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Follow Up on "Seeker Friendly" post

     Yesterday, we started off the week with a look at the error we often make in preaching, proclaiming, sharing the gospel: reliance on personal skill and/or clever methodology. Today, I imagine it’s no coincidence that my inbox would contain this post from Oswald Chambers:
(direct link: http://utmost.org/classic/the-concentration-of-spiritual-energy-classic/)
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:14)”
     If you want to know the power of God (that is, the resurrection life of Jesus) in your human flesh, you must dwell on the tragedy of God. Break away from your personal concern over your own spiritual condition, and with a completely open spirit consider the tragedy of God. Instantly the power of God will be in you. “Look to Me. . .” (Isaiah 45:22). Pay attention to the external Source and the internal power will be there. We lose power because we don’t focus on the right thing. The effect of the Cross is salvation, sanctification, healing, etc., but we are not to preach any of these. We are to preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The proclaiming of Jesus will do its own work. Concentrate on God’s focal point in your preaching, and even if your listeners seem to pay it no attention, they will never be the same again. If I share my own words, they are of no more importance than your words are to me. But if we share the truth of God with one another, we will encounter it again and again. We have to focus on the great point of spiritual power— the Cross. If we stay in contact with that center of power, its energy is released in our lives. In holiness movements and spiritual experience meetings, the focus tends to be put not on the Cross of Christ but on the effects of the Cross.
     The feebleness of the church is being criticized today, and the criticism is justified. One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been this focus on the true center of spiritual power. We have not dwelt enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of redemption.

How to Make the Gospel Seeker Friendly

Watch Your Own Film Lately?
     There are some great communicators out there in the world. Last month, I had opportunity to communicate truth through a 90 minute one man show. While I don’t think it put me in a class among those men, it did renew my appreciation for such men. 

     The amount of time poured into the craft of communication cannot be understated, if one is to do it with excellence. Today, I’m watching video of my performance with a critical eye and a yellow pad of paper. World class communicators make it a habit to “watch the film” like elite athletes who seek to achieve peak performance.

Two Extremes and an Extremely Dangerous Center
     There is great value in learning from mistakes and honing one’s craft. But, there is a tension in our culture between sharpening one’s communication skills on one end, foolishly “winging it” on the other end, and yet an even more dangerous spot in the middle where we become worshipers of our gift of communication instead of relying on the Giver of all gifts (often referred to as “the liability of ability”). This happens when we cross the line of developing our skills and believing our own press…

     But, there is a reason why Paul makes it a point to explain that he didn’t use flowery language, etc., isn’t there? There is a reason why so many were astonished at Peter and John, though they weren’t “educated men” (Acts 3 & Acts 4), isn’t there? Was it because they dumbed down the gospel? Was it because they had graduated from the Tony Robbins school of Communication on the Cutting Edge of Relevant Leadership?

Who Does the Attracting?
     In His letter to Titus, Paul gets to the bullet points of preaching and teaching and makes it clear how to make the gospel as appealing as possible. Paul never advocates for being intentionally foolish and simply blurting out nonsense. But, Jesus hints that it’s not our words that draw people to God, rather the God of the word who does so. (See John 6:43) Further, here are a few points Paul also does not make:

  1. Make the music in your worship service as appealing as all other contemporary artists so that converts to Christianity will not be repelled by it.
  2. Manipulate crowds of people by emotional altar calls designed to answer temporal needs (freedom from addiction, restored marriages, financial prosperity) rather than clearly addressing their greatest need: a Savior and Lord, who delivers them from depravity and eternal damnation.
  3. Stay away from words like “sin” and “judgment” that are unappealing or even offensive to a culture steeped in the gospel of self esteem.

     The gospel is about grace, not performance. But, the overflow of a life surrendered to Gospel is… wait for it… godlinessGod initiated, God directed, God glorifying and God pleasing performance. (Not to be confused with man made behavior modification or putting on airs of “fake it till you make it”.) 

     The common thread here is this: don’t rely on your slick communication, some grandiose new, “relevant” presentation of the truth, or softening, denial, or watering down of the truth to make the teaching of the gospel more appealing to the lost.  Instead, abide in Christ and God’s agape love so tightly that the natural overflow of your life is godliness – this is the outward manifestation of a changed, exchanged life which God Himself uses to attract others to the Savior. Performance is the result of grace, not the other way around. And, it is this performance that God uses to attract the lost and dying.

Meditate today on these:

“Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9-10)”

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1:21-25)”

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them… (John 6:43a)”

in Christ,

AP

That Day Update

Aarron Pina plays Dan Matthewson and 12 other
characters in the recent “That Day” production.

