Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Your Intentions Determine Your Growth

By Allen White

Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:17-20

What is your intention for your relationship with God?

Have you ever thought about that before? What do you intend to do with God? If your intention is to avoid Hell, then you just say the sinner’s prayer, and you have your “fire insurance.” But, if you have no desire to live for God, then how do you know that you’re saved?

If your intention is to fit in, then you might attend church every week and work hard at appearing to be okay. But, sitting in a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a barn makes you a cow.
If your intention is to experience abundant life and bear spiritual fruit, then how is that going? What are you doing daily to make this happen? What are you avoiding daily that might keep this from happening?

If you want an abundance of fruit in an orchard, you have to create the right conditions. Does the soil have the right minerals? Is there adequate water and appropriate sunlight? Is there any hint of disease or pests? What about weed control?

If your spiritual life is a weedy, untended garden, then the good fruit you are capable of producing can’t grow. The richness of the soil is wasted on plants that produce nothing of value.

There are many beautiful plants in creation that produce nothing. Sycamore trees give plenty of shade, and crepe myrtles produce beautiful flowers, but there is no edible fruit on either.

Here’s the test: if you think you’re a good tree, but your life is bearing bad fruit, then guess what? You’re a bad tree. If your life produces good fruit, then you are a good tree – not a perfect tree – but a good one.
What if your life produces both? According to Jesus’ analogy, there’s no room for that. Either your fruit is bad or good. Does a little bit of bad fruit make everything bad? Or does a little bit of good fruit justify everything else?

For people, and not plants, there are healthy parts of us and diseased parts of us. God has given us everything we need to heal the diseased parts of us. He offers forgiveness for our sins. He extends grace. God has given us other believers to encourage us and to help bear our burdens. The question is – what part of our nature do we intend to grow?

What is your intention when it comes to your relationship with God? What are you doing daily to move forward?
More from Allen White:

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Are Megachurches taking the Broad Path?

A reader emailed to ask if in yesterday's devotional I was equating seeker-sensitive megachurches with the broad road that leads to destruction in Matthew 7:13. The short answer is “No.” If you want to hear the rest, click here.

A Leadership Test

By Allen White

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:15-16

A wolf in sheep’s clothing is an analogy that goes back to Jesus. People are compared to sheep. The assumption is that sheep would help each other. Sheep are on an equal playing field. They want what’s good for the herd. A wolf has different motives.

Wolves see only one purpose for sheep – lamb chops. Wolves don’t wish to befriend sheep. They aren’t looking for play dates or theological debates. Wolves have one idea when it comes to sheep, and it makes them salivate.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing implies deception. These false leaders appear to be regular people. They put their pants on just like everyone else. Yet, they are not there to befriend others or schedule a play date. False leaders manipulate and take advantage of their people. They twist things around to get the upper hand.

The deception is a tricky one. Some false leaders have absolutely no morals and wouldn’t think twice about ripping off their own mothers. They come in selling their bill of goods and take off with what they want – leaving others to wonder what happened.

Some leaders are self-deceived. They are convinced that they are better than who they really are. This comes from insecurity. They project a larger than life image that they come to actually believe themselves. The sad part is that God has never asked anyone to pretend to be more than who they are. God intends to live His life through us – that’s the part that’s larger than life.

Every one of us is blind to certain parts of our lives. This is why it’s important to surround ourselves with people who will tell us the truth. It’s dangerous for all of us to listen only to people who say what we want to hear. It takes courage to face the truth. But, we all need those folks in our lives who love us, but aren’t impress with us, and will tell us what’s what.

How do we know if a leader is true or false? Jesus says that we know by their fruit. Just like grapes don’t grow on thornbushes and figs don’t grow on thistles, the fruit of a good leader doesn’t come at the expense of others.

Please don’t get me wrong. No leader is perfect. In 20 years of ministry, I have made my fair share of mistakes. I have hurt a few people along the way, and I have made apologies.

What about you? What kind of leader are you? You might be thinking, “I’m not a leader.” If you have ever influenced another person to try a new restaurant or avoid a bad movie, then you are a leader.

