Sunday, January 24, 2010

The 7 Points of Valor - Honor

Philippians 4:4-13 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Exodus 20:12 “honour your father and mother…” Respect for position, place of trust
John 19:9 Honor is inherent to each of us for we are made in the image of Christ- we can give it up!
Matthew 13:57 Honorable jobs - prophet
Romans 9:21 Compares something made for honorable use rather than just common use - think of the items found in the Old Testament temple made of gold.

Honor: The man of honour is the man whose word is true. Psalm 15:1, 2 “O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.”  The challenge is to not just know the right stuff, but to apply it. Integrity of words and life are the foundation of our testimony, our witness. If people around us are to see Jesus in us, our word must be true. This is honor.

Robert Frost (1874–1963).  Mountain Interval.  1920.
The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The narrator had a choice. We need to find our own way, and often the common road or easy road is a cop-out. If this metaphor speaks to destination I would have chosen a different metaphor myself, because I like driving down easy roads. I just want to get to where I am going. Give me the 4 lane highway rather than the slower 2 lane country road, especially the gravel ones. I avoid roads that are difficult to travel on, yet we often miss interesting things that are only on the back roads. On the other hand, when this metaphor speaks to the journey it is better understood. The road to honor is less traveled and rough. Who wants to go down the hard road? But the destination is not the same. Integrity takes time and sacrifice. It is going to cost you in many different ways. The road to common compromise is wide and easy, and most people follow the crowd.

Honor is the higher calling. For the 15 year old hockey player it is the call of Junior A and the NHL - to reach that dream career of professional hockey. For the author it might be writing that bestselling novel, or the literary work that will stand the test of time. It takes effort and discipline, time, and more. I was talking to one father this past week whose 15 year old son has a shot at the big leagues. He gets invited to the next level up, most of the others being 16 and 17 year olds. One of the boys takes the initiative and says to the group, what’s your name, your age and something about yourself. Half the boys say they like to party. Drinking and smoking dope is common place for these guys. But this young man wants to move on. He keeps his body clean and works hard at his game instead. He knows that to have that one in a million chance he has to pay the price, take the road less traveled. He also declared in front of his peers that he is a Christian. I look forward to seeing how God will use that young guy.

So it is with you and I as followers of Jesus. We aspire to be men and women of God - to be all we can be, to reach our potential for which we were created. Are we willing to pay the price? Honor is about respect, respect because of integrity, and when we are called to be honorable, or set apart from the common we are pursuing a sense of the divine calling. It has been suggested that honor is being true to your word. He is an honorable man because he says something and does it. For the child of God, for the man of God, we make a public confession to following Jesus Christ. We get baptized because we want people to know that this is where we make our stand. This faith is who I am. So often the complaint of the non Christian is that what that Christian says in church isn’t translated into what they see in his life. He is no different from the next guy. How many people have been hurt by someone else in the church? This disconnect between the image of our faith and reality of our life is what honor speaks to. So what does Honor look like? There are 3 arenas of life where we live. There is the private place of our thoughts and attitudes, of our opinions and intellect. The second is our speech, the words that proceed out of our mouth. The third arena we live out our life in is our actions - the places we go, the things we put our hands to. What would honor look like in each of these arenas?

Honorable thoughts
Philippians 4:8 “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” How organized are you? If you look at my bookshelves I like to organize books by height. It makes it easier to put loose papers on top of the books, but that is another story. I also like to put like things side by side. I have all my woodworking magazines in one spot, genealogy books in another, and so on. It helps to group like things together. Look at this list in Philippians and see what honorable thoughts are grouped with: Truth, right things, purity, lovely things, and integrity - anything worthy of praise or anything of excellence. That is pretty good company! We tend to speak and act out of who we are. Where we spend time with our head and mind is going to reflect in our words and actions. It is also in the mind that we form our opinions and allow the filters of life to develop.
As we go through life many things cross our path. King David was looking out of his palace and saw a beautiful woman. He allowed that to draw him away. Joseph, on the other hand, ran as fast as he could in the other direction when confronted with the same thing. We have a choice on what we will focus on. Where are your boundaries? I try set mine well in from the danger zones, while others foolishly see how close they can get to the fire. They end up getting burned. I recognize my humanness, my fallen-ness. Victory as a child of God is not running around crazy in our liberty in Christ, but recognizing that we live within grace.
So what will you let your mind dwell on? Be proactive. Grab some good books, listen to uplifting music, and let the Word of God seep into you through reading and memorizing and meditating on it. Many men can tell you the stats of their favorite hockey team, or who has signed or not signed back with the rough riders. But who can quote 1 Corinthians 10:13, Psalm 119:11 or Matthew 22:37?

