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Dave

It’s the Eternity, Christian!

By Envision

While I typically attempt to express myself in a manner that my words would be applicable in any season, I’ve written these thoughts in the wake of the re-election of Barack Obama to a second term as president. And so I have felt free to borrow the title from the slogan of a prior campaign, the purpose of which was to continuously align the proponents to focus on what they recognized as the essential issue.

As followers of Christ, we have many responsibilities. But our essential issue is the Gospel. There are many actions and activities that flow from the Greatest Commandment but the continual refrain of Kingdom proponents should be Christ, Gospel, Eternity.

Each day that we have the freedom to live for Christ, we must take every opportunity to make His priorities our own. His values are own. His focus our own.

Jesus was never distracted from His purpose of redemption, His ascent to the cross, His development of His disciples, His obedience to His Father. Was that because of the cooperation of the Roman Empire? Herod? Pilate? The Sanhedrin? The culture of the nation?

Followers of Christ do not need to bicker about whether the current political or social landscape is desirable. We will pray for the leaders of the land and take our duties of citizenship seriously, but our first allegiance is to God and His Kingdom. Not only is it our priority, it is the only thing that’s going to last.

We could diverge upon a discussion of how biblical heroes led under various administrations (e.g. Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther, Paul, Peter, John, etc.,) and perhaps on another day, I will. But these are all subservient to our mission: proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We must be aligned to the Gospel and the timeline of eternity. It will not matter who won which election on the day your friend dies, or your neighbor, or your co-worker. The only decision determining his or her eternal destiny will be whether he or she has trusted in Christ and accepted His payment for sin and His gift of eternal life.

So let each of us be reminded, Christian, that if our allegiance is to the One True God, our eyes must be on Him, and our lives must revolve around His purposes. Let us cry out to the nations that our only hope is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Set your eyes, your heart, your mind, your family, your calendar, your budget, and every decision entrusted to you on the Gospel. It’s the Eternity, Christian!

 

Celebrity

By Envision, Equip

Why is our society captivated by celebrity?  It seems that merely a spark of fame or notoriety breeds adoration.  Some admire the actual accomplishments of others (which brought them fame) while many seem to adore those whose abnormal behavior brought them attention.  It would be effortless to name a string of current celebrities without any resume beyond wealth, immorality or deviance.  Then there is the niche of modern royalty – a special category for those descended from someone famous.  (Not just the House of Windsor, consider any number of American families treated as royalty.)

Is it possible that our culture is so hungry for the divine that people will pour their hearts into virtually any semblance of fame?  That we believe if we could just gain some affiliation with them it would somehow give us value?  That we will give our time, attention, money and yes, even worship to those who offer a taste of their celebrity to us?

That thirst seems insatiable, because it is only satisfied in Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus who offers us the privilege of being born again – born spiritually.  He offers us an abundant life, rivers of living water so that we will never thirst again, bearing much fruit.

“But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.”  John 1:12-13

Why worship celebrity when you can know the Messiah, the One True God?  Taste and see that the Lord is good!  Forget the royal families of this world; you are invited to the Father, to be His child, and to spend eternity with Him.  Jesus told His disciples that He was preparing a place for them.  God’s children have a room in His mansion.

Next time the media starts selling celebrity (which we’ve been asking for) – instead, find a quiet place, grab a Bible, and pray and read His Word, and let Jesus fill your heart.

Bringing Chanje

By Envision, Headfirst, Involve, Media

Chanje is the Haitian Creole word for change – for transformation.  We’ve seen the Lord move so dramatically in Haiti this past year, that we’ve begun calling what we do there a “Chanje Movement.”  Being a part of the transformation means being available to the Lord to change myself, my community and my world, however He directs.  This month, we had an amazing team of people participating in that movement.  Some of those highlights are in the video below, and as things progress we will continue to post the stories, photos and videos of transformation in Haiti.

Chanje Movement team in Haiti, August 2012

how do you lead?

Leadership Profiles

By Equip

how do you lead?Much has been written about discovering your leadership style, being your best, maximizing your gifts, increasing the productivity of your staff, etc.  Last month over coffee, my friend Scott and I were discussing factors influencing church health.  As we talked about how leaders impact their people, we identified one profile that makes both of us run the opposite direction.

Some leaders are able to achieve amazing results – yet the emotional carnage around them goes unreported because of the public accolades they receive for their work.  This is not to say that all productivity is a marker for destructive personalities.  Yet these individuals have a focus on accomplishments that when coupled with a character deficit produces a painful dynamic.  The title for this leader profile?  Manipulator.

