Focus 40 Day 40: Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Resources

HE IS RISEN!

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Day 40
Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Resources

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”
—Acts 17:24–28 (NIV)

IF GOD MADE THE WORLD and everything in it, shouldn’t it be our act of worship to honor him with all of it. Many people will read the statement above and see the word offering and be instantly proud that they got it or mad that I brought it up. But I am not just talking about the joy box or the offering plate that gets passed in services and Sunday school.

Are you honoring God with everything you have? God gave you the ability to work and earn money, so honor him with your career and with how you manage your finances. God surrounded us with a world that is not only functional and life sustaining, but beautiful, so honor him with how we take care of the environment. God is not just the God of today, but forever, so honor him with our time and our future. These are all gifts. Will we receive them as a gift or will we approach them with the attitude that God owes us those? If we begin to look at them from that perspective, we will find ourselves angry at God when one of them is taken from us.

So today, strive to honor God with the gifts he has given you for the gifts he has given you. Do this as an act of worship and you will find yourself blessed beyond measure. (I don’t mean financially blessed. Just blessed.)

God, today may I find pleasure in the gifts I have received and may I honor you by offering them to you for your kingdom and not mine. Help me to be quick to offer these gifts to a family member, to a neighbor, or to my community as I love you and love all you have put in my path. Amen.

Rev. Trey Oldham
Live Transformation Team Member and Pastor

 

Focus 40 2014

Focus 40 Day 39: Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Relationships with Our Community

Prayer Focus:  Pray to be a good steward of the earth – Ps. 24:1

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Day 39
Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Relationships with Our Community

The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
—Romans 13:12–14 (NLT)

ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS about being a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our world today can be overcoming the many ways in which the church and Christians have hurt individuals in our communities. Sometimes, with the greatest of intentions and with the purest of thought we say and do things that hurt people around us. This has resulted in some pretty large divides in some communities and with some people. How will we as Christians and congregations work to overcome these divides?

When I first read the scripture above, I focused in on what I will call the words of condemnation or “the don’ts.” But then I refocused. Let’s look at the dos. Do remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes. Acknowledge that you have made mistakes and take them off like dirty clothes and leave them on the ground behind you. Do learn from them. Do everything you can to not repeat them. Do avoid the temptation to beat yourself up for them. Just remove them. Do put on the shining armor of right living. Do turn from your past and move towards the future God desires for you. Do live a decent life for all to see—not locking yourself in your home or the sanctuary so that you won’t get tarnished by the world, but letting your light shine so that the world has that as an example. And do clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Trust in him. Live for him. Love like him. That will make all the difference in the community around you. Let’s overcome the past by being the church of the future, the church of God.

God, today I want the community to see you in me. Help me to live like Jesus. Help me to love like you. And help me to join with your Spirit to make a difference in the community around me today. Help me to be a part of your transforming power in my community. Amen.

Rev. Trey Oldham
Live Transformation Team Member and Pastor

 

Focus 40 2014

Focus 40 Day 38: Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Relationships with Our Neighbors

Prayer Focus:  Pray to be a good steward of your time – Eph. 5:15

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Day 38
Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Relationships with Our Neighbors

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
—Luke 10:25–28 (NIV)

LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS. What an awesome challenge this is. In this passage the expert in the law goes on to ask who his neighbor is and Jesus replies with the story that we all have come to know as the story of the good Samaritan. I think the man’s question was a good one. We all must embrace the idea that our neighbor is any person that is put in our path and not just the person we live next door to. But a better question that Jesus answers in this passage is how we are to love our neighbors. When this Samaritan man walked upon the beaten and half-dead man, there was nothing to distinguish his nationality, his morality, his sexuality, his economic stability, or any other -ity that we tend to put in the path of helping people.

The passage says that he was beaten and robbed. So he was probably unresponsive, which was why the priest and Levi passed by. For at a distance they would not have known whether he was dead, and touching a dead body would have banned them from the synagogue for a while. He was robbed, so he may have had everything, including his clothes, stolen from him. The Samaritan couldn’t have known anything about this man, and yet he stopped to check on him. Without any pertinent information, he met his immediate physical needs with bandages, oil, and wine. He also took him to a place where he could rest and heal, sparing no expense and giving no parameters regarding how long the man could stay at the inn. This Samaritan wasn’t good; he was gullible. He was extravagant in love and compassion and in showing the kingdom of God to this stranger. May we show love so extravagantly to our neighbors today.

