Bear Each Other’s Burdens

   “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.” (Galatians 6:2–4, NASB95)

Yesterday (Tuesday the 24th of January 2012) was a nuZoe morning group meeting. I missed last week so was really looking forward to what God would do among us. I knew that last week the guys had talked about the first part of Matthew Chapter 7. This is the place where Jesus talks about not judging others while you have a “beam” in your eye. The place where Jesus says, “…first remove the log out of your own eye, then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus ends this section with a statement about pearls & pigs that the group had not yet discussed so I figured we would begin there yesterday and move on in to Matthew 7:7 where Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock…

Well, that is not what happened. We had a new comer among us for the second time. And he asked that we all share our testimony so that he would have a better idea of who each of us is. There were 8 of us at the table and I figured we would take about 30 minutes with this and get into our discussion of what Jesus said in the rest of Matthew 7.

Was I wrong!

Two hours later we were still listening to each other as men shared their souls. There were two guys at that table that I thought would get impatient with what was happening. They are pretty ‘in” to the bible study part of our gatherings – but they didn’t. They shared right along with the others. We had done all of this before. In fact we do it every time someone new shows up, just so we can all have an idea who everybody is.

This time the sharing was different. There was struggle on the table along with deep joy. There was pain on the table along with times of healing. There were unanswered prayers on the table along with those timeS when prayer had been answered. Each of us really opened up to each other. And I saw the wonder of God at work among us as I knew we were truly beginning to love each other as God intends.

We have been gathering for 15 weeks now and all along I have believed that God was calling each of the individuals to come and be part of what He was doing among us. In great hope I have believed Him that He is creating among us a community that brings Glory and Honor, and Praise to Him. But I have to tell you now that I am seeing Him do this right before my eyes.

He is doing it – it is not the fantastic teaching.

He is doing it – it is not our organizational ability.

He is doing it – it is not our depth of spiritual purity.

He is doing it – it is not our prayer lives.

He is doing it – it is not our Scripture knowledge.

He is doing it – it is not at all that any of us have any idea how to do it ourselves.

I come to you with a positive conclusion about what is happening among our little Tuesday morning gathering. God is working in and among us simply because He loves us beyond measure and He wants us to know Him and through knowing Him love each other as He loves us. Wow! and I say again Wow?

Remember I was planing on getting into Matthew 7:7 yesterday before God interrupted,

““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:7–11, NASB95)

Do you see it? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”  Our Father in heaven was, during the course of the sharing and unburdening that was happening between us, giving us a living parable . He was opening a door into each of our souls and showing each of us that He had been through all the doors of all our hearts first.

He literally gave us of His good from His treasure in the time we spent with each other yesterday. As He did so we all caught a look at what He sees when He looks at us. Amazing! And He did it for us not because of anything we have done but instead because of whom He is.

Glory be to God!

“For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:13–14, NASB95)

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Read The Scripture Through in the 1st Quarter of 2012

Saddleback Church is beginning 40 Days in The Word at the end of January. If you are able to participate in this I highly recommend you do. In any case your Scripture reading plan is important. I have a suggestion – try this.

Start at the beginning (Genesis.) Read to the end (Revelation.)

Read one-half hour per day and you will complete your work in 160 days. Then you should begin again. Or if you are able, take a two week vacation and finish in 80 hours. If this is your first time through, just read. Do not take notes or puzzle too much over the meanings of words. Do not allow yourself to get side tracked. Bathe your work in prayer. This is the most important work you have. Out of this fundamental effort will come everything else. As we read the Scripture we see Jesus. Jesus is LIFE! YOUR LIFE and mine.

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While I’m Waiting

“I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1–3, NASB95)

Ever had to wait? When you were in the midst of it what did you feel like? Comfortable? Afraid? Crazy? Did you just want to stop waiting and get on with it?

If the last is the way you felt – what did you just want to get on with?

In 1999 ( it is December 16, 2011 today) I felt certain that I knew what I was supposed to do. I wrote it all down in a 40 page “vision” memorandum. I worked to prepare a budget. I began to look for a location.

