Playing it Safe!

I’ve been wondering lately. Have we inadvertently crafted a theology of Christian living that actually insulates us from the work that God desires to do in and through us? Let me explain what I mean.

We know intellectually and experientially that our periods of greatest growth come in the wake of our greatest need. We experience God’s miraculous provision, healing, or life change. In those times, God’s grace and power are clearly manifested in us. He is glorified and we are humbled, thankful, and full of worship. I know this pattern has been true with my wife and me.

Nearly all of our “God stories”—the accounts of God’s provision and powerful working in our lives—have occurred in the times of our greatest hardships. The apostle Paul alluded to this at a time of great need in his life. After begging for deliverance from his “thorn in the flesh,” Paul heard God say:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV)

Now, I’m not suggesting that we seek after hardships, persecution and calamity. That would be putting God to the test. What I’m talking about is our willingness to take risks and endure hardship for Christ.

In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In the verse just prior, Jesus told His disciples that He would suffer many things, be rejected by the Jewish religious leaders, be killed and rise again the third day. So it’s in this context that Jesus says to us, “You must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me.” Without question there is risk—even great risk—and hardship involved in following Jesus.

Along the same vein, Paul and Barnabas had a standard message they would proclaim to new disciples to strengthen them. Their message was, “Continue in the faith,” because “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22 ESV)

And William Carey, the father of modern missions challenged his peers, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” He was calling them to take risks for the Gospel and anticipate God’s intervention in the lives of people. How does this strike us today? Too old-fashioned? Too gung-ho?

Here’s where I’m being personally challenged. Christ calls us to follow Him sacrificially. And we know that living on the edge with Him is where we will experience the greatest displays of His presence and power. Yet, in spite of knowing this we doggedly strive to eliminate those factors that would strategically place us where God can do His most significant work in and through us! We play it safe.

It’s human to want to eliminate or minimize risk and discomfort, but what are we forfeiting in our endless pursuit of comfort and security? Consider the area of finances. We have established what we tout as a biblically based theology of finances that assures our future financial security if we follow those sound principles.

But how would we respond if God told us to give away a large portion of our retirement? Wouldn’t our Christian financial world view prevent us from even considering such a wild notion? We would dismiss such a thought out of hand. We would argue, “God can’t be asking me to do that, because my theology doesn’t permit it.” So, our financial principles trump God and we dismiss that He spoke to us.

I realize we can argue all around that hypothetical situation, so consider this actual occurrence. When I was a boy my dad needed a new overcoat. We lived in Minnesota with its long, cold winters and Dad’s job required him to dress professionally. His old overcoat had become quite frayed and the lining was tearing out. Meanwhile, Dad worked hard to support Mom and us five children.

Over several months Dad saved up for a new overcoat. Finally, with enough money saved up he bought a new coat paying cash for it. So far, so good.

Within a week of wearing his new overcoat, however, Dad encountered a homeless man on the streets of Minneapolis. This man had no coat. Without giving it another thought, Dad shed his new coat and gave it to this homeless man. Dad was absolutely convinced that God led him to do this and he never regretted his action. Dad simply went back to wearing his old coat.

Some might argue that Dad was foolish to give away his new coat—what with a wife and five children to feed and clothe at home. And what about his image at work? Couldn’t God have met this homeless man’s need some other way?

But through my dad’s act of compassion and personal sacrifice he showed me what it means to follow Jesus. My dad also demonstrated that the pursuit of our own comfort may be at odds with following Jesus. Our comfort and security must always yield to following Christ.

I’m not trying to get all weird on you here! Nor do I wish to heap guilt on anyone. I’m merely posing some questions. We should save for our future. But we must not place our hope in our savings or even in our sound financial principles.

We must also recognize that God could remove our earthly security, driving us to focus on Him as our security. Trusting in God for our security is not second best or our fallback strategy. He is our Rock, our firm foundation!

I also know that our heavenly Father often delights in lavishing good things upon us that we’ve neither earned nor deserve. He simply does so because He can and wishes to bless us. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11 ESV)

As we reflect on all these things, I’m driven back to the simplicity of our relationship with Christ. We are to follow Him. We trust Him, obey Him, love Him, serve Him, and enjoy Him! We also recognize that He works with each one of us uniquely and personally. What He asks of me, He may not ask of you. Each of us follows His lead.

