Tag Archives: abiding

You’re Doing What?!

Catch-MeIf you’ve read scripture much, you know that God calls men to the most inconvenient or “impossible” obediences when it’s most… inconvenient and impossible.

Abraham…

Moses…

Nehemiah…

Jesus…

Peter…

You… Me.

But, these were giants of the faith with burning bushes, appearing angels, signs and wonders. I’m just a little guy with a really big question that needs to be answered, right now! This time no man’s answer will do. What do you do when only God has your answer, but the line goes… quiet? Wait on Him and get even “quieter”?

So, here I am. Quiet. Off the radar. Waiting. With a question only God can answer…

The scariest thing to hear from God when lots is happening and “everything” is at stake is “Be still”… for a week?! A big workshop ramping up, webcast publicized, finances tight(est), and the “summer giving slump” ahead. “Something has to be done on a deadline!!! God, this is work only I can do!

“Really? Did you make the world, Aarron?”

Some would say “do the next right thing”. But, if I were me sitting across from that guy, I’d remind him the wisest place for Elijah (at that specific, faith-shaken moment) was in the wilderness, in utter, Godward dependence – that if God is calling him to quiet his soul and wait, “Shh. Sit still.” I’d tell him that running from God is a place he doesn’t want to go. (See the book of Jonah…)

So, if you don’t hear from me by next Wednesday it’s not personal. It’s deeply personal… for me… to be still. I’m off the radar until then. Cleaning the slate. Pray for me, my family, the ministry. It looks like I’m about to step onto a high, narrow ledge by faith alone. I may find it was a lot wider all along and I was needlessly worried… Or, I may fall… only to be caught by the God who sent me. 

(I’d love you to think it’s as glamorous as the cliff diver photo above, but it’s really pretty terrifying. Thanks, for the prayers! – AP)

Death to Interruptions! – Monday Morning Momentum

Windy, Bendy Roads
     If you’re not a mom, stick with me for a moment. We’re driving down a road that’s required us to make 50 course corrections an hour and you’ll appreciate it about halfway through this post.

     My wife is in the middle of an amazing transition where God is forging in her heart a fresh desire to lead and train up our youngest three children for a season. They’re 2-1/2, 2-1/2, and 4 (next week). It’s amazing to watch her grapple with scripture in her very Berean way – searching the Word to see if what the Spirit has told her is true: “You’re called to care for and train these kids.” Amid her research in this lifestyle shift, she often encounters blogs, columns, and talks where weary and harried mothers of multiple toddlers and school age kids vent their frustration over how their kids are a “drain”, an “inconvenience”, etc. They’re frazzled: emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted, with no immediate hope of relief.

     Cristine responds: “I can relate to them. But, I’m choosing joy.” We discussed what this meant and I’ll share my synopsis of it below. But, right now, you’re wondering:

What Does this Have to Do with Me?

     You and I share something very simple in common. Even with my ADD tendencies, I can’t stand interruptions. As Cristine shares some of the “frazzled Mom” comments with me from her research, I can’t help but notice a common thread that all of the moms share: they see their kids as an “interruption”.

     But, if I were focusing on my kids all day long (which I occasionally do), how can the point of my focus interrupt me from the point of my focus? Exactly. What we’ve observed with so many moms (and how this relates to you, even if you’re not a mom) is that most of them have been focused on themselves all day long, hoping their kids would give them a break. So, when their kids make noise, screams, damage, diapers, etc., those things weren’t their focus, therefore they’re interrupted.

     My phone is often the worst. Texts, tweets, updates, reminders, and [God forbid] actual phone calls,  come with no warning. Unless the point of my focus is “watch your phone all day for signs of life”, these things are, by nature, an interruption. It’s really a matter of my agenda being interrupted. I planned to do my stuff in my time in my order the way I like to get things done and anything that gets in the way becomes an enemy to my agenda.

So, What’s Your Agenda?

     Here’s the tough part. I think you might be expecting me to give you some simple solution for stress free living. And, I might. But, it might be at a much higher cost than you had planned. As I’m reading the gospels, Jesus tells me in three of them that I’m ignoring the cost of discipleship: a bad mindset.

“Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. (Matt 16:23)”

     “Peter, I love you, but Satan has fooled you into believing your agenda is more important than mine. Bad mindset, my friend. You’re an interruption to God’s agenda.”

     Bottom line: God is sovereign over phone calls, text messages, messy diapers, sibling arguments, senior management initiatives, conference calls, emergency meetings, etc. When I have my mind set on God’s interests, not man’s [read: mine], God is the point of my focus and His “interruptions” aren’t really interruptions… rather, they’re the point of my focus.

     As we take a day off of labor for Labor Day, let’s keep ourselves aligned with His mindset, die daily to ourselves, and carry our crosses. This is the true cost of discipleship, the cost of following the Master, the basic blocking and tackling of the Christian life – abide.

in Christ,

AP

Lean In, Lean Out

     We have this really great, point-and-shoot camera that I got for Christmas a few years ago. Some of you may have already tuned out, because you believe “great, point-and-shoot camera” is an oxymoron. I understand. Work with me here. It’s taken hundreds of photos of our four kids, especially Presleigh (3) and the twins (20 mos). But, lately, the oxymorons are right. It’s not that great. It’s taken its share of hard knocks and now 9 out of 10 shots it takes come out just sliiiiightly… blurry. It leans toward blurry.


