Fruity Fridays: 5 Ways to Own Your Faithfulness 

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

The fruit of faithfulness is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit which require the most use of Galatians 5:24, which says,

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Faithfulness is not a natural trait we are born with. It flies in the face of our natural bend toward selfishness. Left to our own desires and passions, we keep moving from job to job, bed to bed, habit to habit, relationship to relationship because it’s just too hard to be faithful when you are wrapped up in “what’s in it for me?”

We have to give that bend to God. We have to choose to own faithfulness rather than selfishness and pursue it with the Holy Spirit’s aid. So how can we own our faithfulness? Here are five thoughts:

Own Your Purpose

Yes, your purpose is God-given. But he doesn’t make you pursue education. He doesn’t make you go on the job interview. He doesn’t make you leave a purposeless job to pursue the purposeful job. He gives you a purpose, but you have to own it. Chances are when you do own his given purpose, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: John the Baptist)

Own Your Margin

We all have the same amount of time. We haven’t all learned the value of margin, the value of saying “no,” or the hurt created by a flippant, inattentive “yes.” Your margin is yours; your time is yours to obediently and wisely fulfill your God-given purpose. Chances are when you own your margin, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Jethro)

Own Your Commitments

If we take care of owning purpose and margin, this one is a lot easier. Commitments should not be causal, quick, or thoughtless. If the commitment is entered into only after checking it against purpose and margin, the odds of its longevity increase. Chances are when you own your commitments, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical examples: David and Jonathan)

Own Your Distractions

Owning purpose, margin, and commitments don’t negate self-imposed or enemy-induced distractions. You can be your own worst enemy; and, you are always target practice for enemy attacks to your mind, body, and soul. Know your susceptibilities. Know your distractions. Chances are when you own your distractions, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Daniel)

Own Your Tendencies

Very few people know you like you know you. It may be that no human really knows you. We should all own the truth that God knows us, every part of us, even when we forget he does or try to behave like he doesn’t. Knowing your tendency to leave when you should stay, run when you should walk, talk when you should listen, or obsess when you should forget will move you along in owning your selfishness. Chances are when you own your tendencies, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Paul)

5 Leadership Lessons from 5 Worship Leading Stints

Over the last 20 years, I’ve been given the opportunity to lead worship for five different stints on three church staffs. Might sound confusing, so let me explain. For one stint I was actually hired to be the worship leader; I was there for four years. Three of the other four stints came while I was on staff serving a different role, but there was a vacancy for a period of time when I put on the worship leader hat also. That leaves one more, which I really didn’t want to do but God told me to say yes. Not the first time. News flash: He’s always right.

I recently finished stint number five. In reflective mode, I’ve taken a look at these stints to remember what I learned, how I grew, and what God showed me. To bottom line it, here are the five leadership lessons these stints taught me.

Lesson #1-Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

It’s possible you have a talent that everyone validates but God has other purposes for you outside that talent. It’s possible putting all your energy on the obvious talent stunts the hidden talent that only God can nurture when you say yes to him and no to the obvious. It’s possible that the best avenue for you to understand this is to give the obvious a shot and find that there is more.

Lesson #2-If you’re the best person for the job, step up.

It’s possible the very reason you are where you are is God put you there to fill a hole that only you can fill. It’s possible that God put you there to help you see what he’s capable of helping you achieve when you make it less about you. It’s possible that unless you step up, everyone will miss God’s best.

Lesson #3-Because you can, sometimes you should.

It’s possible the best way to healing is to do something you have no desire to do. It’s possible that following the accomplishment of a very hard thing your next thing should be an easy thing. It’s possible the only way another person can get unstuck is for you to offer your hand.

Lesson #4-Leading transition is like crossing a bridge-you’re just helping people cross from one side of the river to the other side.

It’s possible not everyone wants to cross over. It’s possible you’re the last one to cross. It’s possible that the only way to finish the job is to keep your eyes on the other side.

Lesson #5-Some leadership seasons are more for you, but you won’t know why until they’re finished.

