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Equip

The Beauty of “No”

By | Blog, Envision, Equip

Three things happen when you say no to an opportunity, invitation or appointment.

First, you create margin in your life.  When we say yes to too many things – even good things – we fill our schedules and lives beyond our capacity.  You’ve probably heard the expression, “the good is the enemy of the best.”  One has to say no to appointments, invitations and other opportunities to leave margin in life.  For the person living within appropriate margins, when something excellent comes along, he or she can say YES.  For the person juggling all the balls in the air, adding another thing simply means something else must fall.  Wouldn’t you rather be ready for the best than under a pile with the rest?

Second, when you say no, you make room for God’s peace and leadership in your life.  Remember the scripture that begins God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble? Just a few verses later, the psalmist prescribes how to find your rest in His fortress: Be still and know that I am God.  The visual of the peaceful, empty park bench also communicates that quietness; He offers us communion with Him when we cease striving.  When we say yes too often, we don’t have time to pray, to connect with the Lord, to discern His path for our lives and relationships.

Third, saying no develops your character.  My friend Don recently shared a quote with me from a Sunday sermon he heard years ago: “The rejection of adversity is the mark of an immature soul.”  Think about it… aside from the unrealistic dream of vast lottery winnings, there really is no “something for nothing” of true value in this world.  Victory in virtually everything with high value is accomplished through adversity.  Even in salvation, we receive Christ by grace alone through faith alone, but remember the price Jesus paid on our behalf.  My character needs me to say no to easy but meaningless ventures and to say yes to challenges with depth and worth.  Too often we shy away.  When we say yes to the boring, the mundane and the mediocre, we reject healthy growth and maturity.

Reject the lie that being over-capacity honors God or is useful.  Good stewardship of my life isn’t visible in a hectic and frenetic schedule.  My decision to say no clears away the detritus and pollution of my life, and frees me up to be the person God wants me to be.

No can actually be very beautiful.  When free to choose, take your margin, peace of mind and maturity into consideration, and ask the Lord for guidance.  He always leads faithfully.

Finding Jesus in the Chaos

By | Blog, Equip, Headfirst, Personal

You may have seen the jokes posted with the tag #FirstWorldProblems.  They ridicule the frustrations of our lives in contrast to the life struggles of the 3rd World.  Some are mean-spirited, but many raise awareness that sometimes our “big problems” are insignificant when held up to the “big picture.”  I’d like to offer one contrast of my own: Too busy for God.  This applies to Christ-followers and unbelievers, but my comments here are intended for the believers who are drowning in this conflict every day.

This isn’t a book, so let’s skip the chapter where I try to convince you that there is chaos in your life and you’ve allowed it to distance you from God.  If you don’t have this problem, move along.  I do, so I’ll just write for myself and you’re welcome to read along as an observer.  (Yeah, I just said that I have chaos in my life, and even the calling to lead a missions ministry has not made me immune.  Actually, it contributes, just like any other occupation.  It just has it’s own unique twists.)

So let’s embrace reality: my work, recreation, health, family, iPhone, friends, hobbies, travel, responsibilities and to-do lists…  they’re all part of a noisy, clanging, distracting battle where focusing on God and my relationship with Him gets obscured and lost.  Not because they are bad things, but because they aren’t Him.  They don’t simply dovetail into a beautiful symphony.  Some people recognize this, begin to re-prioritize, and re-launch the search for the elusive “balance.” (Surely if all my choices are honoring to the Lord, then everything will supernaturally sync.  Right?)

Let’s go after this from the other direction.  I want to find Jesus.  I want Him everywhere in my life.  I want to walk with Him but my life is full of chaos.  Not because I’m making horrible unbiblical decisions.  Rather, because I don’t live in the Garden, and I’m plagued by the consequences of sin and all its deformities.  Death and disease have come into this world, and I must work and sweat and battle.1  Jesus has won the war and I am victorious in Him, but every day until His Kingdom, I must battle.  One of those battles is against chaos.