Allow me to challenge you in your walk with Christ. Do your Christian traditions insulate you from or propel you forward into deeper relationship with Christ and the work that He desires to do in and through you?

“Through [Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character…” (Romans 5:2-4 ESV)

©2013 Rob Fischer

Are You Coasting?

Have you ever felt like you’re coasting in life? I have. I describe coasting in life as: a phase in which we find ourselves complacent and unmotivated. We’re content merely to rely on our past efforts. And the worst part is that we’re comfortable with that.

Coasting requires no effort. We’re simply “going with the flow,” following the path of least resistance. In the coasting metaphor that path is always downhill. We’re on a descent usually to something undesirable and often to something not honorable.

I’m not talking about a brief rest from our labors to recharge. The coasting I’m talking about is deceptively tempting because it’s so easy. Coasting is momentary pleasure at the expense of past effort and future advancement.

Coasting deceives us into thinking that we’re simply maintaining. But coasting has a way of using up very quickly any summit we had gained. The heights we may have struggled to achieve, we so rapidly lose when coasting.

When we are coasting, we are not in control. Gravity is. We are yielding to other forces that pull us downward. And we willingly allow it. Coasting may feel fun and rewarding at first. This is part of its deceptive lure.

A truism of all coasting is that we eventually come to a standstill. We run out of “hill” as it were and find ourselves immobile at the bottom. This is not a good place to be if we want to go somewhere and achieve something worthwhile.

Solomon, incredibly rich and powerful, could have easily succumbed to coasting. Instead, he challenges us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:23-27 NIV)

Paul, as an old man and chained in a Roman prison, could have easily given up and coasted. After all he had accomplished so much for God’s Kingdom. Yet he urges, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

  • What challenges are you currently facing?
  • Where is your life out of balance?
  • In what areas would you like to experience greater fulfillment in life?
  • What dream for your life would you like to see realized?
  • What significant goals would you like to pursue?
  • What is God calling you to?

Never give up! You’re not alone. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

 

© 2013 Rob Fischer

Power Through Prayer

Paraphrased excerpts from Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds:

We are on a constant search for better methods, more clever plans, and new ways to organize in order to advance the church. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men and women.

The church needs men and women whom the Holy Spirit can use—men and women of prayer—mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through people; people wholly yielded to Him.

The personal character of leaders has more to do with the spiritual renewal of nations than any other factor. The character and conduct of followers of Christ have more to do with the impact of the Gospel on a nation than any other factor. The individual makes the servant of the Gospel. God must make the individual.

The individual, the whole individual, lies behind the work of God. Our work is not the performance of an hour; it is the outflow of a life. Our work for God must be a thing of life. Our work grows, because we grow. Our work is holy, because we are holy.

Everything depends on the spiritual character of Christ’s servant. We must impersonate the Gospel. It is not great talents nor great learning nor great preachers and teachers and leaders that God needs. God wants men and women great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, and great in fidelity. Such people can mold a generation for God!

Prayer is the greatest weapon of the servant of God. Prayer places us in God’s presence—the place we become holy. Prayer calls upon and takes hold of the power of God. The real work of God is made in the closet. The man or woman of God is made in the closet.

Our life and most profound convictions are born in secret communication with God. Prayer makes God’s servant.

The pride of learning; the pride of past accomplishment; the pride of the newest trend; and the pride of our own creative genius all set themselves against the dependent humility of prayer. If we do not make prayer a mighty factor in our lives and ministry, our impact for God will be weak, powerless and without effect on the lost world.

“Devote yourselves to prayer.” Colossians 4:2

There is a danger in reading a challenge like that above. The danger is to feel overwhelmed with a sense of guilt over past or current failures, or to feel inadequate with regard to potential future victories. Lay aside those feelings.

