Organized for Success

For some people, organizational skills come easily. Their lives are free from clutter, and they consistently practice the old maxim, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

However, I’m much too creative for a clutter-free life. At least that is my excuse.

But I’ll admit, I often get envious of well-organized people. It must be nice to find things in your office without having to sort through endless piles.

Yes, I’m creative. Lots of projects. Lots of piles.

And if I had more time, I would tell you about my use of Post-it notes to compile to-do lists.

I’ve had to face a sad conclusion: People like me need a Genesis 1:2 kind of experience. The earth back then was “formless,”  the Bible says. Everything was chaotic and disorderly.

Boy, can I relate.

But God in His mercy intervened in the messy situation of Genesis 1:2: “The Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”

Organizationally challenged people like me are in desperate need of God’s Spirit to bring some semblance of order out of the chaos.

Help us, Lord.

Fortunately, the Bible is full of stories of God putting things in order in preparation for a new move of His Spirit:

  • God gave precise instructions for how Noah should construct the ark.
  • The Israelites were organized into distinct tribes and clans.
  • The Lord gave Moses an elaborate pattern for how to build the tabernacle.
  • Before the prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven, he first made sure the altar was prepared.
  • Jesus divided the huge, unruly crowd into orderly units of 50 people before He multiplied the loaves and fish.
  • The Holy Spirit brought together the early church as a multifunctional, many-membered body—a living organism composed of people with diverse gifts.

The good news is that there’s hope for people like me. But the only  hope is in recognizing two vital facts: (1) We desperately need the help of the Holy Spirit if we’re ever to get things in order, and (2) We desperately need our fellow believers to bolster the weak areas in our lives. Where I am weak, you may be strong. We need each other!

So, don’t despair. God wants you to be more successful than ever before—and He will help you with the organizational challenges along the way.

I may even be able to throw away my Post-it notes someday.

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Living in Sin–Unawares

What if I told you I thought you might be living in sin? Offended and defensive, you likely would protest, “What do you mean? I’ve been faithful to my spouse, I go to church nearly every week, and I even tithe.”

If our conversation continued, you probably would add that you don’t cheat on your taxes, lie about your neighbors, or take the Lord’s name in vain.

Congratulations on all the things you are doing right, and on all the evil things you’re abstaining from. But my question remains: Are you unknowingly living in sin?

Here’s what I mean…

God reminded me recently of this amazing statement by the apostle Paul: Everything that does not come from faith is sin”  (Romans 14:23).

Let that sink in for a moment. It means that even if we are trying to do the right things, we’re still “living in sin” if we’re not acting in faith and relying on God. Anything  we do is sin—even if it is well-meaning—if it doesn’t proceed from an active trust relationship with the Lord.

“Sin” (Greek hamartia ) basically means “to miss the mark.” And that is exactly what happens every time we trust in our own abilities and insights rather than on Christ living within us (Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27).

You see, without faith it is impossible  to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Unless we’re relying on God, our attempts to be righteous will inevitably fall short, and we’ll end up with a frustrating and unfulfilling life (Romans 7).

So let me ask you again: Are you living in faith or in sin? If you are trying to live the Christian life in your own strength, you will surely fail (2 Corinthians 5:7, John 15:1-5). Positionally,  you might be “the righteousness of God”  in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), but experientially  you will be falling dreadfully short of His plan for your life.

Entire books have been written on what it means to walk by faith. But I’m convinced that genuine faith is much rarer than we commonly think. For example…

  • We’re unlikely to get much out of the Bible if we read it merely as a religious exercise, without adding faith and a life-giving relationship with the Holy Spirit.
  • Attending church because it’s the religious thing to do is much different than gathering with God’s people in expectation of life-changing miracles.
  • Paying our tithes out of obligation or fear is entirely different than sowing financial seeds into God’s kingdom with faith and expectancy.

Be honest: When was the last time you actually took a “risk” because you sensed God leading you to do something? If you’re constantly playing it safe in life, you might want to check and see if faith is having any role at all.