What kind of leader are you? Are you pretending to be something that you’re not? You don’t have to. God has given you a purpose and will make you adequate to fulfill it. There is no reason to bulldoze over anyone along the way.

Maybe you’re a good leader, but you have never shown others why you do what you do. If you care about other people, yet you never show them, then how will they know your motives? As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

While we should all be careful to follow trustworthy leaders, we also need to examine ourselves for trustworthiness. What kind of fruit are our lives bearing? What is it growing out of? We don’t need to take advantage of others to do God’s will. Whatever we lack, God will supply.

More from Allen White:

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Why Shortcuts Come Up Short

By Allen White

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

Have you ever sat through a seminar where the speaker promised a surefire way to get rich quick? I’m always waiting for the punchline: If you want to get rich like me, then sell tickets to your own seminar. After all, if their methods worked so well, why are they being so generous with their information?

(We miss you, Chris.) 

Shortcuts usually come up short. We do learn our lesson – don’t give 50 bucks to any fast talking stranger who blows through town. See, this devotional has already made you $50 richer.

The wide gate gives plenty of elbow room. You go with the crowd and go with the flow. But, if the whole crowd took a shortcut to being rich, then who would be rich? Everybody would have the same. If the whole crowd gave the least of themselves to gain spiritual assurance, then no wonder so many flounder in spiritual mediocrity.

But, the narrow gate – it’s a bottle neck. It’s inconvenient. It requires sacrifice. It makes us uncomfortable. But, it also leads to Heaven. The wide gate, according to Jesus, leads to the other place.

Many of us spent much of our teenage years trying to be unique by blending in with the crowd. We fought our parents over expressing our individuality by dressing exactly like our peers. Our concern wasn’t creativity, but conformity. Only the freaks and geeks stood out. No one wanted to sit at that table.

How much has the world squeezed us into its mold? Many people want to be religious enough for a good reputation, but not so religious to stand out. Now, we all know a few people who are “over-saved.” These are the folks who make every statement into a spiritual analogy. “Boy, I saved a lot at the mall.” “Well, Jesus saves us completely.” You get the picture.

The wide gate caters to Christian consumers who need to be entertained to stay interested in church. Let’s be honest. If someone has to put on a show in order for you to follow Christ, what is this getting you? If you want a show, stay home and watch TV.

The narrow way is radical. It dangerously sets you apart from the crowd. The narrow way will take you to places where you never imagined yourself going. The narrow way is risky. The wide gate is safe, well, until you reach the end.

How are you playing it safe in your relationship with God? Is He your spiritual blankey or binky when you have trouble? Or is God the director of your life?

As Francis Chan puts it, “You have a choice each day to depend on yourself, to live safely, and to try to control your life.

“Or you can live as you were created to live – as a temple of the Holy Spirit of God, as a person dependent on Him, desperate for God the Spirit to show up and make a difference.

When you begin living a life characterized by walking with the Spirit, that is when people will begin to look not to you but to our Father in heaven and give Him the praise” (from The Forgotten God, page 156.

More from Allen White:

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Key to Unlocking God’s Blessing

By Allen White

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6

Not many of us are farmers any more. In fact, when my father, who was raised on a farm, took an agriculture class in high school, the teacher taught them about landscaping their yards. This would be more practical than learning to farm for most of his students.

We left the agrarian age long ago. We are now in the information age. If we get hungry, I suppose we can eat our words. But, what we lack in our understanding of horticulture, we can make up for in our understanding of sowing and reaping.

Paul’s audience knew the reference well. If you were generous in scattering seed, you would receive a generous harvest. If you were stingy with your seed, your harvest would not be as plentiful. This principle was true regardless of drought, pestilence or other circumstances beyond the farmer’s control. After all, it rains on both the generous and the stingy. The end result fully depends on what you have invested.

So, let’s examine our crops. What areas of our lives are overflowing with abundance? Where are we scraping the bottom of the barrel? If we have rich friendships, then we have probably sown abundantly in developing those relationships. If our marriages are hanging by a thread, then guess what? If God is blessing us and we enjoy an overall sense of well-being, then we have sown well in our relationship with God.

