Monthly Archives: February 2011
When I’m consistent with “quiet time”, I’m not very consistent with which devotionals I read. I have a couple in hard copy and then a few others that come via email to my “@newsletters” folder in Outlook. Other times, I just skip back and forth between Psalms, Proverbs, Prophets, and the New Testament. When you talk to people for a living, you notice a handful of people who do the same thing every day, consistently. These guys are the low-spiritual-fat-percentage/chiseled character guys with 18-inch spiritual biceps that we all often idolize. Oops, did I say the “i” word? The i word often leads to the “c” word – comparison.
Today, as I’m reading through Neil Anderson’s final devotional for February, his questions jumped off the page. The scripture selection was from Colossians 2.6-7:
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith
I would be more successful if . . .
I would be more significant if . . .
I would be more fulfilled if . . .
I would be more satisfied if . . .
I would be happier if . . .
I would have more fun if . . .
I would be more secure if . . .
I would have more peace if . . .
The completion of these statements give us a great picture of the completion of the work of Christ in our lives. See – Ephesians 4.12-16.The biggest troubles we get ourselves into can be traced back to a lie that we once bought, which can easily be detected by holding it up to the plumb-line of God’s truth: Would you be more successful if circumstances changed or if you stayed out of God’s way and let Him work through and lead you? Would you be more significant if you made your mark on a situation or if you trusted in who God has gifted you to be and ran on the steam of His grace instead of your own effort? Would you be more secure if you had $25K in the bank or if you were breaking even every week, but clinging to Christ for every dime?
The worst form of idolatry is self-worship – my agenda, my plan, my energy, my competence. The greatest gains have been made in my life when I stepped aside and got God out of the co-pilot seat so He could fly the plane. Conversely, the biggest trouble and darkest times I’ve experienced in business, ministry, marriage, etc., have been the places where I “leaned on my own understanding” and trusted in my ability to walk, talk, work, or manipulate my way out of a jam. Grace is God’s way of empowering us to do His work. Misformed and misunderstood identity in Christ is the surest path to lost confidence in God’s sovereignty and diminishing Christ’s finished work on the cross.
If only we all would walk in that. If only we would encourage each other in that (like, discipleship). If only we would reassure each other there is no condemnation, God’s grace is big enough (though not to be abused), and that His mercies are new every morning. If only we would all slow down the hustle, quiet down the noise, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s lead – what would a lost and dying world think of our God if we all grew up into maturity in the faith, attaining to the full measure of Christ?
in it with you,
What do you think of when you hear the words “Judgment Day”? A Terminator movie? A meanie, cosmic judge out to get you with an earth-sized gavel? A grueling grill-session where you have to “splain yourself” in front of a tribune of angels and the Trinity? A fantastic awards show leading up to a massive celebration of the glory and greatness of God?
Only the last answer comes close to what the bible most clearly teaches that we will be “rewarded”, “repaid”, or “recompensed” for what we’ve done in the body “whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5.9-10) The bad news is “judgment day is coming”. The good news is “judgment day is coming”! For those who are in Christ, it will be an amazing day when rewards, positions, and crowns will be given out by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
In April, Men Step Up (Gwinnett) will take four weeks to celebrate 5 years of ministry at the ugly crack of dawn in the beautiful setting of the restaurant “California Dreaming”. The night of their last day of that celebration will be punctuated by the coolest date night ever. Rock-star quality worship singer Rolin Williamson will take the stage at Crosspointe Church in Duluth, GA and play the opening song for a production of “That Day”, a 2 act, 1 man show about Dan Matthewson, a guy who gets to meet Jesus at the judgment seat.
This show has played to packed houses from Alpharetta to Gainesville and is already being looked at for later performances in the year (as far away as Dallas, TX – Glory to God!!!) It’s been highly acclaimed not only for its entertainment value, but for its impact on the faith of those who have seen it. Seasons of Life Ministries is very excited to partner with Jesus Spoken Here Ministries and Men Step Up Gwinnett to give you a look at what that day might be like when we all come face to face with Jesus. Entertaining, encouraging, exhorting… and God gets all the glory. NICE!
Tickets are now on sale – $50 each, which includes dinner (catered by California Dreaming), the music, and the show. There will also be valuable ministry takeaway for everyone in attendance. A couple of things to know, though – this is a great environment to bring someone you know who’s “unchurched” or wrestling with their faith. It’s also an event we’re hoping to use to minister to those in ministry – a few local pastors and lay leaders from other local ministries.
