Sunday, September 30, 2012

Patient Urgency

I am about to reveal a secret that will shock people-I am not always a patient man. I know this may be a stunning revelation to those that know me, but it's time to get it out in the open. 

My lack of patience isn't necessarily with other people, but with the pace of progress. I want things to happen faster than they do, I want change to take root more quickly than it does, and I desire to see vision implemented more rapidly than normal. It reflects my desire for God's plan to take place, but with my timing.

Operating in faith is trusting in what God is doing, but moving forward as quickly as He allows. This is the example that Jesus set for us as He operated in human form. He was never rushed, but worked (and rested) diligently wherever He was. He maintained a pace of ministry that didn't waste opportunities, but eagerly used each moment to move forward in God's sovereign plan. I want to work with the same focused intensity as Christ, purposefully striving ahead to attain what God has ordained, but finding patience in my trust in His timing. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Story Time

"An authentic great Awakening is when people can't stop talking about 
what God is doing."
What Matters Most-Leonard Sweet

This is a reflection of genuine spiritual growth & what we call "fruit." It's a Christian concept that might be somewhat foreign in application to those outside the church. The farming metaphor isn't difficult to comprehend, but the personal application is unique. 

As we grow, we have to ask the question, "What are we producing?" This is a common question in business models, but when it is applied to the church & a Christian lifestyle it can be easily misconstrued. While numbers (# of people, $ of generosity, etc.) can be part of the positive measurement, it is incomplete to stop at this step. If our lives are dedicated to expanding God's Kingdom efforts in and through us, we should see markers of our efforts in the lives that we impact. While we may not be able to quantitatively measure that progress, it should be qualitatively reflected in our conversations. 

Too often we choose to be consumed with talking about the mundane, complaining about what we don't like, or gossiping about other people's lives. There are two possible explanations for falling into this pattern: we don't recognize the things that God is doing in us or nothing God-driven is taking place. The stories we tell will reveal God's depth of involvement in our story. As the Church we should be committed to weaving the tales of God's supernatural work in us & working diligently to see that theme continued in those around us.

That is how growth (fruit) will be measured--in tales of life transformation and God's Spirit at work.

Friday, September 28, 2012

On Deck

God, show me the next right thing to do.

This is a simple, yet powerful statement that I have been meditating on this week. There is an abundance of spiritual depth in this request and I believe it could transform our relationship with Christ if we ask it. What does asking this question of God reveal?

  • My recognition of God as King, Divine Planner, and Sovereign King
  • My willingness to trust God and my desire to please Him
  • My eyes are open to see God's plan--show me in ways I can understand
  • God has set my feet on a path & I don't want to wander off of it
  • I trust in His direction for myself more than I trust my own
  • I am eager to be obedient to God's leading, but I am unsure of what to do
  • I recognize that this a journey & I need God's help each step of the way
  • I have glimpses of where He is sending me, but I know I can't get further down the road without the next step
  • This next right step isn't limited to ministry & career, but is essential in each part of my life if it is dedicated to Christ
  • I recognize the importance of what is happening right now, but want to be prayerfully focused on the immediate next step
  • This isn't just a pious question--it's a precursor to action.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Right Here

We want to grow, change, & generally improve who we are. We buy self-help books, sign up for gym memberships, solicit advice from people we trust (or think we trust), and work to better ourselves. Very often we get frustrated with what we perceive is a lack of progress and then quit. I believe that the problem isn't always the slow pace of transformation, but that we have underestimated how much we need to change & overestimated our abilities to get it done. 

Honest assessment of where we are is the only way to begin. How can we possibly get where we are going if we don't know where we're starting from?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Light It Up

Have you ever spilled something in the dark? It seems to run away from you quickly and spread rapidly before hitting the floor and creating a bigger mess. You have to move quickly to turn on the lights and get things cleaned up, or your cleaning efforts won't be very effective.

