Monthly Archives: June 2013

Staying Out of the Shredder

Spinning Blades Coming Closer!!!
     Ever get into a disagreement with someone that turns uglier and uglier even though you’re giving it your best effort to resolve your differences? It feels like your clothes are caught in a shredder and you’re being pulled into its sharp, chomping blades.

Motor and Opportunity
     The motor of a shredder has one motive – turn the shredding blades. This is good news when the right material is put into the shredder. But, interpersonal conflict is one shredder we don’t want to get our flesh or hearts caught up in. One way to avoid getting shredded is to stand clear of it and make sure you don’t get your lose clothing near the opening. Don’t give the shredder opportunity to do any more than shred what’s supposed to be shredded, got it? Easier said than done…

     Crisis and conflict reveal our loose clothing. Financial pressure can be like a necktie dangling over the blades. Unresolved past issues with this person can be like untied shoelaces locked in the shredder. Pride over admitting your faults or even avoiding the words “I was… wrong…” can get you sucked into the shredder despite the stiff arms you’ve extended to protect yourself.

     The good news about a good shredder is there are at least two buttons. One forward and one reverse. Giving in to offense and moving forward in quarrel is pressing the shred button.

     How do you get out once you’re in? First, you’ve got to unclog the motor. Second, you’ve got to get your clothing out of the blades. “Repent” is the reverse button. Press it generously and quickly to free yourself from the blades.

“Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Rev 2:16”

What’s Her Problem?!
     Two weeks ago, I was meeting with a man I meet with regularly and his wife texted him about something he’d done or said carelessly. His eyebrows furrowed and I could see frustration wash over his face. She had confronted him about his poor choice. He looked at me and asked “what the heck do I say in return to that?!”

     “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” I told him. Her problem was that he had done something he shouldn’t. Now, he could easily have pridefully justified what he did and dragged forward his excuses. But, that would have just tangled more of his clothing in the blades. The way out, in this case, was not through. It was to be through by repenting. Continuing in sin is fighting against God, who you don’t want to fight against. (See Rev. 2:16 above.)

     There’s something about true repentance that can stop the shredder from spinning. Though it won’t fix the torn clothes or flayed flesh, it can at least keep us from making the damage worse and giving us space and time to heal. Repent. Admit your wrong doing and turn from it. Agree with God that you’ve done the wrong thing and trust Him with the outcome.

in Christ,
AP

What You MUST Know Before Your Next Road Trip

Our Trip
     When you have three toddlers, one vehicle in the family, and limited resources, you tend not to travel long distances very often. But, when Grandma offered us to stay with her for a week around the twins’ 3rd birthday, driving 10 hours (plus stops) to South Florida became a much more workable proposition.

     Then, we got on the road… Lonnnng road. Did I mention 10 hours plus stops?

Breaking it Down
     When your destination is so far off, you tend to look for mile markers, the coveted “halfway” mark, and state boundaries are bright spots on the journey. From Gainesville, GA to the Florida line is about 4-1/2 hours. The whole time we were on that leg of the trip, all three toddlers and both adults were talking about “heading to Florida, heading to Florida” with great anticipation. Unfortunately, the Florida line is an hour shy of the halfway mark. Even when you get to the line, you’ve still got a long way to go, don’t you? Especially if there are delays…

     This means the excitement of “getting to Florida” is short lived and soon replaced with “are we at Grandma’s yet?” This is the tension between temporal hope and eternal hope… In fact, after a few hours in Florida I began to think we were never going to get there and it would have been great to be back home in Gainesville, GA. Rain and the inevitable standstill construction traffic slowdowns. “Four more hours? 3… 2… Ever?!” 

     In those moments of temporal disappointment, if we didn’t have the ongoing excitement of knowing we’d see Grandma, Nana, and a big birthday party, it might have been easier to just pull over to the nearest beach, hang out, and go back home. “We’re passing the Panhandle… Can’t we just pull over in Destin and call it a day?”

Another Journey
     Paul heard about trouble on the Isle of Crete. False teaching was making a mark. Paul’s letter to Titus gets verbally a little Chuck Norris to help focus the teaching ministry there. “Rebuke sharply… Warn the divisive once, twice, then have nothing to do with him. Here’s the vital stuff you can’t skimp on in your ministry, Titus. Be clear and bold about this stuff,” he essentially told him. Clear and imperative coaching without any fluff.

     But then, he drives these points home with at least one “why” Titus should be teaching these things:

“…so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:7, emphasis mine)

     Hope is the place you hang your heart, your mind, your current, intense focus. Paul gives Titus crucial perspective on the hope part of his discipleship ministry – “Keep those you disciple focused on the fact that they’ve been saved from sin and the stuff that used to enslave them, but also keep their eyes on the fact that they’ve won the ultimate permanent vacation destination: “hope of eternal life”. 