Father, today may I trust you will protect me from looking like a fool as I look for ways to share your love extravagantly. Help me to give up control and fears as I trust that the people you put in my path are yours and not just people that I give money or food or advice to. May I honor you with the relationship that I forge with them. Amen.

Rev. Trey Oldham
Live Transformation Team Member and Pastor

 

Focus 40 2014

Focus 40 Day 37: Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Relationships with Our Family

Prayer Focus:  Pray to be a good steward of your body/health – 1 Cor. 6:19-20

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Day 37
Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Relationships with Our Family

“You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”
—Revelation 2:3–4 (NLT)

WHEN JOHN WROTE the book of Revelation, he was addressing the seven churches of the Greek world. When he penned the words above, he was addressing the church of Ephesus specifically. He was telling that congregation that they needed to get back to their first love.

Our family is not just the group of people we were given at birth. They are the people who have been given to us by God. They are the people who have entered our lives, not just as birth relatives, but as Christian family that we have been joined together with through Christ’s blood. These are the people that have earned the right to speak into our lives. Do we still honor God with our relationship to them?

As in every family, there can also be disagreements in God’s family. But he calls us to continue to love one another. He calls us to treat those relationships with special importance. This scripture in Revelation goes on to say in verse 6 that if we cannot get to that place of love, he will remove his lampstand, which is his Holy Spirit, from us. Today, pray for your original family and for your God-given family. Ask God whether there is any separation within either family. Ask God how he would have you be his example of grace and mercy. Is there forgiveness you need to ask for? Is there forgiveness you need to offer? Today, honor God with the relationships you have in your family.

Today, Father, we come to you asking for your grace and mercy. May we live out the love that you have offer to us. May we continue to honor you with all our lives. May we not forget to continue to honor you with our body, mind, and spirit as well as these relationships. Help us to live that love today. Amen.

Rev. Trey Oldham
Live Transformation Team Member and Pastor

 

Focus 40 2014

Focus 40 Day 36: Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Spirit

Prayer Focus:  Pray to be a good steward of your finances – 2 Cor. 9:6-7

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Day 36
Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Spirit

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
—1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (NIV)

OUR BODIES ARE MADE UP of three parts: the outside us, the inside us, and the “not” of us. The last two days we have looked at our physical bodies and our emotional and intellectual bodies. Today, let’s talk about the part of us that is not of us. When God breathed his very breath into our bodies, I believe that he was introducing his very body, Jesus Christ, into us. Throughout our Christian walk we have heard terms such as “the Jesus-shaped hole in your heart.” That hole has appeared because we have allowed sin to stop us from connecting to his Spirit, which was intended to reside in us.

Look around at the world that God created. Look around at the people he breathed life into, even if they don’t recognize or acknowledge it. Look around for where God’s Spirit is at work and find a way to join it. Take time to allow God’s Spirit in you to connect with his Spirit that is at work around you. This will honor him. This will excite him and you both. This will cause his Spirit to grow in you. This is how we grow closer to God and honor him.

God, today may I see you at work in the world around me. Help me to recognize you and to be intentional about laying down the unimportant things I do to make time for walking with your Spirit in your kingdom and in your will for my life. I want to honor you. Amen

Rev. Trey Oldham
Live Transformation Team Member and Pastor

 

Focus 40 2014

Focus 40 Day 35: Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Mind

Prayer Focus:  Pray to be a good steward in your work efforts – Col. 3:23

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Day 35
Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Mind

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
—Romans 12:2 (NIV)

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT about honoring God with your mind? I realize that may be a strange concept. I feel that most times I have no control over my thoughts. I was always told that it wasn’t about what I thought but about what I did with what I thought. I am not sure how accurate that is though.

My mind is not just about what I think. Today we think about our mind being what drives us, but it has not always been this way. In the Old Testament, the term most often used to describe what drives us is the “gut” or “bowels.” In the New Testament, we see people driven by their hearts and their minds. Stewardship is not only about honoring God with our outside and actions but also with our inside and passions. These we do have some control over, and we can honor God with them by controlling what we put into our hearts and into our minds.

Today will you commit with me to honor God with your mind?

Will you commit to trusting God to deal with your troubles and angers?

