Monthly Archives: May 2012

Monday Morning Momentum (in a Minute)

Three Reasons for a Link Instead of a Post:

  1. I had to share this link with y’all because it’s dead on with the conversation we’ve been having these past few weeks about appreciation and eternal rewards. In fact, it’s part of the key issue. We worship, serve, and are actively, uniquely loved by a personal God. He know sour troubles, He sees our struggle, He knows our pain, He’s suffered for our wrongs, and He’s watching… waiting… to reward us in eternity with treasures, accolades, even crowns.
  2. Even though it’s not officially Monday, here in America most of us have a four day work week this week because of the Memorial Day Holiday. So, I took yesteraday “off” (for part of the day) and have dubbed today a de facto Monday. But, since I read such a great (and short) post last week by Darryl Dash, I thought it would be a great change for such an odd “Monday Morning” post. I haven’t checked out Darryl’s background, know much about his theology, nor can I vouch for him personally – I just think he’s dead on with this post.
     
  3. Cristine and I meet with a lot of people that are dealing with trial, struggle, and the big “a” word – anxiety. Since our oldest daughter is going through such a hard time with this herself right now, it’s another great reason for us to look to the scriptures for two really great words teased out in Dash’s post: Have a great week.

He Cares – Darryl Dash

Jesus: Life Help DIY?

Jesus as a Do-it-Yourself Kit?
Some people liken the work we do to “faith-based life coaching”. My counter to that statement is often – “life-based faith coaching”. We’re not here to help people with their life, rather help them stretch their faith to a point where they experience the true source of life, named Jesus Christ. One thing we’re not is teachers of theology. But, theology matters.
Dr. Albert Mohler:
We sin against Christ and we misrepresent the Gospel when we suggest to sinners that what God demands of them is moral improvement in accordance with the Law. Moralism makes sense to sinners, for it is but an expansion of what we have been taught from our earliest days. But moralism is not the Gospel, and it will not save. The only gospel that saves is the Gospel of Christ. As Paul reminded the Galatians, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” [Gal. 4:4-5]
…The deadly danger of moralism has been a constant temptation to the church and an ever-convenient substitute for the Gospel. Clearly, millions of our neighbors believe that moralism is our message. Nothing less than the boldest preaching of the Gospel will suffice to correct this impression and to lead sinners to salvation in Christ.

Big News: (2 of 2)


Update and Upfront

     Life happens. Trials are here to make us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, right? Ever think “if that’s true, then this year, I should be pretty close to perfect“? 2011-2012 has been the most challenging on the job training we’ve ever received. Despite the fact that I’ve had time to send out ZERO support letters in 6 months, God has provided between 60 and 80% of budgeted support in some way or another – almost twice our normal program funding level. The Lord has been wildly faithful and we are extremely grateful! More on that and some BIG NEWS below.

Earlier this month, Aarron was asked to stand in for ministry
leader Casey Sanders at Gwinnett’s Men Step Up.

For first quarter, 2012, alone – 

  • Men have received regular 1 on 1 encouragement, wisdom, and discipleship from God’s word, dealing with everything from pornography addiction, blending families from a biblical perspective, deeper quiet time with God, to “pastoring your wife’s heart”.
  • DivorceCare leaders have been equipped and have run for a full quarter reaching a dozen men, women, & children directly and dozens beyond that where they work, live, and recover.
  • Couples have received couple on couple discipleship, wisdom, and encouragement and even been sent to a local marriage conference followed by one on one or couples’ “debriefing”.
    Through a partnership with another local 
    ministry, God has provided food for a dozen 
    families a year with about 6 of them on a 
    weekly basis.

