Go in Peace

Crazy this phrase of “go in peace”….I love what this phrase says to us. Go…and in peace. Have you ever thought that the Great Commission is in the spirt of this phrase to go in the peace of God. The peace that passes all understanding is something that has weight, authority and a sense of comfort so it is in this that we are called to go in that same peace into a world that needs the love of Jesus. John 20 when Jesus appears to the disciples he says this in verse 21 “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” Likewise the Great Commission calls for us to Go and knowing that we will not be alone in the going. So think of this…we are all called to go into the cold, hurting, painful, struggling world but….with an authority, a helper, a peace that outweighs all things. So Go make disciples…Go in peace…and surely I (Jesus) am with you till the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).  Just Go……..

 

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Rest, Reflect, Refocus, Re-center

I have been talking to someone who can help we refocus my life and my ministry.  I have a counselor and a coach and both are encouraging me to rest, refocus, re-center and reflect.  It is easier said than done….I have always been a work-a-holic.  I worked in retail for years and in those years the one who was idle didn’t succeed and didn’t get the promotion.  It is funny that it seems that the world is the exact same no matter what position you may have. Work hard, work 7 days, work 10+ hours a day and then you will succeed.  When my coach first asked me about my days of rest I said honestly I figured my day of rest would be the day I am buried 6 feet under the earth.  Of course she did say well that will come a lot sooner if you keep the pace you are going.  Now this is not for some people to abuse it and say every time you are off it is sabbath rest but there is a fine balance and believe me I am not the best at it.

However…I am trying.  I want to be a great husband, a great dad, a great friend/neighbor and a great pastor but I have realized I can’t be at my best unless I take time to rest, refocus,  re-center and reflect.  This is as important as exercise is to the body but also the soul.  I hit the Scriptures to look for those places where rest was talked about and from Genesis where God rested on the 7th day to Jesus going off to pray and so on.  There is this sense that rest has to become intentional.  It is so hard to just chill  and do nothing.  I feel like it is me wasting time but what I am slowly and I mean slowly learning is that this is extremely important.

Society/the world says work hard, work every day and your value is based on the hours you put in.  God says your value is based on resting at Jesus’ feet.  Matthew 11:28-30 says;  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This passage reflects the salvation that is in Christ but it is also a reflection of the value that Christ has for people.  Come….rest…my life is a way to release those burdens, those struggles, come and take rest for your soul.  Jesus is the Lord of the sabbath (Matthew 12:8) and it is in this sabbath that each of us (me big time) can find rest, refocus, reflection, and a re-centering.  God made sabbath for us…Mark 2:27 says it was made FOR humankind.  So while the world says work till you die….Jesus says rest so that you may have life and have it to the full.   Come take a rest with me….I need it…..

CONFESSION AND PARDON

This time of year brings a lot of reflection and just pause to think about what life holds and where we are in our own space.  New Years brings resolution but Lent seems to bring more resolve. As people focus on their own spirituality this time of year let us pause to see what we have been entrusted to do.  There is an element of service that we are called to give our best to the world and community.  There is this sense of making the world a better place and how can we do that?  Some might say it is environmental things, serving those in the margins or pouring into kids in schools, etc…  In all these things there is one over ending resolve and that it is to treat others as we would want to be treated.  The golden rule is what some might say but in my life I believe in a greater power and authority that rests in Jesus.  Now not all of you may stand where I stand and that is ok but just keep reading.  I read stories of Jesus trying to make the world better one person at a time and then in the end offering his life to make the whole world better.  Now I know that I will never make the whole world better but I do believe as Jesus did and that I can help one person at a time.  It is leaning on the belief of loving God and loving people.  I want to love people as much as my God loves me.  There are those days though where my life doesn’t look like love and it is in this time of year makes me pause, reflect and find resolve.