In Luke 18, Jesus tells a story of two different (but messy) men--one who stands proudly and proclaims how good he is, and the other who stood at a distance and declared his desperate need for God. The self-righteous man made sure to bring into the light only those parts of himself he wants God & others to see-his virtue, his fidelity, his generosity. The genuinely repentant man hid nothing from the burning light of God and God provided mercy beyond belief. 

Jesus' story stresses our own need for transparency, confession, and stepping into the light of God's truth. Without this step of humbly revealing authenticity, we're only praying for our own sake and not transformation. It proves that even spiritually you can't clean up a mess in the dark-you only make a bigger mess.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Spiritual Hoarder

Are we constantly seeking God's blessing & direction and yet doing nothing with it? We aren't saved just to enhance our personal spiritual portfolio, we are called to engage with fellow stakeholders for the benefit of God's Kingdom. It is profit sharing on Holy steroids--experiencing the great riches of God's grace and then hitting the streets to hand out options to Kingdom membership to everyone in need. It's not a club of exclusivity but the greatest public access message we can share. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not My Problem

It's a true maxim that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. This might seem like an inflexible approach to situations, but I have found it to be valid.

We can usually identify the things that are wrong in situations--a critical eye is not difficult for most of us to develop. It actually takes more patience and creative processes to identify an issue or trend and then work towards a feasible solution. The fixation on problems doesn't actually improve anything without action. Too many businesses, schools, churches, and families are overwhelmed with people who are contributing to their problems by simply pointing them out. If we actually desire to see things made better, we need to discern potential ways of improvement as we see trials arise. It's a philosophy and process that is best started within each of us.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

We Care

We sent around 100 missionaries into Milledgeville today to let our community know that God's Church cares about them. It took the form of mowing, trimming, weeding, cleaning, painting, a car wash and acts of generosity and kindness. We wore t-shirts saying, "Northridge Cares" and put sweat equity into helping our city. New friendships were made and stories are pouring in of the impact on the people and organizations we were able to benefit. 

My hope is that this is not a simple calendar event that brings us together and temporarily energizes a crowd. It should stir up in us a desire to be intentionally missional as a Church. This isn't a bucket list item, but a way of life as God's people.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Keep the Change

Metathesiophobia is the fear of change.  It's possible that we fear the process because the results are unknown. Sometimes I would wager that we just don't like the boundaries of our comfort zone being altered. I don't know that most people are actually afraid of change, but I would certainly say that it is something we don't generally like.

As I was mowing this morning, I was thinking about that process of creating change in our personal lives. What type of event does it take before we see change as something positive? What has to happen to us that encourages us to do something different than what we are doing right now? There has to be some shift that takes place that pushes us to do things differently. In a blog I read this week, a fellow pastor stated that our fear of change decreases when our fear of the status quo is greater. For us to have the courage to undergo true transformation there has to be some dissatisfaction with the results we have seen to this point. It is the undercurrent of unhappiness that pushes us to try something different. We are then faced with the choice of staying stagnant and miserable or taking the risk of doing something new and experiencing growth even if the process is difficult and the journey unknown.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Changing Definitions

One of the biggest adjustments I have had to make in ministry was to my definition of productivity. There are days when I feel as if I am in a whirlwind and yet I check nothing off of my daily task list. Today was one of those days and yet I feel good about the effort and concentration that I put into the day. I started to list the details of my schedule, but I don't know that I can rightly recall every part of what went into it. I remember looking at my Franklin planner mid-afternoon and thinking, "I'm not going to be able to check anything off of that list before I go home."