Honorable Words
Proverbs 25:11 “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” There are some things I wish I was, but I “ain’t”. I wish I was quicker with my wit. I am one of those guys that an opportunity presents itself, there’s a pause, then it is gone and THEN I come up with the funny or the tidbit of wisdom. Maybe that’s why I like preaching - I can have it all thought out beforehand. There have also been times when I was as surprised as the next guy by what came out of my mouth. We all know, though, when we are the recipients of that word in the right circumstance. It doesn’t have to be long or eloquent. Sometimes it is as simple as, “I will pray for you.” Just make sure you do pray. Maybe a simple “I missed you!”
Our words can be used for great good or great harm. When we thoughtfully respond to somebody out of the honesty of our heart, we can’t do it wrong. Someone asks us about Jesus. We try to think about what is important, but we get flustered and feel like we failed. As long as we just respond out of what God has done for us He will use us. God looks at the heart, so don’t not say anything just because you feel inadequate. Just be real and let God do the rest. He promised He would if our words come out of who we are in him.

Honorable Acts
Have you ever met someone who said one thing but did another? This is where that metaphor of the two roads come in. A lot of people talk about that road less travelled. They have the right words and know the right people and read the right books, but when the rubber hits the road, they are not at all where they thought or said they were. Honor is about integrity, and we have precious little people of integrity. Another fallen pastor after 30 years of marriage. Another person leaving a church because someone abused them spiritually, or just because they got upset about a paint color. A guy pursuing the pastorate as well as a promiscuous  lifestyle. A church elder abusing his daughters. There is a lot of talk from a lot of people, but when you take away all the layers you see truth in how you treat and relate to others. Men - how do you treat women? Are you honorable in how you relate, or do you take advantage of them at vulnerable times. If we don’t have honor among the men of our church, where else will we find it? Honor is not passive, it is active. What are you doing to lift our sisters in Christ up?
Justice and ministry to the single ladies and orphans top lists in the Old and New Testaments. How are we doing today with integrity, with acting honorably? Does our life live up to our words?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The View From Here…

Psalm 119:1-11
“1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law of the LORD.
2 How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
3 They also do no unrighteousness;
They walk in His ways.
4 You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
7 I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8 I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.”

A new year; a new vision. A chance to start over again; to realign our life. God is moving in my thoughts in some very specific ways, and I want to share a bit of that with you. These things are for all of us, even me. These things come as the next step that God has put before us. They come as part of a plan He has for us as a church. I have invited friends here to day so that we can share a bit of who we are and where God is leading us. I have been asking myself a question for several years. “How does discipleship work?” I know there is no one easy answer, in part because we are all unique and need different things in our lives. But I do believe there is a core of knowledge, a core of behaviors that make up a body of discipleship. One of the largest churches in the USA discovered that they had been missing the boat for the last 20 years. Willow Creek has done a phenomenal job of reaching people for Jesus, but they have done a lousy job of seeing people discipled. How do we move pole into a deeper place in their relationship with Jesus. I know it is the work of the Spirit that does that, but God chooses to use us in that process. What can we do with our resources to help you become more Christ-like? I want to leave you with two thoughts. The first is the vision, the picture of what we can be; and the second is some foundational elements that drive our programs to that vision. We don’t do stuff for the sake of doing stuff. We do stuff for a purpose, a reason. First, the vision; one for the men, and one for the women:

Strong Men - it’s a guy thing
When one thinks of men one tends to think of sports. It is the area in our society where men can be men - rough and tumble, mixing it up with roughness. Heroes emerge and we look to the winners or the home team. Where else do we see real men today? Sometimes we find a political figure that takes a strong stand, but often the media represents that man in a negative light as a result. It is hard to be a man in today’s world. What would it look like if we had a church where we understood what it was like to be a man - a godly man?

