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By Chip Ingram
Is it bad to want to be a great Christian?
There’s a question that I wrestled with for quite awhile for most of my Christian life: Is it really wrong to want to be great? Is it self-centered to want your life to really make an impact?
What I’ve discovered is that “greatness” is most people’s ambition in nearly every area of their lives. When I’ve asked a lot of people about their hopes and dreams, I usually get unapologetic answers about their desires to be great at what they do. Corporate leaders want their companies to be great, professionals want to have great careers, men want to be great husbands and fathers, and women want to be great wives and mothers.
Yet when I ask believers if they want to be great Christians, many of them seem to be afraid to answer the question, as if they’re worried that their ambitions might make them seem arrogant.
But is it really prideful to want to honor God with lives of great faith and excellent work? Should we accept mediocrity instead?
After spending three years with Jesus, the disciples didn’t seem to think so. They actually argued about which one of them was the greatest. What I find most fascinating is that Jesus never admonished them for having ambition or for their desire to be great. Instead, He just showed them a different way to get there.
In Luke 22, Jesus redefines greatness by laying out a clear but counterintuitive pathway that 11 of the 12 disciples eventually fulfilled. He responds to their desires to be great by saying: ” … the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22:26)
Jesus modeled what it means to be truly great. He came to this Earth as a humbled servant of God, yet He didn’t live a life of mediocrity. The night before his crucifixion, He said to the Father: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4) He went on to ask that the Father glorify Him and that His glory be shared with His disciples.
Jesus’ statements about greatness were bold, yet we would never accuse Jesus of being arrogant or immodest, would we? From God’s perspective, His desires were godly.
So what about you? Do you want to be great? I’m not talking about financial success or popular opinion. That’s usually a self-centered ambition. I’m talking about being great in God’s kingdom. That is a noble desire!
In fact, God loves it when his people are zealous about making a difference in His kingdom.
Maybe you’re wondering, would God ever use an ordinary person like me, just like the great Christians in the Bible or the men and women of great faith that we read about in church history? And what I want to tell you is, yes!
God eagerly looks over the landscape of this world to honor, empower, and strengthen those whose love and obedience bring him pleasure. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.(2 Chronicles 16:9)
Our greatness – as He defines it – is His desire.
Click here or call 1-800-950-2092 to join Chip at The Cove on May 23-25, 2014 for his seminar titled, “Doing Good: What Happens When Christians Live Like Christians”
By Anne Graham Lotz
the small secrets of your heart,
the unspoken dreams of your imagination,
the unrevealed thoughts of your mind,
the emotional shards of your feelings,
the paralyzing fears for your future,
the bitter resentments of your past,
the joys and heartaches,
the pleasures and pain,
the successes and failures,
the honors and humiliations,
the deeds and the doubts.
He knows all about you,
inside and out,
past, present, and future.
Join Anne for A Time of Refreshing at The Cove October 31 – November 2, 2014.
Click here for information and to register.
Poem used with permission from Anne Graham Lotz book, “My Jesus is Everything”
By Kristy Etheridge
Matthew Cook is a high school senior from Greensboro, N.C., who’s getting ready to make a big decision: where to go to college. His top choices are Appalachian State, Gardner-Webb and Campbell. His mother, Elizabeth, jokes about acquiring more gray hair every day her son doesn’t decide.
But Matthew will soon face bigger choices than figuring out which college has the best courses, scholarships and all-important dining hall food.
“Our kids are under fire,” Elizabeth said. “The statistics are so high—not only do they fall away from church when they go to college, but they fall away from Christ.”
Listen here as Sean McDowell tells you what you can expect at this seminar.
Elizabeth spotted the event on the BGEA Facebook page and immediately signed up Matthew and one of his friends.
Matthew already has a solid faith foundation, thanks to his church emphasizing apologetics, especially among its youth. He’s excited to expand his knowledge before he heads to college—a known battleground where some professors and students push a humanist agenda on often-impressionable freshmen.
“There are people who are definitely gunning for us as Christians,” Matthew said. “They’re seeking to demolish the foundation that God has laid for us. I don’t see how you couldn’t be interested in apologetics. As Christians, we’re called to defend our faith.”