Now I need to tell you that the budget for what I just knew I was supposed to do was way, I mean, way beyond anything I knew how to put together. I mean way, way! And every location I looked at was not in the town I lived in at the time.

I started to think I had to move. Now my wife, Vicky, was not like Abram’s, Sari. Vicky liked where we lived and was not even thinking about moving. One day I felt God was impressing me not to talk with her about moving anymore. I felt that she would mention it to me when the time to move had come. I just knew the time was coming and had to keep quiet about it.

How do you keep quiet about something once you are convinced it is right and wait for the time and circumstances to produce the result that God wants to produce in your life? This is a question we must answer for ourselves because waiting is the fiery furnace that burns away the desires of the flesh, replacing the flesh with a heart that brings Glory to God!

We will be waiting a lot in life – that is if we are waiting on the Lord. Just what can we do and at the same time keep ourselves from messing it up. I am in the midst of another season of waiting on Him right now and here is something (perhaps trivial I know) that gives me some comfort.

In the movie “Fireproof” there is a song called, by coincidence “While I’m Waiting.” Here is a link to a YouTube Video of the song. YouTube, “While I’m Waiting,” John Waller

Here are some things the lyrics suggest we can do while we are waiting.

Wait patiently and be hopeful. (See Psalm 40)

Be prepared to experience pain. Stay hopeful. Stay patient.

Be bold and confident. Move ahead one step after another in the things you believe will honor God. As best you are able – BE OBEDIENT.

Serve God while you are waiting. Serve in you Church. Help your neighbor. Make a new friend and tell them about what Jesus has done for you – but make the new friend first.

Worship God while you are waiting. Make your every act an act of bringing honor and glory to God. Worship with abandon in your worship services. Worship God in your home, workplace and around town, by loving others and thinking of them more highly than you do of yourself.

Don’t faint, let God give you strength, read His Word, and seek Him in Prayer.

Be a peace maker and be full of the Peace of Christ. Let Him fill you up with His Peace and Love.

Continue to run the race. Just simply continue.

God will deliver you through your time of waiting. And He will put a song of praise in your heart and His song will pour forth from your mouth.

To God Be The Glory

Yours in Him

Robert Curtis, The Ichthysgeneration.

(below are the lyrics from “While I’m Waiting”, John Waller)

I’m waiting

I’m waiting on You, Lord

And I am hopeful

I’m waiting on You, Lord

Though it is painful

But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident

Taking every step in obedience

While I’m waiting

I will serve You

While I’m waiting

I will worship

While I’m waiting

I will not faint

I’ll be running the race

Even while I wait

I’m waiting

I’m waiting on You, Lord

And I am peaceful

I’m waiting on You, Lord

Though it’s not easy

But faithfully, I will wait

Yes, I will wait

I will serve You while I’m waiting

I will worship while I’m waiting

I will serve You while I’m waiting

I will worship while I’m waiting

I will serve you while I’m waiting

I will worship while I’m waiting on You, Lord

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmania.com/while_im_waiting_lyrics_john_waller.html

All about John Waller: http://www.musictory.com/music/John+Waller

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8 Weeks

Eight weeks ago I attended the first meeting of what could  become a “new” type of gathering for me. I have spent most of the past twenty years or so as part of one large church or another. This whole time I was either on the ministry staff or a completely immersed volunteer.

As part of ministry teams it was the “job” to “teach” others what to believe about God and Jesus and a whole bunch of other stuff.

One of the churches I was part of had “off campus,” “small groups.” In those groups we primarily discussed books about the Christian Faith, about the Bible, about how to manage finances, about maintaining a healthy marriage – you get the idea. I came to believe that THIS approach was the way it should be. In our thinking it was floated around that the book of ACTS,  Chapter 2, verses 42 through 47 contained the scriptural basis for our type of small group.

   “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42–47, NASB95)

Scriptural basis – I actually say things like this. I believed this. So breaking bread from house to house, and being devoted to the Apostles teaching, fellowship and prayer were the activities that made for a great church – and we tried to duplicate these practices, and they did make for a great church. But the approach is just an approach.

