Friday, September 23, 2011

God Made You Beautiful

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom it.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

God’s creative beauty needs no digital enhancement. Whether it is a sunset or field of tulips God created everything beautiful. While we seldom feel the need to enhance God’s creation in nature or the world, we go to great lengths to make His greatest creation appear more beautiful. We sometimes feel far from beautiful. Some of us even feel insignificant or useless. Remember, God saved the best for last in His creative order. When he spoke the universe into existence he said it was good. But when he created humans in His image (Genesis 1:26) He said they were created “very good” (Genesis 1:31). You are made in the image of God – His most prized creation! You are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8).

The world has defined beauty by mere outward appearance and has set the bar so high that really no one can reach it. There is an illusion of beauty that is illusive in this world. The fantasy-like images the world portrays as beautiful are in actuality far from what God calls beautiful. For example, ladies, God calls a woman who fears and loves Him beautiful. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Peter goes on to say, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4). That doesn’t mean you should avoid jewelry, nice clothes, or the beauty salon. It simply means these things do not make you beautiful. Real beauty comes from a relationship with Christ and having His characteristics. You are precious in God’s sight.

Listen, God had a plan in creating you. Even if you feel useless, ugly, or undeserving of his love, He finds you beautiful and useful. He has a plan for your life every day. Maybe you are not happy with what you see in the mirror but God is. As someone who is created in God’s image, you should take care of yourself, whether it is good hygiene, eating properly, exercising, or improving your outward appearance. But all of these cannot enhance your inward beauty. God loves and values you beyond any shortcomings or inadequacies you may feel you have. Because you are beautiful in God’s eyes, you should feel beautiful in your own eyes.

Stop trying to live up to the fleeting and false beauty standards of this world. Stop trying to mirror the beauty of those the world depicts as beautiful. You are never more beautiful than when you look like Jesus. God said in Isaiah 44:2 " I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born." Psalm 139:13-14 reminds me that God, “Created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” You are God’s masterpiece! God intricately formed every detail of you. Your worth is found in Him! You are made wonderful just the way you are. I pray you know that full well.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Just Say No

By my post title you may think I'm advocating a resurgence of an old anti-drug campaign.  Granted, you should not do drugs but this post is about something that can bring greater devastation in a subtle way.  I recently watched a video online of a circus performer spinning 25 plates on poles. While not is was not something you see everyday, it was quite entertaining to watch as he went from one pole/plate combination to another trying to keep them all spinning.  He had his work cut out for him.  I guess he got tired after he had accomplished spinning all 25 of them for several minutes.  He eventually gave up and let them all fall one at a time as they lost speed.  One by one plates hit the ground and broke into many pieces.

As I watched it I couldn't help but think, "This reminds me of my life."  It seems like all I do is spin plates.  Most of the plates are fine china.  In other words, valuable projects or tasks.  Others, at times, seem like the inexpensive paper goods that won't hold anything home cooked.  You know the kind.  They are almost worthless but somehow end up on spinners row.  By the way, the world record for spinning plates is by a guy who spun 108 simultaneously.  I think beat him last week. 

I could run on and on or put more "spin" on my illustration but I think you get the point.  How do you balance all life and ministry throw at you and not feel like a circus performer?  Sure, you accomplished (sometimes halfway) many great things for the Lord and for the Kingdom but how do you balance it all right?  How do you decide what to spin, what to say no to, and what to take off of spinning row? 

It is different for all people.  I know one of my weaknesses - I can't say no.  I don't ever want to "disappoint" anyone or not be there when someone needs me.  I also have a huge heart.  It is hard for me to say no to anyone remotely in need.  I'm a sucker for the poor, a good cause, and tear-jerker situations.  I'm also a big dreamer, but an average delegater, which is usually an odd couple.  Sometimes it is hard to say no because the need is real and immediate.  There is also part of me that desires to accomplish great things for the Lord.  I am not the kind of person who lays around on my day off (whatever that is).  Heck, (did I just Christian cuss?) I feel guilty turning my cell phone off - as though the world would fall apart when I hit the off button.

