We have met the enemy and he is us

PogoIf the abundant life is God’s standard for me then why does victory seem so elusive?  Why am I not experiencing joy and peace in my life but rather I find it so easy to yield to temptation.  Although we face opposition from the world and the devil, I find that I encounter the most trouble from myself.

The Cure by Thrall, McNicol, and Lynch describes two pathways that lead to two rooms that are the primary motivations how we live our lives.  One pathway is pleasing God and it leads to the room of good intentions.  The other pathway is trusting God and it leads to the room of grace.  Our problem with the pathway of trusting God is that it doesn’t seem that we do anything.  There is a great appeal  to live in  the Room of Good Intentions.  We enter this room by striving to be all that God wants us to be.  We think if we can just get rid of our sin problem then we’ll be right with God.  There is a banner in this room that states,

WORKING ON MY SIN TO ACHIEVE AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

This room however, is predicated on a lie reducing godliness to a formula:  More right behavior + Less wrong behavior = Godliness.  The problem with this equation is that it disregards the righteousness God has already placed in us.  We disregard the righteousness that comes from trusting what God says is true about us.   The truth is we can never resolve our sin by working on it.   Sure we may externally sublimate behavior for a while but we miss the heart of the problem.  Although this distorted theology breaks our hearts time and again, we desperately keep trying it.

Out of frustration we may seek another way – we journey down the path of trusting God that leads to the room of grace.  Rather than self-effort this room is entered by humility and the banner in this room states,

STANDING WITH GOD, MY SIN IN FRONT OF US, WORKING ON IT TOGETHER

You may think this sounds to good to be true.  The Judaizers in the Apostle Paul’s day hated it.  They said. “These people are immature, lazy and have little religious background. They’ll abuse their freedom, they’ll live Christianity-lite. These people are weak and want to do whatever they want.”  This objection however overlooks two key truths:

1.  Christians have a new nature:  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come”  (2 Corinthians 5:17).  You’re not who you were – it’s Christ in you, the hope of glory.

2.  Christians have the Holy Spirit:  “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live”  (Romans 8:13).  The Holy Spirit counteracts the downward pull of sin in our lives.

As you consider these two rooms, which room do you think takes sin more seriously?  At first glance, the room of good intentions seems to be our first choice – after all we’re working on our sin to overcome it.  But the reality is we’re doing it in our own strength.  The room of grace however, realizes that we can’t handle our sin problem and it relies upon God to enable us to overcome the sin that is keeping us from the abundant life.  We discover that we please God as we trust God,

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  (Hebrews 11:6)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Don’t Settle!

Abundant-LifeWhy are we prone to settle for less than God’s best?  Perhaps we take our cue from the world rather than God’s word.  As Robertson McQuilkin wisely observed, “Average is not necessarily normal.”  Watchman Nee in his classic, The Normal Christian Life, pictures the normal Christian life as described by the Apostle Paul,

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.  (Galatians 2:20)

The normal Christian life is characterized by joy in the midst of difficult circumstances and peace in the midst of uncertainty.   The normal Christian life is God’s standard for us – God does not call us to be average.  Average is the worst of the best and the best of the worst.  Too many Christians are quite indistinguishable from the world.  They act out of selfishness, yield to temptation, and covet what they don’t have.   They do not seem to have a vibrant, growing relationship with God, but rather an emptiness at the core of their being. There is nothing supernatural about their lives.  How would you characterize your life?

Rather than taking your cues from the world you need to realize God’s purpose for your life.  Jesus contrasts His purpose with that of the thief,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

If Jesus promises us an abundant life then why does it seem so many people are not experiencing such a life?   Although this list is not exhaustive, here are some fundamental reasons:

1. Ignorance – people don’t know such a life is possible.  Paul challenges the church at Rome that they would know their true position in Christ,

knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; (Romans 6:6)

2.  Unbelief – we may think that such a life is possible for others, but not for me.  Our lack of faith can cause us to miss the fullness of life God has promised for His people.