  • Weekly food runs through Divine Resourcing have brought food to more than a half dozen families as part of our “Speak Life” programming.
  • We’ve run a panel discussion for divorced men on “Single Sexuality”.
  • Men have been encouraged to “think out loud” at ONE TH1NG, (a separate ministry led by Ron Dunn designed to “Spur men to walk with God”). Aarron and other men have led dozens of micro group discussions as part of their “ministry within a ministry” environment. 
  • Aarron also recently led a conversation at Men Step Up, Gwinnett, on Friday, 5.11.2012 (see photo above) regarding contentment in current circumstances in light of present and eternal rewards. It hit home for a great majority of the men in attendance.
  • The SOLM blog & Facebook page have been enhanced and regular content added, reaching an audience in the hundreds, soon to be thousands.
  • Our skills have been sharpened through both counseling and impartation through Trinity Psychological Services, Free Chapel, and Jesus Spoken Here Ministries.
  • Aarron has begun preliminary preparation for a “That Day” performance in October and is in talks about another engagement before then.
Argentina?
     Recently, supporters of Seasons of Life and followers of our Facebook Fan Page helped a friend of ours take an unexpected “mission” trip to Argentina. We hope to have an official update from Lily Chauvin soon, but we can tell you it was a heartbreaking trip. While there were some who received her well, she found others to be hostile to her as well as the gospel. We know from scripture that God prepares the heart to receive the gospel, but gives man the opportunity to accept it or reject it. We’re grateful for all of you who jumped at the chance to help her in her calling and honored to have participated.

Fiscal Forecast – Sunny?
     Financially, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by God prompting a number of supporters to step up their giving, completely unsolicited. (In fact, whereas normally we’ve sent out support letters once or twice per quarter, it’s been almost six months since we’ve sent out a “make the need known” letter. Glory to God.) 


    As we approach the summer there are a few transitions on the horizon and we’d like to inform everyone of the possibilities ahead for 2012, 2013 and beyond. The Lord is broadening our territory in Gainesville, GA, where the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. This could mean carrying a wider load for Free Chapel’s DivorceCare program but also bringing Seasons of Life discipleship to a community lacking in a detailed one-on-one discipleship plan and budget to sustain it, yet rich in a deep and abiding need for it.    

     We are prayerfully moving forward one step at a time, one relationship at a time, one conversation & prayer at a time.


To help us capture a $2,500 matching
donation for 2nd quarter, click here.

The Big News:

    This presents a fantastic opportunity for people with a passion for para-church ministries, pastoral care for the hurt, broken, and addicted, as well as those who love to support missionaries in general. Currently, we are less than $3,000 from meeting our support need – for the quarter – this is a big deal for three reasons:

  1. This is the shortest distance we’ve been from the mark, ever. And this is for the quarter, not the month. Wow, praise GOD!
  2. Summer is historically one of the driest “seasons” of the year for many non-profits and ministries like Seasons of Life, yet this!
  3. God has dropped a (ridiculously timely) $2,500 dollar-for-dollar matching gift on the table for 2nd Quarter!



What You Can Do:
     Your giving power is officially doubled. Anyone who supports Seasons of Life Ministries in new giving, whether one time, “seasonal” (once/month for three months), or joins as a new monthly support family member, will help us not only capture the funds needed for the quarter, but definitively help set us up for a smooth 3rd & 4th quarter and balance the scales moving into 2013. WOW, is right!

     Pray it over, (as always), and consider whether this is the “sign” you’ve been waiting for: the need is great where we’re “growing to”. You may never personally experience the work God’s called us to do all the way up in North Forsyth and Hall Counties, but your giving will make a bold impact on men, marriages, couples, children, and disciples of Christ there. To help capture this timely gift, click here or enter “http://bit.ly/solmsupport” in your browser’s address bar.

Moving Forward
     Thank you, thank you, to all who are still lifting up this ministry, our family, and those we serve in your prayers. Great things are in the rear view mirror and on the horizon. Your “vertical” support has not been wasted. Please, keep us in prayer, join us in prayer, and tell anyone you can to follow us, fan us, like us, and pray for us.

in Christ,

AP

Newsletter Update (1 of 2)

What Happened to Spring?!

     As transplanted Northerners, spring in Georgia is a strange phenomenon for us. It comes with little warning, a month (or two) earlier than we’re used to, and turns into summer even faster. Brown, crunchy lawns in our neighborhood turn verdant almost overnight. It’s almost as if a glacier melted and dropped a new terrain on top of the old, barren one. From a practical standpoint, that’s what it looks like when Jesus drops His abundant life into the life of the broken. Dry, crusty life doesn’t just “perk up”, it thrives.

