Make me to know your ways, O Lord ; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. -- Psalm 25: 4-5 (ESV)
It's the most wonderful time of the year! For unto us a Savior is born! If you strip away the wrapping paper, greed and commercialization you are left with a baby lying in swaddling clothes in a manger. If you purge out all of the candy canes, stocking stuffers and last minute sales you are left with "come let us adore Him." It is not the most wonderful time of the year because of presents but rather presence. It is not the most wonderful time of the year for any of the reasons the world can offer up. It is only because unto us, in the city of David, a Savior has been born! Butt, we do not have to wait until December 25th either to receive gifts from our heavenly Father:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. -- James 1: 17 (ESV)
When seeking gifts this morning I came across the key verses above and within them are some timeless treasures for us to unwrap this year to draw closer in our walk with God. The first such truth involves the precious gift of the Holy Spirit helping us to understand what God is saying to us through His Word. Note the Psalmist doesn't say "I want to know your ways" but rather -- "make me to know your ways." The indication here is pretty clear. We need God's help to understand His Word. To delve deeper into His Word. To understand more and more spiritual truths we must be tapped into the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of us. I remember before I was saved I read the Bible for a year. I enjoyed it immensely. The stories were rich, the characters interesting and the poetry was moving. I do not recall however God speaking to me once. Unsaved, I did not have the Holy Spirit to lead me into the truth:
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. -- John 16: 13 (NLT)
The Bible says that the things of God, such as His Word, are foolishness to those who are perishing because it is only understood spiritually. My reading the Bible before I was saved was an intellectual endeavor, not a spiritual one. Unfortunately, we can drift in our walk and reading the Word of God can become a chore. Usually when this happens we become less and less in tune with the Holy Spirit and thus reading the Word becomes something we feel we have to do or should do, instead of something we want to do. That is a dangerous place to be because one of the primary ways God speaks to us is through His living Word! Reading the Word without assistance from the Holy Spirit is like asking someone to call you but you haven't given them your phone number. Oh Lord, make me to know your ways! I have tried my ways for too long and gotten nowhere! All I want for Christmas is for You to make me to know Your ways, draw closer to You through Your Spirit living inside of me.
The second gift I see is the path of God. We asked to have His ways made known to us but now we are getting to where the rubber meets the road. The Psalmist says "teach me your paths" indicating that there are many paths we can take in this world beloved. Most of us know all about the wrong paths. The paths that lead to destruction and heartache. The devil is real good at making those paths seem harmless. The world dresses them up as righteous. In the end however, we must seek out the only path that leads to God:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. -- Proverbs 3: 5-6 (NLT)
Man is filled with all sorts of understanding and wisdom. I remember when I was reading the Bible unsaved I was able to rationally decipher what was being said or even what might have been the underlying message but it was all academic. My intelligence deciding what the words meant. The truth is we stray from the path of God when we do not seek His will in all we do. Sure we seek His will in some of what we do, maybe even most of what we do. But then there are those areas we hold back in. Maybe because we don't want to admit our sin and confess. Maybe because we have become so calloused that we fail to hear the conviction from the Holy Spirit anymore. Those are the areas that lead us astray and down the wrong path. Yet when we turn back and seek His will in everything -- then God will show us the path we need to take. King David was a man who walked down the path of God. He was a man after the very heart of God. Yet one night on his palace rooftop the devil showed him another path. It was an attractive path and David desired it. David lusted for that path and even though he certainly knew better -- he took off down that path and his sin with Bathsheba. All I want for Christmas is for God to continually show me the path I am supposed to be on! I know His path is safe. I know His path leads to where I need to be. His path is a gift.
Next on the Christmas list from the key verses are matching presents -- lead me in Your truth and teach me. For us this day it means two things in our lives will ensure the blessings of God. The first is that God is the leader and secondly that we remain teachable. Let's deal with leadership first. Leadership has become one of the buzz words in modern church growth circles. It seems that the church is overly enamored with the concept of leadership development because they are growing beyond what the paid infrastructure can cover. So ministries are created and leaders are appointed. Leaders are trained and become the "front line" of service to the congregation. This is not to discourage leadership and even training but sometimes the advancement of the building begins to take precedent over the advancement of the Kingdom. Here are the principles of leadership the Bible teaches:
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. -- 1Corinthians 11: 1 (KJV)
Instead, the theories of modern church growth hold annual leadership conferences filled with secular speakers trying to teach would be Christian leaders what it means to lead. What is wrong with this picture? Follow me as I follow Christ. God is not seeking leaders -- He is seeking followers. He will call out some for leadership, but not everyone:
If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. -- Romans 12: 8 (NLT)
Leadership is a gift from God, not an answer to a two minute survey. How are most leaders cultivated in the church? By expressed interest. Being interested in leadership does not make you a leader and more importantly does not mean God has called you into leadership. I have spoken with people who knew they were thrust into leadership positions not based upon calling but based upon need. Early on in the church the Bible tells us of the creation of the first "ministries." It seems there were problems with how food was being distributed. Here was the disciples' solution:
And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. -- Acts 6: 3 (NLT)