No Light in the Room? Have You Used the Switch?

Imagine: you’re sitting in a dark room wishing and hoping you could see what was in the room or that you could just simply walk around in it with out bumping into things.  No, there isn’t anything wrong with the lights, they work just fine.  In fact, they work amazing – never burn out, always turned on when used, and brightens the whole room beyond what you would need.  The issue isn’t even the power source or the switch – all is in working condition.  The matter is that you’ve just chosen to not turn on the lights.  You talk about how glorious it would be to see things in the room, but spending the time to go and turn on the light switch just isn’t worth it.  You’d rather do everything in your own power in the dark.  You’ve got a cell phone and it’s 6 inch screen of light works just fine.  You tell your friends of the potential of the room if the lights were on and you ask others to take interest in your room, but you just don’t bother to turn on the lights.

Crazy right?  And yet sadly this methaphor can describe many of us at times when it comes to our “light switch” we just don’t even turn on.

This light switch is prayer and maybe, more importantly, corporate prayer (praying with others).

Oh, I’m not saying you don’t have a prayer time or pray for your needs – please keep doing so.  But I’m specifically referring to that promise we find in Scripture when it comes to prayer, found in John 14:12-14:

Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father.  And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” – Jesus [John 14:12-14]

We know that greater is not more spectacular but greater in number/magnitude impacted.  We also discussed that this promise of answered prayer is in the context of greater works for Jesus, it is to glorify Himself and the Father (not us), prayed according to what goes along with His nature (His name), and to those who are disciples of Jesus (not just Christian in name only but following Him, denying themselves).

We have a chance as believers to impact the world through prayer that will be answered.  Want to see more missionaries sent out into the field to places not reached?  So does God – pray & He will answer that.  Want to see your pastors and leaders encouraged and strengthened?  So does God – pray & He will answer that.  Want to see strongholds taken down in your life or your town?  So does God – pray & He will answer that.  Want to see more power in your local church body, more leaders raised up, and greater ministry take place with more opportunities to serve available?  So does God – pray & He will answer that!

Unfortunately, our favorite TV show, our children’s activities, meaningless time spent on our iPhones or iPads, excursions with friends, and many other things are more important to us than seeing prayer answered.  We let these distractions keep us from going to God in prayer.  We’ll gladly get together for a potluck or any other social activity, but get together to spend 1 hour in corporate prayer together?  No thanks – we’ll pass!  And we miss being part of a work that Jesus wants to do and sadly, we really don’t care either.

In Luke 18:8, Jesus says “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” and when you examine the context of the passage, you find it is in relation to prayer.

Please understand, this is not a lashing to say “we could all pray more”, because we all could.  No, this is an exhortation to pray more, but pray more corporately and pray for works of the Lord.  Don’t just spend your prayer time (and group prayer time) praying for your own needs but go deeper praying for works for the Lord to do.  And trust me, the Holy Spirit will guide you in your prayers if you come with this mindset.

You can continue to sit in a dark room wishing and hoping what it would be to have a room fully lit up in the power that is available or you could start turning on the switch.  I hope you use the switch because when you do, you’ll enjoy prayer in a whole new way and see the Lord move in ways He has been waiting for you to ask Him to move in!

You’ve just read this post, why not start with just taking 2 minutes for the Lord to move in His church to stir His people up to pray.

This blog post comes from further thoughts of the sermon on John 14:1-14 titled “Famous (Almost) Last Words” which can be found by clicking here or simply visiting http://www.refugesanger.com/teachings

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Spiritual Snobbery

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus, John 13:34-35

Yes, “snobbery” is a word in case you began reading this blog with that thought – I looked it up to be sure, moving on…

On Sunday, February 21st, I taught John 13:18-38 on how Jesus has love for the backstabbers and bail outs.  We focused a lot on how He loved and how we are to love.  It is a high calling indeed and one we are incapable of doing simply in our own strength, but Jesus gives us the power to love others the way He did.