Luke 2:52 says that “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man.” So if the men of our church banded together to challenge each other to go further and harder for Jesus Christ, would you be interested in a church like that? If we encouraged our men to grow in each of those areas of life - physical, intellect, spiritual, and social - would you want to see what God would do with those men? And men - what do you want out of life? Many guys like to cruise, to take the back seat and let others drive. Most often it is the women that pick up the slack… and the slacks! Our “get up and go” got up and left. We believed society and culture telling us that we are powerless, that the time for male leadership is past; that we need to let women be the things that used to be us. So men today are in confusion and stand on shaky ground when it comes to trying to define who they are and need to be today. As a church we want to provide the building blocks it takes to reinvent the Godly man of today.

There’s a commercial on today connected to the Olympics that shows athletes working hard at training and saying victory isn’t about destiny, it is about the months and years of discipline that comes before the event. The same thing rings true for men of today. We don’t just grow into men because we get older or because we get married. We don’t become mature Christians by osmosis or wishing. Men become men by working at it and by the encouragement of others. The verse in Proverbs says that as “iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.” Don’t read into this more than I have said. I am not advocating a return to aloof and power hungry leadership. I am talking about living out the calling Jesus has on our lives as men. He said that we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. Does that sound like an easy task? Does that sound like something anyone can do without effort and support? The Romans pulled a guy out of the crowd to help Jesus with His literal cross because He stumbled. What if we stumble? Who do we have to help us? That is what the body of Christ is for. The church, our church, is here to help you be all you can be in Jesus. You have marching orders from Jesus. In Philippians 3:12 we read that Jesus laid hold of us for a purpose. Generally we find that purpose in verse 9 - to be “found in Him” with a “righteousness that comes from God”. And this “laying hold of” isn’t just a tap on the shoulder. It grabs and is forceful - do you want to turn your back on that?

Men, you are called to be strong; to reflect the image of Jesus. Ezekiel was a prophet in exile 2600 years ago. He spoke from the banks of the Euphrates River when Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon. Jerusalem and all Israel were under judgment for being a people of apathy and idolatry. The spiritual walls of Israel were being breached by the enemy. God stood and “looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before Him in the gap.” He found none. Today the spiritual walls of our men and youth and society are still being breached. The enemy is still pouring through the holes with lies and deceptions and false promises. God is still looking throughout the land for men who would build up the walls and stand before Him in the gap.

How this applies, men, is really between you and God. I don’t know what God is calling you to. You may already be fulfilling that place and all we can do is come alongside and cheer you on. Regardless, you are not called to be a lone wolf. Each of us is called to function within a local body, using your gifts to build up not just yourself before God, but everyone around you.

Connected - for Women only
Now you ladies have heard the challenge to men. Don’t think we haven’t got a place and a challenge for you as well. We have, as a society, been inundated with strong feminist ideals. How is it then that we have so many women who don’t like themselves? I was trying to think of what the ideal woman would look like in our community. You can’t define ideal by anything external for the simple reason that God doesn’t look at the externals. Anything ideal flows out of what is inside. My thoughts went to “vibrant” or “full of life”. I pictured someone who was involved and happy and energetic, but I was still seeing externals. Proverbs 31 comes to mind as well, and there is a large online community of women called just that - Proverbs 31 Ministries. My desire as pastor is not to create any mould that people must match in order to belong. I desperately want people to be free to be who they are, to help people throw off the expectations and obligations so that they are free to be themselves - to live in the way they were created. So I asked Bonnie the question, “How would you define the Ideal Woman with one word?” Her answer was what I was trying to speak but couldn’t articulate - Connected.

So think about this: what would it look like if the women of our church were Connected in life; connected to their Creator, to themselves, and to those around them. To be connected to your Creator speaks to your spiritual condition. It speaks to holiness and the Spirit working in and through you.

