Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Personal Cherith

1 Kings 17:2-5 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.

God's plan is always full of surprise and mystery. Here is the beginning of Elijah's boot camp experience.
Here are some lessons I've learned over the last year from my personal Cherith. Some of these life lessons I've known for a long time and have been able to use in this time, others have been things I've known but only now truly value.

Accountability is King
Accountability is like a two-sided coin. Many of us only "cash in" on the one side of it. It's the "when you ask me, I'll tell" side. This is helpful and useful, but the other side of the "coin" is the "I'll tell you before you even ask." Offering necessary information before it's required is the side of accountability that brings healing and protection.

It's Hard to Finish Strong
We have so few examples of this in the Bible and it seems even fewer in today's culture. It's hard to finish strong, period. Surrounding yourself with people who will speak the truth in love is key to helping. Beware of keeping nothing but "yes men" around you. Oscar Wilde said it best, "true friends stab you in the chest."

There are Friends and then there are Real Friends
I didn't ever really get this. To me a friend was someone who met the biblical definition found in Proverbs 18:24. Some translations say "real" friend and others just say "a friend that sticks closer than a brother." Regardless, it's important to know who in your life can be that. I've learned that to expect real friendships from people who are incapable of delivering that type of relationship only leads to heartache. But understanding that some people simply can only live at a lower level of friendship allows there to be less offense. Knowing this helps keep proper perspective. It's not that people who can't deliver "real" friendship are bad or evil, they are just living at the level they understand friendship to be.

Extreme Situations Bring Out What Has Always Been in the Heart
The Bible tells us to "guard our heart" but we have been taught since we were young about behavior modification. There's a huge difference. I counseled a young lady that was upset and confessing how she couldn't understand why she "flipped off" a driver for cutting her off. She loves Jesus. She's a worshipper. She tithes. She prays regularly. So why the sudden outbreak of the one finger wave?
When I was young, my mom heard me say some things I shouldn't have said. Her response, "Vincent! I'm gonna wash your mouth out with soap!" I learned that day--some words can only be said in the locker room and not around mom--Behavior Modification.
People can say they love, offer forgiveness, believe in restoration, serve others. But you truly don't know until things don't go the way they should. When a crisis happens, that's the time to see what's truly in people's hearts. Pay attention! Because this shows what's truly in your heart.

God Provides
No, really. He does. The ravens have brought us bread everyday. Jesus said, "when you pray--pray, give us this day our daily bread." I was always so proud of my management abilities. No credit card debt, two paid-off vehicles, no debt whatsoever except for a house payment. Yet in the eight months of being without a job I have been so disgusted with knowing what my former salary was and realizing how much I was truly wasting.
I've always known that people who complain about not making enough and are always behind was never an issue of "not making enough". It's about "not managing properly." When your output is more than your income, then your upkeep will be your downfall.
As we all forge through this recession, know this: you can live on a lot less and God always provides.

The High and Mighty Assassin is Very Sneaky
Pride. I didn't even know I was full of the stuff. It's amazing how fine the line is between being confident in what God has gifted you in and being confident in your gifts. Having a real friend who will stab you in the chest is very helpful against this "assassin of character."

Everybody Hurts
Hurt people, hurt people. It's easy to focus on the hurt that people inflict without seeing what caused the person to hurt. This is best illustrated in "The Tale of Despereaux" ---Then something strange happens: The sun disappears from Dor. Clouds cover the land, but the rain refuses to fall. Gloom descends. By way of explanation, the narrator states that the rats' presence was a very natural thing, and that when something as unnatural as their banishment occurs, everyone hurts. The king hurts Roscuro. The rat hurts the princess after she hurts him. The princess hurts Mig by inadvertently belittling her. And Mig hurts the princess in retaliation.
When dealing with those who are hurting others or even yourself the realization of needing to extend grace in the face of misunderstanding will help the healing process.
Fear is a very strong emotion, but forgiveness is stronger.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Base Level

I was asked to post this after preaching it to a church. I usually preach this every February.