Now, any relationship with another person is never a hundred percent on our side. Many of us have loved and lost over the years. It’s not all up to us. But, the same is true for everyone, yet some people have an abundance of great friends, while others seem to have none. Those who are generous with their time, their attention, their resources, and themselves develop great relationships.

While we don’t give just to get, if we don’t give, then we shouldn’t expect much in return. Whether we’re sharing our ideas, skills, resources or ourselves, the generous reap abundantly. Hoarders are limited to what they have.

What do you have that would greatly benefit another? How can you help others? What great idea are you sitting on that with the right partner could be a great success? What are you waiting for?

Those who go through life with a clenched fist, keep what’s theirs, but struggle to hang onto it. Those who approach life with an open hand, enrich the lives of others and live abundant lives.

Where do you need to invest? In your spouse and your children? In an idea or an opportunity? In a friend or a potential friend? Your harvest depends on what you’re willing to sow.

More from Allen White:

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Weekly Digest

Posts featured on the Galatians419 Devotional blog for the week of August 21, 2011:

When God Says “Yes”

By Allen White 

For anybody who has actually ever prayed, this verse might seem a little far-fetched. We asked, but Jesus didn’t do it. What went wrong? Read more...

Will God Give Me My Dream Car?

By Allen White 

Imagine going to a car show. Your eyes fall on a new car model that you’ve never seen. Your heart races. Your palms begin to sweat. It’s the car of your dreams. Read more...

A Character Lesson from Pawn Stars

By Allen White 

When I was a kid, I belonged to a scouting group called the Royal Rangers. It was a church group. Boy Scouts were far too worldly for us. (For the record, my son is a Cub Scout. No hate mail, please). Read more...

The Secret to Pleasing God 

By Allen White 

Some of us have lived under the tyranny of a religion that said, “Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t even think about doing that other thing.” Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Dah, dah, dah. See it doesn’t work. Read more...

Hello, This is Peggy

By Allen White 

I took my son with me to Stop-A-Minit the other day. I was desperate for a Coke. He needed a treat – an Icee in this case. We also picked up a treat for his big brother. Read more...

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Most Read Posts: Celebrating 500 Posts

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hello, This is Peggy

By Allen White

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. Ephesians 6:7-8

I took my son with me to Stop-A-Minit the other day. I was desperate for a Coke. He needed a treat – an Icee in this case. We also picked up a treat for his big brother.

As we waited in line to check out, the cashier’s attitude caught my attention. She truly enjoyed her work. You could tell that she loved serving other people. She wasn’t being fake friendly. She truly loved what she was doing.

I thought, “Gosh, I couldn’t work a minimum wage job, standing on my feet all day, and keep such a great attitude. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be my attitude in that job.” But, this gal served wholeheartedly. I left thinking, “Gosh, if you’re going to work a job like that, then why not make the best of it and give it what you’ve got.”

Most of us have experienced half-hearted service. Whether it was the restaurant server who filled our glasses when they got around to it or “Peggy” from the credit card company, half-hearted service is not a positive experience for anyone, including the server.

But, what if you work for a terrible boss? What if they don’t pay you enough? What if your co-workers are obnoxious? What if your work environment is not very pleasant? Do circumstances like that deserve our wholehearted service? Yes, they do.

Ultimately, our “boss” is God Himself. He deserves our best. God provides for all of our needs regardless of the size of our paychecks. God loves everyone of our co-workers and wants to use our lives to influence them.

Half-hearted or mediocre service is a poor reflection on God’s children. We make excuses like “if I worked with more Christians, then things would be better…” Don’t count on that either.

You may not be able to control anything around you. The culture and environment of your workplace may be well beyond your influence. You might be overwhelmed with frustration every day. After you’ve answered the question: Why are you working there? The next step is to be obedient to God.

Regardless of how you feel about things, no matter what other people are saying or doing, regardless of the difficulty of your circumstances, your job is to be obedient to God. If you don’t know how, then plead your case to God and ask Him how you’re supposed to do it. He will show you.

What is hard for you to accept about your circumstance? Where are you tempted to cut corners? Why do you feel that the situation deserves less than your best?

You and I perform for an audience of One, God Himself. No other opinion matters more than what God thinks of us.

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