In this, we could use your help, and I know this month I’ve added a lot of “would you consider”s to the blog. But, would you consider helping us to scholarship a few people to this event? We know $50 is pretty steep for a ticket. We also know there’s a lot of value in return. But, regardless of return, if you ain’t got $50, you ain’t got it. Our hopes are to raise $400 to $500 to not only scholarship a few needy couples in the door for a great date night, but we’d also like to foot the bill for their babysitter that night (unless you’d like to volunteer – which we’d welcome you to do!). So, there it is, another “consider” for you to consider! Would you consider it?
For more info on “That Day”, go to “www.thatday.info“. Yeah, that was easy to remember!
The World Race
We know giving is important – in fact the scripture I wrestle with in writing this post is from Matthew, chapter 6. Do I talk about how and where we’re giving? If I do, what’s my motive and am I forfeiting an eternal reward at the price of a temporal one? Or, is it appropriate to tell a story of what God has prompted us to do in hopes that it serves an encouragement to others and glorifies God because He moved us to do it rather than we?
One thing is plain about the scripture – Jesus doesn’t say “if you give”. He says “When you give…” Giving was such a part of the walk with God that He threw it right in the mix alongside “when you fast” and “when you pray“. But, do we tithe on our net or our gross? Do we tithe on child support or maintenance payments? Do we tithe on our tax return – I mean, if we get a tax return it’s based on money we’ve already received and (hopefully) already tithed against, so shouldn’t we just receive it graciously?
For a time, I wrestled with that spirit of entitlement – I earned it, it’s mine. But, over time, I have clearly seen that the truth is here: none of it belongs to us and we deserve nothing. If you can turn down the volume knob on the self condemnation channel and pump up the encouragement track, repeat that last statement. “We deserve nothing but God’s judgment.” I don’t know about you, but as that statement has settled in to a healthy place in my heart, I’ve felt less entitled to just about everything. Including that tax return.
Yes, we have debt. Yes, we’re going to use a chunk of it to pay off debt, but we sincerly feel we’d be disobedient if we didn’t do something “more direct” for the Kingdom of Christ with this year’s return. So, maybe selfishly (hopefully not), we’re helping to support a few ministries near and dear to us. One of them is Taryn Neurohr, who upon graduating from college this Spring will embark on an 11 month mission trip that will take her to 11 countries. It’s called “The World Race”.
If you’ve never heard of it, check out the video link at the top of this post – you will be astounded by what God does with people like Taryn, who love Him radically and share the gospel with vigor, candor, and tenacity in places most of us would never dare go.
While I spend a lot of time raising support for the local mission we’re on in heavily churched, yet performance based Atlanta, I’d like to appeal to you as Taryn prepares for her trip to join her in support. Not only in prayer, but in material aid. Have a yard sale. Join her at $10 a month. Or, take a big chunk of your pending IRS return and send it her way. Would you pray for her and support what God has called her to do for His kingdom?
As children of divorce, we don’t need a book full of statistics to tell us about the impact it has on kids. We’ve lived it. As Divorce Care leaders, we’ve already come to the understanding that God a) hates divorce, b) loves us, and c) has plenty to say about abandoning our covenant to our spouse, not to mention the children involved. Furthermore, God has made one point abundantly clear to me about myself and those around me “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.
As a child of divorce, my default position has been carved into my heart – “fear abandonment”. [Not the definitive lesson that everyone takes away from their parents’ divorce, but a loud, resonant one.] As a child of God, adopted through Christ, I’m learning to bathe in my new default: “perfect love casts out fear”. I also bought the lie that my parents’ divorce was somehow my fault in part. “If I had only x a little bit more…” That can easily grow a kid up into a fixer. Graciously, God has taught me that I’m not in charge of fixing, rather delivering the only Truth that can set men free. But, it took the mentorship and direct counseling of men and women who’ve discipled both of us to really begin to internalize these truths.
It doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by reinforcement. Discipleship is critical care.
What gets learned by a child through their parents’ divorce (you know, the “he will not depart from it” stuff) can range from impulsive/impatient behavior, anger or distrust toward the entire gender of the
“offending” parent, anger or even destructive behavior toward self as a consequence of misplaced blame, overall confusion (often directed at self) as a result of dueling loyalties, isolation or withdrawal, even depression, drug use, and/or suicidal behaviors.
What Are We Doing About It? – Two Things…
First, we’re raising support and prayer for some of the marriages and couples around us to help them in the process of “simplifying their lives” (see post on Donald Miller’s article). We’d love to proactively send them out on a “date night” once a quarter (which would be once more per quarter than they’re currently doing): nourish their bodies and their marriages simultaneously. Also, there are about a dozen marriage conferences within 3 hours of the metro-Atlanta area this year. We’d like to take a few of these couples along with us, where God can “speak life” into their relationships before they ever consider divorce.