     This past year has been one of the most challenging seasons of our own lives personally. Yet, we have clearly seen God use it to transform our hearts and refine His ministry through us. Call it “on the job training”, but the trials He’s delivered us through in 2011-2012 have been no different than the dramatic winter to summer transition we’re growing accustomed to here in GA. We’re already seeing the results of it bear fruit in the lives of others.

Our Honor, His Glory
     Recently I had coffee with a guy whose wife is being crushed by the grinder of life. Pain and brokenness from her past is gushing out of her heart, subsequently, her mouth – and that hurts. But, to watch this guy “get vertical” and follow Jesus despite the (tongue) lashing he takes for hurts he didn’t cause, is such a sweet honor.

     I’ve got three or four guys across the table from me this year going through the same thing, and God continues to speak to us all through His word. I’m invigorated to watch them stumble at times, but get up and walk on in the footsteps of “forgive them Father, they know not what they do”. Love, love, awesome, godly love. Masculine, yet submitted to God. Wow.


     Just today, we got an email from a woman that Cristine loves very deeply and has walked with from time to time over the past few years – 

“[My husband and I] are proof that one on one discipleship truly helps (well, some days we’re better proof than other days) in our walk with Christ.” 

    What an awesome, transparent, clear encouragement: we all fall down. We must get up, but never by the flesh, only by the Spirit. Discipleship isn’t the fix-all for everything: Jesus is. But, walking with someone, arm-in-arm, as you walk with Christ can make such a huge difference, no?

The New Adventures of Old New Cristine:

Cristine Pina looks nothing like Julia
Louis-Dreyfus, but she once drove away with her
coffee or purse on the roof and I like the tag line.

     Cristine has transitioned to volunteer status, stepping back from discipleship quite a bit this year and taken on a God given (long story) part-time job to fill in part of a gap in support. As for her discpleship, she is “picking her spots” as God would have her, and we are mindful to guard her bandwidth as God directs. 

     To watch her embrace her role as a mother and discipler of our children out of obedience to the Lord rather than by the force of her husband is an awesome sight. As a husband and father, it is so comforting to know that I don’t have to pressure her to lean this direction, rather just get out of her and God’s way and watch them collaborate for this season. 

     While our oldest daughter, Brianna, has been walking through her own dark season of life, God has used Cristine’s heart for prayer and burden for the next generation to forge a new ministry effort – Mothers In Prayer. 
     This is a once per week environment, where women – whether mothers, grandmothers, or childless – are now gathering to make their prayers and petitions known to the Lord. It is not a curriculum-driven environment, small group, nor networking organization. It is not a place for platitudes and shallow, “proper” prayers. It is solely focused on lifting up the cares and concerns one generation has for the next, honestly, transparently, boldly. To find out more about Mothers in Prayer, message us on Facebook through either Seasons of Life’s fan page or the new Mothers in Prayer page at http://www.facebook.com/prayingmothers.

     Hey, while you’re at it, go to our fan page, click “like”, and then share it with your friends!

The Way Forward for Discipleship

     As a couple, we are still seeing other couples through seasons of turmoil. This has always been a part of the DNA of Seasons of Life and we can see it continuing as God conforms us and them to the image of Christ. We are certain of our involvement with Free Chapel’s DivorceCare program, just uncertain what that looks like as their org structure and implementation strategy changes this month. We would ask for your prayers that we be continually prayerful and open to God’s direction as we stand in the flow of His ministry to the divorced in that territory.

“Like” us on Facebook for
up to the minute news!

Socially Acceptable Behavior

     If you’re on our email newsletter list, you’ve noticed your inbox has been pretty quiet. This is because we’ve been leaning much more heavily on Facebook, Twitter, and the blog for public updates. Social media has grown more and more effective, and we’re pleased with the results. As we track with this trend, you will likely see less from us in your inbox and more consistency on the blog and other outlets. Tune in.


     To connect with us on Facebook, click here. To follow us on Twitter, click here. If you’re just tuning in, God’s impressed on me the idea of staying consistent (again, with exceptions at His direction) with a weekly devotional published Mondays, here on the blog.