Instead, simply flee to God’s presence, enjoy His company and let Him change you. In Psalm 16:11, David praises God, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

 

©2011 Rob Fischer

Comrades in Arms

Comrades_in_Arms_Cover_for_Kindle

I’m excited to announce the publication of my new book, Comrades in Arms—The Power of Pursuing Christ in the Company of Other Men.

A comrades-in-arms or spiritual partnership is one of the most powerful, yet most neglected means for deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ. Proverbs 27:17 instructs us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (NIV)

All through Scripture, we see the examples of spiritual partnerships between men like David and Jonathan, Jesus and His disciples, Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Silas, and Paul and Timothy. Especially from the pattern of Jesus and the apostles we recognize that God did not intend for us to follow Christ alone. We not only experience huge gains in pursuing Christ and His character with others of His followers, we also recognize that apart from such spiritual partnerships we cannot grow into all that Christ desires for us.

Perhaps some are skeptical of the claim that spiritual partnerships are necessary for growth in Christ. But don’t take my word for it! The Scriptures explain that an ever deepening relationship with Christ is God’s design and will for us as His followers. God’s Word also reveals that this growth in Christ resulting in a transformed life is a “team sport”, not achievable on our own and with great gains for all engaged.

Paul explains that by ourselves we are in danger of remaining like “infants” in our walk with Christ. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:15-16 NIV)

Maybe you’re thinking, “Great, here’s one more thing I’m supposed to do!” On the contrary, when we recognize the huge gains that God gives us in spiritual partnerships to grow more quickly and fully in Him, we gladly seek out such relationships. We do this both for our benefit and for that of others. “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT)

Over the past eleven years, spiritual partnerships have impacted my life in Christ significantly. When we combine God’s Word and prayer with spiritual partnerships, God’s Spirit leverages His Word and prayer in profound ways in our lives! “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” (Colossians 3:16 ESV) And, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV) Why wouldn’t we want to team up with another follower of Christ for this kind of impact?!

The book, Comrades in Arms, focuses specifically on spiritual partnerships for men. In the book you will discover:

  • Five reasons why spiritual partnerships are vital for our spiritual transformation!
  • The causes of our neglect of spiritual partnerships and how to beat them!
  • Five winning characteristics of spiritual partnerships!
  • How to boldly challenge each other from God’s Word!
  • Numerous practical examples for conducting spiritual partnerships!
  • Four simple steps to launch your own spiritual partnership!

Additionally, each chapter concludes with questions that promote thoughtful discussion to stimulate growth in a spiritual partnership or a small group setting.

Also, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be launching my book at the Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference here in Spokane on Saturday, April 20th. Then on Saturday, May 4th, I will be presenting a Comrades in Arms workshop at the same conference in Boise, ID. Please pray for these men’s conferences and for the men who will attend. May the Lord perform His life-changing work in their lives!

A Bold Request!

I believe that God will use this book in a powerful way in the lives of countless men and the families they represent and influence. But I’ve got to get the book into the hands of men. Would you please help me in the following ways:

  1. Purchase a copy of Comrades in Arms and read it yourself. You can either follow this link to purchase or go to Amazon.com.
  2. After reading the book, please go to Amazon.com and write a review of the book.
  3. Buy one or more copies as gifts to give to other men (Father’s Day is coming).
  4. Invite me to your church or men’s group to provide a free, interactive workshop on spiritual partnership.
  5. Host a book signing at your church or special event.
  6. Recommend Comrades in Arms as a study guide for men’s small groups at your church.
  7. Most importantly, please pray that God will impact men’s lives through the book as they launch their own comrades-in-arms relationships.

Thank you!

Your brother in Christ,

Rob Fischer

 

©2013 Rob Fischer

Taste and See that the Lord is Good!

On one particular Sunday a few years ago, I had the privilege of leading groups of people in communion at our church. It struck me that the Lord’s Supper or communion is a practice that we are meant to participate in together. Communion is not an individual but a corporate activity that demonstrates our unity in Christ as we remember his substitutionary death for us. On that particular Sunday, this truth was impressed on me in a marvelous and unexpected way.

“When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NLT)

When we come together to observe the Lord’s Supper, I look around and see that Christ not only died for me, but for these—my brothers and sisters here gathered with me. At the Lord’s Table we’re all on a level plain. We all come humbly before him in need of his grace and love that he extends toward us freely.