So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.  (Hebrews 3:19)

3.  Rebellion – We seek to go our own way rather than to follow God.

There is a way which seems right to a man,  but its end is the way of death.  (Proverbs 14:12)

The word “believe” permeates the Gospel of John.  At the end of his Gospel John pens these words,

but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.  (John 20:31)

The key is to believe in Jesus and His words.  True faith enables you to overcome ignorance, unbelief, and rebellion since you are taking God at His word.  As you read this post, my greatest fear for you is not that you set your sights too high and that you fail, but my greatest fear is that you become content with subnormal, mediocre Christianity.

You were created on purpose, with purpose, for a purpose.  Don’t settle for less than what God wants to provide for you.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

ScrumHave you ever dreamed of doing twice the work in half the time?  Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland seeks to address that question.  The origin of Scrum comes from Rugby and it emphasizes “. . . careful alignment, unity of purpose, and clarity of goal . . .” (p. 8).

Scrum made its debut in software development as an iterative and incremental  method for managing product development.  The development team works as a unit to reach a common goal and realizes that the traditional, sequential approach is unrealistic since end users are prone to change their minds about what they want. Scrum acknowledges that the problem cannot be fully understood at the onset so it focuses on the team’s ability to deliver a product quickly and respond to emerging requirements.

“Scrum is based on a simple idea:  whenever you start a project, why not regularly check-in, see if what you’re doing is heading in the right direction, and if it’s actually what people want?”  (p. 9).   The author provides several examples how Scrum was used to cut costs and complete the project on time or early.  He references articles from the academic community citing the efficacy of Scrum.  He also shows how the OODA (observe, orient, decide, and act) loop , developed and by fighter pilot John Boyd, incorporates the basic principles of Scrum (p. 185):

OODA.Boyd.svg

 

 

 

 

 

Sutherland shows how the principles of Scrum are applicable to education, government, business, and even remodeling a home.  The book contains a helpful appendix presenting an overview of Scrum methodology:

scrum-methodology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you work on detailed projects that involve others then you may find Scrum a helpful resource to enhance your productivity.  (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

 

Rick

Associate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Are you willing to pay the price?

SufferingMy last blog post considered the price of obedience.  If you are going to achieve your God given destiny then it will require that you pay the price.  What if the price is greater than what you want to pay?  We often call that price suffering – it’s a gift that not many of us choose.

When you think of fulfilling your God given destiny you may be thinking of future goals and seeing God work through your life in power.  That is true but we often don’t give much consideration to the price that is paid to reach those lofty heights.

Saul, a persecutor of Christians, was on his way to Damascus when “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him” (Acts 9:3).  Ananias, a disciple of Jesus, received the unenviable assignment from God to go and give Saul a message.  But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem;'” (Acts 9:13).  Ananias had significant reservations about going to see this persecutor of Christians.  Ananias however, obeyed and gave this message to Saul,

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.  (Acts 9:15-16)

Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul, was transformed into a man that God would use to write much of the New Testament and launch the early church into a world-wide movement.  His destiny included suffering as he carried out his God given assignment.  As you read the New Testament you see that Paul suffered greatly but he realized it was worth the price as he wrote to the church at Rome,

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  (Romans 8:18)

What would the Apostle Paul say to us?  His letter to the Philippians reveals the destiny God has for you and me,

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,  (Philippians 1:29)

But we don’t like to suffer.  Personally, I like the power of His resurrection but my natural inclination is to avoid the fellowship of His sufferings.  The way of following Jesus however, necessitates the way of suffering,

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  (Luke 9:23)

Are you facing suffering in your life?  Don’t lose heart.  Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled, wisely observed,

Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

We must accept the fact that we will face suffering in our lives.  May the words of the Apostle Peter bring encouragement to your heart,

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.  (1 Peter 4:19)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

 

The Price of Obedience

obedienceWe understand the importance of obedience in our lives, but how do you respond when it’s hard to obey?  There are times in my life when I know what I should do, but I prefer to go my own way – especially when the way of obedience is difficult.