Honestly, I was kinda worried that I might not get to share it this year; however it has turn out that I've had the opportunity to share this message to three different churches in three different settings.

So, it's still the month of love and here are some thoughts to encourage the ladies what to look for in a guy before dating him or getting married---for us guys, what to become before saying I do to any of those two offers.

Keep in mind ladies that there is a difference between a guy who is not quite here but is trying to get there and a guy who has no desire to be this type of man.

Guys, I hope that you would see these character traits and ask God to give you the grace to want to be a better man tomorrow than today. I don't think any of us are there yet, but the point is to want to get there.

I'll write this in the context to the ladies, but guys take note.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her...

1. Leads in Love
Does he know what love is? Do you? This scripture says that the man is to love his wife just like Christ loved the church. What is Love? Simply, an act of the will that is accompanied by emotion that leads to action on behalf of it's object.
Christ said, "Father not my will but your will be done." He sweat drops of blood in His prayer. He died for our sins. For our benefit.
Love is to make a choice to live for someone else's benefit.
Men, are you leading in love?
Ladies, are you dating a guy who understands this?

Ephesians 5:26 ...that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,...

2. Leads in the Word
I see with women this digression process in dating. Ask any young Christian girl who she wants to marry and she'll say something to the effect, "I want a man of God who's a spiritual giant like a Billy Graham with the body of Vince Farrell." (ok, maybe not word for word) ask her when she's in her early twenties and it's "I want a good Godly man." If she's still single in her early thirties it's, "someone who knows where a church is at."
The question here is, "can he disciple you in the Word of God?" That's why if you're dating a guy who is not a believer, you are so off course on what the base level is!!! Listen ladies, when you date a guy who can not lead you in the ways of God; you are setting your family up for destruction! You are saying to this guy, "hey, I know you could care less about doing life the way God commands and I'd like you to raise my children one day the same way."
Ladies, if he's not that into Jesus...don't be that into him.
Guys, we want to be men who seek God and His ways for our life.

Ephesians 5:27 ...t He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish....

3. Leads in Purity
Deep down in the heart of every guy, on their wedding day, they want to see those doors open and their bride walking down in a white dress. Because that white dress means, "mine." Not Tom's, Bill's, Ed's, Paul's.....mine! No one else's. A guy who leads in purity is a man who is concerned about one day being able to present her to himself. See ladies if you understood that his is how a majority of men (at least the ones worth dating) think, then you'd understand what's really being said when he asks to give yourself to him sexually. What a guy is really saying when he asks you to "take the relationship to the next level" is, "hey I've got some urges and desires right now that I need you to fulfill, thus becoming the type of lady I really have no interest in marring."
Ladies, is he radically concerned about keeping you pure?
Men, if you pick her up for a date and she's looking all fine and your hormones start to kick in....ask her if you can bring her younger brother on the date with you two, or her dad......you go extreme to keep her pure.

Ephesians 5:28-29...So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church....

4. Leads in Selflessness

Do I have to explain this one? I'll be honest, many times us guys do things during the dating process to get the girl. Things we don't do for others that we all of the sudden do for her. Open the car door, bring flowers, buy gifts, give back massages, etc. This is the "wooing" of dating. It's the truth. If you don't believe me ask a guy when was the last time he did any of those things for his buddies? We woo, and woo, and woo and when we have you, we woe!

Ladies, understand the difference in a guy who is "wooing" you or who has your needs at the top of his list.

Guys, the rubber meets the road for us when we get married. As I mentioned, we tend to stop once the ring is on the finger. I challenge you to turn off the TV, cell phone, or PlayStation. Ask her how you can be less selfish. Start opening car doors again. If anyone in you house has to do without, who would it be?

Hope you enjoyed these thoughts from God's Word. I pray that you would look at these four characteristics and really make them the base level in what to look for in a guy.