One of the ways we can be unloving (maybe without even realize it) is when we begin to develop what I will call “Spiritual Snobbery”.  Let me explain…

I read an article (and I got its point and agreed with much of the author’s premise) and in the article it mentioned the “if you like that, you will love this” lists for music (ie. if you love Hootie & the Blowfish, you will love Third Day; etc.).  The article seemed to almost look down on those lists (and I am in no way critizing the author because this is outside his points) and I at first found myself agreeing with him in that we are simply copying the world’s way instead of being our own creative being as Christians.  However, I remembered those lists are what drew me to Christian music in the first place and Christian music has been a huge factor in my spiritual walk and made a major impact on my life.  As a young Christian, I needed those lists to help me in finding Christian music I would like and they did just that.  Just because I don’t need them now (and I’m not sure whether they exist or not) as a more mature Christian, does not mean they are less useful.

Spiritual snobbery happens when we look down on things not up to our level of “spiritual maturity”.

When we begin to make fun of things in Christian culture because we are mature and therefore cooler than “those things”, spiritual snobbery is happening.  When we make fun of young Christians in the faith because they are zealous to take on the world and have not figured out how things work (in our “spiritually mature” minds), that is spiritual snobbery.  When we look down on Christians because they don’t know as much as we do in theology or the Bible or whatever, that is spiritual snobbery.  When we turn down our nose at other churches because they don’t teach the way we teach (I’m not talking about churches that teach false doctrine or unorthodox teaching but topical vs verse-by-verse, etc), that is spiritual snobbery.  If we look down on others for their supposed lack of liberty (or because they have “too much” liberty), that is spiritual snobbery.  If we find others describing us as “jerks for Jesus” because of our coldness or superiority complex, we have perhaps become spiritual snobs.

Spiritual snobbery is not love and is not the way Jesus loved.

Jesus was around sinners and tax collectors, yet never condoned their actions nor joined in with them.  He loved on them while also pointing to their need for Him.  The early church was the same way.  If we find that we can’t love those who are in the world (be it our neighbor, our president, our co-worker, etc) because they are less than us, we have become spiritual snobs.

The only way to combat spiritual snobbery is to take a deep hard look at ourselves.  When we do we will realize in and of ourselves we are wretched, no-good, sinful people in major need of grace.  God did not call us because He was gaining something; we are the fools of the world, the nobodies, the foolish, the un-noble (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).  The only thing that makes us something is Jesus as He looks at us as His bride and beloved children.  He uses us to bring Him glory and all glory should be going to Him.  We aren’t somebody now because we have been saved for a while or because we know a lot about the Bible.

The more you grow in love with Jesus, the more you will love others the way He loved.  Spiritual snobbery only shows you aren’t growing in your love for Jesus.

This blog post comes from further thoughts of the sermon on John 13:18-38 titled “Love for Bail Outs & Backstabbers” which can be found by clicking here or simply visiting http://www.refugesanger.com/teachings

Lead by Example

“I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” – Jesus, John 13:15

Though He was God and could simply tell us how we are to act, how we are to serve, etc. (as He is God and has that right), He modeled the behaviors for us, giving us an example to follow, His example!  He never said “do as I say, not as I do”, but showed us how to live.

The example in this passage that He laid out for us was that of serving one another and humbling ourselves to serve one another.  As He washed the feet of His disciples (foot washing being the thing that the lowest of the lowest slave was responsible for doing), He did not only wash those who loved Him perfectly or were kind to Him.  Had that been the standard, there would still be some dirty feet among those disciples!  But He washed the feet of Peter who would deny Him, washed the feet of Judas who would betray Him, washed the feet of Thomas who would doubt Him, and washed the feet of all who would all turn and run at the hour of His capture.  And He tells us we are to do as He has done for us.

Now rather than go over this again (which you can find the sermon on John 13:1-17 here), I want to approach the subject of leading by example.

It is very easy to say to our kids or our employees or those around us what they need to do or how we should all act, but it is quite another thing to model that behavior.  We all love the theory of serving one another, but the practice often is underused.  We love talking about love, but have hard time showing it to those we can’t get along with.  Jesus modeled the way to live and we need to strive to model Christ-like behavior for others as well.  If we expect our kids to behave a certain way, are we doing likewise?  If we tell others involvement in church is important, are we involved?  If we want our kids to have a love for the Word of God, are we reading and studying it ourselves?  Do we want our sons to treat their future wives like we as husbands are treating our wives?  Do we want our daughters respecting their husbands as they see their mom respect their dad?  If the last two questions are no, then we need to start modeling better.

