What is Excellence?

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You have the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:12), and the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16); what sort of lifestyle/culture do you think should result from this reality?

This is one of the more consequential questions you will have to answer as a believer. The question of whether your life and the impact of all you do reflect the glorious treasure that you carry on the inside.

There is such a dire need for the spirit of excellence in our culture: mediocrity permeates every facet of society. The thing that is hard to understand is, how there are so many who profess the Lord as saviour yet there is such a dearth of the impact of his Spirit on culture.

It was Gideon who asked “if the Lord be with us, why then is all these befallen us?” (Judges 6:13). We ought to ask ourselves a variant of that question: If the Lord be in us, where is the excellence our lives ought to produce?

The Spirit of God that is in us is the Spirit of Excellence, every time that we settle for less than the highest possible achievement, we grieve Him. The mark of the calling is a high one as Paul writes, and leaving everything behind, he stretches and presses forward to reach that mark.

This is excellence: to constantly stretch.

 

 

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The Problem with Good People

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And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? (Matt 19:16-20)

 

There are those like the man in this story who come to the Lord asking only what they shall do to earn eternal life. In their minds, they have what it takes to earn it. The particular man in this story had actually spent a substantial part of his life doing the things that he thought could earn him the life, but as he would find out, there is always one more thing that is lacking.

For all of us, no matter how good we may think ourselves to be, when measured against the standards that God sets, there will be that one thing that is lacking. Thankfully, the very first subject of the sermon on the mount deals with this very matter.

As the crowd gathered around to listen, Jesus began to say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3)

The poor in spirit are those who consider themselves spiritually bankrupt. They do not think that they have a long list of virtues for which God should be pleased to make their acquaintance, and grant them express passage into His kingdom. Instead, they are like the publican who went to pray, “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” Luke 18:11

It is critical to note that our concept of good is a world apart from God’s. We may be impressed with ourselves But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Is 64:6.

God’s concept of good is the righteousness that he confers on us. We are good because we are his children; made righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ and not as a result of something that we have done. We are of course then required to live out the goodness that he confers on us.

 

read more here

 

 

The Illusion of Light

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Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

 

Jesus said, “I have the light of life.” He meant that His life illuminates for us how to live. This is why he says that anyone who does not follow Him, shall walk in darkness: they will never really realize how to live, and will inevitably live wrongly.

Mankind believe that we have been on earth long enough to figure out how exactly we ought to live. We have figured out unbelievably complex things like how to separate siamese twins who are joined at the cranium; go to space; get a computer to learn and adapt; and so we understandably feel that there isn’t anything we can’t figure out on our own. We think we are enlightened.

The problem is, while we may have figured out many ‘hows’, all that knowledge haven’t taken us any closer to figuring out the important ‘whys’. And in the end, that is the unending quest of man.

What we find then is that with all of the enlightenment that we have attained, we have found no way to light up our soul, even by a dim spark. we have written no algorithms to compute the answer to the critical ‘whys’ that generations have sought an answer to.

Only Jesus offers that illumination of life. “He who follows me” he declares, “shall not walk in darkness”. He wasn’t talking of the illumination of books here, for his followers were unlearned fishermen and the like. He was talking of the illumination that once a man glimpses, is able to say with conviction…

 

 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

 

The Most Critical Factor for Leadership

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Vision, Grit, Empathy, and Know how, are all great attributes that are required to lead more effectively, but the greatest determinant of the success of a leader is the how closely the leader is able to follow God.

As the children of Israel navigated their way towards the promised land, they came to a point where Moses said to God. “If you aren’t going with us, don’t let us move a step from this place.” (Exodus 33:15 TLB).

This is the most consequential factor in leading any people or project. If we are going to get better at leading, we have to learn to insist on moving only as we see God move. This is what the Lord meant when He said, “Hitherto my father worketh, and I work (John5:17).

Paul the apostle puts it to us directly: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). By this he makes clear to us that Christ is in reality the leader and he, Paul should only be followed as he follows the Lord.

In the end, true and effective leadership is actually only possible as we follow the Lord ever more closely.

Here’s probably why you don’t hear God speak?

 

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Beyond the scripture, does God still speak in clear impressions, and audible words like He does in the stories we read in the bible? If you are a serious believer, you have probably wondered about this.

If we are to believe the bible at all, then the answer to this question is yes. God makes it abundantly clear for instance that in the latter days, He will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, and we know that when He the Spirit of truth shall come, He will lead us into all truth. So, without doubt, God leads even today.

The resulting question will then be, “how come I don’t seem to hear Him at all?”