As a guy, my prayer is "to do better today than I did yesterday and better tomorrow than today.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Relationship Cycle

I believe the Bible gives us a cycle, or process of stages, that every relationship goes through.
Every marriage.
Every friendship.
Every family.
Every church.
Every small group.
Every relationship.

In order to know where you are in the relationship you must first start by knowing where you are at. God asks in Genesis 3:8-9 "Where are you?" You are either, hiding or seeking. Adam in this scene is hiding, but he doesn't know that he's lost. Many relationships are set on "cruise control" thinking all is well and not even know they are getting lost; because if you aren't seeking, then you're hiding.

Before We Begin
There is a "cycle of death" that has begun in the garden. In fact, I thought about titling this post that, but that would not be fun to read, huh? So, let's look at the stages of this cycle and apply it to the subject of marriage; while at the same time keep in mind other relationships such as small group meetings or church or any other group.

Genesis 2:17 "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

That word, surely, comes from the Hebrew and it means; in dieing you shall die. The best way I can describe what this means is to say, "go look at a picture of yourself 10 years ago." We are all dieing. Our eyes are failing us. Our hair is leaving us. Hearing, reflexes, muscle loss, etc. We are all dieing on the road to death. That's what the world was introduced to when man and woman ate from the tree.

Stage One
Revelation. At the beginning of every relationship there is a fresh "vision" of what could be. It's the open our eyes to the possibilities experience.
With Adam, when God pronounced a new future for him (in the sweat of your face you shall eat. Genesis 3:19) He then must prophecy a new relationship with his wife. He calls her "Eve" --the mother of all living. This had never happened before.

Stage Two
Inspiration. The fuel necessary to ignite the passion needed to overcome the inevitable problems. Now Adam had to transition from being a "gardener" to becoming a lover. This new passion made Adam forget what he had lost. Without passion, the fire of revelation is quickly extinguished. This loss of inspiration is where the relationship problems begin.
But first...

Question. Why did God force Adam and Eve out of the garden?
Because they had eaten of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil....(the cycle of death had started) and to ensure that they don't get caught in that never ending cycle, God says Adam must not take of the tree of life and eat, because he would then live forever, Genesis 3:22-23....forever in a state of death. That's not God's plan. His plan is for us to live with Him forever.
No death means immortality.
Immortality means we don't escape this cycle of death.
No escape means we never get the opportunity to live with God in Heaven.

Deep huh? Again, God does something that many times we think is for punishment but the reality of it is, it's because of His protection.

Stage Three
Formalization. The courage to act on the inspired revelation. This takes place with our commitment to sign on the dotted line. We're now willing to make the necessary sacrifices to see the vision fulfilled.
Genesis 4:1 "Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bore Cain."
Adam now has to transition from being a love to becoming a father. Another new role that had never taken place. This is where we'd say "the rubber meets the road" of relationships and originations. It's one thing to talk about doing something because of revelation, it's another thing to do it. This is one reason I tell young ladies who are in a dating relationship, "you don't owe him one thing; not sex, not holding hands, not kissing, nothing! Cause there's no ring on your finger."
And all the ladies, said......

Now remember all this is taking place in Adam and Eve's life under the promise that one day...."And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." Genesis 3:15
So in there mind, this boy is it. Cain! The boy called "spear" is going to fulfill God's prophecy. Adam must now transition from being a lover to being a father.

Stage Four
Institutionalization. Where the light of revelation slowly begins going out. We as men tend to be the most romantic when we are pursuing her. Then when we have her and children are here, we tend to woe. Or, how about this? Things are going good. We like how the small group or church is going, we want things to just keep going like they are.