A method that works is still a method and something in the back of my mind says that methods are not what being a Christian is all about. Most everyone of us who follow Jesus Christ will say that it is our relationship with Him that makes us Christian – but it seems that the largest result of this relationship is a gathering that takes place once per week and then various programs, most of which, compete with things like football, the school band and school dances. I mean, did God, creator of the universe and of you and of me, leave His realm of Heaven to be born in a manger, and die brutally on a cross do this so I could learn how to manage my finances or sing “Shout To The Lord,” (one of my favs by the way!)?

I have thought this very strange for the past several years. Hence the experiment.

Right now our gathering is a small group of men  with one thing in common – we all have an overwhelming desire to live with/in Jesus as He directs our every step. We are seeking Him through prayer – study of the Scripture – TOGETHER, and bearing each others burdens.

Eight weeks have passed and I know that we have begun to love each other. We keep coming back. We are all excited about meeting. I can’t wait to see what God will do with us.

I will keep you posted.

Robert Curtis, The ichthysgeneration.

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Attend to the Apostles Teachings

I am part of a gathering of men that meets in a local restaurant one morning each week. It is a new gathering, part of an effort to reach outside the walls of the local church building into the heart of our culture here on the Emerald Coast of Florida.  We are in our fourth week and each week new men are showing up and for this I rejoice. When we begin each week the new guys get a chance to tell the group about themselves. And so far no one has been shy about this. The guys have been willing to expose themselves and dive right in to the group.

As a result of this I have heard a variety of ideas about God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, human-kind, sin, salvation, and the Scripture that I have rarely heard inside the walls of the church building. This is good and part of the reason I have embarked on this journey outside those walls.

However I am coming, quickly, to a conclusion about this effort to engage the culture outside of the church with the Gospel. It is never too soon to introduce the Truth, Jesus, into the conversation.

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” The “they” Luke is speaking of here are new believers from all over the known world. They came from all kinds of spiritual and cultural traditions. Acts Chapter 2 is a record of the means God used to bring them to the point of devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching. This teaching is, simply put, the teaching about Jesus, the Savior of the world, as taught by men who had been eye witnesses to His life!

Those gathered together in this way listening to the apostles’ teaching had no previous preparation in doctrinal matters. They had all kinds of ideas and theories about God and how God dealt with man. Some of them had thought the disciples in the upper room were drunk at 9:00 in the morning.

On hearing this opinion Peter spoke up immediately,

“But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day…” Acts 2:14-15

Peter goes on to tell all those gathered that the Messiah, long awaited by the Jews, had come. His name was Jesus. The religious had had Him crucified with the full approval of the crowd. Peter taught the grave could not hold Him and that God, The Father, raised Him from the dead on the third day, setting the captives free and healing the rift between God and His Creation human kind.

This is the Gospel.

Acts tells us that everyone who received this word, repented and were baptized in the Name of Jesus.

I long for these kind of results as we are walking in Christ Jesus outside the walls of the church buildings.

I see a need as we follow Jesus, as we are His witnesses, to be open to hearing all kinds of opinions about God and Jesus – but we must never hesitate to introduce those we are talking with to the Truth.

Some will say to us (and have said to me) “what truth.” or “There are as many opinions about what the scripture says as there are people reading it. Who are you to say that your opinion is better truth than any of the other interpretations?” We must hear them out with a humble, gentleness of spirit.

Jesus came to earth to set us all free. Let Him give you the words for each person who resists. He will set them free and you cannot. Name His name and let those you speak with know that YOU believe that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Explain that YOU believe this to be literal and not open to various interpretive techniques. Gently proclaim that the Word of Scripture says what it means and means what it says. Humbly state that it cannot be broken, modified, or explained away by the opinion or even the academic scholarship of men. And then let The Word of God do His work.

After we show we care – for real – it is never too soon to introduce another to Jesus so that He may do the work in us that He came to do.

