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If Only…

     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 have a tendency to notice the “who” part of passages as I’m reading them and this morning, I thought “How often do I muff up the “so walk in Him” part? How often do I compare my self to Matt or Jeff or Jim when I should be comparing myself to “who I am in Him?” Doesn’t the passage say “so walk in Jim?” Nope. The comparison game can get messy when we’re not playing by God’s rules – when it comes to man, “comparison is the enemy of contentment”.
     Anderson goes on this morning to ask the following litmus test questions about our faith (and, as he’s famous for doing, our identity):

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,

AP


Stepping Up to Jesus

     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!

Send Your Tax Return Around the World?

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?

Taryn’s blog & support page:

Impact of Divorce on Kids

The Problem(s)
     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?

From kids:
“The thing I learned the most is to control my temper.”
“I remembered when I got angry that I could stop, take a breath, “ask God” and relax.”

From parents:
“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.

in Christ,

AP

Guest Blog by Donald Miller?

     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.

in Christ,

AP