Part of my resolve is helping serve every couple weeks at a homeless meal program and I don’t do it because I am trying to serve some kind of penitence or need volunteer hours but it is something that is more of a need.  I need to be in the dirt, I need to be in the ditch, I need to love people, I need to serve those that need love/deserve love.  So why can’t I love them?  Why can’t I value them more than  myself?  That’s it!!!  Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…”  My resolve for Lent is to value and love people no matter what….NO gaps, NO “but those people”, NO “look at what they have done”, NO “they are not like you.”  I will resolve to LOVE and that is it…

Merciful God, I confess that I have not loved you with MY whole heart.

I have failed to be an obedient church person.

I have not done your will,

   I have broken your law,

   I have rebelled against your love,

   I have not loved MY neighbors,

   and I have not heard the cry of the needy.

Forgive ME, I pray.

Free ME for joyful obedience,

      through Jesus Christ MY Lord. Amen!

The Big Wait

You know waiting really…..sucks.  I hate waiting for test results from doctors, scores from school, people taking too long to get ready in the morning, my son in the shower.  Whatever it is I struggle with the wait.  I will be honest, I am ADD and also very impatient.  So let’s just say waiting is not a top priority in my life but God a lot of times forces me there to slow me down.  It really ties into my sabbath and other things as well.  I do not sabbath well at all because I always feel like I have to be doing  something.  So let’s just say that in the waiting I struggle.

So the combination of ADD and impatience is a place where it leads to some of my growing edges.  Staying on track, leading the charge but forgetting the ones behind me and at times some a struggle with really thinking through processes (I’m getting better at this).  Now visioning…I got that down.  it is funny I took a test a few months ago and it classified me as a quick start.  Well that’s stereotyping….just kidding.  Actually it sounds a lot more positive to me.  “Yes I am a quick start!” 

In all this I would like to propose a question:  Can a person be impatient, ADD, quick start be used for a greater good in the Kingdom of God?  Is it good for the church?

Too me…I would say yes.  People like me who are impatient, ADD, hate to wait are the ones who seem to have more of a Holy discontent.  No, this is not a bad thing but it is a good thing, why?  Non-waiting people are discontent with same ole, same ole.  They are discontent with status quo.  They are discontent with radical injustice. They are discontent with the church not standing in the gap for people but are just waiting patiently for the church’s death.  This is where an ADD-impatient person can lead.  This person needs to lead out of their passions.  They need to lead with their “white hot why” (Bill Hybels), in the forefront.  They need to lead people from here to there (another Hybels quote).  You see this can change the world, the church and the lives of people. 

So ask yourself…are you impatient, hate waiting, have tendencies of ADD moments?  Then use it to glorify God.  Run ahead of the pack.  Change the world.  Change lives.  Be a rebel.  God will do some great things in and through you.  Now GO!

The Struggle is Real

Man….so many struggles today and honestly for the past 2 weeks.  It has been a whirlwind of emotion and frustration.  People I know and meet are hurting and struggling. Choices that need to be made, need to be made today.  Hope that people need right now, needs to flow like a river.  Myself I have been dealing with some health struggles and wondering why now….seriously, why now.  My anxiety and worry has been flourishing more than anything these days.

I think a lot of it is from worry about health and also some about future.  I know that Scripture tells me not to worry about tomorrow but you know that is easier said than done.  What will my future look like 5-10 years from now?  What will happen to the denomination I love? Yeah we have struggles but I desire for us to stay together.  My wife of 22+ years is my best friend and true soulmate.  That is not a struggle and I have that going for me.  What about our kids?  I mean one will graduate college in a few years while another will be going through it.  Wow, they sure do grow up quick.  Have I told them everything that I needed to tell them?  Did I share my heart enough with them?  Was I too hard on them as a dad?  Was I a good spiritual dad to them?

I realize that life comes in waves.  Waves of peace and prosperity. Waves of highs and lows and sometimes waves of struggle and worry.  So what else is there to say.  I am in a season of worry about health, ministry and my kids.  I want the best for my kids, I want the best out of the ministry God has given to me (yes God is very gracious and without that I am nothing), I want my health not to be a factor in all this.  So for me to say the struggle is real, is an honest statement and I believe in being honest and open. 