The rich young ruler thought he was an exceptionally holy guy (Mark 10:17-22). But despite his commendable religious deeds, it turned out that he was living in fear and unbelief—trusting in his wealth instead of in the promises of God.

I’m praying today that the Lord will expose our areas of fear and unbelief. May He show us the areas of our lives where we’re no longer operating in faith and dependence on Him. As the old hymn tells us, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

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2013 Ministry Report

From Jim Buchan and Crosslink Ministries

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Dear Friends:

Here are some highlights of our ministry ventures in 2013:

  • Inspiration magazine. As the senior staff writer at Inspiration Ministries, I continue to help produce monthly devotional magazines sent to more than 70,000 households around the world each month, with an additional 30,000 daily devotionals sent via e-mail. You can sign up for the free devotionals at www.inspiration.org/dailydevotions.
  • New books and booklets. This year I’ve worked on various new book projects at Inspiration Ministries and through my outside work as a ghostwriter and literary adviser.
  • Social media. At the end of last year, I had 5,000 followers on my Twitter feed @BestBibleTweets, and I thought this growth was pretty exciting after less than a year. However, now this has grown to more than 27,000 followers! I’ve enjoyed tweeting through highlights of the Bible, I’m also dialoging with people through Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Blogs. You can see the many blogs I’ve posted on my website www.JimBuchan.com. My articles have also been picked up by other bloggers and by a worldwide magazine that has over 100,000 subscribers.
  • ChurchSplits.com. In 2014 I hope to upgrade my website and eBook at www.ChurchSplits.com. More than 8,000 people a month do Google searches for information on the topic of church splits, and my material is meeting a huge need among pastors and churches facing this unpleasant situation.
  • Mentoring young pastors and entrepreneurs. This year God gave me a renewed vision to have an impact on young leaders. While I love my Baby Boomer friends, the future will increasingly be dependent on the success of a new generation of Christians to impact the world—not only the church world, but also the marketplace, government, and culture.
  • Mary’s new book. Ten years in the making, Mary launched her first book this year: Over It—How to Live Above Your Over It coverCircumstances and Beyond Yourself. You can order the book or find out about Mary’s health coaching services at www.MaryBuchan.com.
  • Lingering impact from my old books. I continue to receive gratifying comments from people who have read my books: Walking the Leadership Highway—Without Becoming Roadkill!, Apostolic Evangelism, and So, You Want to Be a Best-Selling Author? For example, I was unexpectedly contacted this year by a man named Aaron who wrote:

“Jim’s Apostolic Evangelism book came into my hands several years ago, and it has been a tremendously insightful resource, assisting us in our first church plant. This tool helped me understand the importance of seeking the place of prayer in my evangelistic efforts. Now the Lord has led me to start a new work in Chicago, and the principles in Jim’s book have bubbled up in my spirit once again. The revelation contained in Apostolic Evangelism lives inside me and will help me serve the Lord’s purposes and complete my kingdom assignment once again.”

I’ll close with this prayer of Moses, found in Psalm 90:16-17 (NIV):

May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

While I love the emphasis on “the favor of the Lord” in this NIV rendering, the NLT also brings out some important aspects of this passage:

Let us, your servants, see you work again;
let our children see your glory.
And may the Lord our God show us his approval
and make our efforts successful.
Yes, make our efforts successful!

This is very good news: No matter how old we are, it’s never too late to “see God work again.” And we must cry out as never before for our children and grandchildren to see His glory and find His blessing on their work for His kingdom.

God bless you in 2014! Let us know how we can pray for you. We’re grateful for your tax-deductible financial contributions to our Crosslink Ministries outreaches.

Crosslink Ministries, 11927 Royal Castle Ct

Charlotte, NC 28277

Cell: 704-770-5200, Jim@JimBuchan.com

www.JimBuchan.com @BestBibleTweets

 

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Secrets of the Magi

We don’t know the exact time frame of the journey made by “wise men from the East”  in search of young King Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12). It may have been several months or even a few years after Jesus’ birth when they arrived at Herod’s palace and asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?”  (v. 1)

But while some of the details of their journey may be unclear, there’s much we can learn from the wonderful example set by the magi:

1.   They made it a priority to pursue the Lord  (v. 1). These men came from a great distance to encounter the Savior. They weren’t just casual  believers, but were committed  to having a personal encounter with the newborn King. In the same way, shouldn’t we  make it a priority to pursue the Lord and spend time in His presence?

