Only Because of Jesus

Following the recent devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami on the island nation of Japan, the backup systems at the oldest nuclear power plant failed when the power went out, resulting in a radioactive nightmare.  In the midst of it all is a story that must not be missed – that of the workers who continue feverishly in their attempts to stop the meltdown so that the lives of the people of their land might be saved from fallout.

Theirs is a powerful tale of heroism, yet it is so much more.  Those who agreed to remain on the premises, as well as firefighters, electrical workers, etc., are exposing themselves to what will probably be lethal amounts of radiation.  At the least, they can expect radiation sickness. Quite likely, though, it is certain death.  Yet they have chosen to give their lives for the lives of others.

John 15:13 NIV  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Pondering the ultimate sacrifices they are making, I wonder if I’d do the same.  Since the possibility I will be called to give my physical life is pretty small, I think about all the little choices I’m given every day to lay down my life for others.  How often I choose myself, even in unimportant things.  I guess I should try harder, do more, and think differently.  A resounding NO!

John 3:30 NIV  He must become greater; I must become less.

Because I am in Christ Jesus, my focus is not to be on me and my self-efforts.  It’s to be on Jesus Christ and what He has already done!  He has already paid the price for my failures and successes – past, present, and future.  It’s only because of His sacrificial love that I am not condemned.  It’s only because of the grace He gives that I am enabled to yield my “rights” and my preferences so others might see and know Him, too.

With my focus readjusted, Jesus and His righteousness again become greater to me than all the wrong (and self-right) I see in myself.  When the focus is on Him, His life, and His love, He shines forth through me in whatever way is needed each moment.  Only because of Jesus!

Even as you consider this lesson for your life, please agree in prayer for all these workers – that they will receive the gift of eternal life Jesus has already provided for them, praying also for laborers to share this great gospel.

Leadership – Jesus’ Way

The team has returned safely and soundly from our journey to China.  From the start, I want to make clear that this was a good trip with a great team from here and great people with whom we were connected once we arrived in Hong Kong.  I have no regrets about having gone, or about taking a team with me.  Please keep this in mind as you read of God’s latest work in me in this post.  While there are many great experiences I could share from 2 ½ weeks of trip, I prefer to share a lesson that only came clear to me once I returned home.  I hope it will help some of you avoid the same pitfall as you walk in new places of leadership, whether at home or abroad.

From the time I began preparing for this trip, all the way through to the return home, I have felt that this was a much harder trip than the one I took last year.  I sensed the press of darkness against me in much greater measure than last year, but I had a greater part to play, so that wasn’t a total surprise; nevertheless, I just couldn’t understand the dis-ease inside.  In my mind, I knew it really was a good trip, but the overriding description for me was “hard.”  One way the Lord helped me begin to unravel this was by reminding me that Paul’s journeys were hard – beyond anything I experienced, for sure – but accomplished much for God, so they weren’t considered bad journeys, by any means.  That helped, but I knew there was more.

A week after my return home, the Holy Spirit made clear to me the very simple truth that I had missed from the beginning: As leader of the team, the trip was not about me.  Last year’s trip was so personally fulfilling that I wasn’t ready to return to America, even after 2 ½ weeks away.  It was during the process of leaving Hong Kong in ’08 the Lord made clear I would be back and would bring teams with me.  I was eager to follow through on this mandate from the Lord, but was surprised (even disappointed) that it wasn’t so exciting to me this time.  It’s not that it was boring, by any means, or that I didn’t have many opportunities to minister – more than last year, actually.  No, the disappointment I felt was strictly on a fleshly level (Ugh!).  The trip just wasn’t about me, but was about leading the team (by serving) and working with the others already in that land so that this specific mission could be a success.  It’s called dying to and denying self!

Luke 9:23 (NIV)  “Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Matthew 20:28 (Amplified)  “Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free].”

A leader isn’t in it for himself, but for the people he leads, regardless of the arena in which he leads.  My struggle came because I didn’t grasp the depth of this simple truth, so my flesh fought from beginning to end for personal gratification and enjoyment.  My whole purpose for being there, according to God’s plan, was simply to serve the others so they could corporately and individually fulfill God’s plan for them in China.  A very interesting note, now that I understand this, is that I don’t know that I would have done anything differently.  It’s just that my attitude would have been so different that I would have seen differently during both the preparations and the journey itself.

Now that I do see this, and now that the jet lag has finished its course, I am free to consider the next trip the Lord would call me to lead – without dread.  Remember, the Lord told me I would bring “teams” – plural.  This trip may have been the first, but it definitely wasn’t the only one in which I’ll lead a team to the nations.  Any future trips, however, will have so much less of my flesh in the mix, because I choose to follow Christ in serving those I lead – both in action and attitude.  By His Spirit, I will be made aware of my flesh trying to rise up and demand gratification, and I will deny its entrance!  My fulfillment will come from knowing that I have had the same attitude as Christ as I lived out the will of my Father.  That’s leadership in the pattern of Christ.

 Philippians 2:3-8 (NIV)  “3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

Dying to Self

I found this recently among many papers hidden away for a long time.  I would love to give the author credit, but there was no author listed.  Without a doubt, the Author, Himself, gave the earthly writer the words; otherwise, they wouldn’t have the power that they do.  Get ready for some Holy Spirit surgery.

When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all to patient loving silence, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you lovingly and patently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, or any annoyance; when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility . . . and endure it as Jesus endured it, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met, and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

Are you dead yet?  In these last days the Spirit would bring us to the cross.  ”That I may know Him . . . being made conformable to His death.”