So here is my cry to God today….Send Your peace like no other.  Scripture tells me that it is a peace which passes ALL understanding and I need that right now.  Some joy, some hope, some healing, some peace…needs to flow over me like a river.  I am willing to wade in the water and let the waves go above me but I need God’s peace to overwhelm.  Overwhelm Holy Spirit…I need this struggle to go away. 

Erasing Lines

This past couple weeks has been a whirlwind.  So many things are going on in the political world, church world and my personal world.   I was listening to a song from Bethel today and it talked about “A love that erases all the lines and sees the truth.”  I keep reflecting on this phrase and trying to figure what it means to me.  Erasing lines….society and even the church has created more and more lines over the years.  The lines between race, gender, religion, political views, economic levels and many other things have been around but, I don’t remember them being so defined in my life.  It is like the gap gets bigger and bigger each year.  I would like to say that all the lines are drawn by political officials (honestly they don’t help much) but, I really believe the lines are growing because the church is not helping or stepping up to help.  What is the church called to do?  Here is what Ephesians 1:4-14 says;

Ephesians 1:4-14

4 “just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.”

God has called the church to lavish grace as God did.  The church is called to forgive as God does.  The church is called to make know the mysteries of Jesus Christ and the understanding of redemption. All this happens with no lines drawn.  Drawing lines between race, religion, gender, economic status, or other only prohibits people from experiencing the love, the redemption and riches of grace that God pours on each person.  This is a season and a time for all people to radically step up and share the love and light of Christ in this world.  This is a time and a season to say no to the status quo.  This is a season and a time to be change makers and LINE ERASERS.  The church is called to rise up with the hope that Christ gives in glory.  So here is my plea…..no more division, no more hate, no more violence, no more lines.  Let’s learn to love and lavish grace as Christ did through His own life.

The Political Spirit

As I pray, read and listen I get a sense of a political spirit that is roaming this country looking to destroy hope, bring fear, anger and bitterness.  I wonder how much those who call on God are truly calling on God during this time or praying against things.  What happens is that more and more people are praying against leaders (whether you agree or disagree with the leader or not) instead of praying for that person.  Yes, this means we pray for even if we totally disagree with their viewpoint.  Now I am a social justice nut and see a nation that has betrayed race, gender and many other things.  It makes me very angry and upset at a lot of leaders. But in my anger I found one thing…a spirit that wants, desires for all people to have this anger, hurt and bitterness.  This is that political spirit that is not of God.

This is not how we as people of God are called to live.  We are called to pray for, lift up in the midst of our disagreement.  I read this passage today:

1 Timothy 2:-4  2 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

I get this strange feeling that if the people of God pray more against a leader that what they will get is their worst nightmare.  Let me explain…you pray against a leader or pray at a leader then what happens is this political spirit takes over and you get exactly what you thought.  I heard a story today of a foreign nation years ago that thought the elected official was the anti-christ.  So the people started to pray against this leader or more pray at the leader and what they got was an “anti-christ” person.  A leader that was against anything of God or helping people.  What if instead of praying at this leader, they prayed for in thanksgiving?  Praying in thanksgiving changes the atmosphere of how we pray. 

I am like a bunch of you and not real excited about how our nation is going.  But, I am now changing my prayer.  I am praying for the new leaders coming in.  I prayed for ALL the previous ones.  Why would I not pray for the new leader coming in?  I may not like all they do or say but I know that the prayers for the new administration in a spirit of thankfulness to God can change anyone.  I think we forget to lean on a greater power and a greater authority. 

Petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for ALL people, for kings and ALL those in authority.  This is the only way to defeat the political spirit.  Rise up and be a people of love and prayer.  There is and always will be a power that is greater than in this world.