That was the situation that Daniel and his friends faced when they were brought to Babylon.  They were strangers in a strange land and they were expected to follow the rules and mores of the the land or face significant consequences.  Daniel however, was more concerned about being obedient to God,

 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.  (Daniel 1:8)

Daniel literally purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself, but that he would remain true to God regardless of the consequences.  Daniel was a man of integrity who followed God regardless of the cost.  Even when he was old, Daniel was obedient to his God,

 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.  (Daniel 6:10)

Daniel’s obedience resulted in him being thrown into a lion’s den, but God preserved his life.   His commitment to prayer is demonstrated in this blog post on Oak Trees and Kudzu.

You must realize however, that the cost of obedience is small compared with the cost of disobedience.  There will be times in your life when your obedience to God will result in consequences for doing what is right.  Joseph was thrown into prison for fleeing from sexual temptation.  You too may pay the price for doing what is right, but remember that God is with you and the price of obedience will be worth the cost.  Are you willing to pay the price to follow God?

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Ask It

Ask itAsk It:  The question that will revolutionize how you make decisions by Andy Stanley is a revised and updated version of his earlier book, The Best Question Ever (2004).  The revised version contains much of the same content with a new section describing the wise person, the fool, and the mocker from the book Proverbs.  This new section replaces the section on money in The Best Question Ever.  The revised version also adds a helpful study guide.

You may be wondering, “What is the question that will revolutionize how you can make better decisions?”  He does not start with the question but lays the foundation for why he believes it is the best question ever. The basis for this question comes from Ephesians 5:15-17,

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

From this Bible passage, what do you think is the best question? Andy Stanley asserts that the best question is, “What is the wise thing to do?” With practical relevance he builds a case for how that question can be beneficial in your decision making and hopefully may save you from regret.  Now that you know the best question, I’ll leave it to you to discover the best decision ever.

This is a short book but it is filled with biblical principles. All of us fall prey to self-deception and the guidelines in this book may keep you from making foolish decisions. He writes, “Our greatest moral regrets are always preceded by a series of unwise choices” (p.  98). This book will help you to make decisions with wisdom. (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Compliance or Obedience

obedience1What are your thoughts about the words compliance and obedience?  Although they are often appear synonymous there are some subtle distinctions between these two words.

Compliance usually refers to adherence to established policies and procedures.  Obedience usually includes the heart motive of an individual.  The key to understanding in spiritual matters is not merely intellect but obedience.  Consider Abraham in the Old Testament, God told him to leave his home country and although Abraham did not understand all the details he obeyed God.

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.  (Hebrews 11:8)

We also discover that as we are faithful in obeying the little matters in our lives that enables us to be faithful in the larger matters – we discover that obedience leads to greater opportunities.

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.  (Luke 16:10)

True obedience must come from the heart.  The Apostle Paul encourages the church at Rome with this truth,

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,  (Romans 6:17)

Is your life characterized by compliance or obedience from the heart?  In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were experts in outward compliance but Jesus castigated them because their hearts were far from God.  They simply complied with the law to look good for others.  Jesus teaches that our obedience is a demonstration of our love for God,

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  (John 14:15)

Notice that this a conditional sentence, Jesus does not make me obey, it is my responsibility.  If I do not obey it’s because someone else is more important than Jesus – usually I’m the culprit.  When I obey however, I fulfill my spiritual destiny.

When God’s love fills my heart my “have to” (compliance) is transformed into a “want to” (obedience).  May our desire become that of the Psalmist,

I delight to do Your will, O my God; your Law is within my heart.  (Psalm 40:8)

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Greater Devotional

Greater DevotionalGreater Devotional is an excellent companion to Steven Furtick’s  previous book Greater.   This book contains a number of examples from the life of the prophet Elisha as well as other biblical passages for those who desire to move from good to greater in their spiritual life.

