Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Warrior Spirit" for God

Recently the Lord has been speaking to me about the need to develop more of a “warrior spirit.” A warrior spirit is when we make war on sin, Satan, the flesh, and anything that is ungodly in our lives. Too often we are passive in our walk with God. We go on the defensive by staying in our fort, with the hope that nothing negative will come our way. I find God’s Word calling us to live on the offensive. Besides, Jesus said He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against her (Mt. 16:18). Gates are for defense. Therefore, the church is to advance the mission of God against the gates of the kingdom of darkness. This may be what Jesus meant when he said “the kingdom of God has suffered violence but the violent take it by force” (Mt. 11:12). We are to be appropriately violent in our walk with God: violent against sin in our lives, violent against the attacks of Satan, violent against passivity, violent against injustice, violent against carnality, violent against ingratitude, violent against impure thoughts, violent against not reading God’s Word, violent against prayerlessness ….. but this violent action must be done in the energy of the Spirit and not the flesh: “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10). “We are pulling down strongholds and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking captive every thought and making it obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). May God grant us a warrior spirit for His glory.

If you get a chance, listen to the 6-minute video presentation of John Piper on this subject because he says it much better than me: http://wn.com/War_John_Piper_Sermon_Jam

Friday, January 14, 2011

The 29:29 File

Some times in life we have to "file things away" that we don’t totally understand, knowing that one day we will be able to open that file and understand it. This is true with simple things like our will, and even truer in our relationship with God.

Recently my wife and I had our wills redone, with the help of an attorney. I don’t totally understand all the legal language, but now that the wills are done, I have properly filed them away. One day in the future I may have to bring out the file, and then, with the help of an expert, I will be able to make sense of it all.

This is similar in our relationship with God. There will be some things in our journey with God that have to be filed away, knowing that in the future God will help us understand it all. I call this the 29:29 file. The 29:29 file is based on Deuteronomy 29:29 which says, “the secret things belong to the Lord, but the things revealed belong to man.” When I can’t make sense of something, I have to chalk it up as one of those “secret things” that God will reveal to me one day in the future, even if the day He reveals it to me ends up being in heaven.

The area of greatest perplexity and struggle for me is healing and death. Because Jesus performed so many acts of healing and God’s Word has many promises about prayer and healing, I believe God still heals today. I believe we are to boldly ask and believe God for healing when someone is sick. However, when you do this and a close friend dies, it can challenge your faith. When you see someone die of cancer at the age of 46 and leave behind a wife and two daughters, it can be hard to swallow. When you see someone in the prime of ministry taken from the mission field of life on earth, it can cause you to question, “Why?”

And yet, I have found that it isn’t fruitful to linger for long on the “why?” question. Some questions won’t be answered until we get to heaven because “now we see in a mirror dimly, then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). It is when the “why?” question is not answered that we need to file it in the 29:29 file. We do this by exercising faith in God’s sovereignty, goodness, and love (which the Bible repeatedly affirms) even when things happen that frustrate and disappoint us.

Someone wisely told me once, “Don’t doubt in the dark what God has clearly revealed in the light.” In other words, He has clearly revealed that He is in sovereign control (Mt. 5:45; Eph. 1:11), works all things together for good (Rom. 8:28), loves us with an inseparable love (Rom. 8:31-39), and uses tragedy and hardship to accomplish His purposes (Gen. 50:20) even when things happen that we do not understand or like.

What is it in your life that needs to be filed in the 29:29 file? It takes faith in God’s Word to do so, and when we do, He will give us supernatural peace and power to move on.

Monday, January 10, 2011

In Honor of Dr. Rick Campbell

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a good friend and colleague, Dr. Rick Campbell. I ministered with Rick at INJOY Stewardship Solutions, participated in a small group with him, and enjoyed a deep friendship.

The Bible says, “It is better to go to a funeral than a party, because death is the destiny of every man, and the living should take it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). So, what have I “taken to heart” as a result of going to Rick’s funeral? I take to heart three things:

1. Life is really short, so live it fully for Christ.
Rick was only forty-six years young. He was diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago. He left behind a wife of twenty-three years and two daughters, one in college and the other in high school. Forty-six is way too young to die. Forty-six means you don’t even outlive any sibling or parent. Forty-six means there is so much more you could have done, had you had more years.

God’s Word says our lives are but a vapor, a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Even if we live to be ninety or a hundred, in light of eternity this is still a very short period of time. Anyone with children knows how very quickly time passes.

I have often walked through a cemetery and reflected upon the degree to which anyone still remembers the deceased. Certainly those who have recently passed are remembered, but what about years later? It is very sobering to reflect on how little people will remember us a few years after we die . . . unless we invest in what is eternal.

What we do for Christ will indeed last. What we invest in the Word and the Gospel will last. Rick gave his life to Jesus and the things of His kingdom. Therefore, his impact will last for many generations, and even into eternity. His daughter spoke of how he led her to Christ. Pastors spoke of how he coached them. And friends shared of his joy and zest for life.

I led a discipleship group this year in which one of their assignments was to write their obituary. They were to write it to read they way they would want it to at the end of their life. One of the members of my discipleship group, after attending Rick’s funeral, texted me, “Rick’s funeral today is how I want my obituary to read.”

2. God is really faithful, so boldly step out in faith.
Rick’s deepest concern in dying of cancer was that his daughters might conclude that God was not faithful. I remember on many occasions Rick speaking of God’s faithfulness. He knew of God’s faithfulness financially, relationally, professionally, and even emotionally. It was this confidence in God’s faithfulness that led him to take some pretty bold steps in faith in his walk with God. The biggest of recent days was that of buying INJOY Stewardship Solutions. Before INJOY he had planted two churches, gone overseas, and was willing to move to new places to serve Christ.

I experienced Rick as a man who would rather step out of the boat, even if only to walk on water for a brief moment, than to never get out of the boat. This challenges me. I too often live a very safe life. I too often chicken-out when it comes to boldly sharing my faith. I too often sleep a little longer in the morning instead of getting up and meditating on the Word. With God’s help this is going to change . . . because of Rick!

3. Relationships are really important, so fully invest in people.
I carefully observed the slide show that preceded the funeral. As is almost always the case at a funeral, the pictures were not of Rick at his desk or Rick by himself or Rick with some physical project he had accomplished. Instead, they were pictures of Rick with family, with friends, and with pastors he served. It is all about relationships.

Next to our relationship with Jesus, life is simply about the relationships we have with others. This explains why Jesus said life is totally about “loving God with all our heart” and “loving our neighbor as our self.” So simple and yet so difficult at times to live out. So simple and yet often hindered by other “things.” So simple and yet so eternal.

So, as a result of being exposed to Rick’s rich life in Christ (even if only through this blog), live more for what is eternal; take more risks in the name of Christ, and love more richly those God has put in your life. And may God receive all the glory, and may your funeral be as full and biblical and eternal as Rick’s was yesterday.