Compelled by Love

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Compelled by Love

Life is so confusing.  It has hurts, pains, tragedy and so many other negative things that lead us to just sit around and hurt or be depressed.  I really hate this and it affects my life too.  I feel depression and anxiety rise up in me and it is such a battle to keep it away.  It is every day we have judgement and condemnation of people who are different or do things differently than we do.  Most of the time the people of the church are some of the worst.  It causes people to reflect on less joy, less love and less God.  So today I am deciding to do something different.  I am going to allow my life to be compelled by love.  Yes…moved, radically changed, bubbling over with love.  I pray that the example I live affects other people.  People with no judgement, no condemnation and show more grace, more love and more peace.  “Blessed are the peace-makers.”

We must learn or change our lives to be compelled by love.  In a life full of love there is less hate, less pain, no judgement and it comes with more love, more grace and more mercy.  This means that my life and your life has to live a life of love.  Love of God and a love of people.  It is a driving force our lives.  Live a life of love.  Be compelled by love.  Show more and more grace and mercy on others.  Holy Spirit move in me and allow me to experience opportunities to share life, show love and give hope.  I want to be compelled by God’s love.  I want to share more and more of God’s grace.  I am choosing today to be compelled by love.

Defining Moments

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Defining moments are all a part of our lives.  Those moments when a conversation or an action happen that truly make you change course, take a new action or wonder what the crap you are doing. We all have those kind of moments in our life and we decide whether or not we are going to act or ignore the impulse. 

My life has been full of this kind of moments.  These experiences have made me who and I am and are even defining my future at the same time.  These moments have been great joys like my marriage to Robin or all three of my kids being born.  Others have been great sorrow and even hurts like lost jobs, closing a church, losing a home or losing a mother.  Now some of these have invoked some anger, bitterness and even shame in me that I still struggle with today.  What I realize is that those can be healed but God, time and taking each day on its own is the best way. 

I say all this to say that even being a pastor my life is not perfect and the struggle can be real.  These defining moments or divine appointments happen on a regular basis.  I am going to be open and honest here.  One of the more recent struggles or defining moments was the ministry I serve in by the grace of God.  It is called Thrive.  We started this amazing journey thinking and praying for it to be a great, successful, experiential worship service where people of all ages, genders and cultures could share a meal and worship under one roof.  What we realized is that, that vision was not God’s vision for the ministry but our own thoughts and ideals to push a defining moment into reality.  God was setting forth a bigger vision for the ministry than anyone could express or see.  I still struggle to see it all and I am on the ground floor.  Now I love what I do but the hurt I experienced in cancelling the service really hurt.  Really hurt…I’m not sure I have fully recovered from it yet.  There are still a ton of sleepless nights asking God what did I do or where did I go wrong.  There are also those sleepless nights over God what are You doing and how can I just be an instrument over what You are doing?  I haven’t quite got it all figured out yet.  I also have to struggle past the hurt in order to see the God defining moments in why certain things happen as well.

This will and always will be a defining moment in my life.  The choice of leaving a church in Georgia (which hurt a ton) to cancelling this service to go a new direction is all a defining moment.  It will either strengthen me or beat me up for a long time. (Honestly, I am praying for the first)  You see in the midst of all this…my heart aches for the church and for the people the church hasn’t reached “yet…”  Our communities are full of people with hurts, struggles, pain, sorrow and honestly not as much joy as one would hope.  I say this while eaves dropping on some conversations in a food place.  (Lots of hurts)  Those are defining moments in the people’s lives and it is not any different than yours or mine.   Those stories……man…those stories….strengthen us or beat us up….I’m tired of the bruises in my life, other peoples lives, our communities, people’s homes..…  I hope they turn into GOD defining moments that when we all look back we see God’s amazing grace and mercy. 

God of ALL hope bring healing and hope to our defining moments.  Let us see you in the midst of the struggles, the pain, the questions, the doubts and the worries.  Let those defining moments become, defining revelations of Your glory in our lives.  Amen.

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