The book is arranged in forty brief devotionals with a strong emphasis on application.  The author uses a number of “sticky statements” to make the ideas memorable.   Here’s a brief sampling,

God’s silence is not equivalent to God’s absence (p. 16)

The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity (p. 21)  (Quoting Leonard Ravenhill)

God is more interested in your full obedience than your full understanding (p. 25)

Identity always comes before activity in the order of God (p. 31)

Only God can send the rain.  But He expects you to dig the ditches (p. 45)

Your greatest limitation is God’s greatest opportunity (p. 63)

An ounce of anointing is more precious than a ton of talent (p. 92)

Each chapter contains a tweetable quote with a  #GreaterBook  hashtag identifying the source.  If you’re looking for a resource to jump start your spiritual walk then you may find this brief devotional a helpful tool.  (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

It’s Your Ship

Abrashoff_ItsYourShipCaptain D. Michael Abrashoff recounts his experience as the commanding officer of the USS Benfold.  It’s Your Ship is the playbook how Abrashoff transformed the USS Benfold into one of the best ships in the navy.

Leadership is crucial in any organization, especially in the military where decisions can mean life or death.  Abrashoff was able to create a climate where every sailor believed that the success of the ship was his or her responsibility.  “Show me an organization in which employees take ownership, and I will show you one that beats its competitors.”

“As I saw it, my job was to create the climate that enabled people to unleash their potential” (p. 31).  It’s Your Ship provides the principles how Abrashoff created a crew of confident and inspired problem-solvers eager to take responsibility for their ship.  The chapter titles reveals the strategy Abrashoff used to turn his ship around:

Take Command    The way to create lasting change is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew to determine what is wrong and empower the sailors to fix it themselves.

Lead By Example    Leadership must be done by example, not simply through platitudes.   When he was unable able to get the results that he wanted,  Abrashoff looked within and asked three questions that helped him decide if he was the problem:  1.  Did I articulate the goals?   2.  Did I give people enough time and resources to accomplish the task?   3.  Did I give them enough training?

Listen Aggressively     Abrashoff  decided that he would get to know every person on his ship and  what they liked to do.

Communicate Purpose and Meaning     The key to leading a ship or organization is to articulate a common goal that inspires a diverse group of people to work together.

Create A Climate Of Trust     An effective  workforce must have a culture of mutual trust with one another.

Look For Results, Not Salutes     Abrashoff encouraged innovation from all levels of the organization and he gave significant responsibility to his junior people.

Take Calculated Risks     You must realize that when you set out to improve your organization and take ownership you may make mistakes.

Go Beyond Standard Procedure     Innovation and progress are achieved only by those who venture beyond standard operating procedure.

Build Up Your People     Leaders can achieve new levels of success by encouraging their people to express themselves on both a personal and professional level.

Generate Unity     Treating people with dignity and respect is not only morally right, but also results in productivity.

Improve Your People’s Quality of Life     Quality of life creates good morale and fosters a healthy work environment.

Life After Benfold     Abrashoff continue to teach these principles in his organization:  http://www.glsworld.com/

In summary, “My organizing principle was simple:  The key to being a successful skipper is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew.  Only then can you find out what’s really wrong, and, in so doing, help the sailors empower themselves to fix it.”   If you’re in a leadership role then you’ll find this a helpful resource.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Therefore I Have Hope

Lamentations 3The book of Lamentations is not for the faint of heart.  This short book chronicles the devastation of the nation of Israel after their apostasy from God.   Tucked away in the middle of the sadness and sorrow of this book is an amazing ray of hope,

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”  (Lamentations 3:21-24)

There are times in our lives when it seems like our world is falling apart. As Jeremiah penned these words He reflected upon God’s faithfulness. Despite the unbelievably horrific conditions he faced, he regained hope as he focused upon God.  The Hebrew word for “hope” has the idea of waiting with a confident expectation.

Perhaps you’re facing a challenging time, don’t lose sight of the fact that the Lord knows what you’re going through and He cares.   The theologian John Calvin wisely observed, “. . . hope is nothing else but the constancy of faith.”   We have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ!  Therefore you too can have hope.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

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