It’s possible that the only time you can be refilled is when you are willing to be completely emptied. It’s possible that why doesn’t matter. It’s possible that at the end of the season you can walk away fuller than when you entered.

(Photo credit: Randy Tosch)

Fruity Fridays: A Story of Faithfulness

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Jeremy Nixon

“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…and FAITHFULNESS.” Galatians 5: 22-23 

There are a lot of stories in the Bible about faithfulness that I enjoy reading. God has been faithful throughout the whole book in showing he created us for a purpose and for our purpose to be fulfilled. There is one story in particular that sticks out, and it’s found in the Old Testament. Read 1 Samuel 15-18. 

In 1 Samuel 15, God paints a picture of how important faithfulness is to Him. Saul was the king of Israel. Saul was not a king who pleased God, so God chose to give the honor of being the king to David, a young man who worked for King Saul. David spent a lot of time in the palace and became very good friends with Saul’s son Jonathan. After some time, King Saul became so jealous of David that he wanted to kill him and even though he wanted to kill him, Jonathan, Saul’s son, remained David’s best friend. In 1 Samuel 23: 16-18 you see how faithful Jonathan is to David. So faithful that the two of them made a covenant, and Jonathan promised David that his dad wouldn’t lay a hand on him. That’s pretty powerful when you are poised to be the next in line for the throne but you also know that God wants to make your best friend king. I couldn’t imagine how that would feel, but right here we see how important faithfulness is.  

Faithfulness: the words strict, truth, allegiance, reliable, and trusted come to mind. When we read about the friendship between Jonathan and David, it shows us that true friends are faithful to each other even in difficult circumstances. It shows me that being faithful means that we are willing to give up our own valuable things for what is important to God. Faithfulness means sticking by God in the easy times as well as the hard times, and He honors our sacrifices. 

God honors those who are faithful. We are faithful to God when we obey his commandments and choose to do what is right. I think about David, how he didn’t kill Saul even though Saul was trying to kill him. God rewarded David’s faithfulness by allowing David to become the king of Israel. And there was Abraham, who was faithful because he followed God’s directions to go to an unknown land far away. He believed that God would give him a son, and at an old age God was faithful to Abraham. God rewarded Abraham’s faithfulness by making his descendants many! There is story after story where God honors the faithful. 

God has shown his faithfulness time and time again in the Bible. He cared for the faithful men and women of the Bible, and we can trust that He will care for us too. God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do. God is faithful to us, and we can always trust in Him….and because He does that, He is worthy of our praise and our faithfulness.  

Go and be a faithful servant today and watch God be faithful to you. Give Him all the praise and be the faithful people God has called us to be. 

Perhaps 

“Now you, son of man, get your bags ready for exile and go into exile in their sight during the day. You will go into exile from your place to another place while they watch; perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house.” Ezekiel 12:3

Perhaps is a descriptive word. It usually paints a negative picture, like there isn’t much of a chance. So when Ezekiel is given this task with this clarification, he has an interesting choice ahead of him. The choice is, what is his mindset going to be as he follows through.

From my experience, I’m not sure most, if not all, of God’s directives involving ministering to others shouldn’t be entered into with this mentality. Why? There are no guarantees. Just because you come in the name of the Lord doesn’t guarantee you or your message will be received at all, let alone as a message from the Lord. And how they respond, if your message is delivered as directed, has nothing to do with you.

Perhaps will keep you.

Perhaps will protect you.

Perhaps will direct you.

Perhaps will humble you.

Perhaps will focus you.

Perhaps leaves it all up to your director.

Dairy Farm Inspiration

“Have you ever stuck your hand up a cow’s butt?”

Not a question meant for you, really. It’s a question asked by someone on TV.