Monday Morning Momentum in a Minute

Reward!
     Don’t you just love the red letters? I mean, think about it – if you’re a theist or a deist, you don’t believe in a personal god who is active and involved in the life of His creation. But, if you’re a disciple of Christ, you have pages and pages of ancient manuscripts that have been preserved and protected over centuries that contain the words of the God who not only invented the universe, but also came to earth as one of us to teach, reach, and die for us.

     I’m off topic. My bad.

     The point of today is to further look into what happens today and how it effects eternity. Jesus is on a roll with His teaching ministry in Matthew 6 and sets the record straight on prayer and piety:

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven… I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (Mt. 6.2,5b)” 

     If you can’t say “amen”, you’d better say “ouch”! “Really? That’s all I get?”

     Salvation is by faith in Christ alone. But, eternal rewards are a different story. Works we do here effect our eternal reward. God promises to reward us for everything we do while here “in the body” (2 Cor 5:10), but here gives us exception clauses as a warning. For the deists & theists out there, this flies in the face of your theology, big time: a personal God is watching you, recording your every move, with a great desire to reward you in eternity for the good you have done. How is that “uninvolved”? Further, and to the point, He also promises to deny us reward for actions done with a selfish motive, i.e. public kudos.

     For those of us in public, vocational ministry, especially the small, Mom-and-Pop type like Seasons of Life, this presents an interesting challenge: how does one report appropriately to “update” the public without sacrificing eternal rewards for bragging about ones’ works like the Pharisees did? Prayerfully and only to the glory of God. Et tu? How do you share your story, your testimony, the things God is using you for without sacrificing eternal rewards?

     Check your heart.

     What I really wanted to blog about this morning is the previous chapter – in Matthew 5:8, Jesus tells the crowds that when our hearts are clean and uncontaminated by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, (roll over to see also Luke 8:14 and Jas 1:27), we have a clear, unobstructed view of who God really is and what He is up to in the world. So, how’s your heart? Is it contaminated by worries over the things of this world? Mine isn’t. I’ve got to sit down right after I hit “publish” and “get to confessin”: I’m laden down this morning with what’s ahead in my day, some things I’m waiting to hear back on, some fundraising stuff that “might” go through, etc., etc., etc.

Be Encouraged:
     We’re never more than one prayer away from access to the full resources of Heaven. We’re never more than one prayer away from true repentance and a fully clean heart: it just takes honesty before God that we’re being controlled, run, “stained” [as James says] by motives other than pleasing God. Do you seek public accolades? Do you seek the desires of your heart independent of a “delight in the Lord” (Ps 37:4)?

     Dump your heart. Repent of the sin of worry. Receive right motives. And, step forward in grace, empowered by the Spirit. It ain’t complicated. Hard, sometimes – I’ll give you that – but simple. Momentum.

Much love.

AP

Brianna’s Story (Updated)

Some Background

Our amazing, growing, wild-about-God child, Brianna.

A few weeks ago, many of you saw our oldest daughter’s photo on Facebook – she had run away from home one morning and we were in a desperate search on her behalf. It was the longest 7 hours of our life – deputies, detectives, K-9s, etc. Yet, it was filled with prayer, community, and comfort as only God could deliver it.

She had a lot of explaining to do when she returned and the core issues that drove her to running would not be fully exposed that day or even in the days to come. Brianna, like most of us, was struggling with her identity and sense of self worth.

Do You Remember the Time?
Many of you reading this can recall a time in your teenage or even college years when life just seemed confusing, disappointing, and unbearable. Without a clear sense of who we are (in Christ), we are dangerously vulnerable to being “tossed back and forth by the wind” of circumstance. Anxiety, disappointment, and sadness can coalesce into hopelessness.

That’s precisely where Brie had found herself. By the grace of God, she has overcome many obstacles and is currently staying at a residential “behavioral health facility” that helps kids regain their balance in the midst of a chaotic time. It’s not faith based, so we have to bring our own notes to the table when we visit her each week. As parents, we are deeply prayerful on her behalf as well as thoroughly engaged in the “stabilization process”.

I recently reminded Brie how Mommy & I live a very public life and asked her how public she wanted us to be about her journey. She smirked and said “you can tell them everything, as long as it helps”. Wow. Big, brave girl! Below, you’ll find a few action items for yourself and links to articles that may help you if you are/have experienced what she’s gone through or are ministering to someone who’s been through anxiety, depression, cutting, etc.