Manipulation is the art of getting others to do what you want even if it’s not in their interests or contrary to their wishes.  Because overt behaviors are easily exposed in church environments, (it’s harder to get away with yelling at parishioners or berating staff) the primary implementation is emotional – it is far less obvious, but equally destructive.  To these people, manipulation is typically woven into the core of their character and manifested through their words and behavior – it’s how they’ve learned to get what they want.  Consciously or subconsciously, intentional or inadvertent – regardless, it is necessary to distance yourself from these damaging leaders.

Here are some of the highlighted distinctions that evolved from my conversation with Scott:[arrow_list]

  • Manipulators position themselves to receive what they want from you.  Leaders emphasize, encourage and call out what they see (that God has put) in you.
  • Leaders create a context for God’s work in your life.  Manipulators devise ways to control you and produce their desired results from your life.
  • Leaders trust God to accomplish His vision in and through disciples.  Manipulators (attempt to) create shortcuts to manufacture their own glory.
  • Have you heard it said that “you might not be a leader if no one is following you?”  More accurate: “you might not be a leader if no one near you is experiencing God and growth.”[/arrow_list]

Our discussion strengthened my resolve to continue to grow in love for Jesus Christ, in passion for people’s growth, and to develop in character.  I want to be the type of leader that pursues God’s glory, not my own, and His love for people, not myself.

So laying aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles, let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  (Hebrews 12:1-2 adapted)

Persistence

By Equip, Personal

Sometimes I don’t even have the persistence of peanut butter.

If you put a healthy portion of Skippy on your PBJ sandwich, you’re going to need a tall glass of milk.  That concoction of starch and spread has the ability to relentlessly bond to the roof of your mouth.  Someone will inevitably ask you, “How’s it going?” when you can’t even mutter in reply.  But with a nice glass of milk, it all washes sweetly down.

That peanut butter has a certain persistence – but it also has its limits.  And that’s the point of my thought at this moment.  What is the limit of my persistence?

God has told us many things about prayer in His Word – here are just a few:

If you’re like me, you have many needs and wants.  Are you persistent about praying for them?  Or have you been more like I’d been recently – lackadaisical, inconsistent, perhaps even lazy or fatalistic? (i.e. if God wanted it to happen, it would have happened by now; He doesn’t need me nagging; my prayers won’t change a thing.)

The Persistent Widow?

Our family has a yellow Labrador retriever.  Gabi is the sweetest pup on earth and extremely affectionate with all of us. (She really liked our boys when they were little – she would clean the extra food off their faces!)  But sometimes the reason Gabi licks me isn’t solely because she loves me – sometimes it’s because she wants something.  Her kisses mean something along the lines of  “Hey, I love you, please take me for a walk,” or “You are so awesome – when you share your steak with me!  Go ahead!  C’mon!  Please?”  She can be extremely persistent.

So I was pondering this morning, as Gabi affectionately (and repeatedly) asked me to walk her, how persistent am I in asking my Master for what I want?  Honestly!  If I’m so aware of my needs, why am I so reluctant to fervently appeal?  God tells us to “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11.)  Stop right now and put this into practice – fill in the blanks with your needs:

Jesus – I need You!

I need You more than anything!

For everything else I need, I ask You now, and will continue to ask You for Your blessing.  For … …  … , I ask You, and for … …  … , I ask You, and…

I don’t know if what you want is what God will give you.  There is no formula.  I don’t know if it’s His answer, His timing, His method.  But isn’t it time to rightly value the power of God, the love of God, and the call of God?  He is able, He gives good gifts, and He wants us to ask!

Let us pray persistently, expectantly, urgently and without ceasing, that the God who loved us enough to die for us would answer our prayers.  Won’t you join with me?

And now I need to go make a PBJ.  Maybe a couple.  As it turns out, Gabi likes Skippy too.

Freed from Fear

By Equip, Headfirst

I was reflecting on fear earlier this month – how it is harnessed by the enemy to disrupt us as we pursue our vision and try to live out our faith.  We want to attempt great things for God, but fear derails us.

It could be fear of failure, fear of others’ judgment of us or disappointment in us.  It might manifest as anxiety, depression, frustration, anger or a poor attitude.  But it debilitates.  Fear erodes.  It saps and drains.