Seeing the Results
      I love immediate feedback, don’t you? Do something, see the results. Measure the results, adjust for next time. Isn’t it great?
But, how do you feel when you can’t see the immediate payoff of your efforts? Me, too.
 

     “That Day” is a one man show based on Tim Stevenson’s “The Bema: a Story About the Judgment Seat of Christ”, in which I get to play “Dan Matthewson” (also a pretty results oriented guy, btw), and over a dozen different characters who tell the story of a Dan’s story. It’s a wild, amazing jaw dropper as he gets to see the payoff of his efforts: eternal rewards at the judgment seat of Christ according to 2 Cor. 5:10. 

     Our latest presentation of this 2 hour look behind the curtains of heaven was live at Woodstock First Baptist Church’s “Warehouse”. Seating was set for about 80 people, but we wound up with an audience of over 100! It was received with rave reviews – there was laughter (more than we expected – hooray!), tears, and as we expected, a little elbowing between people as they witnessed the truths of the bible played out in a highly entertaining, thought provoking, and challenging parable.

Dan Matthewson shares his regrets as he sees what
could have been his eternal rewards.

Delayed Gratification, but On Target Feedback
     Ironically, we’re still waiting from some feedback from our cameraman who filmed the show, but we did get some still photos, which you see here in this post. As the video becomes available, we’ll post anything of high enough quality on our YouTube channel, to pass on a bit of the event’s flavor. However, our online feedback forms gave us a clear picture of the theological impact of the story:

  1. Most people, though they know the day is coming, have never really considered very seriously or frequently a) what the bema seat judgment will be like and b) how our abiding in Christ today impacts the eternal rewards we receive then.
  2. Everyone was encouraged by the fact that Christ longs to reward us for the things we do here in His power, for His kingdom, in His timing, and for His reasons.
  3. But, my favorite common feedback point is this: “I’m now far more mindful of how I treat the people around me and in seeking opportunities to follow God’s lead.”

Bam! Bullseye on that last one. That’s what we were hoping to hear. Glory to God.
 

Huge Thanks

Kevin Swan nails an opening rendition of U2’s
“Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

     Husband and wife team Ryan and Crystal Casey got together with ex-boy band member Kevin Swan to add great musical punctuation to the performance. We’re thrilled with how the night went and are grateful to Echo Ministries for inviting us to put the production on.
 

     Special thanks, also, to Jacob Burton for his invaluable assistance as Aarron’s production assistant throughout the rehearsal process, and to Jeff Johnson and Sunny Williams for giving us use of rehearsal space at Brown’s Bridge Community Church and North Point Community Church.

     For information on how to bring a production of “That Day” to a church, retreat, or organization near you, sent email to aarron@seasonsoflifeministries.org or visit us at www.thatday.info!

in Christ,

AP

Apology and Special Update

My Mea Culpa
     This year, I’ve had great opportunity to talk with men, reason through the scriptures, and pray about the difference between fault and responsibility. In hindsight, I’ve failed to communicate in many areas the great things happening at Seasons of Life. Please forgive me. It’s both my fault and my responsibility.

The Tension
     When you talk to people regularly about personal issues, sensitive matters, and their walk with Christ, you experience a tension between sharing what God is up to with the ministry (BIG NEWS! I can’t tell you about it, though…) and maintaining full confidentiality, therefore cultivating trust. Many of the men I’m locking arms with this season are experiencing breakthroughs in their faith, marriages, and careers. But, I must respect their privacy as I report from the field.

Maintaining Confidentiality

    Some are experiencing new seasons – a season away from their children because of divorce, a season of their children being away from them while at school, a season of focus on a marriage after taking it for granted, reconciliation and rebuilding of trust after a fight, a loss, a betrayal, overcoming an addiction… etc. Today, I even got to have a great conversation with a guy about walking with God through the challenges of toxic relationships, maintaining godly standards, and boundaries in the home. God was honored and we both walked away sharper!

     These are the vagueries that are “okay” to share publicly because they don’t break confidentiality. But, I want you to know – I get to hear some raw stuff from time to time…  And, by God’s grace, I get to point these men back to scripture and watch them recalibrate when they see where they were out of alignment. Other times, it’s just about the basic blocking and tackling of the Christian life. Falling deeper in love with the Word of God and knowing more intimately the God of the Word. Life transformation is happening.

