Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's the Problem?

It doesn't take long to jump right back into the flow of things once you return from a trip. I hit the ground running as soon as I got back to Northridge from CIY Move on Saturday and it hasn't really slowed down. The intensity of things is already peaking and the schedule is full. In the midst of this I am still processing the experiences of last week and the things that God is sharing with me in the aftermath of His work.

The emphasis on our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters at Move is still affecting my spirit. Seeing the reality of what they must deal with just to be able to worship certainly has an impact on how I perceive our "struggles" here. To see fellow warriors for Christ take bold stands in the face of physical and sexual assault, destruction of property, loss of limbs and even death reminds me of how weak my own faith is. The passion that they exhibit for following their King is remarkable and inspires me to be consistently prayerful for them.

Comparing the enthusiastic passion of the persecuted church with the American church isn't necessarily fair. Our circumstances are obviously incredibly different for many reasons. It is discouraging however to see so much of our focus shift to complaining about the temperature in the room, the selection of songs that are sung, whether someone said hi to us, how clean the church is, or what shirt or shoes someone is wearing. I seriously doubt these are ongoing debates in the underground church.

We have lost focus on the biggest problem-a world that desperately needs to hear of the grace, forgiveness and restoration offered by Jesus Christ and our responsibility to do whatever it takes to make that message heard. What would happen if our respective churches would throw their energies behind solving that problem first?

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Kingdom

It has been a powerful week at CIY Move for me, but in a completely different way than ever before.

Now that I am no longer working directly in youth ministry, I came to the Move conference without leading any youth. I was here as the campus pastor for the week with the responsibility of ministering to the adult leaders. My entire thought process and spiritual emphasis wasn't based on the group of teens that I was with. It was about finding opportunities to engage adults in conversation, to bring them encouragement, to share resources and let them know how valued they are.

I had many thoughts coming into the week, but can say that it surpassed all that I had imagined. My soul felt alive as I was able to be thoroughly consumed with the ministry of serving other Kingdom workers. I could feel the Holy Spirit guiding conversations and providing a level of trust that should not have been accomplished in such a short span of time. I was able to talk with several leaders through shared experiences of woundedness and hopefully help to bring some healing. The entire week felt as if I was serving and ministering right in the middle of my spiritual gifting and it was an incredible blessing.

I am grateful for a wife and children that supportively understand my calling and are willing to endure such time away. I am also grateful for a church leadership that values the investment we are making in God's Kingdom-even if we don't ever see any direct earthly benefit.

I am eagerly anticipating the blessing God is going to bring to His Church as we all continue to invest in the Kingdom.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Love Costs Everything

God-given and empowered love costs everything. It costs us:

our faith
our time
our prejudices
our future
our vision
our finances
our present
our agenda
our preferences
our bitterness
our unforgiveness
our sin
our pride
our past
our ambition
our reputation
our family
our heart, mind, soul and strength.

When you're committed to the King, it's worth it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Have They Heard?

I've always been fascinated with the story of Rahab from the Bible. She was a prostitute and was redeemed from that to become part of the human lineage of Jesus. An incredible story of grace, second chances and what can happen when you put your trust in God.

As she helped the spies from Israel avoid capture and certain death, she begged them to spare her family. She told the two spies that she had protected them because she had heard of the power of God. There is no evidence that she had experienced it herself-just that she had heard of who God was and how He worked in His people. That alone inspired her to want to follow Him.

What do people in our own communities know about our God? Not those that are sitting in a church every Sunday, but the people that are disengaged, discouraged, de-churched or apathetic. What do they hear and know about who our God is? We tend to blame people for misinformation and incorrect presuppositions about our King, but perhaps the fault lies in us not clearly communicating who He is to the world around us.