     Question: which way do you lean?

     I have this problem – an idolatry problem, really – that the Holy Spirit (often as channeled through my “thank-God-for-your-prophetic-discernment” wife) is working on abolishing from my life. The idol I’ve often come to worship is progress. If you’ve seen our one man show “That Day”, you can relate to a guy who looks back on his life and realizes if time were a bucket of paint, his wife and kids would be really pale and his job, wellllll painted.

     I lean toward progress. Today, I’m grateful for that leaning, as I read the opening line of Proverbs, chapter 12. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” Some translate the word “ba’ar” as “stupid”, others as “brutish”. Hey, I’m not sure which one is worse, but I don’t want to be either. How about you?

reproof: rebuke, correction, 
punishment, chastisement”

     I’m grateful that I lean toward progress, because there’s something about me that doesn’t want to be stupid. Really, there’s something about me that wants to lean toward improvement and constant innovation. Can you relate? The hard part about this is here: “reproof” is defined as rebuke, correction, punishment, chastisement” – none of which is a very comfortable, fluffy, cuddly word, either. I’d rather lean out and away from punishment or chastisement, if I had my way in the natural. But, I’m more comfortable with those prickly words than I am with “stupid/brutish”. 


     A few months ago, we went through some of the greatest trials we’ve ever experienced as believers in Christ, as a ministry, as a family. As we walked through it, Cristine remarked how grateful she was for the presence of one particular guy in my life who prayed with us through it. He reminded me of the first lines of the book of James and summarized the “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” part as follows:
“Trials are necessary.”   


     Often, leaning in to one thing means leaning out of another, by necessity or even default. However, when it comes to trials, leaning into trial seems the most honest way of leaning into Christ. The questions that remains are – are we willing to pay the price to “be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”? Are we willing to love discipline in order to obtain the knowledge wrapped in its precious core? Are we willing to love reproof in order to grow beyond stupid? What are some of the possible future benefits of this trial (if not at a minimum, heavenly rewards for perseverance), that make the current discomfort of the trial worthwhile?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3.5)”

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And, let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas. 1.2-4 NASB)”



    PRAY: “Lord, grow my appetite for discipline and reproof so that I may become perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Help me to lean into You and appreciate You in the midst of pain, discomfort, and/or disease.”   



Tullian Tchividjian Guest Blog? No. But, Great Link

     Tullian Tchividjian (just call him “Tull”) is one of my favorite writers over at The Gospel Coalition and an excellent thought leader and communicator. He’s Billy Graham’s grandson, so no wonder, right?

     One of the things that remains front and center in disciplship conversations every week, month, and quarter is “saving the saved”. Often, as followers of Christ, we forget the gospel is what both saves and sanctifies us, falling into the trap of performance. The good news is… the Good News. It’s also good news that getting back on the log of grace is just as easy as falling off. Abiding in Christ – “you’re never more than one prayer away from grace. You’re never more than one prayer away from access to the full resources of Heaven.”

     Take a click over to Tullian’s article: http://theresurgence.com/2011/09/29/did-you-forget-youre-saved. Clear thinking, simple application, a lifetime to practice. Abide, gang.

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

Putting a Band-Aid on Leukemia

     We’ve been faithfully serving, tithing, members at North Point Community Church for a long time now. We’re lovers and followers of Christ. But, we won’t be there on Wednesday night when Michelle Obama appears to talk about obesity.

     Because you don’t like the First Lady? No, nothing to do with whether we like her or not.
     Because you disagree with her political views? No, not because of the wide gap separating our political ideologies, per se.
     Because evangelicals were born to boycott? Nopety-nope.
     Because you don’t see the point in the FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) appearing at your church, especially to talk on this topic? Yeah, that’s more like it.

     Am I interested in hearing what she has to say? Sure, I’m intrigued to hear what any high level government official or celebrity has to say about kids in our nation. But, having recently come face to face with the ugly truth about my own flaws and overeating, I don’t see why it’s relevant to me.


     Obesity is a spiritual problem, not a political problem.

     Okay, I said it. Call me a narrow minded bible-thumping troglodyte if you must. But, as God has drawn my wife and I near to Him during a recent extended fast, I came to a deeper understanding of my own depravity, my own lack of self control, my own need for a Savior: I feed my flesh with more gusto than I feed my spirit. I reach for comfort food when I don’t really want food so much as I want comfort itself, which my God has promised to me in abundance if I’d just reach for Him instead.

     Yes, there are great opportunities to witness to those outside the faith, but I’ll be doing it from the comfort of my own home as we watch it streamed online. Yes, I am grateful for our church being selected for such a media heavy event. But, relevance, please?

    Am I being a wuss? Yes, a bit, because you and I both know that getting into and out of our church parking lot (even with the thank-you-Jesus-new-bridge) is hard enough when it’s just our church peeps. God forbid, we should have to brave those throughways when it’s every Tom, Dick, and Harry flocking to that building to see the most famous FLOTUS in American history.