Institutionalization is setting in and without fresh revelation accompanied by inspiration with formalization, then death is just around the corner.
Many people say that Cain and Able were twins because of the lack of a word in Genesis 4:2. And that is possible, but I want to share some possible new insight concerning this issue. In Genesis 4:1 it says, "Adam knew his wife Eve and she bore a son." That word "knew" is the most intimate word for a man and woman to experience together.
There is a huge difference between "making love" and "having sex."
Without the revelation being fulfilled, and inspiration being fanned, Adam and Eve have found themselves in a relationship that has become nothing more than automation. They're going through the motions without new insight.
Eve names her next son, Able, meaning "vanity!" Can you hear her voice? The actual Hebrew means, "a sigh."
How sad.

Too many marriages "die"by divorce during the "empty nest" stage because after the kids are grown there is no new revelation! They've spent the last 2o years of their life together in the institutionalization mode and now they look at each other one day and say, "death to this."
In the same way, groups, churches, friendships that don't get new purpose beyond what they started out as, end up dieing a slow death.

Stage Five
Crystallization. Where the truth becomes locked in time. The cycle of death which Adam loosed in the garden was now working in his family. “Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” Genesis 4:8
Now in Genesis 4:3 is says, "in the process of time..." That word process in the Hebrew means, "at the end of days." In other words, at the end of this relationship cycle...is death. All things die. What was once full of promise has become a cold corpse. I believe this death of a son and loss of the other brings Adam and Eve back to the beginning. What is needed now more than ever is fresh revelation--and it happens. “And Adam knew his wife again.” Genesis 4:25
This time they name him, Seth. "And as for Seth, to him also a son was born." Genesis 4:26
This is another first in history; because now Adam transitions from being a father to being a grandfather.
New revelation! This is what God was getting at in the beginning of the garden.
Now we understand this because we've had thousand of years to figure out that the seed of Jesus came from the bloodline of Seth who came from Adam and Eve.
But they didn't have this. They had to go through it the hard way.
They had to learn to see past the now, and into the future.

What would life look like if we had entered every relationship with God's long term vision for it?

We'd say things like, "I want to marry you and have kids that have kids that have kids who love God and follow Him all the day's of their lives."
Instead of, "let's move in together and see how this works out."

We'd say, "I attend this church to play a role in reaching the hundreds and thousands of people who need God."
Instead of saying, "this is my church, why change anything?"

We'd say, "I bring people to this small group to grow and multiply the Kingdom of God."
Instead of saying, "if it gets bigger then we'll loose what we have."

We'd say things like, "I want friendships that will grow stronger through change."
Instead of, "I may lose that friendship if things start to change."

I pray that if any of your relationships are on their way to dieing, that God would give you fresh revelation, new passion and a deep commitment to know what to do with it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What Is Love?

Did you do it?
You did, didn't you?
I know you did.

When you read this title, you started singing, "what is love, baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more" with your head tilted to the side doing a little head action.


If you're super spiritual, you simply answered the question by quoting, 1 Corinthians 13:4, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud."

Regardless of what you were thinking, let me share some thoughts on the subject of love for this Valentine's Day.

2 Stories

In a newspaper headline it read, "Woman Kills Her Husband." It showed a picture of a woman holding her dead husband in her lap with blood everywhere and a gun to the side of the body. In the article it read, "when the police entered the house, the wife was screaming "but I loved him, I loved him!"

I've had that type of love.

In the movie, The Duchess, after being cheated on countless times and threatened by her husband, the Duke, that if she does not come home she will never see her children again; the Duchess cries out, "what's wrong with me? Why do you not love me?" The Duke replies, "I do love you." She responds, "how do you love me?" The Duke replies, "I have loved you the best that I understand what love is."

I've had that type of love too.

So, what is love? I believe we have to run everything through what Christ did. In other words, we look at the life of Jesus and get our answers to the questions we have.

Look what Christ did for us.

Love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion that leads to action on behalf of its object.

