It’s been a really long time since I’ve posted on here. Part of that has been business of life and part of that has been refusal to reflect. Either way, after I go through a long break from blogging it’s nice to get back to writing and thinking through life. This week I have been doing a lot of thinking about the idea of wisdom. On Sunday, our pastor gave a message on Solomon and how to live life wisely. We discussed this in community group and worked through a sheet on praying for wisdom. I finally went through that sheet this morning — and God answered! I’ve been desiring to seek wisdom for a few weeks now, feeling stressed and overwhelmed. But I wouldn’t make the time to sit, ask and listen to God. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” My challenge to us all is to seek wisdom and let God show up!
1/1712 – 2:35am over the North East Canadian coastline.
As we fly east, away from North America and towards Istanbul I was struck with the notion that I needed to open up my window shade so I could watch the sunrise. Thank you Jesus that as I was drifting off to sleep I chose to open that shade because I am now wide awake journaling about the majesty of my King. I opened up my window shade and was greeted with a pitch black night sky with a perfectly suspended crescent moon, seemingly below the airplane. Now as I sit here writing this we are flying “past” the moon which has risen to slightly above my eye level. I must admit I’m not very well versed in the Psalms but I knew there had to be one that would capture my heart far greater than I could write it down. Psalms 8 did just that.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1-9 ESV)
My God made the moon and the night sky in all it’s splendor. The beauty of this moon, so close and big, is too much to describe. The picture does it little justice. I am simply in awe of the Creator and that He would choose to make me, unique and different than everyone else with a purpose to match. My words are failing me, so I will end with a prayer of praise.
“Father, you are perfect and you are holy. Your love for this world and me uniquely is incomprehensible. Praise your name, may I always rever it. Your plans are glorious and your purposes pure. Thank you for choosing me. Amen.”
Tomorrow I embark on most certainly the greatest adventure of 2012 if not the greatest adventure of my life. I am heading to Turkey and Romania for a 2 week missions trip with my church. If you would like updates about the trip as we go check out www.abcchurchmissions.wordpress.com. I’ll try to post a time or two on here as well, but no promises. Before I left I wanted to take a couple moments to share what the team and I are endeavoring to do, a few of my expectations, and how you can be praying for us.
First, our goal is to partner with existing missionaries that my church supports and their church planter network. The purpose of this is to expose these church planters to the ideas and practices of relational ministry, or simply living the Christian life together. We want them to see this in the way we live our lives amidst them and in how we communicate our message to them also.
My expectations for this trip are few. I expect to be “wow”ed by international travel and places. I’ve only ever been to Mexico, so I’m so excited for simply the experience of travel. I am also expecting to wait patiently on Jesus, for Him to point us in the right direction. Since we are going there to demonstrate relational ministry, we are relying on Jesus to prepare the way for us to do relational ministry with them. Finally, I am expecting a sense of renewed vigor for my faith. Going to Istanbul and doing ministry in a city of 13,000,000 of Muslim dominance is bound to be an eye opener for me.
If you desire, please pray for myself and the team to have safe travel, good health, and be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We desire to be vessels for His ministry. Thanks for reading, praying, and caring.
- 1/16 – 1/17: Fly from LAX to Istanbul, Turkey
- 1/17 – 1/22: Ministry in Istanbul (+ a little sight seeing)
- 1/22 – 1/23: 19 hour train ride from Istanbul to Bucharest
- 1/23 – 1/27: Ministry in Alba Iulia, Romania
- 1/28 – 1/30: Ministry in Cluj, Romania
- 1/30 – 1/31: Fly Bucharest –> Turkey –> Chicago –> LAX
- 2/1: Home at last!