Will you commit to allowing him to be the One who takes on the things that you find competing with what you know to be his will for your life?

Will you fill your time with prayer and Scripture and hymns rather than things of this world?

Will you strive to honor God all day now with your body and your mind?

Today, Father, we give you our thoughts, our passions, and our intentions. May you see us as one that is being sanctified and made holy. May you give us your strength and knowledge and patience to be an example of your glory and majesty in our lives, our hearts, and our mind. Please fill our minds with whatever is good, whatever is pure, and whatever is noble. Amen

Rev. Trey Oldham
Live Transformation Team Member and Pastor

 

Focus 40 2014

Focus 40 Day 34: Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Bodies

Prayer Focus:  Pray to be a good steward of all God has given you – Gen. 1:28

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Day 34
Extreme Living—Honoring God with Our Bodies

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
—Romans 12:1 (NIV)

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT of the act of offering of your body as a living sacrifice as worship? According to Scripture it is. We worship God in the way we treat our very own body. That includes what we put in it and what we try to get out of it. This is not necessarily talking about whether we raise our hands in the worship service or not, although that could qualify. But it is about how we treat the only thing we were brought into this world with.

In years past the church has tried to define our holy nature by what we didn’t do rather than by what we actually do, and so to avoid that same trap, I don’t want to approach this from the same negative focus. Let’s look at how we can honor him today with our bodies. Will you accept the challenge to do more to care for the body which God gave you? Pay attention to what you put into your body. Will that (fill in the blank)

bring you health, or will it bring you closer to meeting him as you clog your arteries and grow more and more lethargic? And what will you do with the energy that food produces? Will you exercise to make your body stronger for his work or will you lay on the couch for another episode of TV?

God, please accept what I have to offer. You know the limits of my body and my diet. May I honor you with both. May I be made strong so that I may contribute to your kingdom work. Please give me your strength and teach me your will to accomplish all you have for me today. Amen.

Rev. Trey Oldham
Live Transformation Team Member and Pastor

Focus 40 2014

Focus 40 Day 33: Extreme Living through Living Out Whole-Life Stewardship

Prayer Focus:  Pray to be a steward of God’s grace – 1 Peter 4:10

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Day 33
Extreme Living through Living Out Whole-Life Stewardship

WHAT DOES IT MEAN to live extravagantly? In the body of Christ, extravagance looks far different from what it looks like in the world. We are not talking about clothes or jewelry or cars or toys. In the Christian community, we are called to live extravagantly through love.

In Luke 10 Jesus explains who we are supposed to love and how we are supposed to love them in a parable we call the story of the good Samaritan. This story tells of a Samaritan man who comes upon someone that has been beaten and robbed. In this moment, the Samaritan man has to make a decision. He might be really busy, he might be really important, he might be in danger, and he might just save the guy’s life. In the story, the Samaritan man chooses to approach this injured man, and in doing so he gives of himself.

It could have been a trick to rob the Samaritan man, but he didn’t care. The Samaritan could have been in a hurry to some important meeting, but it did not hinder him. It could have been uncomfortable, but he was willing to be stretched. (I mean the guy was probably naked! What would people say?) He put all that away and he helped.

He reached out and entered into a relationship with the man. He didn’t know if the man was Jewish, Samaritan, or Greek. He only knew the guy was hurt. He covered him, put him on his own donkey, and bandaged his wounds. Then the Samaritan gave of his stuff. He fed him, he put him up in a motel, and he paid for the doctor to come and visit. And, if the man needed more, he told the inn keeper to send him the bill. Was this Samaritan man good or gullible? Jesus said he was a neighbor.

Join us as we walk through what it is to be a steward of everything God has given us.

Rev. Trey Oldham
Live Transformation Team Member and Pastor

 

Focus 40 2014

Focus 40 Day 32: Extreme Living—Growing by Staying the Course

Prayer Focus:  Pray to be a steward of your spiritual gifts – 1 Peter 4:10

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Day 32
Extreme Living—Growing by Staying the Course

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a very little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. —Hebrews 10:35–39 (NIV)

THE YEAR BETWEEN my sophomore and junior years of college, I dropped out of college for a year to pastor a country church in the back woods of Florida. About halfway through the year, I became homesick and discouraged. I wrote Dad and told him that I was ready to come home, and if he would just send me some gas money, I would be home soon. A few days later, I received his letter of reply and excitedly ripped open the envelope to get my gas money and head for home. There was no money, just this note: “Dear Sammy, Quitters never win, and winners never quit. Stick with it! Love, Daddy.” That letter turned my whole life around.