 

The heart of the problem

The biggest hindrance to hearing God is probably the condition of the believer’s heart. The Lord accuses us of drawing near to him with our lips although our hearts are far from him (Is 29:13). Think about your walk with the Lord; your prayer life; is it really heartfelt? The thing is, it is with our hearts that we receive God’s words and when our hearts are far, we are unable to receive his words.

God communicates preferably in the context of friendship. You will find in scripture that the people with whom He spoke very often, He also called His friends. It is written of Moses for instance that God spoke with him face to face as with a friend (Exodus 33:11).

So would you describe yourself as a friend of God? I do not mean in the theological- correctness of claiming the riches of His grace; I mean in the practical, daily working out of that reality. Is God your friend in the sense of someone you spend time with, trust completely and will sacrifice anything for?

David talking of how he longed for the presence of God invoked the image of a deer panting for the water brook. He also wrote, “A day in thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10)

Job talking of trust said, “though He slay me, yet will I wait for, and trust Him” (Job 13:15).

“But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as loss for Christ’s sake” declared Paul the Apostle, and then went on to say;

Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake, I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (The Anointed one). Philippians 3:8 AMPC

 

Do you long for time with Him like David did? Do you completely trust Him as Job did even when it made zero sense to continue trusting? Are you willing like Paul, to sacrifice and throw everything away (if that’s what is required) in exchange for gaining/retaining His friendship?

If you cannot answer in the affirmative to all these, do you honestly believe that you are putting enough into cultivating the sort of friendship with God that makes hearing Him a normal part of your daily life?

 

 

Does God still do miracles?

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You have probably wondered if God still does miracles like the ones you read about in the bible. You know, like parting the red sea; raining down manna from heaven; or raising Lazarus: having never witnessed anything of the sort, it is understandable that you are curious about whether God still does things like that today.

If we are to believe the words of Jesus, the answer will have to be “Yes.” Jesus said;

“In solemn truth I tell you, anyone believing in me shall do the same miracles I have done, and even greater ones, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask him for anything, using my name, and I will do it, for this will bring praise to the Father because of what I, the Son, will do for you. (John 14:12-13 Living Bible)

In my view, it doesn’t any more categorical. Jesus is saying as clearly as it can ever be said, that those who believe in him ought as a matter of routine to see the miraculous manifest in their lives and by their hands.

 

I prayed an nothing happened

Perhaps you have prayed for a miracle and nothing happened. I suspect that most believers have had the same experience. The obvious question is then, “why does it seem that the Lord promises one thing, but our reality is another thing?”

The story below illustrates our dilemma, and then provides an answer from the Lord for why we may not be seeing miracles in our lives.

 

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The first thing that stands out is the lack of conviction on the part of the man who was looking to God for a miracle. Having been failed by the disciples of Jesus, all that he could muster was “if you can do anything.”

We can’t come to the Lord with “if you can.” We have to come with the conviction that God can. Of course, will He? is a somewhat different matter, but at least, lets not be ridiculous God by wondering if he can – “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways and so let him not think that he can receive anything from the Lord.”

Having doubts is however not a death sentence. There is the place of praying, “I believe, help me with my doubts.”

Seeing as miracles are not typical, everyday occurrences, it is not inconceivable that doubts might try to lodge in our hearts, but it is our responsibility to cry to the lord to help us quickly dislodge them so that we can release our faith to receive our miracles.

 

read some more about how to overcome doubts and receive your miracle in this thread.

 

How important is prayer?

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I would say very important.

So important that God doesn’t just leave us to do it all by ourselves. Two parts of the Trinity – Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit actually have a full time role of praying for us, or helping us to pray.

That’s how important prayer is.

Who is there to condemn [us]? Will Christ Jesus (the Messiah), Who died, or rather Who was raised from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God actually pleading as He intercedes for us? (Romans 8:34)

So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance. (Romans 8:26)

 

Pray so you won’t become prey

If you want to rhyme the teachings of the Lord, “Watch and pray that ye fall not into temptation” (Matt 26:41) can easily become “pray so you wont become prey.” Essentially, the Lord admonishes us to pray because spending time with God in prayer provides us inside info on the wiles, and plans of the enemy, and we are better able to sidestep them.

Prayer is so key to our spiritual life that Jesus said, “men ought always to pray” (Luke 18:1). It is something we ought to do all the time just as he did.

 

If it’s so good, why do I struggle?

I don’t think this applies to just prayer. It is just the same with everything else. We’d probably all sooner have a burger than broccoli. To use the words the Lord used, “the flesh is weak.” Our natural inclination is against the tendencies that God wants to promote in us, and so we are not likely to naturally enjoy prayer.

Prayer is a cultivated taste. We have to choose to make it a priority, and deliberately develop a liking for it.

I suspect it can also be addictive and that’s the level I am hoping God’s grace will help me unlock soon.

 

how about you?