Let's make it a priority to have our God spoken well of in our cities. That's only going to happen when His people live in peace with each other and are passionate about meeting needs and reaching the lost.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Assume the Position

When I worked in athletic training there was a phrase that we would hope we wouldn't have to use when dealing with injuries. It was something that we only said when it was a serious incident and one in which we suspected that damage had been done to the cervical spine of the athlete. It was simply, "assume the position." When given as a directive, it instructed the other athletic trainer to stabilize the head and neck so that no other potential damage could occur. It instantly put you on alert and had you waiting further instructions as the current situation was handled. It was not something that was used lightly, you took your responsibility very seriously and were ready to follow through on the best plan of action.

The "assume the position" phrase came to mind tonight in a slightly different light as we talked about the Biblical account of Samuel hearing from God. The idea was that we need to strategically position ourselves to be available to hear from Him. It requires humbling ourselves to his directives, being on alert for what He might have to say and taking this privilege and honor very seriously. It means eliminating distractions and other competing noises so that we can effectively hear from God and then do something with it.

It's not easy to do with the multiple layers of influence on us and with the noisy distractions we surround ourselves with. If we desire to eagerly and obediently fulfill our calling in Christ however, it's essential.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Whose Church?

What do we really want our church to look like? What is it that we want the church to be known for? What kind of culture do we want to have? What reputation in the community do we strive to see our church have? I am pondering these questions this morning as God continues to work in my own heart.

I wonder what most of us focus on when we think about "our church." Do we get caught up in how the church sings the songs that we like and make us feel comfortable? Is our mission to keep up programming for those that have already declared allegiance to Christ? Do we get focused on how our own needs are met? Is our concern how we maintain things because "that's the way we've always done it?"

Perhaps our biggest struggle is that we have become so consumed with what we want our church to be that we have forgotten that it doesn't belong to us to begin with. When we realize that the Church is God's designed instrument to glorify Him and reach the world it changes our perspective. It shifts our priorities from making us comfortable to pushing us to honestly seeking His direction and then obediently following through with it. When we see that we are not the owners but workers for the High King of Heaven, our greatest objective is to achieve what He has designed for us and not the fulfillment of our own selfish desires.

Now that's a Church that even the gates of Hades can't stand against.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Missionally Minded

The word "missional" is used in church lingo to describe an organization that is very focused on fulfilling its purpose. It indicates a church that is very concerned with reaching out to the community around them and also to the rest of the world. People debate whether a church should use it to describe themselves since it is the calling of the church to reach the world to begin with. It can be considered redundant to describe a church with a word that is supposed to be part of its DNA.

Therein lies the problem. If the Church (God's people throughout the world) is actually fulfilling its mission there is no need to use the word "missional" to describe who we are. It's simply what we do by nature. It's the lack of that focus in the Church and her people that create a gap that must be filled. We waste time focusing on inane discussions of things that don't matter while our enemy, satan, works hard to disrupt any momentum that we might gain.

Satan understands and is passionately engaged in fulfilling his mission. Shouldn't the church have the same motivation-especially when we are guaranteed of victory? It will be costly, but any prize as valuable as life with Christ is well worth it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review: Radical Together by David Platt

I just finished reading the new book by David Platt (author of Radical) entitled Radical Together. It carries on the message of his first book by challenging faith communities to follow the commands of Christ together. It strives to answer the basic question, "How can we in the church best unleash the people of God in the Spirit of God with the Word of God for the glory of God in the world?"

Platt's book is challenging throughout and will create difficulties for churches as they are forced to either reexamine how we are fulfilling our true purpose or choose to ignore the calling of Christ for His Church. Platt continually backs up his statements with Scriptural truth and leaves no doubt as to the direction our communities of faith should be moving. The call to radical obedience from a personal perspective as well as for the church as a whole seems difficult and even somewhat disturbing, but Platt is able to lay out the rewards and fulfillment that will be found as a result. He also does a compelling job of bringing the principles to life through powerful stories of this faith in action.