That little piece of wise advice set me on a path of determination to stay the course through many temptations to quit. Many times, after sidestepping such a temptation to quit, God opened doors of opportunity that I never dreamed possible and that I would have never seen if I had quit.

Paul told the Roman Christians, “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master” (Rom 12:11 MSG). So, we don’t give up, we persevere until we hear God’s final word on the issues we face. We can keep ourselves fueled and aflame by staying in God’s Word for guidance, praying through the Word to affirm the covenants we make with God about our lives. Then we celebrate in worship the victories that God and we win together through perseverance. In this way, our Lord is continually shaping us as people of God.

Daniel was the man God used over a period of some eighty years, through the dynasties of four kings, starting when he was approximately fourteen years old and continuing until his dying day. And there isn’t anything negative said about Daniel. In fact, the greatest verse about Daniel may be: “Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus” (Dan 1:21 NKJV). Daniel continued, he didn’t burn out or give up and quit, even when threatened or thrown into a den of lions. He stayed pure and faithful to God—no breaches of morals, ethics, or integrity. There’s an awful lot of dropping out going on today. And when we can say that a person continues, just as Daniel did, across a span of nearly ninety years of ministry, Daniel stands as a model of extreme living!

Father, empower me to never follow the path of shrinking back. Energize me, Lord, to always follow the path of persevering in your plans for me which keep me practicing Extreme Living and on the spiritual path to growth! Amen.

Dr. Sam Bruce
Pastor, MACU Professor, and Transformation Team Member

 

Focus 40 2014

Focus 40 Day 31: Extreme Living—Growing by Christ’s Protection

Prayer Focus:  Pray to be pure and blameless – Phil. 1:9-11

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Day 31
Extreme Living—Growing by Christ’s Protection

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
—Colossians 1:17 (NIV)

I HAD JUST FINISHED working on a lesson plan for our Christian Growth Groups. Just before I pressed the save button, I noticed a strange code in View Codes: “UNKNOWN.” It was a virus! When my cursor touched the code, the whole document exploded as if a SCUD missile hit it! Sentence fragments, single words, and letters jumped all over the document, totally out of order, completely disorganized, with fragments of one sentence appearing in the middle of another sentence or on another page. Words moved from the top to the bottom, the middle, the side, and other pages. Blank spaces and lines turned up everywhere. Strange characters and symbols emerged all over the document. It was total chaos! In order to salvage the document I spent two days copying and pasting every letter, word, fragment, and phrase back in order. As the document creator, I knew how it was supposed to be organized, and I put it back together!

A computer virus can invade the computer’s operating system and totally disable or destroy it. It can cause a hard drive crash, causing you to have to replace the drive and reinstall the operating system and all of the programs. Programming will lock up and not function properly—if at all!

Sometimes, there are virus-like forces that attack your core being, and your whole life crashes. Attitudes, temptations, motives, desires, and relationships lurking beneath the surface have the potential to destroy the hard drive of your inner life. The result is often called burnout, moral failure, ethical breach, or breakdown—spiritual, emotional, or mental. Your whole life and your relationships plunge into chaos, and you feel as if you’ve been invaded by some destructive, devastating force! And you have been!

The good news is this: Jesus Christ, our Creator who knows how he intended us to be, can make us new and hold all things together (Col 1:17)! He is the One who provides the principle of cohesion in the universe—the balance between gravity and centrifugal force—that gives it unity and solidarity, which keeps it all from being pure chaos. He can protect us from those destructive forces of Satan, the evil world system, and people who would seek to destroy or debilitate us from the inside out. He can hold your life and mine together! Trust him to do it! This is the path to extreme living in Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for being the One who holds my life together regardless of attitudes, temptations, desires, people, or events that would make it a chaos. Please provide the inner and outer protection from the virus-like forces like the UNKNOWN virus code that would attack my core being, causing my whole life to crash. Please order my life around your love and plans for me. Lord, please hold my life together in you. Thank you. Amen.

Dr. Sam Bruce
Pastor, MACU Professor, and Transformation Team Member

 

Focus 40 2014