I do take some comfort in the fact that (almost) everything I did today was part of my overall vision for ministry and helped to further the vision of the church in some way (even if a small one at that.) When you have days like this (not that they are bad in themselves) it is good to be able to know that while they may not have appeared to be highly productive on the outside, they were a part of moving one step further along in the vision of who God is leading us to be.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lifetime Achievement

To follow up on yesterday's blog: How do you work to make sure you aren't a one-hit wonder?
  • Consistent prayer--even when the words don't flow smoothly
  • Thoughtfully reading the Word--even when it's a struggle to get through a passage
  • Volunteering--even when it's difficult to maintain the commitment and you wonder if you're making an impact
  • Being patient with your children instead of being rash with your words
  • Thinking the best of your spouse instead of assuming the worst
  • Pursuing discipline in all areas of your life--even when it's the last thing you want to do
  • Honoring God by giving your best effort in your job--even if it's not a job you want to be in
  • Waiting patiently for the answer to prayers you have been faithfully praying for a long time
  • Maintaining integrity when no one else is watching you & there's no way any one would find out
Faithfully developing our character happens over a lifetime of discipline and gives us the opportunity to be an influence for more than just one brief moment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One Hit Wonder

When we were on vacation in Florida, I was watching ESPN SportsCenter one morning before heading down to the beach. They mentioned that the Oakland A's had a promotional day at the ballpark for Terry Kiser the actor who starred in the 80's flick, "Weekend at Bernie's." For those unfamiliar with this cinematic classic (tongue-in-cheek here), Kiser played the role of a guy who was dead for 90% of the film. I see that he has done other things in his career, but this one movie was being celebrated over 20 years later at a baseball game.

I was thinking as I watched the highlights from the game how disappointing it must be to only have one remarkable event to celebrate during the past 20 years of life. What would happen today if we had a day honoring the greatest accomplishment(s) in our lives over the past two decades? Would we only be remembered for one act of faith in the distant past? Would our spouses only boast about an event that happened on an anniversary many years ago? Would our children only be able to tell the story of a long passed vacation or special family day?

I would hate to think that my life would be narrowed down to celebrating memories of "that one time" ten years ago. I don't want my life to be a one-hit wonder, but instead a testimony of enduring faith and persevering love for God and my family. That doesn't mean that I will always get it right, but it does reflect a desire to be a constant expression of Christ and striving to make each day count in my relationships.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The 4th Degree

In Mark 12:30, Jesus tells a crowd that the most important command is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. On the surface this obviously seems like a good idea-you should love God before anything else in your life. Upon further inspection however, you realize the difficulty of the commitment level that He is asking for. It's not just that we are supposed to put God at the top of our priority list, but that we love Him with every facet of who we are. This is where we struggle and honestly wonder how God can demand such a high level of devotion from us.

God commands all of that from us because He understands things that we don't. If we only commit our heart and strength, but keep our soul and mind for ourselves, we will eventually drift to submitting none of ourselves to Him. He realizes the weakness of our nature and that the only safe place for us to be is fully committed to His cause and Kingdom. It's not a petty or envious request, but one that provides protection and has the capacity to change each part of us. If we believe that God only wants the best for His children then it should spur us to want to give Him the best of who we are as well.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Straight Aim

When we partnered with Vaughn Chapel to host a camp for underserved children in Milledgeville this summer, we went to a camp that had a ton of activities. One of the most fun for the campers (and staffers) was when we got to shoot the BB guns. It was enjoyable for a bit and then they put up some paper targets and aluminum cans for us to aim at. That transformed a fun activity into something that quickly got serious. Several of our male staffers were suddenly very interested in shooting the guns (including yours truly) and spent several minutes and dozens of BBs trying to see who could hit the most targets. Once we knew what we were aiming at it changed our focus and intensity.

It's no different in a Christian life either. We can meander through attending church services and going to events and yet feel that something is missing. When we choose to purposefully read God's Word, determine how it impacts our life, and then do something about it, things change. Identifying the targets that God wants us to focus on and then working on them will put emphasis on the life-changing principles that matter. Much like shooting BB guns, the challenge and excitement of working towards something is pretty rewarding.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


My name is Craig and I am a recovering sin addict. I have not recovered from it, but am continuing to work in the process of the pursuit of holiness. I do not fight this battle alone, but move forward with the power of the Holy Spirit. I gain confidence in the promises of God, who began a good work in me and will see it to completion. When I fail in my imperfect nature (and I will) I can grab on to the promises of forgiveness by confessing my sin. The journey onward will be difficult, but when I realize that holiness is my goal I can make the decisions that will lead me in that direction. I will get frustrated with the power that I feel sin has over me, but I find encouragement in the transformation that life with Christ brings each day. Some days it will be easier than others, but the fight strengthens me in ways I can only glimpse right now. My admission of weakness and subsequent seeking of God's fortifying power will bring victory. Sin and death have already been conquered for me and I will strive to live in that truth today.