In truth, it seems much wiser to wait until Brie is on steadier footing before we go any deeper. It’s her story to tell. But, for the sake of all who are asking, we will let a few generalities out – see below. Thank you, all for honoring her in your prayers and for allowing her the space to tell her story at the appropriate time. In short, she does want other teenage girls to know that depression is real, running away has immediate consequences, and self harm can have long term consequences. The way out is “through”.

To Parents of Teens:
In the past two months, this series of events has brought me to the table with no less than a dozen parents who are either going through similar circumstances (two of them the same week as Brianna) and we’ve learned a thing or seven. I’m assuming before this list you consider the fact that helping your teen gain grounding in who they are in Christ is paramount in your plan. Otherwise, they’re relegated to what the rest of the world does – finding their identity in clothes, cliques, and popular culture – a much smaller package than God designed for them to walk in.

  1. Be nosy – if your kid’s grades drop suddenly, it’s not because they just don’t like their biology and math teachers. Despite all we asked, Brie assured us (after the fact) that she felt the need to make everyone think she was okay even when she wasn’t. Most kids don’t want the label “drama queen/drama king”, so they will learn to put on a front both in public and private if it means “avoiding a scene”. Know their unlock code for their phone – if a child runs away without their phone, you’ll likely need to enlist the help of every friend in their contact list to find and bring them home safely.
  2. Surround your teen with godly adults who can influence where you can’t. – This has been the hardest thing for us to do. Jesus told the disciples “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” – those closest to you often reject your advice and counsel because of the law of familiarity. When you do discipleship as a full-time job, you’ll often find yourself scratching your head wondering why your kid doesn’t get it. Yet, I’ve spoken with three ministry leaders this month alone whose kids have ignored sound advice because it was given by their parents. Godly outsiders can be a great asset to your teen. Find some.
  3. There’s a difference between solitude and isolation – if your teen is self isolating, there’s more at play and much more at stake. See #1 at this point.
  4. Read up on self harm and cutting – Nancy Alcorn reports that 10 years ago 6% of her ministry was to women who identify as self-harmers. Today, it’s over 67%. It’s rampant and requires intervention.
  5. Get into their shoes, or at least their brain – If you’re a real stickler for details, Google “prefrontal cortex and adolescence” to get a better understanding of what your teen is going through.

Last, don’t minimize their pain, doubt, fear, or struggles. Their world is very real to them, though perceived only in part and obscured by raging hormones and the loss of some of their brain cells (see PBS’s Frontline article). The prefrontal cortex of the brain handles

“planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making and moderating social behavior (Wikipedia)”.

It’s the part of the brain that prevents us from making irrational, teenage decisions… yet, it’s not fully developed until we reach 25 years old! Throughout her recent exposure to the behavioral health system, we’ve constantly reassured our daughter that she’s not crazy – she’s merely reacting normally to a crazy situation, with a developing brain. By God’s grace, she’ll be convinced of that.

What Can You Do?
As far as us? We’re good. We don’t need sympathy right now. No, really – since this began, God has honored our prayers and shown us that while this is not His perfect will, He is sovereign over us and will use this time of testing to shape and galvanize Brie’s character, testimony, and ministry (not to mention ours).
Put your sympathy card away and get your kneepads on – to pray for Brianna as she “digs in” to do the hard work of introspection, emotional excavation, and claiming her identity in Christ for the first time. We are so proud of her and incredibly blessed to see her faith thriving in the midst of all that has gone on. Clearly, the Lord is ushering her through the valley. She will emerge victoriously and with greater assurance of both His love for her and her identity as His child.

For Brie?
Pray for her to continue to engage with her counselor, her Lord, and her work. God is molding her character in the best ways possible right now and we (and she) are thrilled with her growth. Long term, she wants to enroll in a deeper, faith based program that will help her grow in a deeper understanding of her identity in Christ.

As far as you? Take care of your kid. Or, someone else’s if you don’t have any. Invest all you can into their first decade and be fully present, safe, and available for them during that time. Teach them the value of prayer and leave the rest up to God. Volunteer for your church’s children’s ministries or even for middle school or high school. But, most of all – pray. Love God, thank Jesus for grace, and dig in to the Word.