Christ struggled with going to the cross. He said, "Father, not my will but your will be done." Jesus made a choice.
Did he have emotion? You bet. In fact, the Bible says he sweat drops of blood. That's some intense emotion!
Emotions are great, but too many times we put our emotions before the choice. It's like putting the cart before the horse. It's why so many marriages end in divorce. The "feelings" are gone, and so goes the marriage.
Jesus went to the cross. An act of the will that leads to physical action. Many people say "I love you" but there is no action that backs it up. Or like in the two stories mentioned before, the action is anything but "lovely."
Action on behalf of its object??? Christ went to the cross (that's the action) for us (we're the object of God's love) We are the ones who benefit from Christ going to the cross. We are reconciled to God because of it.

Do you choose to live a life of passionately giving of yourself to benefit someone else?
Not what you can get out of it,
not in how it makes you look good,
not to protect yourself,
but openly exposed to the possibility of real love.
It's harder than it sounds. It will cost you everything.
But I can't imagine loving any other way!

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sailing Again

I know the title of this sounds funny (especially since I've been flying to Peru and back this last week) but I'd like to share some thoughts from the life of the Apostle Paul.
Paul was amazing leader. As a leader, he is one of my heroes. This story concerns the time when he was shipwrecked. These principals have encouraged me during a time of disaster and I pray these key insights will help you "sail again" if and when you experience a shipwreck.

At one time or another, we all experience a shipwreck in life.
Sometimes more than one.

Acts 28:1-3
Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. 2 And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold.But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.

1. Build a Fire
" Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire..."
We see the first thing Paul does is contribute to the needs of others. The natives show them kindness, and Paul jumps in to help. He goes and gathers a bundle of sticks. Experiencing a shipwreck isn’t the end. Get up and start doing something to bless someone.

2. Watch Out for Snakes
"a viper came out because of the heat..."
The devil is an opportunist and attacks those doing the most for good. As I read this I started really focusing on that word "bundle." In other words, Paul takes both arms and finds a bundle of sticks and picks them up altogether. This is quite a bit different from the way most people gather sticks. They pick them up one by one.

A lot of leaders minister that same way, just a little at a time when it's convenient. We need to be people who contribute to the needs of others with arms opened wide gathering as much as we can for those who need to be warmed.

Acts 28: 5-6
But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

3. Shake Off the Snake
"But he shook off the creature" Good leaders don’t focus on their own pain. Keep building the fire. This is so hard to do, I know. I have failed in this area. It proves I'm not a perfect leader! But I'll be ready for the next time.

4. Don't Swell Up
"they expected that he would swell up..." Don’t allow the serpent’s poison to enter your heart. We must guard our heart in times of hardship and "wreckage" and not allow the root of bitterness to set in.

5. Don’t Follow Public Opinion
"they changes their minds..." They always do. Good leaders know public opinion is fickle. Even the best of crowds cheering for you, can and will turn their backs on you. Pay no attention to the critics or cheerleaders. Good leaders make decisions because what God is directing and not man.

Acts 28:7-8 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. 8His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.

6. Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing
"he laid his hands on him and healed him” Good leaders always look for opportunities. Remember the purpose of the shipwreck to begin with is to get you to stop doing what you were doing. Paul turned his shipwreck into a healing revival. You grow spiritually to the extent you are willing to give yourself away.

7. Start Sailing Again
"after three months we sailed” Acts 28:11 Take the time needed to recover; and while you do, build a fire for others. Get started and God will send new people to help you. “When the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us” Acts 28:15 When Paul saw them he thanked God and was encouraged!

I want to share with you something. Today marks, to the date, when a shipwreck in my life started. The last 8 months of it I have been unemployed. At the very beginning of this tragedy I know I heard God say, "give what you have away." Believe me, I argued with God about that for awhile. Today I landed back from a 4 day conference in Peru teaching pastors. I didn't receive anything for it. And that's okay. I have reached a point in my life where I totally trust in God to provide. As He's provided, I've been building a fire for others. My ministry is not going to be determined by what the shipwreck was, it's going to be determined by the fires that are built for others; that's something we should all be doing reguardless of experienceing a shipwreck or not.
I pray you do the same.
God bless and smooth sailing!