Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Dirty Oven Speaks

Use your imagination a bit. Now, work with me on this.

"Why do you wait so long to clean me?" the oven cried out.

"Because I don't like the work it takes to clean you," says me.

Oven's response..."If you wouldn't wait so long it would not be so much work."

"Ouch, that hurts," I replied.

How often do we do that to our own lives; especially as leaders. We love and feel compelled to tell other's what they need to work on in their lives. But, for a long minute let's take a look at our own lives.

What is it that we have let sit around and grow crusty and hard? It may start out small, like a small spill in the oven, but as time goes on it becomes hard and more spills happen. We may think it is not that important or that big, so we let it sit there...a hurt word from a parishoner, a harsh response from our spouse, a neglected attitude, the list could go on. Each person has their own "spill."

It has been said we will not lead past our own spiritual or leadership growth; so my challenge to each of us today is to take a good look at our lives. Where do we want to go in our spiritual and leadership development? Have we come to a stand still? Do we wonder why we're not seeing growth in those we lead?

Maybe it is because we have allowed too many "spills" in our lives. Our lives have become hard to those who truly love us and want us to succeed. It is so very important to make sure the hurts, harsh responses from people and our own neglected attitudes do not build up to the place it seems impossible to clean.

As I was cleaning my oven I realized how much easier it would have been to have cleaned up the spill when it happened. But, there was the excuse, "the oven's too hot, I'll wait." I would then wait and get caught up doing other things. That is so true for our own lives. We think about changing, but put it off until a more convenient time. It would be so much easier to forgive the person that made the hurtful remark when it happened. Instead we would much rather let it sit awhile, as we have a pity party for ourself.

God wants us to realize that this is the time. Now is better than later. Allow the Holy Spirit to come in, saturate us with His presence and speak into our spirit. In order to get my oven clean I had to saturate it with oven cleaner and let it sit. Well, we have a spiritual oven cleaner...the Holy Spirit. Sit in the presence of the Holy Spirit and stay there a while. Let Him show us what has been sitting in our life and getting hard. He can clean us up and make us like new.

Remember, as leaders, it is imperative we do this on a regular basis. Make sure we do not get to the point that we do not think we need this. We cannot do life and ministry alone. We need God to show us where we are weak and vulnerable. He does this as we sit in His presence and often times uses others as well. As He does this and we have allowed Him access we become stronger leaders and more humble leaders.

I trust this has spoken to each of us and we all go away stronger because of it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Challenge of Old Testament vs New Testament Hearing God

Okay, if you ask me it is tough to "hear" God's voice speaking. It's not because I'm not listening. It's because I am human and human inhibitions and reasoning get in the way. We have to be very careful to discern and know God's voice.

That sort of jumped out at me as I read the passage of scripture where God spoke to Abraham about sacrificing Isaac. (Gen. 22:1-19 Msg)

"1 After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, "Abraham!"
"Yes?" answered Abraham. "I'm listening."
2 He said, "Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I'll point out to you." 3-5 Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told his two young servants, "Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we'll come back to you."
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together.
7 Isaac said to Abraham his father, "Father?"
"Yes, my son."
"We have flint and wood, but where's the sheep for the burnt offering?"
8 Abraham said, "Son, God will see to it that there's a sheep for the burnt offering." And they kept on walking together.
9-10 They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son.
11 Just then an angel of God called to him out of Heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Yes, I'm listening."
12 "Don't lay a hand on that boy! Don't touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn't hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me."
13 Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
14 Abraham named that place God-Yireh (God-Sees-to-It). That's where we get the saying, "On the mountain of God, he sees to it."
15-18 The angel of God spoke from Heaven a second time to Abraham: "I swear—God's sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I'll bless you—oh, how I'll bless you! And I'll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me."
19 Then Abraham went back to his young servants. They got things together and returned to Beersheba. Abraham settled down in Beersheba."

There were several things that stood out. The first being that God audibly spoke to Abraham. In Abraham's day God spoke directly to specific people. Today anyone can hear God's voice because of Christ. When Christ ascended back to heaven the Holy Spirit was sent to guide us. (Jn.6:13-16; I Cor. 2:10-16; Rom 8)

Now, I got to thinking about that a it easier for us today to hear God's voice, or harder? God spoke directly to Abraham and told him to sacrifice his son. Today more often than not God speaks to us through His Spirit, not an audible voice. If He would tell us to do something like that we may weigh both sides of the I do it or I really hearing God's voice or is it mine? Abraham had a direct line to God...was it easier for him? Maybe. Was it easier for him to obey? Maybe, maybe not.

He was asked to sacrifice his only son... the son God had promised him. His lineage was to be through Isaac...the one that would be more than you could count. How could God ask him to do such a thing. Those questions may have been going over and over in Abrahams mind. We don't know what he was thinking. Scripture doesn't tell us. But be sure, he was a man and he was a father. It was not easy.

The road he took that day to Moriah must have been a long tumultuous rode. Inner battles must have been going on. He was human.

Too often we treat scripture as a fairy tale without really looking at the whole picture. When we read it helps if we put ourselves in the situation in which we are reading. We then can better understand the circumstances of what was taking place. These people in the Bible were just like us, going through struggle after struggle, yet hearing from God.

How much better do we have it? Each one of us has access directly to God. He may tell us to do things we do not understand. It is okay to question, but do not dwell on that question. If God tells you to do something, do it. He will come through. It may be just in the nic of time, but He will come through.

We have the issue of deciding if it is God's idea or our idea; but, if we are truly seeking God and reading His word, He will come through and we will discern what is right.

The important question is not, "Was it easier for people of the Old Testatment to hear God's voice," but "Am I listening to the still small voice of discernment God has given me through His Holy Spirit?"