So here's what I've come to.  We all have plates to spin, but I've been spinning too many plates that don't deserve to be spun by me.  Some of them are to be spun by others.  Some of them should have never been on my spinning row.  Others need to simply left alone and let hit the floor and break in to a bazillion pieces - never to be spun again - by anyone - especially me again.

My resolutions?  I don't know them all but here are a few:

1.  My kids.  I will not neglect my family any longer, sacrificing them on the altar of ministry  They seem to be the first ones I tell to wait.  I refuse to have a long-distance relationship with my family 10 minutes away.  What am I going to do about it?  I will take my kids to school.  I will be home to eat supper with them.  I will not keep telling my daughter "tomorrow".  I will not walk in the house with a black talking box glued to my ear anymore and ignore their pleas for attention from the most important and influential man in their lives.  I will listen to their silly stories and watch peppa pig no matter how much I dislike talking cartoon animals.  I will tuck them into bed every night possible.  I will not miss their games, award assemblies, and fixing cereal in the morning for breakfast that never gets eaten.  If anyone is going to get cheated with time it is not going to be my girls.

2.  My wife.  The one who so patiently and lovingly understands all of the times I have been away from home day and night fulfilling my calling as a pastor.  Only she knows the demands of my ministry.  I will put my kids to bed on time, turn off the TV, and engage her.  I will not leave her out of the loop.  I will date her once again.  I will say no to those who drop their name and number (i.e. demands of ministry) my way as I keep my commitments to her. I will not give her leftovers, only throwing her the scraps of my time, conversation, and focus.  I will not answer the phone everytime it rings and put her on hold in the process.  She will be my best friend, a crown to my head, and lover forever.

3.  My ministry.  I will fulfill all God has called me to, even if it means disappointing some who call me to other things God has not.  I will say yes to what I can do, delegate to those who can and should share the load (equip and train the saints for the work of the ministry), and no to the things that are time stealers.  I refuse to meet with anyone else receptively who will not take my counsel seriously.  I will win souls and make disciples.  I will meet with people one-on-one for discipleship, training, and equipping.  I will not involve myself in meaningless busy-work that anyone can do for minimum wage (not to say I am above any manual labor or task - I have done and will continue to do my share).  I will not care the next time someone tells me pastors don't do anything anyway only as a shot at my character. I will be a pastor.  I will lead and grow my church.  I will be an elder, pastor, and teacher and let the Word and Spirit define those callings.

4.  My friends.  I will spend time with people for friendship sake.  I will not misuse or abuse my friendships for "easy ministry volunteers" but I will always challenge them to be involved with Kingdom priorities.  I will not neglect those God has called me to.  I will laugh more.  I will be a friend they can depend on.  I will not feel guilty or be made to feel guilty about going to the occasional Razorback football game (at least I'll keep up my current pace of one every eight years).

5.  Me.  I will spend time daily in the Word and prayer.  I will memorize more Scripture.  I will grow as a leader and fulfil my commitments, being careful not to over-commit.  I will take time off.  I will give 110% at whatever the Lord has called me to and steer clear 110% of what He has not.  I will out-work, out-serve, out-give, and out-love others - not in competition or boasting but because to whom much is given, much is required.  I will not burn-out or be unproductive in ministry.  I will look like Jesus.

6.  You.  I will challenge you and ask you to step-up.  I will never ask you to compromise family.  I will ask you to lead your family and involve them in ministry.  I will shepherd those entrusted to me, leading them to green pasture and still water but not to fields of idleness or streams of self-indulgence.  I will never ask you to do what I am unwilling to do.  I will work as a team.  I will thank, exhort, and encourage you. 

I know I'll have more to add here and hopefully I didn't just create another row of plates to spin.  These seem worth the effort though - the fine china that I refuse to allow to shatter as I relentlessly pursue them.  I'm not sure how many plates I can or should be spinning but I want every turn and every plate to count.  We all have plates to spin in life.  Just remember the goal is to spin the right ones and not to let them spin you.