Rightly seen, the Lord’s Supper brings us together like nothing else. I think that’s why Paul was so upset at the Corinthian Christians for their self-centered approach to communion (see 1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

But on that particular Sunday a few years ago I was blessed to observe something so tender and sweet during communion. Such an occurrence could have only been caught in the context of sharing Christ’s meal with other followers. A woman and her teenage son came forward to the table with about seven or eight others. Based on her son’s mannerisms and conduct, I recognized that he is developmentally challenged.

That particular Sunday we had people take a small piece of bread, dip it into the grape juice and then eat it. This boy followed the others’ examples. He took some bread and dipped it into the juice. But he wasn’t satisfied with the conservative quick dip that the others practiced! Instead, he sloshed the bread back in forth in the grape juice to ensure it was well soaked and dripping with juice.

Then he lifted the bread into his mouth, closed his eyes and savored his sacred morsel. Audibly we heard him exclaim, “Mmm, that’s good!” And I thought to myself, this boy in his simplicity demonstrated profoundly what it means to enjoy the Lord in his Supper! I could sense God’s pleasure over this young man and this cluster of Christ-followers as we witnessed this holy scene.

 

© 2009 Rob Fischer

Unforgotten Prayer

“Your prayer has been heard.” This was the angel Gabriel’s message to Zechariah recorded in Luke 1. “Your prayer has been heard.” This is a most remarkable pronouncement, because this prayer was an old prayer; a prayer gone stale after so many years of disuse; a prayer robbed of hope through the passage of time.

In their youth, no doubt this couple had prayed this prayer daily and fervently as they pleaded: “Lord, please give us a child.” But they had long since grown old. The time for bearing children was long past. Their prayers for a child had also grown old. What had once been an oft repeated petition and a daily entreaty had long since been forgotten—but not by God.

How long had it been since Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for a child? Ten years, fifteen, twenty, or longer? How had they coped with God’s silence? How had they reconciled their faithful, consistent prayers with the daily reminder that they were still childless? Their prayers demonstrate they knew God could give them a child, but He chose not to all those years. Yet they trusted God. “They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” (Luke 1:6 ESV)

Who would have thought that prayers uttered so long ago would now warrant the dispatch of an angel and fulfill an ancient prophecy? How could Zechariah and Elizabeth possibly have guessed that their past fervent prayers would one day bring the Forerunner of the Lord? They couldn’t have, but they prayed.  And God answered. And what an answer!

The angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:13-17 ESV)

Do you have any forgotten prayers? Have you prayed for something long and hard, yet seemingly to no avail? Take heart! Your prayers are not forgotten with God. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV)

 

©2013 Rob Fischer

God’s Faithfulness

With warmer weather and spring rains, the first buttercups are in bloom in Spokane! The trees are beginning to bud out and the birds and squirrels are gathering wadding for their nests to prepare for the birth of their young. All of these signs of Spring demonstrate God’s faithfulness. God promised, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22 NIV)

And what’s a proper response to God’s faithfulness? “Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” (Hosea 6:3 NLT) “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” (Psalm 57:11 NIV)

©2013 Rob Fischer

Three Dos and Don’ts Going into an Interview

Dos

  • Do your homework about the organization and job you’re applying for. Know clearly why you want to work for this organization and in this job. Beyond qualifications, consider your job-fit, your location-fit (if a move is involved), and your organizational-fit. Talk to people who work there to help determine how well you fit in.
  • Do prepare for the interview itself. Find someone to coach you through prospective interview questions. Role-play with your coach and let him/her put you through the paces of a practice interview with constructive feedback.
  • Do focus on your past performance in the interview. Past performance is the best indicator of future performance. Skilled interviewers know this and will ask questions that draw out your past performance. Even if an unskilled interviewer doesn’t ask about your past performance, give examples of your past performance while answering their questions. Your performance-based responses will carry more weight than those of another candidate who simply gives a “book” answer or responds hypothetically.