     Better than birthday at Grandma’s. Better than the beach. Better than a halfway point. EternitywithJesus.

So What?!
     Glad you asked. The traffic jams and distractions that slow us down on the way to eternity are the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life”. Satan loves to misdirect our ultimate hope with midway points in the temporal realm. Misplaced hopes: loss of a family member or mate… or a job… or a dream… Gain of a new gadget or the bonus or promotion we’ve been working for or just the accumulation of the house, the boat, the pool, the dream backyard, dream kitchen or both.

Gut Check:
     The word “amusement” comes from the Greek “a = not” and “muse = think”, meaning “not thinking”. During tough parts of our life journey, we tend to long for amusing diversions. These are places where we almost need to “hyper-muse”: intensely focus on the eternal. During the “fun” parts, we can easily become too enamored by the midpoints and make the journey all about the amusement. There’s a ditch on both sides of the road.

     Paul makes it clear: life isn’t about the journey – it’s about our eternal destination. God is preparing us for eternity. So, what are you thinking about… or not thinking? Have you become so overwhelmed or enamored by the journey that the ultimate destination is no longer your focus? Where is your hope, in the now or the eternal? 

in Christ,

AP




3 Things You Have to Gain from the Pain in Christ

The Old Deal:
     In Exodus, God led the nation of Israel through the desert as a guiding beacon – cloud by day, pillar of fire by night – protecting them from the pursuing Egyptian army overnight before they could cross the parted sea, providing food and water for their journey, and propelling them forward when they complained.

Protecting, providing, propelling…

The New Deal
     In Acts 20:23-24, the apostle Paul tells us that God, the Holy Spirit, does two things – compels him, leading him to his next church planting assignment, and warns him of imprisonment and hardship to come. Propelling Paul into danger? Sounds like a different god at the helm, doesn’t it? Did God forget to proofread the email He sent to Paul and the church? Hasn’t He read “Your Best Life Now”?!

Assignment: the Linchpin
     Yet, the promise made to Israel was a very different promise than what was made to the apostles. Israel was on a different assignment than the church. God was leading them to a temporal victory. 

     Jesus told his disciples that they (and by extension, we) would have troubles. While we have been given promise of immediate freedom from sin – we are no longer obligated to walk by the flesh – this is not the endgame. The freedom we experience “in Christ” is more a by product of God’s ultimate gift: eternity to enjoy and worship Him. 

     In other words, the road to eternity may be marked by hardship, prison, falling out of favor with those who hate God, persecution, etc. But, the true prosperity we are promised is not a “now” land of milk and honey nor riches and pleasures in this world. Just as our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), our victory is not entirely in flesh, blood, or the “now”.

     The joy of the Christian life is not in the material pleasures that often confuse, elude, or intoxicate us. The God we serve who leads us on this dangerous mission is the same God who led Israel to material prosperity and safety – He just promises us those things in eternity rather than in this age. 

Three Things You Have To Gain Through the Pain
     If pursuit of God’s purposes and assignments for our lives will necessarily bring difficulty, why would we want to say “yes” to such a thing? 

  1. To follow Christ comes at the prompting of God, who draws us to Him – and we gain Him, from whom we are otherwise eternally separated. Not to mention we gain our souls. (See Matthew 16:26)
  2. When we fully grasp how nastyrottenfithyawful sin really is, how holy God really is, and how utterly incompatible sinners are with Him (apart from Christ), our response can only be “I’ll do whatever, whenever, no matter the cost!”
  3. God promises that we will be rewarded for our struggle both by temporal maturity and effectiveness (Romans 5:3-4, James 1:2-4, 2 Peter 1:5-8) and in eternal rewards at the judgment seat where He will reward those “in Christ” for everything done in the body whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10)

Power Question:
     During trials, loss, pain, etc., are you asking God “why me?” or “how will this mature me, Lord”?

Off to Work
     Begin with the end in mind. God’s endgame is to prepare us and train us for kingdom living – in mature love and full submission to Him. The pain, struggle, and hardship given to us here is designed to stretch us and build us up stronger, much as any athlete preparing for a professional sports career. If trials truly build us up, look forward to the trials. If the Lord is truly our prize, look forward to the Lord. If hindsight is truly 20/20, when you look in your rear view mirror, you may well see He has orchestrated the trials, the pain, the stretching toward maturity all for good. Not painless… but worth it.