Sean McDowell says students, parents and pastors who attend July’s seminar will explore some of the toughest questions facing college students.
“Questions like, how do you know the Bible is true? How do you know God exists? Why would God allow such evil?” Sean said. “So if you’re a young person, come out. We will hang out and we’ll go deep and help prepare you.”
Will Graham, Executive Director at The Cove, says this seminar is a first for the Asheville, N.C. Bible training and retreat center.
“This will give college students a foundation on biblical truth, so they have a little bit of ammunition to defend themselves,” he said. “It’s good to be challenged in our faith, but we don’t want to discourage them, where they give up and say, ‘I don’t have an answer for this, so I’m leaving the church.’”
To make the seminar as affordable as possible, The Cove is offering free overnight lodging for all participants. They just need to pay the seminar fee of $229 per student or $279 per adult (including all teaching and meals). Pastors or youth leaders who bring four or more students are eligible to attend the seminar at no cost.
“When you’re a parent sending a kid off to college, finances are a concern,” Elizabeth said. “So the free lodging made it affordable.”
It was just a matter of carving out the time. With family, friends, church, basketball coaching and internships, Matthew’s schedule is packed. But he and his mom agreed the seminar was a priority.
“My children are mine,” Elizabeth said. “God gave them to me alone to instruct. When my kids go off to school, I want them to know who they are in Christ.”
While students who attend the event will be learning a lot, there will also be time to enjoy The Cove’s mountain views and 10 miles of hiking trails.
Matthew may be torn over which college to attend, but he knows a weekend at The Cove will prepare him for wherever he lands. And he hopes many more students will join him this summer.
“This one weekend could possibly make or break your college career.”
Click here to sign up or learn more about July’s seminar, The Cause: Strengthen Your Faith for College. The seminar is geared towards high school juniors and seniors and college freshmen. However, it is open to parents, youth leaders and anyone interested in strengthening and defending their faith.
Welcome to Kendra Graham’s online Bible study. This is a place where we can come together and share in our journey towards Scriptural truths and spiritual maturity. We pray this will be a safe, respectful, resourceful place to come and discuss God’s Word…to discover What it says…What it means…and What it means to you!
WHAT DOES IT SAY? THE FACTS ONLY PLEASE.
In this step you need to list the outstanding facts of the passage. DON’T get caught up in the details, just list the facts. Do not paraphrase. Use the actual words of the passage. This is God’s Word, a lot of times this step seems tedious to some, but I urge you, as we read, and say and write God’s Word, it begins to sink deep into our hearts. If you just pick one fact out of the verse, write it down and meditate on it.
9: Then I came beyond the River.
10: When Sanballet and Tobiah heard it was very displeasing that someone had come to seek the welfare of Israel.
11: I came to Jerusalem and stayed 3 days.
12-15: I arose at night, a few men w me, inspecting the walls, at night and returned.
16: The officials, Jews, priests, nobles, or the rest who did the work did not know where I had gone or done.
17a: Then I said, “You see the bad situation. Jerusalem desolate, gates burned.”
17b: Come rebuild the wall so we may no longer be a reproach.
18: I told them how my God had been favorable to me and about the king’s words.
19: Sanballet, Tobiah and Gesham mocked and despised us, “Are you rebelling against the king?”
20: “The God of heaven will grant us success. We, His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? THE LESSONS.
Look for a lesson to learn from each fact. What are the people doing that they should be doing? What are the people doing that they shouldn’t be doing?
Is there a command to follow? A promise to claim? A warning to heed? An example to follow?
9: It is one thing to plan and whiteboard things out and it is an entirely other thing to follow through. We can’t stay where we are and go where God calls us. Faith always demands movement.
10: There will always be opposition in your life to what God has called you to do. The opposition will come from friends, enemies, and even family. We should not be surprised, we should expect it.
11: Don’t jump ahead of God. Wait and pray. When God says move, move. When God says wait, wait. If you are not sure, wait and pray until you have that clarity. God has not called you to do without equipping you.
12-15: Take time to truly survey the situation with your own eyes and pray over it in your own heart before you begin to speak. We may not know everything we think we do about a situation.
16: I read this and I immediately thought of Matthew 10:16 Jesus said, “Be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” Nehemiah is keeping what God has said in his heart until God says to speak. No need to justify your actions to everyone watching… this is tough.