Huge thanks to the many who have rallied around us, especially the many sitters required to care for the three youngest while we’ve made countless trips to hospitals and “Doctor Camps” for visits and group sessions with Brie. Also, great thanks to Dr. Bob Montes, who has helped us stay grounded in a fully biblical approach to this situation. Thank you, for all of your cards, prayers, and fellowship. Continue to pray that Brie grows more sensitive to the voice of God within her and that He continues to reveal His great nature to her as healer, comforter, redeemer, and lover of her soul.

In Christ,

AP & CP

Update: 5.24.2013
Yesterday’s family session was incredibly tense, but I walk away from it “oddly optimistic”. Brianna displayed oppositional behavior and let a lot of anger out over the course of several rants throughout the conversation. However, this may well be an important step forward since it was the first session she was off any and all prescription meds. As a friend of mine put it – it was “just Brie” with no crutches, forced to walk through the discussion on her own for the first time. To use this analogy, she “fell down” a few times in the discussion, but at least kept walking to a point. It was not an easy conversation for either Cristine nor I, but I am encouraged to know that this was a maiden voyage, with many more to come.

Thank you, all for your prayers for her:
God is up to something.

AP

Men Stepped Up, Ray Ortlund, and Monday Morning Momentum

Author’s note & pet peccadillo:
     Today, apart from being incredibly grateful to Ray Ortlund for His obedience to God in writing such a timely post as we’ll dive briefly into, I also can’t resist the temptation to play Spelling Nazi. Kelly Talamo named the environment “Men Step Up”, because in his words “lives change when men ‘step up’ to the Truth”. 


     I can’t tell you how many times I hear people ask “Hey, are you going to Men’s Step Up this week?” Okay, I can, I’ll just wind up gritting my teeth into dust… You get the point… I’ll step down off the soap box and put away my red pen. It’s not like I don’t occasionally invent my own words or brutally murder a rule or two of decent, English grammar…

   
Spurring One Another On…

What happens at the tables never
stays at the tables. Praise God!

     This past Friday morning, I had the opportunity to “bring it” at Men Step Up, Gwinnett. Essentially that means I was tasked with standing up in front of a crowd of guys, (many of whom intimidate the heck out of me from a spiritual standpoint), and “provoking” them toward a discussion that would take place at their tables.
     These weekly discussions are proctored by a table leader and outlined by about 4 or 5 questions on the front of an index card (see picture, right). The back side of the card will normally have a lie on it that many of us have either bought into, wrestled with in real life, or both, as well as a few select lines from scripture that either individually or collectively debunk the lie.

Men Step Up is a gathering where the lies of the enemy collide with the truth of God’s word. For more information,
go to http://www.menstepupgwinnett.com/

     If you’ve been reading the blog at all last week (Part 1, Part 2), you know we’ve been talking about the context for current struggle, trial, aggravation, etc. as a lead up to that event. I had planned to present this morning’s post as a combined update/devotional on the topic. However, it seems the day after I spoke, Ray Ortlund posted an article that capped off our discussion perfectly in a mere 20 sentences.

     So, here it is in its entirety with a brief send off from me at the end:

(Please, visit Ray’s blog from time to time at this link: Ray Ortlund. Original post here.)
     “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.  Let your garments be always white.  Let not oil be lacking on your head.  Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.”  Ecclesiastes 9:7-9
     We could take any of three approaches to the daily experience of this earthly life.
     One, this present experience is all we have, our only chance at a little happiness.  But absolutizing this life puts enormous pressure on us, intensifying our desperation and pushing us toward doing stupid things.  Worse, it cuts us off from the endless love of God in Christ.
     Two, this present experience is a stepping-stone into eternity, which is all that matters even now.  This broken world is more to be endured than enjoyed.  Indeed, this world and everything about it are an embarrassment to any serious person.
     Three, this present experience is brief, non-ultimate and good.  While it lasts, it is to be dignified — not absolutized or despised but dignified — as a gift from God.  This life is a mixture of grace and tragedy, a good creation marred by our human folly.  So, the wise seek the things that are above, where Christ is (Colossians 3:1), and they receive with thanksgiving the good things God gives here and now (1 Timothy 4:1-5).
     The first approach is the unbelief of visceral idolatry.  The second approach is the unbelief of pious negativism.  The third approach is wisdom.  It is biblical, humane, sustainable.
Have a good day.