Second, God has led us to run a DC4K (DivorceCare 4 Kids) group for Free Chapel, in Gainesville. One night a week and with several hours of prep, we are leading a group of about 10 kids (age 6 to 10) through this trusted curriculum and what seems to be a terrible season of their lives. The obvious end here is this: what’s the difference between a kid who walks through this season of life alone versus the kid surrounded by loving adults who’ve been through childhood divorce and other kids weathering the same storm?
“My kids are happy to know they’re not the only ones going through this.”
“As I tucked my son in bed, he said, ‘Mommy, I know it’s not my fault.’”
What kid is going to learn that kind of truth from a grieving, recovering parent and no outside intervention? Where is a kid going to go in the midst of being shuffled back and forth from parent to parent to find a group of “Kids Like Me” that can shatter the enemy’s myth that they’re all alone in this catastrophe? DC4K works. Praise God for that.
What Can I Do?
We’re grateful for the opportunity to take on this mammoth work. We encourage you to help support this effort in prayer.
- Pray that the parents participating in DivorceCare can make DC and their own healing a priority. We also encourage you to help us financially.
- Pray that the fact that their kids are in DC4K gives these parents the peace of mind to focus on Christ and what He can do to lead them to the other side of this storm.
- Pray that we as leaders keep our hearts clean and abide heavily in our Savior, that we may speak His ways, His truth, and His life into theirs.
- Pray that God prepares the hearts of these children to receive the message that a) their parents’ divorce is not their fault, b) they’re not the only ones going through this and c) hope exists and He has a Name above all names.
- Consider getting involved with a church that is offering DC4K and sign up to lead a group.
Help support this work financially. The program materials and snacks are covered by tuition, but our availability and transportation are not. We don’t anticipate this costing much more than $40 per week for the ministry. Would you help us equip and pastor these children? We currently have a little over $1,000 in matching funds to help us complete and continue this work for 2011. Would you consider this in your one time giving or regular support? Go to www.speaklifenow.org.
Alright, I’d LOVE to have Don Miller as a contributor to our blog – who wouldn’t? But, that doesn’t mean that every once in a while we can’t provide you, our valued and loved readers, a link to a great post by him, right? Click here to read Miller’s post from yesterday about the value of doing nothing.
Ponder this for a moment – ever “grow weary of doing good”? One of the most prominent idols I’ve found myself asking God to tear down in my life is my to do list. My to do list is massive. It’s a never-ending treadmill of thoughts, plans, suggestions, and action verbs connected to projects in motion or visions for the future that I believe God has given me. But, when I sacrifice the God-given order to
accomplish it, I know it’s become an idol. When my wife and I haven’t had time together in a while, when I wake up and go straight to my computer without getting into prayer or the word, when I schedule a meeting with a guy about a thing at some place that conflicts with our weekly “Marriage Staff Meeting”, it’s a flashing light on the dashboard “warning: priorities out of whack”.
Sabbath keeps me holy – it brings me back to a baseline of “normal”. No phone calls, no emails, no status updates… it’s hard. In fact, Chuck Swindoll says that if you ever seek to simplify your life you have chosen a “rigorous solo voyage against the wind”. He’s also the one who harasses my memory when things get out of whack – sometimes I have to take a sabbath on Wednesday for a couple hours.
The point is – are you weary? Are you overwhelmed? Are you confused about something? Bitter with someone who did you wrong? These are great signs that you need to be in the eye of the hurricane with the One who calmed the storm with but a word. These are signs you’re doing things on your own power and are headed for burnout. These are clues that we’re “disconnected” from the vine rather than abiding. It’s okay – turn down the volume of the choir of self-condemnation. His grace is sufficient and you’re never more than one prayer away from access to the full resources of Heaven.
Rest. Reset. Realign.
|My Dad’s “parting shot”, taken at the National Cemetery|
“Make sure to feel what you’re feeling. There’s no script for this.”
through the tough times with humor. We could deflect from our issues with the best of them – just crack a joke at an uncomfortable moment, and we didn’t need to weep anymore. We’d also built a great reputation for “holding it together”. You know, keeping a stiff upper lip when the chips were down. We could “be strong” with the best of them.
A lot of the work we do is repair work – somebody like me has birth wounds in their soul or was traumatized by their parents’ divorce as a kid or just can’t seem to get past bitterness they’ve been harboring for decades. People come to us because they want to experience Jesus, but they’ve got stuff in their life they’ve been holding onto that’s so loud, has such a hold on their heart, or has mucked up their windshield so bad they can’t hear, touch, or see the Jesus who’s right in front of them. But, other times, we can see the proactive nature of walking together in Christ with others.