2.   They came to worship Him  (v. 2). Right from the beginning, the magi made the purpose of their journey clear: “We have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  May that be our focus as well during this Christmas season. Instead of being distracted by all the trappings of the holidays, let’s take time to worship Jesus!

3.   Nothing could divert them from their mission  (vs. 3-8). When God gives us a dream to pursue, we often have to deal with a “King Herod” who tries to distract us along the way. The magi truly proved to be “wise men,”  able to discern that King Herod had no intention of furthering their mission. In the same way, we must avoid the influence of toxic people and naysayers during the holiday season.

4.   They not only worshiped Jesus with their words and their time, but they also worshiped Him with a generous offering.  “When they had opened their treasures, they presented to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh”  (v. 11). If we have a genuine encounter with our Savior, the King of Kings, how can we not honor Him with our possessions? True worship demands nothing less. Our treasure  and our heart  are always linked together (Matthew 6:21).

5.   They returned home “another way”  (v. 12). Genuine worship will transform us and cause us to walk on a different path than we started on. If necessary, we’ll even be given supernatural direction or “divinely warned in a dream.”  As you worship Jesus this holiday season, He wants to instruct you, change your life, and give you the breakthrough you need!

This Christmas, may the Lord give you a fresh revelation of His LOVE for you—love that took Him from the glories of Heaven to a dusty stable in Bethlehem…to a Cross on a Jerusalem hillside…to the right hand of God’s throne in Heaven…so that you might spend eternity with Him.

Take a few moments right now to give God thanks for all He has done in your life. Like the magi, your journey may seem long and difficult at times. But peace and joy will rise in your heart when you put your focus in the right place this Christmas: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy”  (v. 10). That can be your  experience as well.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

As temperatures plummet and the news is filled with reports of fierce winter storms up north, I find myself humming the old song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” And I can’t stop thinking about a simple but profound truth I heard many years ago:

 In life, we will either be a THERMOMETER or a THERMOSTAT.

Thermometers merely reflect the temperatures around them. If it’s cold outside, a thermometer will let you know.

It’s not hard to be a thermometer. You just have to report and reflect the conditions around you.

Lots of people are like that. When you ask them how things are going, they simply give you a weather report concerning their present circumstances. Allowing themselves to be controlled by external situations, their mood goes up and down according to what’s happening around them.

However, some people have learned to be a thermostat  instead. Rather than just accepting and reflecting the temperature around them, they have a way of changing  the temperature in every situation they are in. When it’s cold outside, they warm things up. When conflicts arise and relationships get uncomfortably hot, they know how to generate cooling breezes.

Jesus was a thermostat. Although He continually faced icy reactions from the religious establishment, He never allowed His heart to become cold.

Yes, Jesus sometimes gave a weather report about the conditions He saw around Him. But He never left things like He found them. Instead of reflecting the animosity and unbelief He encountered, He brought compassion, faith, and healing.

But Jesus warned about the temptation we would face to become mere thermometers, reflecting the surrounding culture rather than transforming it. “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold,”  He told us (Matthew 24:12).

What a tragic outcome Jesus is describing here. In a day of lawlessness, many people will become calloused and cynical. Surrounded by growing narcissism and self-centeredness, many will allow their love to become cold. Instead of being change agents, people will be like thermometers, swayed up and down by the changing world around them.

Jesus used the Greek word agape  for love, so there’s a good chance He had believers in mind here. He was warning that we’ll surely face times when it’s “cold outside,” but we can’t let that change our disposition or ruin our day. Instead, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit, bringing His kindness and warmth into even the harshest weather around us.

The good news is that we don’t have to be helpless victims as the cultural weather changes around us. As salt and light, we can be a positive force in setting  the temperature, not just reflecting it.

 

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