I tend to conceptualize that faith is the adversary of fear, that if I can muster the proper amount of faith, I will be able to act despite my fears.  I picture a balancing act between them.  Is it faith vs cowardice?  Do I simply need courage – to act despite my fears?

So I find it delightful to discover that God doesn’t agree with me in this word picture.  This is not to discredit courage.  But “sucking it up and going for it anyway” is not the remedy for fear.  Neither faith, nor courage, is the conqueror of fear – love is.  “Love casts out all fear.” 1 John 4:18.

I don’t need to try harder, trust more, or redouble my resolve.  I need to experience more of Christ’s perfect love.  Like a sponge, I soak in His love, and as He permeates the fabric of my soul, there is no room for fear.  I am freed from all else.  Freed from performance, freed from disappointment, freed from judgment.  I am free to trust Him and experience the faith that He desires and provides, and the courage He assures, and free to attempt great things for the Lord.

Powerful and Relevant

By Envision, Equip

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

This call to repentance comes from the end of Peter’s message to thousands in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. The crowds have seen the flames from the Holy Spirit touching upon the apostles and heard their words in their own tongues. Those with spiritual sensitivity have understood, as Peter explained, that this very day is the fulfillment of prophecy from hundreds of years earlier authenticating the Gospel of the resurrected Christ.

Salvation is in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. We can understand this amazing truth, yet fail to communicate the reality of transformation when we share the Gospel. We do a disservice to the Kingdom when our proclamation is weak and feeble. We say things like:

  • Jesus will come into your heart
  • God will bring you peace and purpose
  • One day you’ll be in heaven
  • Of course these things are true, but why are we so mundane about truth? Jesus doesn’t simply enter your life, He becomes King. He transforms you! He rescues you from the domain of darkness! We don’t sit idly by awaiting death so that we may experience heaven – no, the Kingdom is ours right now.

    Do you understand that the Gospel saves us in the present, not just the future? The same Holy Spirit of the Acts of the Apostles indwells a believer immediately upon saving faith. (Are we promised every manifestation listed in Acts? No, that is not promised – but most of us do not live as if He ever plans to show up.)

    Picking up your cross and following Jesus is not an easy road. But let’s not drag our feet as we approach Him, babbling about trying to be good people. This life is corrupted, but the Holy Spirit provides the power to live the life we’re meant to live. Right now, not one day far off after our mortal bodies have been buried.

    Are you living that truth today? You can be! And please, each time you share the Amazing News of salvation, remember that forgiveness of sins means we enter into intimate fellowship with the King and that He gives us His Spirit enabling us to live out a powerful life of faith. The Spirit of Jesus will bring His resurrection power into your life, and though circumstances might be overwhelmingly against us, we are more than conquerors! Oh, and yes, even when they kill us, we won’t die!

    We are the Gospel

    By Envision

    Powerful words. An amazing concept. That the incarnate Son as the one true God took on human flesh and walked among us. And upon death, resurrection and then ascent into heaven sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in us and use our flesh to bring His love to the world.

    Sometimes, from a lack of faith and understanding, I want to ask Jesus what He was thinking. That He would use me to show His love to others. Flawed, failing, imperfect me. And in doing so would bring Himself glory. It is truly awesome.

    Today, we went into one of the most dangerous cities in the world, because we knew that Christ was leading us there. This is what I shared with our Haitian brothers who came with us: courage isn’t the absence of fear – it’s following God despite it. Because honestly, we’d be stupid not to be afraid. But I’d rather be afraid while following Jesus than safe, but not following Him. So, strengthened with courage and equipped with the Gospel, we followed Christ into Cité Soleil. After all, Jesus commanded us to go into all the nations – and this tremendously impoverished community is definitely another nation.

    We eventually left with three deputies of the zone commander from one of 34 districts and spent the afternoon asking them about their community, their struggles, their needs and their dreams. We shared our testimony and the Gospel with them. No promises were made, because we had no desire to join the ranks of those who have betrayed them. But our hearts were broken for them, their children, their people. Echoing in my mind, yet almost too fragile to escape my lips were my words, “I don’t want to fail them. Jesus, please help me not to fail them.”

    We're all in this together

    God has positioned us incredibly for reaching out to them and their community. We’ve been offered an invitation to return and bring help. I can’t specify details publicly yet because it would be presumptuous and disrespectful to our trust, but I am astonished at the platform we are being given to reach out. We are the Gospel – the living hands and feet of Jesus to bring hope and peace and love to those desperate for Him and His touch and His power.