Friday, September 14, 2012

24 Hours

"At the end of the day" is a phrase that is used to describe a situation where everything has been taken into consideration. I was mowing this morning and listening to a pastor who uses that phrase quite often in his preaching and it got me thinking. What is true at the end of the day in my life?
  • Whatever I didn't accomplish today will be there tomorrow--and if it's not I really don't have to worry about it
  • I am one day closer to the end of my life here
  • My wife is still the love of my life
  • I love three incredibly beautiful and gifted daughters
  • I am a product of heredity, my environment, and God's grace
  • God's mercies will be new when I wake up
  • Even if today's circumstances have been uneven or unpleasant, God still works all things out for my good
  • I tried to better myself today--even in some small way
  • I didn't have all the answers to my life when I started this day & still don't
  • I am blessed by the people I am fortunate enough to interact with each day
  • I have had an impact on someone today--whether positive or negative
  • I am a son of the King
  • To paraphrase one of my favorite baseball writers, "And tomorrow will be better than today."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Turning Point

I wrote yesterday about God's correction in our lives & our need to respond to it quickly. The question each of us has to answer is: What is God specifically asking us to repent of? 
  • Parenting issues (addressing problems instead of ignoring them, investing specifically in their future by doing the hard work of disciplining now)
  • Marriages (honestly & lovingly communicating, adding value to our spouses instead of devaluing them, refusing to participate in emotional or physical infidelity)
  • Finances (borrowing more than we can repay, mortgaging our future for temporary pleasures)
  • Spirituality (putting off prayer/Bible for Facebook time, filling our schedules so that church isn't an option or is the last option)
  • Community (allowing ourselves to take action for those around us in need instead of thinking someone else will step up)
  • Blatant, intentional sin (getting drunk & calling it "blowing off steam", addicted to porn, flirting with people not our spouse, lying to improve our position or "stay out of trouble", choosing physical intimacy outside of God's desire for short-term satisfaction)

We have to develop a desire to identify sin & remove ourselves from it. If someone dropped a hand grenade in our living room we wouldn't get as close to it as possible with our family, but would remove them from harm's way. The same caution must be shown to sin if we want to escape the direct and collateral damage it causes. Our obedience to repentance reveals our willingness to follow Christ.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Turn Around

The people I love, I call to account--prod and correct and guide so that they'll live 
at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! Revelation 3:19

We tend to associate correction with negative thoughts and believe that anyone who would call us to account isn't in our favor. It's also a popular misconception about God and reinforces the negative image that has been created in the minds of so many about His true nature. Part of His loving nature includes correcting us so that we can become the best possible version of us. It's what a genuine, loving parent would do for their children.

There is a sense of urgency in this verse as well. Not only is God encouraging us to pay attention to His correction, He wants us to do it quickly. The longer we put off repentance, the more damage we do to ourselves and those we care about. Running after God reveals the value we put on our intimacy with Him and our inner desire to live life His way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Who Are You?

The familiar, common expression is that you are what you eat. I don't deny that my (un)healthy eating habits certainly affect my overall physical shape, but I think it is more accurate to say that how we treat people really defines who we are. It reveals our estimation of ourselves and is a barometer of our emotional health. This can be a positive or negative indicator of our spiritual condition and the realization of what God has done (and is doing) in us. 

It makes statements such as hurting people hurt people, found people find people, and forgiven people forgive people true. We've all experienced both ends of this relationship and need to ask ourselves the big questions of who we really are & how that is reflected in our treatment of others. It is a self-analysis that opens our eyes to what God has done and hopefully spurs us to treat others with the same kindness we have been shown by our Savior. 