     The reality is, however, I think addressing childhood obesity with a program, a slogan (imagine: “Just Say No to Seconds”! “Read My Lips: No New Fat Cells”!), or a famous face misses the mark as much as a band-aid on leukemia. Obesity, especially childhood obesity, is not a merely a mindset problem, it’s not a political problem, it’s a sin problem. Without Christ, we are utterly lost and libel to do whatever we want, when we want, as much as we want. Have we forgotten Sodom and Gamorrah? Have we forgotten Romans, 8 verse 12 – “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.”

     One of the most poignant truths that jumped off the pages of my bible during this fast was just that – “Aarron, you don’t have to answer the door when chocolate cake is ringing the doorbell.” I need a savior. Kids who are struggling with overeating don’t need a slogan or a t-shirt, they need parents and teachers who have Christ in their hearts and an abiding relationship with the Holy Spirit, who can train them up to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

     Am I wrong?

     I’m not pointing fingers at the kids – they’re just eating what we feed them. So, yes, a change in accessibility to certain foods and a change of mindset and practice by those making food choices for our kids could go a long way. But, as long as a way as it could be, it falls far short of how far God would have us if we would pray for and trust Him for true, penitent, sweeping revival in this nation. Do, yes. But, abide, deny the flesh, carry the cross, and pray for revival, so we can stop putting band-aids on cancer.

Love you guys.

AP

What Have We Been Up To?

And, what’s next?

     Every year, the most taxing time for me is around the end of the year, when we get into “walk, but trust mode”. It’s a time when we do a lot of letter writing, emailing, phone calling, and general fundraising activity that normally had one or both of us collapsed in a sweaty heap, exhausted, yet grateful for God’s provision. A little “regroup” time is always in order.

     Thus, we try to start off each new year with a couple of “vacation days” [this term is used loosely in light of the recent snowstorm that had all four kids trapped in the house for 8 days with no school…], some sort of food fast, some form of media fast and/or “regroup” time. As an organization, it’s important to have checkpoints where we can… well, be checked on how closely we’re abiding in Christ, how well we’re staying on mission, and revisit the mission. What is it that God’s called us to? Are we on track with Him or have we gotten ahead or off the path?

     For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been mulling that over, praying about it, and will be updating our website with a fresh look, clearer description, new resources, and links to our Facebook page, this
blog, Twitter, and a variety of other enhancements. It’s an exciting time for us at Seasons of Life.

     With “That Day” growing in popularity [we’ve currently got about 4 performances either on the calendar or in the planning stages], we’re looking forward to greater exposure for the cause of Christ, the mission of discipleship, and expansion of our workload. We’re grateful for these new opportunities and invite you to pray for us and consider supporting us in your regular or periodic giving.

     Aarron will continue discipling men this year, helping out at ONE TH1NG as a table leader and possibly even guest facilitator, and continue to manage and execute the project we know as “That Day“. Cristine has taken on a couple of new women in her discipleship, is currently leading a women’s small group for North Point Community Church, and continues to grow in her ministry to teenage girls through Free Chapel’s “The Blend“.

     As a couple, we continue to keep our eyes open for couples that God sends our way for “couples discipleship”. Frankly, it’s an odd feeling when God does that to us – having only been married for just over three years, we often look at the Lord with a Moses look (you want me? I-i-i-i d-d-on’t speak so, w-w-well.). Yet, He constantly gives us opportunities to grow in our own marriage that just happen to coincide with places that the couple in question struggles with. So, we trust His judgment and just do our best to “be available” to Him as He calls.

     Demand for the food ministry has continued to grow, so we invite you to support us in supplying food, clothing, and even financial support for several local families in need. Some of them just got their lights turned back on and are still behind. We’d like to help them keep their kids warm this winter, so please, take a trip over to our giving page and consider supporting our local families in need with a one time gift or make a note on your online transaction to that effect. As always, pray for them, too.

     The questions we’re trying to get people to constantly meditate on this year are: “am I growing more dependent on God or more self-sufficient?” and “am I growing more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit?” Of course, you know when you get something like that from God, He’ll immediately put you to the very same test. It’s what I call God’s “drink your own Kool-Aid guardrail for people who’d like to think they’re fully surrendered.”

     As the Lord clears our evening schedule, we plan to dive in to leading a new DivorceCare group, whether at Free Chapel or North Point, we’re just excited to have dual availability as He may call us. It’s very hard to know that there are so many people out there in the midst of separation or divorce who don’t have access to real, live people to listen and point them back to scripture and the comfort, compassion, healing, and direction that only God can provide.

     Please pray for them, wherever they are, that our hearts’ desire [that God would fully reconcile 5 divorcing couples this year], would be part of His will. Also, pray that we trust in Him and not our own personal agenda, that He would do the healing, restorative work through us in His power alone.

     We always encourage you to follow along with our newsletter and Facebook and pray that you will support this mission as we do all that we cannot through the power of Him who can do exceedingly abundantly more than all we can ever ask or imagine through Christ Jesus.

in Christ,

Aarron Pina
Executive Director