17a: The truth of the situation is stated, there is no sugar coating the truth by Nehemiah, there is no ignoring the truth they don’t want to face under the carpet…. but neither is there any condemning or blame pointing coming from Nehemiah. Just the facts. Facts are indisputable.
17b: Not only is the problem broached, but the solution is laid out. We love to point out people’s failures, but to get in the trench with them and work out the solution is really something.
18: The testimony of what Nehemiah believed about God in chapter one, was essential to give Nehemiah the strength to walk and move on that in chapter two when he put his entire life on the FACTS of who God IS… God came through, did it ALL from start to finish and now that testimony is what will be needed not only for Nehemiah, but for the people of Jerusalem to see this project through. My testimony of God’s faithfulness may be the strength someone else needs to proceed. Don’t underestimate the importance of YOUR testimony!
19: You will have opposition that wrongly interprets your motivations, actions and character. Even people who are close to you and the situation.
20: Have confidence in who God is…. (chapter 1… again!) No need to appease the opposition, they will never be appeased.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME NOW? APPLY IT…. TODAY.
Take the lessons you learned and put them into the form of a personal question that you would ask your spouse, or a friend or your son or daughter.
As you write the questions, listen for God to communicate to you through His Word.
*Do not rush. Do not write things down just to have something on paper, this step takes more time that you may think. This is where Scripture meditation becomes real, this is where you begin to hear that still small voice speak to you, and place His finger in your life and begin to direct your paths…. this day, and the next, and the next. Do you trust Him enough to put into place that which He is moving you to?
9: Where is God working in my life? Do I believe God really is who He says He is enough for ME to follow where He leads?
10: Have I made a quick “about face” where God has called me because I have come across opposition? Do I think because God called me, there will be no opposition and the enemy will just let me do what God wants with ease?
11: Am I quick to speak and take charge and do things the way I think they should be done, or am I quick to pray and wait for God’s guidance since it is He who lead me here?
12-15: Will I allow God to show me what He wants done and where or will I hold tight to my own agenda?
16: Do I constantly apologize for what God has called me to and feel like I have to convince everyone of what God has laid on my heart to do? Do I realize not every inquiry needs to be answered?
17a: Am I giving the Truth in love or do I condemn with my tone? Do I prefer not to tackle situations that seem impossible?
17b: Am I willing to get in there, love God’s people and be part of the solution, or do I prefer to point out how others constantly don’t meet my standards? Do I care more about my own PR or hurting people?
18: What testimony has God placed on my heart to share? What in my present or past does God want to redeem and give me a testimony of His power and glory yet I refuse or I am just afraid to face?
19: Do I freak out when people wrongly interpret my actions? YES I do. Will I let God take care of that in His time, and just hold to what He has called me to in the mean time?
20: Am I confident that God will do what He has said He will do? How much time do I waste trying to convince the opposition of my pure motives?
LIVE IT OUT!
Look over all your facts, lessons and applications for a given passage.
Is there a main theme to them? Does one verse stand out over the rest for some reason??
Hold yourself accountable to LIVE OUT in your daily life that which God impresses upon your heart. Write it out, sign it, date it and claim the transforming power of God’s Word and His presence in your life.
Lord, help me to hold to what You have called me to. Help me to follow where you lead, be quiet until You say speak…. help me to speak the Truth in love as I see through to the end that which You have called me to. Hebrews 10:14 “For you have need of endurance so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what was promised.”
Homework: Nehemiah 3
Get stuck? www.annegrahamlotz.com and Anne will walk through the Three Questions with you and help you along!
Don’t forget to set your clock forward one hour this weekend!
The official time change is at 2 a.m. on Sunday, so consider setting your clocks before you go to bed tonight.
Most smartphones and computers will handle the change automatically.
when all your soul
a tiptoe stands
in wistful eagerness
to talk with God;
put out your hands,
God bends to hear;
it would be sin
not to draw near.
when gray inertia
creeps through your soul,
as through a man
who fights the cold,
then growing languid
it is death.
with sin and shame
and nowhere else
to pin the blame
but your own will
God knows you,
loves you nonetheless.
From Sitting By My Laughing Fire by Ruth Bell Graham.