To be connected to your Creator gives you the foundation to self. It gives you purpose, it gives you direction and focus. Your connection to your Creator gives you what you need to connect to yourself. God loves you.  He died for you, and He lives within you to give you confidence. Your self-esteem should be through the roof because the Eternal God, the Creator of the ends of the earth loves you, relates to you, has gifted you, guides you, and so much more. If God has your back, you can go out into the world and do wondrous things in His power. There is nothing to fear. God calls you to places where your love makes all the difference in the world. He calls you to places that men would be stupid and inept at. He made you for a purpose to, and is calling you to join Him in this wonderful adventure of life.  If I could do one thing for the women of Canada, the women of the world, it would be to let them know that they are accepted just the way they are. The god of this world beats you down in so many ways; but in Jesus you can find strength, acceptance, purpose, and so much more. As a pastor my desire is to make this place a sanctuary where we can all come and feel accepted, and in accepted understand the confidence that comes with God’s Spirit working in and through us.

Having this confidence in yourself gives you the strength to connect to others around you in deep and meaningful ways. Women often do so much for so many already, but much of it is done in isolation, even in the midst of a crowd. My desire is that your connections to other ladies becomes a catalyst for a larger work of God than is possible with everyone doing their own thing. I was so proud of the ladies involved in the Girls’ Night Out event a year and a half ago. We had numerous obstacles, and frankly, some of them were quite large. But the ladies involved and persevered and prayed, and God used us to reach over 200 ladies with the truths of Jesus. We did that. Us! We have also had some 70 women of Saskatoon go through 2 Your Best You conferences here in Saskatoon; another 40 in Olds, and an expected 40 the end of this month at the Bridge on 20th. No one person could do this alone. You have prayed and pulled together when needed, and given of your time and allowed others the freedom to do what is needed. God has much more in store for you ladies and for us as a church in the months and years to come. Isn’t it exciting?

So, here is the challenge for men and for women. How are we going to do it? It is one thing to get a vision and get all excited, but another to plot the way to reach that lofty goal. The Biggest Loser TV show takes obese men and women and through a combination of diet and exercise gets them to lose weight. How does one lose 213 pounds? The answer is one pound at a time. Every journey starts with a single step. The road to the grey cup starts at the first training camp with a sit down like this. The coach looks at his players and asks, “Why are we here?” Are we here to get some fresh air and exercise? Are we here to settle for 4th place? Are we here to get a big pay cheque? No! We are here to win; to win the Grey Cup. It starts today with this list of drills and skills development activities. And tomorrow we will do these ones… and so it starts.

And so we start here at Louise Street Community Church of the Nazarene. All that has gone on before has brought us to this point.  I don’t know all your commitments, but plug in when you can. Make following Jesus your top priority. This church is only one of many ways you can do that. I am not offended by people who go outside of what we have to offer so they can get what they need. We are all on the same team. My responsibility is this group, and so I teach and organize and equip with the resources at hand. Here are three things that are part of our game plan:

1. Identity in Jesus. At this church we focus on who you are in Christ. You will hear it from the pulpit, you will hear it in Sunday School, and if you phone me and ask, you will hear it on your cell. Don’t compare yourself with people around you - look to God instead. He is the one that loves you with an undying love that caused His Son to give up His life for you. He has promised to provide all that you need for today, both physically and spiritually. His Holy Spirit is at work in your life, quickening you with His eternal purposes. This is fundamental to our church.

2. A Focus on the Word. You will not get far in any argument with me if you do not bring Scripture to the table. My ministry and the ministry of this church is founded on the Word of God. I preach it on Sundays; it is taught in Sunday School, and if you phone me up… well, you get it. This book really is our playbook. The stories and truths it contains provide guidance and principles for us to live by. I will always challenge you to get into it. I was encouraged this week by one of our members who mentioned he was working on reading it through this year, as he has the last couple of years. Wow! One of Bonnie’s blog friends talked about how she tries to do that every year. She mentioned how she always fails, but that she knows the book of Genesis really well.

3. A Foundation of Prayer. This is another key element, without which we will not survive. You are a praying people. And we will continue to provide opportunities to do that, both individually and as a group. We will be starting a men’s weekly prayer group with a study. On top of that the men will be challenged to work through a booklet called Herald of Christ for Men. Who knows what God will bring out of that? Your Best You conferences will continue to be held, but we will also be starting a women’s prayer group. There is more that we will be doing in time to come, but know that God is leading and guiding us into some exciting times. Consider how you can be apart of what is happening here at church.