    Those words were spoken today by one of our amazing allies in Haiti, a man who shakes me more each time I am with him: We are the Gospel. This friend speaks little English but communicates his great love without needing to. He is poor and yet he gives everything away. He has needs, yet he introduces us to others whose needs are greater than his own. When we told him today that his lack of selfishness is inspiring, he replied simply that Jesus chose him to serve the people of the street.

    Today, it is no exaggeration to say that I have been in the company of men and angels. It feels as though we’re living like those listed in the Acts of the Apostles, and I can’t wait to turn every page and read the next chapter. The mighty Risen One is actually sharing Himself with the nations through us! Truly, that is incarnational ministry: we are the Gospel.

    Pass the Gravy!

    By Envision

    This is the best gravy I’ve had since Thanksgiving at our friends Rick & Shari‘s place. Ok, it’s not really gravy, let me explain…

    My colleague Rick and I are back in Haiti and within hours of arrival the trip has been more than worth it. I turned and said to him, “from this point on, it’s all gravy.” Well, the truth is that we’re now getting saturated in it. God is so good…

    In the process of spreading the Gospel to more and more Haitians and training leaders to share Christ and disciple those who have placed their faith in Him, we have included strategies to accelerate the ministry through meeting physical needs of the communities in which we labor.

    In the last six months, we have been piloting micro-credit loans to launch entrepreneurship, enabling responsible locals to start business that will feed their family while learning stewardship and responsibility. Our test program has focused on a handful of trusted individuals to explore transportation and communication industries as we look toward a broader expansion of teaching people how to work hard, feed their families, give back to the Lord and save for the future.

    Our first conversations on the ground this visit were with these pilots, making adjustments, encouragements and admonishments. It was the result of that dialogue that spurred the “gravy” comment. But within a few hours we were already into more wonderful teaching opportunities, bringing two brothers together to reconcile their differences in a God-honoring way.

    Today we will be continuing to disciple our brothers and sisters in Christ here, all the while looking to preach Him and introduce others to the family of God. And we pray that every new opportunity on this outreach trip will be rich and fulfilling, a great spiritual blessing topping a foundation in Christ.

    So today as we continue preaching the Gospel, and teaching on stewardship and leadership, working with clergy and the community, it’s my prayer that God continues to bless our labor. I’ll have another helping today, Lord!

    20120203-095959.jpg

    Do as Jesus did

    By Envision, Headfirst

    Our second morning of our men’s mission to Haiti began with a team devotional on the full deity and humanity of Jesus.  What could’ve been a very intellectual topic was instead an insightful conversation about how understanding Christ’s nature influences how we live today.

    Our friend Jimmy sharing Christ

    Several of our Haitian colleagues were sitting in on the discussion but had not contributed as of yet.  As the topic developed, one of our friends was asked about what followers of Christ could do to demonstrate His love to others here in Haiti.  His simple reply was to “do as Jesus did.”

    And though the devotional ran its course without any of us making an intentional goal out of that comment, it unmistakably became our theme infiltrating every part of our labor for the Gospel.  No question about it, each day of ministry felt like it was plucked from the Scriptures; as if we were 1st century disciples.

    We went out to the masses living in the streets and fed them and shared the love and hope of Jesus with them.  We walked through a tent city where over 250 families with more than 2000 children lived, and we met and prayed for the mute, the blind, the lame and the demon possessed.  Yes, literally.  We drew away with more than 60 pastors and trained them for ministry, emphasizing the priorities of knowing God and His word, evangelism and discipleship.  We drew a crowd in a park and proclaimed Jesus Christ as the Savior and One True God.  We held children with no parents and poured out the Father’s love.  We sang our worship at the top of our lungs from the depths of our hearts.  We cried with compassion for the broken and lost.  And we prayed to the Redeemer to set the captives free from sin and death.

    By conservative count during the week, well more than 20 people found salvation in Jesus Christ – one at a time, five at a time, ten at a time.

    Not only Haiti was changed this week, but each of us as well.  Each has a heart alive for the King, and a willingness to live more fully for His Kingdom.  We return to our own neighborhoods and communities with greater vision, passion and more equipped for ministry.  And we will never forget the lives of those we grew to love, friends and co-laborers in the Gospel, and the broken for whom God has broken our hearts.

    In short, we did as Jesus did.