In a recent blog I shared that I will be focusing this year on three topics of writing: Leadership, Self-Discipline, and Theology. In an attempt to set a goal and truly learn this year I am starting a series entitled “Leadership Monday.” My desire this year is to re-read the books above that I “read” during my undergrad years now that I have a specific application field in ministry. Here’s a short explanation as to these four books in my own words:
- The Volunteer Revolution (Bill Hybels:2004) – Volunteers make a ministry successful, poorly equipped leaders drain a ministry of its potential. This short book is written to leaders of volunteers to equip them to call people into service as an act of worship. My desire is that this book lights a fire in my heart for volunteerism and gives me new ideas on how to train up a great team of volunteers!
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Patrick Lencioni:2002) – Teamwork is essential to sustaining ministry. This book looks at five unhealthy environments for teams to be in and how to overcome them. My desire is that I would learn to spot these unhealthy environments early and learn how to shape a path toward healthy team function.
- Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership (Ruth Barton: 2008) – A common misconception within leadership circles is that everyone else is more important than me. This book reminds and encourages the leader to make themselves a priority and before caring for others to care for their own soul. My desire is to learn habits and rhythms by which I can be a stronger believer and therefore a stronger leader.
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (John C Maxwell:1998/2007) – A leader needs to be head smart and people smart in order to maximize his or her effectiveness. This book looks at 21 different principles of leadership, that when leveraged properly catapult a leader toward the prize. My desire is to work on my personal leadership pitfalls through this book and increase my ability to lead others.
Let the journey begin. I’m excited to learn and grow in my own areas of leadership. Spending time in these books and in prayer over how to implement the knowledge I’m learning will no doubt be a great exercise this year. I can’t wait to see how the Lord reveals my strengths and weaknesses and encourages me on to be the leader He has created me to be.
In school I was taught that the best teaching moments arrive when the learner desires to learn. Motivation must arise before action can be taken. The implications of this on theology, evangelism, and the church are enormous. If we engage people without a care to who they are or where they have been, then we are not maximizing our effectiveness as a witness. As believers, we need motivation to live the life that Christ has called us to. Whether that is an encouraging word from a friend, a quote from a book, or a timely sermon I believe it should also stem from our own personal scripture reading. The following passage is driving me to seek Christ more and go back to the basics of what it means to be a Christ follower.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
Titus 2:11-14, ESV
Christ and His work on the cross is that which Paul speaks of here. It is this love that enables us, His followers, to say “No to sin” (NIV) and focus on living “self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.” Jesus is our motivation. Let’s simplify the complexities of life to a simple truth, Jesus loves us! He loves you and has redeemed you (if you have put your faith and trust in Him). Without Jesus our destiny is death and destruction, but because of Jesus we can live our life with freedom from sin and a destiny among the heavens with our brothers and sisters and Lord Jesus himself.
Let’s keep it simple this coming year. Keep your eyes on Jesus and remind yourself daily of the gospel. Encourage one another on and pursue the righteousness of God above all else.
In 2012 I want a clear direction, a new focus, and a target to aim at. One way I desire to do this is by limiting the content on this blog to a few subjects. As I drove home to the central coast from my parents house after Christmas I talked with my dad about the desires of my heart. While those desires are vast they can mostly be boiled down to three different categories: Theology, Self-Discipline, and Leadership.
Theology: As I strive to be a man of God I lay my foundation upon the truth and challenge revealed in Romans 12:2 and 2 Timothy 2:15. During 2012 expect posts that have to do with what I’m learning through my ministry at ABC, through my graduate studies, and what I’m digging into on my own as I read through the Bible in its entirety this year.
Self-Discipline: One of the biggest things that I learned in 2011 was that I need to crack the whip more and buckle down. However, I didn’t do a very good job. I desire to blog about strategies, convictions, and my motivations for living a life of self-discipline. My prayer this year is to truly live out Luke 9:23 as I continually seek Him.
Leadership: I am a young leader. I serve on a church staff, am a community group leader for my peers, and am a friend to many. Hebrews 10:24 talks about encouraging one another to live the life Christ has called us to. It is my desire to be a better leader by reading on the subject and sharing my own experiments as I grow into the leader I have been called to be.