I just watched an episode of Undercover Boss from 2013 where Menchie’s frozen yogurt franchise CEO Amit Kleinberger went undercover at a dairy farm and a kids birthday party to assess his company. In his work at the dairy farm, Amit met Francisco. Francisco asked Amit that question. By the end of that day at the dairy farm, Amit had a new perspective about his company, and probably about life. What Amit saw in Francisco was a passionate employee. Francisco cares about his cows. “I love these cows. I love my job.” Amit later told Francisco that he left inspired that day. 

So why would a CEO be inspired at the dairy farm? One reason was he was able to help Francisco bring a new calf to the world. Another first for Amit. Francisco let Amit name the calf; he named him Alan. That was a memorable moment, yes. But what inspired Amit was the attitude, perspective, and focus of Francisco. The way he talked about the cows, the purpose he shared about his job, and the model he hoped to show his children inspired Amit.

How we do what we do should inspire others. It’s biblical. We are to mirror the image of God in how we do work. You may think, “But I don’t like what I do. I’d rather be doing….” So why aren’t you? Is it possible God wants to help you but you’re not letting him? How can you follow his plan for you?

You may also think, “I’m doing what I’m meant to do, but I’ve lost the joy, the passion. I’m probably not inspiring anyone.” So where did the passion go? What caused you to lose it? What would it feel like to restore it? Are you willing to do the restoration work?

Maybe we all could use a trip to the dairy farm. And stick our hands where they’ve never been before. Ready?

*Hate Alert

My friends from other countries have often talked about our American use of the word love. It confuses them. Why? They say we overuse the word. I have to say I agree. Do you really love your taco as much as your mother?

So I’m calling us out on the use of the opposite word from love. Hate. I have to say that we overuse that word. Maybe not as much. But definitely too much. There is a summer ad running for iPad Pro that illustrates this.

https://youtu.be/fKk4BUfrYp8

Let’s go on hate alert, shall we? Let’s help each other out by alerting one another when we use the word too much. And why should we do this? Because we need to stop affirming it-it being hatred.

  • We affirm hatred when we listen to it. Being on hate alert will keep us from listening to anyone spew hatred.
  • We affirm hatred when we ignore it. Being on hate alert means we will call each other out on it rather than just ignore any spewing.
  • We affirm hatred when we agree with it. Being on hate alert means we refuse to agree with the attitude of hatred. We can disagree without spewing hatred.

Be Alert!

What’s God Missing?

Seasons. Life has them. That includes nature. That also includes humans.

God doesn’t have seasons. He is constant, the same yesterday, today, forever. So when we go through a season that doesn’t include him or creates distance between us, what does that mean for him?

What brings us into such a season? 

  • It may be a season where time management is a challenge, and one of the things that suffers is our alone time with God. 
  • It may be a season where you are transitioning into a new job, a new city, a new family dynamic, and it hasn’t dawned on you to figure out where your time with God fits into the new. 
  • It may be a season where you are simply dry, and time alone with God feels even more dry. 

Whatever brought on this season, all you know is that you miss your time with God. You know what you miss, and you’re trying to recapture it. To recapture it, maybe even enter a season yet to be experienced, what if you answered this question: What is God missing?

If you’re missing whatever you used to get out of the relationship, what is he missing that he used to get out of it? Is he missing…

  • …the opportunity to embrace you?
  • …the chance to guide you?
  • …the time to refresh you?
  • …the avenue to encourage you?
  • …the method to challenge you?
  • …the space for you to worship?
  • …the channel to inspire you?

One thing I’ve experienced is the truth to the promise God made that if we seek him we will find him. Give seeking him a shot by asking him this question. I’m guessing he can’t wait to tell you what he’s been missing.

Fruity Fridays: Don’t Give Up

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Eric Vorhies

After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, becoming aware of good and evil, God made a promise to bless the world through her seed. That blessing was Jesus. Now, let’s think about the events that took place between those two points in time. The newly freed Jews desired to be enslaved in Egypt rather than to depend on their miraculous God. From prophets to judges to kings, God’s chosen leader often rejected guidance and wisdom from their Creator. The world became so detestable at one point that God wiped it clean except for Noah and his family. And so on and so on.