There are two pillars I’ve learned that guard my soul in the fight against chaos so that I might walk closely with God.  Their names are Peace and Order.  We need to see that when we instill peace in our lives, we restrain chaos.  Peace means more than quiet (though silence is certainly peaceful.)  Quieting my heart means slowing, slowing, stopping.  My mind begins to drift to other thoughts that are not of Jesus…  stop.  Come back.  Slow.  Easy.  Nothing else, just Him.  Peace means surrender – of my soul.  Learning to be present in His presence.  “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”2  How could my heart be still then?  Only in my abandon to the Shepherd of my soul.

Order also restrains chaos.  It is more than structure – putting things in their places so that nothing distracts.  Order is intentionality.  Singularity of purpose.  I have no other agenda.  The Creator brought order out of chaos.  He can do the same in the depths of my heart.  “No weapon forged against you will prevail.”3  Purposefully give Him His rightful place and deny that which brings distraction and disharmony.

When I guard my heart and mind in Christ, when I let His peace and order reign over me, the chaos fades and I can find Jesus.  It’s not easy – surrender never is.  I must lay my will down and lift His cup.  “Not my will but yours be done.”4  It happens in His power or we fail every time.  I’ve been learning to invite God into moments and to ask Him to help me yield to Him.  To usher in His peace and His plan… and to let me come to a stop and purposefully surrender, that I might know Him.  More and more.

This week, the Lord brought to mind how much I need Him every moment.  A hymn came to mind and I decided it would help me build the pillars higher as I battle chaos.  I found this version on YouTube – the author (Sam Robson) seems to have created a number of these moving performances.  It was exactly what I needed to help me enter His presence.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3wSbLa2uGg

  1. Genesis 3:17-19
  2. Psalm 23:5
  3. Isaiah 54:16-17
  4. Luke 22:42

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.

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!

    Water

    By | Envision, Equip, Involve

    After serving lunch to all the workers, the Haitian pastor pulled out his Bible and shared a devotional from John 4:1-14 in Creole with everyone.

    [pullquote_right] Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”[/pullquote_right]

    You see, today we began building a bridge across a small canal to allow greater access to a clean water station. Thanks to Water Missions International, the water system that has already been installed has the capacity for bringing clean, safe water to thousands in the community every day. But the rainy season makes it inaccessible because the overflow of water from the channel creates mud everywhere, limiting the church’s ability to serve the community.

    Our team was able to bring the tools and funding to hire and train local people for the work to build the bridge and put finishing touches on the water station, which will provide greater access and outreach to the community. All the while, allowing Haitians to work for their own benefit, earn a living, provide for their families, and take ownership in their community. Several of today’s workers were members of the pastor’s church, while others have yet to embrace Christ.

    See the “time-lapse” style images from the build and other media from the week’s outreach on the post Rise Up and find more photos on our Facebook page.

    Pictures of Change

    By | Envision, Equip, Involve

    We had a few minutes to put together this video clip from the Transformational Leadership trainings in Haiti and the Dominican Republic the past two weeks.  It’s chronological, and it should be pretty obvious when we leave Haiti and get to the DR.  I’ve chosen to include the good and the bad, because it helps to laugh (like when our friend “KK” got locked in the bathroom).  Some of the pictures we took show empty chairs – trust me, they were all full: it wasn’t always possible to get pictures during teaching times.  Especially in Santo Domingo during the Spirit-led times of surrender and reconciliation.  Over 100 Haitian pastors and over 100 Dominican pastors & leaders took part in the institutes and we all experienced the presence and power of God…

    Enjoy!  (And turn up the resolution to 720p if your internet connection supports it.)

    kOKAEpgpYC8kOKAEpgpYC8

    When you can’t get along

    By | Equip, Personal

    Anger.  Frustration.  Anxiety.

    What happens inside you when you experience conflict?  And what do you choose to do with the relationships that bring this conflict?

    This isn’t meant to be a treatise on conflict, but I do have a few thoughts as it relates to ministry.  Whether accurate or not, haven’t you heard the contention that the number one reason for missionaries to leave the field isn’t lack of fruit, opposition or finances – but conflict with teammates?  Or watched a church split that wasn’t really about theology or ministry philosophy, but actually about personalities? Read on about dealing with conflict