This week, as we continue to lead a group of kids through DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids), we’re hard pressed to say who’s more impressed with God – us or them?
After leading dozens of men and women through Divorce Care in North Point Community Church’s “Oasis” program, you notice that people guard themselves well. They don’t talk too much about the gaping wound their cheating spouse exploded into their heart
We had a great time this morning at ONE TH1NG, with Ron Dunn. Around 6:30 this morning, over 50 guys gathered at a local restaurant to think out loud about issues of substance from a biblical standpoint. Currently, we’re talking about “IMAX Moments” from the bible – floating ax heads, outmanned armies overcoming nations, walls falling at the sound of trumpets, etc. This time, we talked about something that seems so small compared to the other more miraculous events, yet has a miraculous impact on you and I every (hopefully) day: encouragement.
Barnabas was a great encourager of the first century church. In fact, his name means “son of rest” or “son of encouragement”. In examining some of the guiding verses this morning, the guys at my table all concluded that encouragement is both an event and a process. In the battle against a dead man who seems to be tied to us like a rotting corpse, and against a world that lies to us constantly, and
against an enemy who came to steal, kill, and destroy, encouragement is the breath of fresh air that we need often and fully. It is the rest we desperately need in times of weariness, so it’s not a one time need or a long term fix. It’s not Jesus, but a reflection of His love.
|Thanks, to Ron Dunn for the quote.|
Now, try this:
Say the word “encourager” and who are the first 3 people who come into your mind? Who, in your life, speaks life into you on a regular basis?
Next question – and ponder this one carefully – everyone has a short list of encouragers in their life. Whose list are you on? Are you first on other peoples’ lists?
The danger here is that we can easily get lost in the comparison game. Remember, God made you unique and just because encouragement is not your primary spiritual gift doesn’t make you lesser in His eyes. But, encouragement shows up about 35 or more times in the new testament, often as a command. So, we are both not to ignore opportunities to encourage nor are we to stand condemned if we’re not naturally great at it. One thing is certain: we are to encourage. Discipleship is often little more than a Barnabas spurring on a young John Mark, a middle manager encouraging an up and comer, a husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church. [This is in italics because I know that once I’ve written it, there’s a good chance I’ll need to remember it when I see my wife in a couple of hours.]
So, how can we pray wisely about this? What if we were to ask the Lord to give us specific insight into the life of someone He wants us to encourage? What if we were clean in our heart and listened to His prompting about He would have us say or do to encourage this person? Yesterday, we had a couple on our couch who just lost a 23 year old daughter. I [Aarron] recently lost my Dad, so I understand what it means to lose someone. But, I had no clue how to look at a 60 year old guy and truly empathize with him losing his daughter – Praise God, I’ve never lost one.
The beautiful thing is – God knows that guy better than I ever will and when I asked Him to help me “be available”, He delivered. When they left our house, they looked like they had lost 35 lbs each. Still sad, yet noticeably encouraged. This is not because I’m anything special nor a master encourager. Rather, it’s a testament to the God of all good gifts, who knows this couple and their greatest need in any moment, and how He would bring them joy in the darkest season they’ve known in a long time.
So, be encouraged. Can you trust today that God is with you always? Can you trust that He knows your need before you even can think it? Will you give Him your greatest care and burden and listen for His word – through audible voice, through His word, or even through His church, the body of Christ? But, also, be a son of encouragement. Know that around you are thirsty and weary soldiers in the making. These are your brothers and sisters in Christ, whom God loves dearly. These are your soon to be brothers and sisters who are stuck in sin, bonded to death, who will soon know Jesus and will need to know the comfort, encouragement, and leadership of their Lord. Will you be available to Him as you spur them on to love and good deeds?
in it with you,
P.S. We’re grateful for the opportunities we’ve recently had to encourage others – if you’d like to help us keep it up, go to our new page “Speak Life“.
We’ve been faithfully serving, tithing, members at North Point Community Church for a long time now. We’re lovers and followers of Christ. But, we won’t be there on Wednesday night when Michelle Obama appears to talk about obesity.
Because you don’t like the First Lady? No, nothing to do with whether we like her or not.
Because you disagree with her political views? No, not because of the wide gap separating our political ideologies, per se.
Because evangelicals were born to boycott? Nopety-nope.
Because you don’t see the point in the FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) appearing at your church, especially to talk on this topic? Yeah, that’s more like it.
Am I interested in hearing what she has to say? Sure, I’m intrigued to hear what any high level government official or celebrity has to say about kids in our nation. But, having recently come face to face with the ugly truth about my own flaws and overeating, I don’t see why it’s relevant to me.