He has several tough statements that will give all church leaders (and fellow Christians) a reason to carefully examine their motives and results:

  • Real faith always creates fruit.
  • The gospel saves us to work.
  • Only people who are resting constantly in the righteousness of Christ will be able to risk it all wholeheartedly for the glory of Christ.
  • Those who espouse sound doctrine in the church should embody selfless devotion in the world.
  • When we unchain the power of God's Word in the church, it will unleash the potential of God's people in the world.
  • ...the Spirit of God has empowered every follower of Christ to accomplish the purpose of God for the glory of  God in the world.
  • Be careful no to let programs in the church keep you from engaging people in the world with the gospel.
  • Leaders do not exist to provide services; they exist to serve people.
  • ...prayer was fundamental, not supplemental.

I would highly recommend this book to any leader who is serious about fulfilling God's true purpose through their church. It may require a re-culturing of an organization, but it will result in a radical church that is actually what God intended it to be in the first place.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Where Are the Men?

It has become even more obvious to me this week that we are missing positive, godly male leadership in the church and our communities. I see so many of our young men here with distorted views of what is right and wrong, with skewed perceptions of their relationship with young women and increased emphasis on the stereotypical behavior patterns that our culture has imposed on them. We are in desperate need of male role models who will make the sacrifice of time and effort to help raise up this next generation. This doesn't only apply to our middle and high school youth-it is for all ages. We talk as a staff each week about the need for volunteer leaders in preschool and grade school and our college young men and those in their twenties and beyond need this as well.

God intended for men to take the lead in the development of faith for the family and that extends into the church and our society as well. I am very thankful for godly women that have taken the spiritual lead for families and our communities. Now is time for a revival of men that need to step into the role God intended them serve in.

A generation is floundering and may go to hell if we don't.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memory Loss

Ministry is hard. Life is hard. We often lose focus in the challenges of raising our children, working through difficulties in the church and struggling through our own uneven steps of faith. It can feel as if the walls are closing in and that the comfort and confidence we seek just can’t seem to be found. This is discouraging, deflating and has the potential to derail us from God’s path and vision.

I am reminded from Scripture this morning that we simply need to look to the past evidence of God’s work for our hope. It is easy for us to forget that He has already delivered us from a fruitless and hopeless future. The loud voice of urgency from our current circumstances can cause us to forget the soothing voice of what is important-our King has always been working for the good of those who love Him.

Much like the Israelites, we need to talk about the things that God has done to bring us to this point. Our faith will be emboldened as we pray, work and worship through current circumstances and are always looking to what our God will do next. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Constant Strength

I often say that there are no surprises for God. He is always fully in control and is never caught off guard when our circumstances change, when we make good and poor decisions or when tragedy and triumph strike. He always remains the same due to His nature and is never less than what we need to make it through each day. He is able to provide strength for us when we are willing to lean into Him-not just in times of difficulty, but in every day life.

It is a consistency in my dependency on God that I am searching for. I don't want to rely on Him only when things are tough or when ministry and life threaten to overwhelm me. I want to be known (not for my reputation's sake, but for His) as a man that finds his strength each day in the power of the King. I desire for all of who I am to have the mark of the Holy Spirit and the endurance that comes from my constant dependence on Him. It is in this consistency that I can strive to be a better example to my children, a more supportive and encouraging husband to my wife, a more effective pastor for the people I am called to serve and a fully devoted Christ follower ready to take on the world.

Psalm 104:33 "I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 
May my meditation be pleasing to Him as I rejoice in the Lord."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

All Together Now

We like to think that we can carve out chunks of our life and keep them separate from the other pieces. Our work life and our family life don't interact. We profess our faith in God on Sundays (and sometimes Wednesdays) but it doesn't spill over into other decisions that we make during the rest of the week. We pray and seek God when there are difficult times and tough decisions to make, but ignore the constant conversation that He actually desires for us because we don't feel the pressing need. We have become experts at compartmentalization.

Instead of our life being one whole unit searching for God in the midst of all that we do, we find ourselves filled with competing individual systems that prevent true synergy. Is it any wonder that we are then spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted? We are attempting to maintain boundaries of control in areas of life that God never intended us to keep. We keep limiting Him to a certain room in our house when what He really wants is for us to give Him the keys to the whole thing. Only then can we find true satisfaction in our Christian lives.