Dr. Campo (“Todd” we all called him), one of my all time favorite bosses I had privilege of working for at Liberty University, was certainly this kind of example to us.  I think all of us in the Dean of Men’s office would have gladly sung the song “We’ll Follow the Old Man…” from White Christmas to him because of how he modeled leadership to us.  We loved to work hard for him because of the respect, love and self-sacrifice we saw modeled in him.  We always felt he put us first and took the “blows” from above for us when we made mistakes.  It made for a great place to come to work everyday even though we were often dealing with tough things and student discipline.  He is an earthly example of servant-style leadership to me.

So if you find yourself in a place of leadership (and if you are a parent you already are in that place) in work, family or ministry, what kind of example are you setting?  It is easy to lead by words, but are you leading by example and action?  We won’t attain perfection in this area but are we daily seeking to improve and be more like Jesus?  The good news is there is grace for our shortcomings and renewed power when we simply ask Jesus to make us more like Him.  And therein is the key, it is all through Jesus.  Our great model also gives us the power to walk as He walked.  We simply must ask and obey.

This blog post comes from further thoughts of the sermon on John 13:1-17 titled “Exemplary Example to Emulate” which can be found by clicking here or simply visiting http://www.refugesanger.com/teachings

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.” – Proverbs 29:25

As we looked at John 12:20-50 this last week, one thing we saw the sad verse of Pharisees who believed in Jesus but did not confess Him for they feared the Pharisees and “they loved the praises of men more than the praises of God.”  We spent time showing that making decisions based on the fear of man will never allow you to be a good decision maker or a good leader in your home, work, school or life in general.  Decisions are always going to be questioned by someone but you can stand firm if you’ve made your decision based on the Lord’s leading.

I found it interesting then, that hours later, during Super Bowl XLIX, a decision that was made by the offensive coordinator (OC) to pass led to an interception that allowed the Patriots to win the game.  That decision was dubbed by many “the worst call in Super Bowl history!”  People were quick to react and post all sorts of funny memes and not so funny rants on why the OC did not just give Marshawn Lynch the football and have him run it into the end zone from the 2 yard line.  And so in our Growth Group Home Fellowships, we discussed how we would handle being that OC and what we would say about our decision.

But that also got me thinking and I brought up this question in the GGHF I attended: what makes something a bad decision or good decision?  Should the result always be the determining factor in a good vs bad decision?  Had it worked, would we have still said “worst call ever”?

As I read more about what went into the decision, I realized there was a reason why the OC made the decision he made and it made sense – even if I don’t agree with the philosophy (I come from an old school run the football mentality anyways), I can understand the call.  It also made me remember something else: I don’t get paid millions of dollars to coach and make decisions like that nor am I equipped to be a judge and be an armchair coach as if I have a higher intellect and understanding and my thoughts are better than that OC’s.

Yet, so many people want to lead from the sidelines.  They want to express their opinions as facts without seeing the big picture.  Whether it be people questioning the president of the United States, questioning their boss or teacher or questioning a ministry leader about decisions, the truth is, it is always easier to “make decisions” from the opposite side of the desk, when it reality, we don’t see the big picture that that person sees.  Therefore, we need to be careful of who we start condemning or calling out.  We need to simply trust that leader if the decisions are not against the Lord’s ways.

Now to those making decisions led of the Lord, we also don’t always understand the big picture of the Lord yet we need to trust that the way He is leading is right.  Steps of faith are often required in making decisions in ministry and we must follow His leading.  And if we are following His leading, then don’t let the fear of man keep you from stepping out and standing on the decision you’ve made.

Will it sometimes be questioned?  Absolutely!  Could some even be hostile or mocking due to decision that was made?  Certainly.  But you answer to the Lord – not to the people and we must remember that.  Others most of the time don’t see the big picture, they just have their tiny view of what is going on (just as I do when I try and armchair quarterback).

But when it comes to making decisions, follow the Lord and don’t let the fear of man keep you going the road the Lord wants you to take!

This blog post comes from further thoughts of the sermon on John 12:20-50 titled “Final Words of Jesus to the Crowds” which can be found by clicking here or simply visiting http://www.refugesanger.com/teachings