YOU WILL BR AMAZED AT THE RESULTS HE ACHIEVES.

Please pray for me and those I am working with that we preserver in the work of meeting those who do not yet know their Savior. Pray for us that we are able to build great friendships with those outside the walls of the church building and that we learn how to Love as Jesus Loves!

May God Bless YOU today!

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Book Review – “Twitter For Good” a new book for the ichthysgeneration

TWITTER FOR GOOD

Claire Diáz – Ortiz

Many of us are just beginning to perceive the society transforming power of social networking. No longer do we live in isolation. If we wish we can connect ourselves, instantly with others around the planet. Using the new tools of the new “information age” we are able to keep up with the topics that interest us and the people that are doing something about them everywhere, all the time. In many ways there are no more barriers of distance and geography, no more time zones. And we can, if we want to, join in the chorus that many say is changing the world.

Some have just begun to stick their toes in the water to see, what is what, about all the hype. Others have been using the new tools effectively for quite some time. Books like Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody” describe some of the social and organizational impacts of the new tools. But not being a “natural” user of these new methods I have needed a primer on the effective use of these powerful communications channels.

“Twitter for Good” is such a primer.

Since 2009 Claire Diaz-Ortiz, the author, has lead social innovation and philanthropy at Twitter. Before joining Twitter she was using Twitter to change the world for good. As a cofounder of Hope Runs (HopeRuns.org) she found herself Tweeting for Good from the Central Highlands of Kenya, “urging followers to learn about the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on orphaned and vulnerable children.”  In this, her second book, Ms Diaz-Ortiz shows how to use the T.W.E.E.T. model an operational framework for the deployment of Twitter she developed.

T.W.E.E.T. (Target, Write, Engage, Explore, Track)

“The jarringly obvious acronym serves as the absolutely easiest way for organizations to remember the five most important things they must do to stand out on Twitter. It has worked for hundreds of organizations, and I am confident that it can work for you as well.” (from the book)

This book is rich with examples of organizations and individuals who are effective in using Twitter as an integral part of their strategy to bring about good in the world. There are case studies for the use of each component of the T.W.E.E.T. framework. Both actual user’s methods and idealized case study scenarios are detailed. Ms. Diaz-Ortiz has filled this book with practical steps and outlined goals that should be obtainable by any one who wants to use Twitter to help them change the world for good.

I have personally enjoyed working with Twitter – even though I must admit that I have been somewhat random in my approach. I like the 140 character message format far better than the other social networking tools I have experimented with. I have found it extremely useful to have the Twitter stream flowing on my screen while video editing or writing. Several times a day something flows past that catches my attention and actually amplifies my own work. As I write this review I am working on a new creation (for good) with some other like minded people who I met in the Twitter stream. This is exciting for me and should be exciting for you. “Twitter for Good” explained to me my own excitement for the Twitter medium.

“SMS  (simple messaging service or text messaging) is ubiquitous in the developing world (all the world actually) Poor and more affluent people alike understand the power of texting and employ it constantly. .. there are more cell phones than toilets in India. While SMS  offers principally one-on-one communications, Twitter’s “follow” design makes it much better suited to disseminating information. Fulfilling Twitter’s original SMS vision with a global footprint would likely bring great benefits worldwide.”  

April Rinne, director of WaterCredit at Water.org and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader

This brief statement nailed my fascination with this powerful tool. Twitter works so very well for me because it allows me to determine what and who to keep track of as I am attempting to be an agent for good in a world which desperately needs more and more such agents. You are able to tailor the stream to keep you abreast of the things you are working on and every once and a while a vital connection takes place. This magnifies each of our efforts in unpredictable ways. The 140 character format makes me formulate thoughts well in order to say what I mean. So very cool. Ms. Diaz-Ortiz has now provided me and everyone else, who will avail themselves of it, with a framework to use this tool effectively.

The book answers every question I had and points the way into uncharted territories which have mind boggling potential for increasing our personal and organizational effectiveness. Here is a short (by no means complete) list of the kind of topics “Tweet For Good” addresses.