Be Encouraged:
     The fact that Ray & I have never met and yet he wrote the perfect synopsis of what we were talking about on the very same day, he’s dead on point here. In last week’s post and our discussion at Men Step Up, we concluded that eternal rewards are the context for current suffering, that current rewards are no indicator of eternal and Godly appreciation, and that when it comes to rewards, we have a three tiered “compensation plan”:

  1. One time paycheck: “Atta boy!!!” (remarkably temporary, a la Matt. 6:2, Matt 6:5, Matt 6:16)
  2. Royalties only: “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” (see Rev. 2 & 3) or
  3. Earthly Reward and Eternal 401K: “do everything without arguing or complaining. (Phil. 2:14)”, “Enjoy life… (Ecc. 9:8)” and “I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23b)” 

     I was amazed at how pertinent this message was for the guys in attendance, at that moment. It may well be pertinent to you right now. Regardless of its relevance in your current season of life, this is a topic neither you nor I will fully grasp in a handful of blog posts or even conversations with godly men and women – this is one of those things that requires the illuminative power of the Holy Spirit to make clear and present in our everyday mindset. It may also require diligent and thirsty searching of the scriptures.

     Be encouraged, be spurred on, and be aware: That Day is coming when we will all receive rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. May your inheritance be great and may you enjoy this life and the one to come.

in Christ,

AP

Context is King – Care for a Crown?

       
   
 

Want one of these in your 401K?

Context is King.
     But, Jesus is the King of Kings and He offers not only salvation for those who believe, but also some desperately needed context for our worldview.

     Trials and troubles and annoyances and tragedies exist. No getting around that in a Genesis 3 world. So, Jesus gave us a heads-up – “In this life, you will have troubles.” But, what is the context in which we are to interpret these troubles? In chapter 15 of John’s gospel, Jesus has just spent a bunch of time telling his disciples some bad news: the world is going to hate them “for no reason (John 15:25)”. Then He moves forward into the “you will have trouble” part of the speech. As if the “they’re going to hate you” part wasn’t bad enough, He explains two things:

  1. “I’m telling you this so you won’t get freaked out when it happens. I’m giving you a heads-up now that I’m on my way out.” (John 16:1 – paraphrased)
  2. “It’s going to be so bad, people are going to try to kill you because of me, thinking by killing you they’re serving Me.” (John 16:2-4 – paraphrased) “So, what do you guys want for dessert?”

    Can we skip to the end of the story? For some context?

The End That Satisfies the Means
    Here’s why “the end of a matter is better than its beginning… (Ecc 7:8)”: At the “end of the story” – Revelation 2 & 3, where God dictates seven letters for John to address to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus reminds them who He is. “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (v. 23)… To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations (v. 26)” At the Bema seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5.10), believers in Christ will receive their eternal rewards, including many crowns promised throughout scripture.

    Bottom line – in a world where trouble is the everyday landscape of our walk, everything you and I do [within God’s will for us and that’s not done with selfish motive (Mt. 6:2, Mt. 6:5, Mt. 6:16)] will be repaid with eternal reward.

     So, here’s the compensation structure when it comes to persevering under trial:

  1. Get paid now – “Atta boy!!!” (remarkably temporary)
  2. Get paid in eternity – “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” or
  3. Both – “do everything without arguing or complaining. (Phil. 2:14)” and “I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23b)”

     We’ve been warned. We’ve been told it won’t be easy, but given the Holy Spirit to guide, empower, and protect us. We’ve been given the context of our trials, persecution, and our eternal rewards. We can take the recognition from men now or we can take a rain check in our eternal 401K. What would you prefer, a compliment that lasts a little while or a portfolio that lasts forever?

    If you’re a man within 30 minutes of California Dreaming in Duluth, GA – do whatever you have to do to get there tomorrow morning (Friday, 05.11.2012) at 6:30 for Men Step Up. There, we’ll be thinking out loud about the lies of the enemy and the truth that sets men free, specifically this stuff. Hope to see you there!