Don’ts

  • Don’t let your attire prevent you from getting the job! Many organizations foster a casual environment today. But unless you know for sure (i.e., the interviewer instructed you) that you can go to the interview in casual wear, dress up for it. Go in looking neat, prepared, and professional.
  • Don’t let your demeanor derail your interview! Novices confuse self-confidence with arrogance. A cocky or arrogant attitude repulses. A humble, self-confident attitude wins respect. Offer a firm handshake, sit and stand erect, look the interviewer in the eye, and be gracious and courteous.
  • Don’t give in to the temptation to accept a job you won’t be happy in! If you are currently unemployed, the danger is to be so desperate that any old job will do. Admittedly, we must sometimes be pragmatic—but be careful. If you are currently employed but unhappy, don’t let your discontent drive you to a decision you’ll soon regret. A coach can help you clarify your values and identify your life purpose. In this way, you can look for and find a career that matches who you are and what you aspire to do.

 

©2013 Rob Fischer

An Ordinary Day in the Life of a Pizza Delivery Guy

God loves to do extraordinary things through ordinary people on ordinary days. When David woke up the morning of the day on which he slew Goliath, it was just an ordinary day. David was the youngest of eight boys. His job was to tend his father’s sheep. But on this particular day, his father sent him on a pizza run. Okay, it wasn’t exactly pizza, but it was bread and cheese, so I’m close.

At the time, David’s three oldest brothers were in the Israeli army fighting the Philistines. David’s father asked David to deliver some bread and cheese to his three brothers and their commanding officer and bring back news of their welfare. Certainly for David, a mere youth at the time, even this pizza run provided some excitement and a diversion from the tedium of tending sheep! Little did David know that on this ordinary day God would change the course of history!

When David showed up on the battle lines with the pizza, he arrived just in time to hear Goliath taunt Israel’s army and their God. Apparently this scene had recurred for many days. Every time Goliath came out and defied Israel, the whole Israeli army cowered in fear and dismay. Saul and his army couldn’t see past this undefeatable foe. But our young pizza delivery guy looked on this scene with a different perspective.

True, David was just a shepherd, but he had already experienced God’s power and protection in his life. Once when a bear came and carried off one of David’s sheep, David grabbed the bear by its fur and killed it, saving the sheep. He had experienced a similar victory against a lion. So when David saw and heard Goliath on this ordinary pizza delivery day, David didn’t see what everybody else saw.

David didn’t see an insurmountable giant of a problem. David saw an opportunity for God’s awesome power and greatness to be displayed and magnified! With a mere shepherd’s staff, a sling and some stones, David ran headlong into this opportunity before him. Goliath took it as an insult that the Israeli army would send one who was “little more than a boy” to fight him, the Philistine champion. But David’s confidence was not in himself, nor was he naïve to the threat of the giant before him. David simply came against Goliath in the name and power of the Lord Almighty, with whom there is no equal. And the rest is history!

When we woke up this morning, our day may have begun as an ordinary day in our perhaps ordinary lives. This day, may our trust in the Lord Almighty trump all fear and dismay over any and every obstacle we and our loved ones face. What extraordinary things might God do in and through us today? God delights to do extraordinary things through ordinary people on ordinary days.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

(You can read the complete account of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.)

©2013 Rob Fischer

Perfect Peace

Isaiah 26:3-4 (ESV) reminds us, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Unpacking this passage reveals that “perfect peace” results from focusing our minds and trust on the Lord.

The emphasis here is not on our ability to focus and trust, but on the character and nature of God. Namely, He is trustworthy and He is our “everlasting rock.” The fact that God is our “everlasting rock” speaks to the permanence of His ability to shelter us and provide a firm foundation regardless of the storms that assail us. That He is trustworthy, or worthy of our trust, speaks to His desire to keep us in His perfect peace. We need to know that He is not only able but willing to help us.

But we are not passive in acquiring perfect peace. We direct our minds to the Lord and stay focused on Him. We trust Him, looking to Him for every need including the “perfect peace” that we desire. Our work in securing this “perfect peace” is not like the struggle of a person rowing against the wind and waves. Our work is more like the person who adjusts their sail to catch the wind and be carried along by God’s grace.

Jesus explained, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

©2013 Rob Fischer