Who should be on Twitter

Why should you be of Twitter

How should you use Twitter

How often should you Tweet

What should you write on Twitter

How does all of the new media functionality work and how do I use it

Features of Twitter and how to employ them effectively, #hashtags, lists, reply

Promoting products or ideas powerfully and with professionalism (no spam please)

How to engage your audience and how to engage as individuals using the Twitter platform

Using Twitter in Crisis Management

How to find the audience you want to connect with

How to track your results. Metrics are important

The bottom line is if you are using or think you should be using Twitter this book is a must read. Bravo – Thanks for delivering a vision for how we can work together so effectively to change the world for good.

This book is available on Amazon.com and there is a Kindle edition.

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Do We Still Need God?

A discussion came up on LinkedIn this morning about miracles, how they are defined, whether or not God still is in the miracle business, all that kind of stuff. Aside from the fact that the scripture tells us that all things were made through Christ and that in Him everything is held together the question appears valid. I had some thoughts on the issue. Here is a brief summary for your consideration.

“And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.”Matthew 13:58 NASB

It seems many have put their trust in the things of the world instead of the God who created it. Do we still need God?

In the modern world human-kind has faith in the ability of technology, and in science, and in academic scholarship; and in the ability of our own endeavors to order our environment. When told that our technology has created Global Warming we have a strong tendency to believe it. Some have come to believe that human-kind has the power even to destroy the earth. If we have that much power do we still need God?

When we are ill the first thing many of us to is run to the medical professional. Many take prescription drugs to cure what ails them. Others seek “natural” remedies for their ailments. For many, only when every human effort has been exhausted, do we then turn to God in desperate prayer. We cry out to the Father only when the doctor has told us that there is no hope in medicine. In our society it seems often we no longer have the freedom to rely on God for our health care and for the health care of our loved ones. Parents are being charged with criminal acts when they refuse medical treatment for their children preferring instead to trust God. Do we still need God?

The same kind of thinking applies to our getting on in this world we live in. How many of us have deeply applied Jesus’ teaching in Matthew chapter 6 especially 6:33-34 in our lives? Do we not first attempt to make sure that we have adequate retirement accounts, life insurance, health insurance. Then if all of this prudent stewardship and preparation is still falling somehow short we turn to God pleading for a miracle. Again, increasingly Government is stepping in and mandating retirement savings (Social Security), and mandatory health insurance. Soon we will have effectively removed dependence on God from our thinking about such things. Do we still need God?

Why should we expect God to move in our lives when we have taken so many measures to insure our “comfort” in the not so subtle belief that we are on our own, that reliance of God is a last resort.  Many of us honor God with our lips but in our actions betray an absence of faith. What have we left for God to do?

Brothers and Sisters He has promised to provide for His Saints. He has promised to be with us always – even until the end of time.  Let us return to complete reliance on Him. Let us trust Him now!

God will move in our lives in spite of our lack of faith. After all, He sends rain on the righteous and the un-righteous alike. But I suggest that we will see God move mightily in our lives as we radically turn them over to His stewardship. We must give up our rights to ourselves, stop relying on human wisdom, and throw ourselves on His mercy not just for Salvation (Oh How Great A Salvation It Is) but in the living of every second of this life, He Himself has provided for us. WE MUST live as the Children of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years. They neither planted or harvested yet God provided for their daily needs. He kept their clothes from wearing out. They had no job but to follow Him as He lead. Think on this and beseech Him for clarity.

One last comment.

“Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” John 14:23 NASB

For those who know of and live out of what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf this is the biggest jack pot. God has moved in. We have become His temple. He has changed us, transferred us from the kingdom of darkness and death into His Kingdom of light and LIFE. And if we will abandon ourselves to Him we can live the abundant life right now. Then we will see the power of what Paul calls Kingdom of God manifest in our lives! (1 Corinthians 4:20)

We still need God and though many on our planet do not know this He is patient and in due time will meet each of us in our time of need.

Glory To God In The Highest, Forever and Ever Amen!

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