AP

Ignorance is Bliss… Unless You’re a MIP

Confronting Blissful Ignorance
“My kids are fine. My son stopped hanging out with that other boy and broke up with that girl he was seeing.” For some parents, this is where the buck stops. If the bad influences are “cut out”, their kids are back on the straight and narrow. But, what if that logic has the cart before the horse? What if a biblical worldview is to have the “heart before the course”?

10 Reasons Why Not to Attend Mothers in Prayer:

Scrub Away!!! – Monday Morning Momentum

     When you work hard, you expect to get paid. Maybe it’s a bonus or commission. Maybe you’re on salary and you’re hoping your effort will count toward a raise or promotion. Maybe you’re trying to win points with your spouse or significant other. Whatever you were doing, if you’re like me, you’re expecting a return on your efforts, right? But, what happens when the finish line gets moved and you’re asked to wait for your reward “a little longer”, “til next quarter”, or not at all? Worse, what happens when you do what was expected (or more than that) and you don’t get a reward at all? Instead you get reprimanded, criticized, publicly humiliated, or the recognition not only goes to someone else but you’re also dragged across the coals for all of your other faults and foibles?

     Now, that’s a pain.

Spur. Ouch. Now, THAT’LL
move you to action, won’t it!?

     True statement. Men don’t like to talk about pain unless it’s a “you think that’s bad, lemme tell ya what happentaME” contest. The bible has a lot of words for this that men don’t like to discuss – heartsick, heartbreak, affliction, sorrow. Women, you’re easy, you’ll talk about your hurts, your pains, your disappointments with little or no provocation. But, this message is for you, too. I’m just picking on the guys, because… I am one and I know we men need to be prodded and “spurred”, as the bible says.

     Women, (especially wives), you’re probably really good at tolerating certain “guy” things, like tools and mechanical things that make a man’s eyes light up when he walks into Home Depot. Thank you, for that. If you’re a (stereo)typical “I need my space clean.” woman, you’re a woman who can relate to a tool men might have in their toolbox: scouring tools like rasps, grinders, and sandpaper. In my kitchen, both Cristine and I go through tons of those yellow and green scrubby pads because I’m a cooker and she’s a cleaner and sometimes stuff gets STUCK on that stove.

     With all the prolonged rewards in life, the toxic, critical workplace scenarios, withheld commissions, heartbreak, sorrow, etc., we all need a little perspective from time to time to carry us through the disappointment. Cristine and I were reading about it in Ecclesiastes and have been experiencing Holy Momentum as a result.

The Truth:

     Roll over this link to read (Ecc. 7:2-6). In the midst of all the trials our 14 year old daughter has been going through (and she’s really digging in right now and doing the hard work, Praise God!), we went to the scriptures with a “God, we’ve gotta hear from you” attitude, and He popped verse 3 right off the page:
“Crying is better than laughing.
   It blotches the face but it scours the heart. (MSG)”
Hey, what happens when you scour something? Doesn’t it get cleaner? I didn’t put those tires on the car so I could look at brake dust, I bought them because I wanted the tire. When I scour away the brake dust, I get to the thing I wanted in the first place – the shine, the polish, the good stuff.

Sadness = Sandpaper

     One of the keys to finding purpose in the pain is not ignoring the pain, not minimizing the injustice, rather knowing that God is using pain to refine us. I know, I don’t want to hear that junk, either. But, for us, as we watch our Brie-brie dig through vague layers of superficial anger and get into more specific feelings like “anxiety”, “betrayal”, and “hurt”, we are deeply encouraged to know that the obscuring facade is being scoured away. Someday, maybe not next week or next quarter, we will see the fruit of the scrubby pad/sand paper/sadness.

Be Encouraged
     In every life there is disappointment, payment withheld, kindness returned with injury. It happens like this in a Genesis 3 world. The great news is, we will all be rewarded for our perseverance in trial. God has not forgotten you or me or… them, the offenders of the faithful. He is watching and will reward us. This week, I’ll be opening up a conversation with a big bunch of burly men of God at Men Step Up, Gwinnett on this very topic. If you want to join us, we’d love to have you. Comment or email us for details and come ready to collide with the truth.

in Christ,

AP