I ask for your prayer and encouragement. As you read these posts, comment on them as you would if I were sharing my life with you in person. I desire feedback and accountability. May Christ guide and encourage you as we all begin this new year.
Interestingly enough, when the New Testament kicks off, the Jewish faith has drastically changed from where it was left in the Old Testament. The establishment of the Synagogue, Pharisees and Sadducees effectively institutionalized Judaism. With the intent of reaching a geographically expansive race the Temple became the “mother of all Synagogues” and its high place in tradition was lowered. Pharisees and Sadducees fulfilled the role of spiritual guidance, worship, sacrifice and education. With this much power of interpretation and implementation of the written and oral traditions they could also be known as the gatekeepers, allowing certain “good boys and girls” into favorable standing with the Synagogue. Jewish faith was no longer about proclaiming God and elevating Him to his rightful place, but keeping up with the Jones’ of faith and outwardly showing others that they had the right stuff.
With this mentality setting the scene it is no wonder that Jesus would rebuke the religious leaders in Matthew 23 and say:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (27-28)
Jesus called these guys out and let them know that they have missed the mark. His message was one of redemption and salvation. He places blame squarely on the religious leaders of the day for the state of the Jewish faith. The challenge was simple; you care more about what you look like on the outside and have neglected the heart and soul – the only immaterial and eternal thing about you.
Fast-forward just over two thousand years and take a look around the present state of the church. We have come a long ways, but in many ways I believe we are right back in the throws of hypocrisy that plagued the Pharisees and Sadducees. Think it through; Christianity has become an institution marked by soul care and social justice. Having coffee with the pastor, emotional music and lighting on a Sunday morning, short-term mission trips around the world, and giving money to bring aid to others have all taken on a trendy approach. Don’t get me wrong, I think each one of these tools can effect life transformation in a congregation, but when the motivation for being apart of these efforts is to look good on the outside there is a major problem.
Being in my little place of ministry for the last year I have gained a new perspective on the life of ministry. It is not an easy life. Tasked with living and leading the life modeled by Jesus in the gospels in the midst of running great programs and engaging with the congregation will take its toll on anyone. It is also different for every leader based on how God has uniquely made him or her. For me I place a lot of emphasis on achievement or perfectionism within my own life. I believe God has given me a great responsibility to not only run programs and teach kids, but to model in everything I do the life that I desire others to have. This is why 1 Corinthians 11:1 has become my life verse as I attempt to become like Paul to those I minister.
But I’m 23. I am young, inexperienced, naive, and still figuring out life. It takes a lifetime of walking with God and establishing discipline to get even close to the man we are called to become. Yet, it is my DNA makeup to desire perfection right now. That is why my own sin and shortcomings get me down day after day. I am hard on myself, frustrated that I can say one thing to kids and forget to remind myself of the same teaching later that day. And so I repent and ask for restoration in my relationship with the Father, but feel like I am adding a coat of paint to my skin covering.
How does one overcome this in a position of leadership? If someone were to come to me and ask for advice on this situation I would encourage that person to surround themselves with accountability and encouragement to help them in their spiritual journey and remind them that Christ died so that grace may be extended to make the unholy – holy. Yes, grace is important. We must look at ourselves with the eyes of Christ, as forgiven and redeemed members of the body. This view encourages course correction and forward progress rather than the idea that we have to pay for our sins even though Christ already did that.
Sin has the power to destroy. It will destroy from the outside or from within by limiting the effectiveness of a believer.
Jesus has the power to heal. He came for that very purpose, and the Holy Spirit guides us on the journey to living a life of ministry within powerful grace.
Finally, let us each be encouraged by Romans 8:11. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (ESV) Our battle everyday is that of flesh and spirit. With Christ in us we can become more transparent and less white washed as we seek to be more like Him in everything we say and do.