    I also get to share some raw stuff about my own failures from time to time… And, I get to cheer them on when God brings a job their way after 18 months of unemployment… a godly relationship after years of “sorting through counterfeits”… Six weeks of deep and devoted regular quiet time… And, through it all, we’ve been able to trace God’s Providential hand at the helm and His grace sustaining it all.

The Way Forward
     As Cristine and I step into our 7th year of public ministry, we’re seeing her schedule pick up again, potential dates for “That Day” performances on the horizon, and the continued vision of men, women, couples, and families abiding in Christ, surrendered to their Savior, and serving His kingdom daily. We continue to thank God for the work, the people He entrusts to our care, and the calling He’s placed on our lives. One thing is for sure: no matter what the years ahead have in store, He will continue to test our trust in Him just as much (or more) than those we urge to do the same.

     For those of you who are praying for us and those who support this ministry financially, we want to thank you for all you do for the community you serve: the body of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Your prayers matter. You resources make it a reality.

For You:

     We encourage you to engage with God’s work through us via our Facebook page, Twitter, and weekly on our blog. It is my prayer that after a year “deep in the trenches” with a select few, I am able to devote more time in 2014 to reconnecting with many of you I haven’t been able to make such time for. 

     If you find yourself in the “it’s been too long” category, email, text, or private message me… Or, go really old school and pick up the phone. I’ll do my best to have my 2014 calendar ready!

in Christ,

Aarron Pina
Executive Director, Seasons of Life Ministries, That Day, Speak Life, The Uprising

ONETHINGathon Update

The Vision
     For six years now, Cristine and I have been following God’s lead in “realigning lives with the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus Christ.” We have a passion for building relationships with people and with God and for seeing believers in Christ transformed by the power of God and walking in obedience to Him.

     Most of that work has been through one on one discipleship. Some of it has involved bringing food and other material needs to working poor families across five metro-Atlanta towns, some of that work has involved public speaking and performing our one man show “That Day”, and often it involves doing the administrative and fundraising work that comes with the territory of full time vocational ministry.

Enter, ONETHINGathon!
     I’m writing this Friday, 11.22.2013. Tomorrow is the first time I’ll actually step out of running Seasons of Life Ministries and step into running for Seasons of Life Ministries. About 200 other men, women, and children will descend on Fowler Park on Carolene Way to walk, run, or roll for four local charities, including Seasons of Life. It’s called the ONETHINGathon. And, I’ll be running 5 miles… in the rain. Praise GOD!

For us, ONETHINGathon represents three things: 

  1. An chance for many to come together to raise awareness & support for this ministry.
  2. An opportunity for people around us to rally people who aren’t around us around the vision, mission, and future of this ministry, without necessarily burdening our existing supporters with additional giving requests. Teamwork will make the dreamwork.
  3. A chance to watch God raise the funds needed to bring the ministry current on this year’s bills and get ahead of schedule on other expenses well into the 2nd quarter of next year without another dime spent on fundraising! WOW!

www.wsbtv.com LogoChannel WHO?!
     Even more exciting, WSBTV Channel 2 has decided to do a story on 5 local events going on around Thanksgiving and the Christmas Season and the ONETHINGathon is one! The story will run around Christmas. So, keep your eyes on our Facebook page, Twitter feed, or here for details on when it runs!

Volunteers Needed:

  1. In person: We have plenty of volunteers already on the schedule, but will need more to help with the picnic, setup, and clean up. If you’d like to help in those areas, sign up at www.onethingathon.com to…DAY! 
  2. Online: The most important thing about tomorrow is that people make the connection between the vision and mission of these 4 ministries and the financial need addressed tomorrow. The best way we’ve found to do that to share a five minute video with anyone and everyone you can that explains what the event is all about. It costs nothing to share the video, but a few seconds and a few clicks. So, I invite you to do this: share the video, invite people catch the vision, and if God leads you or them – support Seasons of Life or any of the other ministries online.
  3. In your shoes, NOTE: If you want to walk, run or roll with us, you’ll have to register as a walk on in person tomorrow as online registration is closed as of noon today.

Eat and Greet… And, GREAT!
     There will be a picnic from 12 to 1PM at the pavilion at Fowler park – rain or shine, since it’s covered and mild (in the 60s by midday). Representatives from ONETH1NG for Men, ONETH1NG for Youth, PIER Foundation, and Seasons of Life Ministries will be in attendance. At 1PM, there will be a raffle that will include $50 gift certificates to Dick’s, Best Buy, dinner certificates to Cabernet, a flat screen TV and a Dale Murphy signed uniform.

    We invite you to join us for any or all of the above, and wish you and your family a fantastic, safe, and grace filled Thanksgiving!