Walk in agape, by the Spirit,

AP

Vision, Staying "Unstuck", and What David Allen Doesn’t Know

     For months, I’ve been preaching what the uninformed and biblically illiterate could easily be misread as a false gospel – referring to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and “Making it All Work” in some of my discipleship, speaking engagements, and coaching. What you need to know is that while I see David Allen as a pretty committed New-Age pagan, what I’ve learned, read, and experienced in the Bible clearly shows that he’s accidentally stumbled on to a veritable gold mine of very God-ordained truth.

     If you’re not highly familiar with his methodology, you may see it as a bunch of tricks and techniques that are helpful at best and complicated at worst. For your edification, let me summarize – Getting Things Done (GTD) is just a method of becoming more intentional about capturing all of the commitments and responsibilities in your life, conquering the “up front thinking” (What is it? What is the next actionable step to take with this? Where do I park it until its time comes? and How fast can I dispose of it if it’s trash?), and gaining both perspective (vision) and control (stewardship/influence/action) over these commitments.

     Very simple, but not easy. But, you don’t need to understand that thoroughly to understand the next point.

     As a believer in Christ, you and I have biblical commands and convictions that should make his entire methodology a walk in the park. If we’re ever “stuck” in using Allen’s methodology, we’re either uncertain of what “done” looks like or when to do the “doing”, David would have you or I use what he calls “Six Horizons of Focus”, basically pulling back the lens of our life to the 50,000 foot level to regain perspective. Once we’ve got a 50,000 foot view, it’s much easier to drop down several levels to the practical “what’s next?” level [GTD “runway”] with a more informed decision of what to do.

     In other words, confused on what to do next? Go to the mountain and look down.

     For those who are not “in Christ”, you are relegated to looking down only from the top of the mountain. But, there’s the trouble. No matter how tall the mountain you use as your lookout, God always has a higher view.

     For those who have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and the “mind of Christ”, you have a powerful vantage point that puts you head, shoulders, and planets above the rest – you have God’s vision.

     My prayer today is not that you would pick up GTD or Making it All Work, not even that you would pick up your Bible right away… (Heretical?! No.) Rather, that you would pay attention to what has your attention. Count your sheep (see here and here), then bring your accounting to the Lord, ask Him “what’s next, from Your view point?”, and compare the answer you hear to what you read in your Bible. You have access not just to a mountain top view of your world, but of the mountain maker, mountain shaker, and mountain mover.

May He take the scales from your eyes and give you clear vision before you take another step.

in Christ,

AP

One Thing You Could Do to Make a Difference This Summer

UPDATED: Sunday, June 2
After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:1-4)

High Tech Tent Making

An old school plasma TV I hung
this week while “tent making”.

    A few weeks ago, I had a chance to shift out of “full time” ministry mode and into a more part time schedule. I’ve needed some time to get back to meeting with people to raise awareness and support for Seasons of Life and a part time job opportunity presented itself at the home theater company I used to work for that gives me a little flexibility to do so. It wasn’t what I planned to do with my summer, but God calls and we respond, right?

     This week, I’ve worked in $750,000 homes, handled tens of thousands of dollars worth of home theater and A/V equipment, while at the same time worked alongside men who are inches from the poverty level. Strange, isn’t it? But, the gospel is needed there just as much as it is with the men I normally meet with.

     I’m excited about some of the upcoming work, but it’s a major transition for us and has brought its share of stress and growing pains. Financially, we’ve been praying for God to “fill a hole in the bottom of the boat” and often He’s done just that. But, as the boat has changed course slightly, we’ve gained a clearer picture of just how big that hole is and a stark look at how much water we’ve taken on in the process.
 
The Waiting Game & The Gap

     Right now, I’m waiting for some of the audio-video/outdoor lighting jobs to be completed before I can be paid for my work at my “day job”. I’m also waiting on several back paychecks from Seasons of Life that may or may not get funded this year. By the end of the month, the boat could be steady going, God willing. But, for now, there’s a gap between now and then – a time sensitive, financial gap.

     So, as we spend the summer repairing the hole in the hull, will you help us bail water/bridge the gap?
 

    I invite you to click over to our website and contribute in any amount you can, as soon as you can. I’m also inviting you to be one of the peculiar people who support discipleship ministry and the usual work we do here at SOLM even when there is no financial crisis, realigning lives with the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus Christ.

     Pray for us in both ventures – that we will disciple by the Spirit and out of sound doctrine and that the work I do with AVPros will be done with great quality, spreading the gospel as the Lord leads. Click here to go to our support page and always remember to keep Seasons of Life and the men and women we lock arms with in your prayers.

in Christ,

AP

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