Okay, I said it. Call me a narrow minded bible-thumping troglodyte if you must. But, as God has drawn my wife and I near to Him during a recent extended fast, I came to a deeper understanding of my own depravity, my own lack of self control, my own need for a Savior: I feed my flesh with more gusto than I feed my spirit. I reach for comfort food when I don’t really want food so much as I want comfort itself, which my God has promised to me in abundance if I’d just reach for Him instead.
Yes, there are great opportunities to witness to those outside the faith, but I’ll be doing it from the comfort of my own home as we watch it streamed online. Yes, I am grateful for our church being selected for such a media heavy event. But, relevance, please?
Am I being a wuss? Yes, a bit, because you and I both know that getting into and out of our church parking lot (even with the thank-you-Jesus-new-bridge) is hard enough when it’s just our church peeps. God forbid, we should have to brave those throughways when it’s every Tom, Dick, and Harry flocking to that building to see the most famous FLOTUS in American history.
The reality is, however, I think addressing childhood obesity with a program, a slogan (imagine: “Just Say No to Seconds”! “Read My Lips: No New Fat Cells”!), or a famous face misses the mark as much as a band-aid on leukemia. Obesity, especially childhood obesity, is not a merely a mindset problem, it’s not a political problem, it’s a sin problem. Without Christ, we are utterly lost and libel to do whatever we want, when we want, as much as we want. Have we forgotten Sodom and Gamorrah? Have we forgotten Romans, 8 verse 12 – “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.”
One of the most poignant truths that jumped off the pages of my bible during this fast was just that – “Aarron, you don’t have to answer the door when chocolate cake is ringing the doorbell.” I need a savior. Kids who are struggling with overeating don’t need a slogan or a t-shirt, they need parents and teachers who have Christ in their hearts and an abiding relationship with the Holy Spirit, who can train them up to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh.
Am I wrong?
I’m not pointing fingers at the kids – they’re just eating what we feed them. So, yes, a change in accessibility to certain foods and a change of mindset and practice by those making food choices for our kids could go a long way. But, as long as a way as it could be, it falls far short of how far God would have us if we would pray for and trust Him for true, penitent, sweeping revival in this nation. Do, yes. But, abide, deny the flesh, carry the cross, and pray for revival, so we can stop putting band-aids on cancer.
Love you guys.
The Bible teaches us a very simple truth which, in the natural is inescapable: “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
It’s so obvious that we don’t even really pay much attention to it sometimes. Then, our child repeats a phrase you know they must have heard from you. Or worse, they repeat something you shouldn’t have said around them, making you aware that you did in fact slip that time when you hit your thumb with the framing hammer, right? You didn’t want them to hear you say it, but you later thought “Ah, I only said it once. They’ll forget it…”
What we often fail to heed in this warning is this: discipleship is always happening. My friend, John Ott once quoted to me “children may fail to obey, but the never fail to imitate”. That‘ll bug you, won’t it? Let me
say it again: discipleship is always happening… not only in what we intend to teach, but what we hope they didn’t hear. Not only is it happening in what we say, it’s happening in what others say.
When I came to faith in Christ and He began to transform me by the renewing of my mind, I began to lose my taste for a lot of my favorite artists: Metallica, Papa Roach, Anthrax, Linkin Park… Let me be clear – I still like some of the music, a lot, really. But, the lyrics that used to resonate within my soul now grate against my spirit. I understand the struggle many of these guys are going through – they’re hurt, bitter, angered by injustice, and wounded by the world. Without Christ at their core, how could they possibly express their rage in a godly way? Read Romans 8.5-8 – they can’t.
In my bitter, disillusioned teenage years, I had been discipled by James Hetfield and metal/rap rockstars that taking out my aggression in the flesh was the right way to go. I had allies who understood what it was like to dub someone “unforgiven”. Jesus would later begin to teach me otherwise. Or, should I say, unteach me what I knew and re-teach me what I needed, and still need today.
The trouble is, just because we’re discipling our kids here and there doesn’t mean they’re immune to the principalities and powers of this world.
Action items for today:
- Pray that God protects their hearts from the lyrics that discipled me through my angst ridden teenage years. Watch who’s discipling them on the radio and YouTube.
- Pray for teachable moments when they do go off the right path and help them think critically about what God’s truth is versus what the culture is teaching them. We live in an economy of truth and lies. There is only One god who is the way, the truth, and the life. There is only one father of lies.
- Read Dennis Prager’s article about “F-you from the music industry” and consider who is discpling your kids. If you don’t, someone else will.
in it with you,