Do we want to be known by the grace that we've been given or for the judgment we give away?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Much Bigger

Do we recognize that we are part of something that is bigger than us? If we realize that our efforts are not about our own personal kingdom, but are an investment in the growth of God's great Kingdom, it changes our motivation. No longer do we sit with arms folded in resentment when the music is too loud. Generations will start to appreciate the history of Christianity (music, traditions, etc.) instead of so quickly casting it aside for the sake of something new. Moving to a new service isn't about an inconvenience, but providing an opportunity for new people to connect to the fluidly changing & growing body of Christ. We don't become consumed with the idea of being the biggest church on the street, but pray earnestly for all of God's Church to grow quickly.

When the spotlight moves from us to God it changes the culture of the Church. It's no longer OUR church, but HIS. We can attempt to deny this truth and watch a man-made organization collapse (and it will) or embrace the reality that we are part of something that is much bigger than us and watch it flourish.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Good Eyesight

In 2 Chronicles 20:12, there is a statement that carries great weight. In the face of an unsure battle a prayer is offered to God, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You." This is an incredible example of humility and dependence on the One who provides solutions to the problems we can't seem to overcome.

I think that we find ourselves in the position of not knowing what to do quite often, but we fall short in turning our vision to God in the process. We wait until things have deteriorated in our relationships or circumstances before we begin to pray desperate prayers. If we were willing to admit at the beginning of each day that we don't know what to do and that our vision is resting on God alone, it would change our focus. We would no longer journey through life depending on our strength, but instead trusting in God's ability to work in & through us. To see strongholds demolished and our lives restored, we need to admit our weaknesses and start turning our eyes to God.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Capture the Moment

Each morning as I am watching the sunrise, I am amazed at how quickly it changes. When I take a picture I capture a specific moment that can't be replicated again. If I don't take it right then, the moment is gone.

How often do we miss that same moment in life? We can become consumed with so many other details that we fail to grab a few minutes with our children, we pass up a chance to share Christ, neglect a moment to tell  our spouse how much they mean to us, and fail to seize an unexpected God-given opportunity. We can choose to be discouraged when we reflect on the missed moments or be motivated to make sure the next one doesn't pass by without taking action.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Keeping Pace

I don't find it accidental that I read about the faith of Abraham in Hebrews this morning & also in the Watchman Nee book I am reading. It had me reflecting on Abraham's faith in God's promise to bless him with descendants. When Abraham became impatient, he slept with Hagar to have a son instead of waiting to conceive a child with his wife. I don't think that Abraham doubted God's ability to fulfill His promise, but He obviously had issues with God's timing.

I like to think that I have confidence in God's ability to deliver. The difficult part can often be waiting for God's timing. When we pray and seek vision for growth, development of ministry, and rescue for family, we can become impatient waiting for His response to become evident. We can be tempted to force things and will take risks that are not signs of faith, but instead highlight our doubts.

The greatest challenge in living a faith-filled life can be to maintain the pace that God has set before us. When His timing is right we can be assured of divine deliverance. We shouldn't shortcut the opportunity for spiritual development as we move forward at the pace God has set for us.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lift the Veil

Yesterday I was on our balcony watching the sun come up while my family was sleeping. It was a peaceful start to my Sunday with a good cup of coffee & time to read my Bible. In between watching the ocean and reading, I was reflecting on what God has done in our lives the past three years. Sometimes I fail to recognize how much has transpired and how God has been actively working in and through us. The crazy schedule of life can often distract me from seeing God's constantly moving plan. Fixing my attention only on task lists causes a veil to be dropped over my eyes. It prevents me from seeing the truth of my purpose and the work that God is calling me to be a part of. I need these glimpses of reality to encourage me to keep striving when things are tough. It's a perfect reminder of the undercurrent of God's plan throughout all of my life.