers. This lack of food and drink didn’t affect Paul’s desire to go onward to the next town. Hunger and thirst was only an inconvenience – certainly not enough to hinder him from pressing on ahead.

Complaining won’t change the situation, Paul and his people had to learn to work and function in times of hunger. How different it is today. If you don’t have a lunch provided for workers you will only get a few to participate. There is a saying among leaders in the church and that is; “You can always get volunteers if you feed them.” “Feed them and they will come.”

OK, enough of the soap box.

Sometimes that is the way it is with life. We don’t always get what we want or live in the style we prefer. But if we’re not getting exactly what we want and we can’t do anything to change the situation, we have a choice: 1) We can constantly complain and make it worse on ourselves and everyone else; or 2) we can make a mental adjustment and decide that we’re tough enough to handle the situation until things change. The second choice is the one God wants us to make, for this is the one that demonstrates the attitude of Jesus Christ in our lives!

So if you’ve been grumbling or complaining about a situation that just can’t be fixed to your liking, it’s time for you to quit grumbling and to start rejoicing. Put praise in your mouth, and choose to be positive. As you do, you will find the strength to endure any hardship you are facing with joy!