If I was God, I would have been out by book two. So, in terms of what it means to be faithful, God is our model.

Faithfulness is an unswerving adherence to a person, thing, promise, etc. This is the characteristic that allows parents to have hope that their estranged child will come home. It gives permission to a devastated spouse to forgive the unfaithfulness (of any kind) of their partner. Faithfulness is at the heart of the story of the adult child who prays for 17 years that their mother would accept Christ as their Savior. Supernatural faithfulness isn’t a characteristic of the resilience of humanity. Rather, it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that is imparted on us by God.

Here’s the take away — You don’t have to give up or give in. Everyone has some hope or desire that has been worn down and beat up by disappointments as time drags along. And, let’s be honest, it’s hard. It’s exhausting. It even seems pointless to continue pressing on. But the endurance that faithfulness demands of us isn’t our own. We have access to a Father that understands. And it is His strength that carries us. We don’t have to give up because God is our source.

Or maybe you are on the other side of the equation. Maybe you are the one who keeps failing. The one who keeps rejecting God when the pressure of the world seems to be upon you. You also don’t need to give up or give in. God’s faithfulness is greater than our unfaithfulness. And though we may stumble and fall, if we keep trying again and again, as many times as it takes, we will be able to tap into that power that God is offering us and become faithful.

So, don’t be like me…don’t say, ‘I’m out,’ before the end of book two…because the story that God is writing is much bigger than we can imagine…and masterpieces take time to complete.

3 Checks to Controlling Yourself 

In the last 12 hours, I’ve had three conversations around the subject of control. One was with myself; it happens when you wake up an hour before the alarm.

The interesting core of these conversations had to do with being frustrated or anxious. And every one of them found the same end that the cause of the frustration and anxiety was trying to control something that was out of their control.

We’ve all been there. “Why can’t they do it this way?” “What if they get mad?” “How come she gets better reviews they I get?” Before we drive ourselves to losing control, maybe we can check ourselves and, in a sense, own our control issues rather than trying to control things that we really can’t.

Check #1-Check your Expectations. Ask these questions:

  • Whose expectations are these?
  • Who agreed to these expectations?
  • What should my expectations be and what am I basing them on?
  • What happens if my expectations don’t get met? Who is going to care besides me?
  • What happens if my expectations do get met? Who is going to care besides me?

Check #2-Check your Opportunities. Ask these questions:

  • How might this relationship grow?
  • What might I learn today?
  • What other perspectives have I not considered?
  • How could I cultivate gratitude?
  • How can I show respect?

Check #3-Check your Fears. Ask these questions:

  • What if love drove me more than fear?
  • What can I find to affirm rather than judge?
  • How can I connect with them rather than hide from them?
  • What fears need to hear me say, “Yes”?
  • What fears need to hear me say, “No”?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2Timothy 1:7

That’s Just What I Needed

Yesterday, we had a memorial service for a longstanding, faithful member of First Baptist. The service, which included selections of their favorite worship songs, was planned by him and his wife. After the service, his wife said, in thanking me for my part in the service, “That’s just what I needed. I hope those songs were okay, but they meant something to us.”

To be frank, who cares if people attending a memorial service have any offense to service choices. They mean something to you; that’s why you plan them ahead of time so they reveal what’s important, your values, your life.

I’ve blogged about this before, but it begs repeating. If you haven’t done this already, it’s time to think about helping your family out by planning your memorial service. That might mean not having one. It might mean a small gathering at a graveside. It might be a traditional church service. Whatever it might look like it in your head, that’s a problem. It’s only in your head. Speak it. Write it. Plan it.

My father died in 1980. I was 12. I can tell you off the top of my head two of the song selections, vocalists who sang, and who the two preachers were. Why? Because they were amazing? Because they are in a recording I’ve listened to? Nope. It’s because I knew that my dad planned it. Those songs, those singers, those speakers were his choosing. 

Do everyone a favor. Get this done. Help them be able to say after your service, “That’s just what I needed.”