Last year, Seasons of Life Ministries celebrated 8 years as a public ministry. We faced some of the toughest work in many years: many marriages in great distress, conflicts within regarding short term application of the long term vision, and financial challenges that made us wonder if 2016 would see us walking away from this mission altogether.
In September, we sought outside counsel from an impartial roundtable of “prayed up” believers. Cristine and I presented the ministry’s predicament with all the brutal facts of its then current reality, including the painful 25-30% funding status. Their unanimous responses:
- You two are exhausted.
- You’ve been faithful with what you’ve been given.
- It’s time to bless your family with a steady paycheck.
So, we followed their counsel, sending out Aarron’s resume, interviewing, praying, listening, waiting on God to use someone or some company to bring clarity and peace. Instead, we received a job offer that created nothing but turmoil when it was discussed. We’re so smart it only took us two weeks to figure out it was not only not a God opportunity, it wasn’t even a good opportunity. In the midst of this, we got an invite to present That Day at a church here in Alpharetta. By November, we had presented the best performance yet of our best script yet to a sold out crowd of nearly 300!!! Amazing!
Following this, Aarron picked up some part time work at a local store a mere few minutes away from home and we moved forward as prayerfully and patiently as possible, discipling a limited book of clients, shifting most of them to virtual meetings, reaching out to a very small handful of couples still in distress, and waiting for God’s next move.
In the meantime, we’ve seen a handful of men and women that were in troubled marriages actually walk out the biblical advice we were able to cover with them and appear to be rebuilding their marriages God’s way. Others will still need a whole lot more prayer, because this kind of turnaround doesn’t happen overnight.
After a review of the books at year end, we discovered the numbers we’d given the September roundtable were way off… By year end, God had used dozens of people, families, etc. to fund this ministry to well over 80% of its need. Armed with that information, Aarron began reaching out to his network of contacts with a much clearer vision of what God may be doing with this ministry:
“leading men, women, and couples to overcome barriers to intimacy with Christ”; this time, with greater alignment between vision and strategy.
In a nutshell, we hope with God’s help, to:
- engage the eyes and ears our broadest audiences with our shorter, “That Day” script;
- translate those to hearts and minds with our Clean Slate (Gospel Driven Productivity Workshop);
- encourage hands and feet through one on one discipleship and coaching from there.
To that end, we begin a pair of That Day performances on April 16th and 17th that will lead to a three week Clean Slate Workshop series at Greater Heights Baptist Church, here in Cumming. To join us at either, go to www.thatday.info.
We’ll need all available help to make this happen; so, if you feel like you’re particularly gifted with marketing, social media, or just good-old-fashioned prayer, we’d love to invite you to be part of our street team. To lend a heart, hand, or lips, send email to email@example.com. If your gift is giving, we’d like you to know the most challenging months for this ministry are typically May, June, August, and November. So, if you’re a strategic giver – join us anytime, but keep those specific times in mind and prayer. This month, I’d encourage you to pray God keeps us on track with all we have ahead and that He raises up 3 new regular monthly supporters at $50 and $100 each.
Keep our Stay in the Word community in prayer, as well. Though we haven’t been wildly promoting the app, we’re approaching 50-100 users between IOS and Android combined. If you don’t yet have the app, check out what the buzz is all about!
As always, thanks for your prayers, “shares”, and encouragement!
Aarron & Cristine Pina
You Made Me Do It!
At work, I meet with men and my wife and I meet with couples for “faith checkups”. We talk about their engagement with scripture, the God’s apparent working in their lives, and personal struggles. Sometimes, that involves encouragement. Sometimes, it calls for rebuke or correction. In the latter case, maybe a guy has said something to his wife, his kids, or someone else he shouldn’t have said, maybe at a volume level he shouldn’t have used. Jesus would call that “sin”.
In those conversations, I try to separate “reasons” from “excuses”. All our “dones” are done for a reason. However, no reason excuses us from our actions. One day, we’ll all stand before Jesus to account for what we’ve done and said (the “bema” seat judgment [see 2 Cor. 5:10]), and in receiving eternal rewards for the things we did and said, we cannot effectively invoke anyone else’s name to our defense but our own:
- “You made me mad!”
- “He stole my idea! It’s not fair!”
- “She cracked my screen; of course I’m going to get angry!“
None of these reasons will excuse us from losing a reward for that specific action. (Note: this is not a matter of salvation, which comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; rather eternal rewards – such as crowns, treasures, honors, etc. – which come by works that flow from a grace based salvation.) (more…)
Sometimes, the words of Jesus bother me.
Care to jump in the mirror with me for some plank yankin’?
It’s then that I try to shut my mouth and silence the alerts and distractions around me to examine the bother:
Sharp, yucky bother? Just the enemy trying to condemn me over a thing of which Jesus has already pronounced me “not guilty”.
Warm bother? That’s the Spirit drawing me closer to the mirror for some good old fashioned plank yankin’.
While our written blog has been back burner’d in favor of building a few recently released and soon to be released YouTube video blog (vlog) articles, this week I had a hard time not passing on the following post from a really sharp thinker some of you already know – Daniel Diaddigo. Dan’s had a good look at the plank that was in his eye, my eye, and probably yours…
Allow me to hand the mirror over to Dan so you can stare long and hard at it. I pray you’ll join me for some plank yankin’.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
We’ve been talking about things that distract us from Jesus, deep things that growl at us from the corners of our hearts. Last time, we discovered that we can trace our fear to misplaced hope. To conquer fear we must confront it and bring it before Jesus. Fear approaches us from the future, with things that might hurt us tomorrow. But what about those things that hurt us from the past?
A college roommate once told me, “Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I have to like him.” The “him” was a mutual acquaintance who had apparently fallen from favor. I was a babe in the faith, begging wisdom wherever I could find it. Here was a friend, more seasoned than I, telling me over milk and cookies that there would be people I just didn’t have to like.
A liberating thought.The fact that I recall this conversation so many years later gives me a clue that I must have made some space for the idea. I see now this is the Spirit’s prompt to shine light into a corner that needs attention.
Live long enough, feel long enough – and you’ll experience the pain that accompanies the human condition. It is a pain born of brokenness. Deep cuts. Wounds of the heart that pump the serpent’s venom into our souls. Wounds at the hand of another.
For some, these wounds bear the scars of physical or sexual abuse. Others carry the weight of an absent dad or a cheating spouse. People who have hurt us, who left us hemorrhaging and gasping for air. People we don’t like. People, if we are willing to go there – we hate.
Jesus says that anyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer. And somehow we’re okay with that. “You know Jesus, always using hyperbole and parables to make a point.”
“Yeah, like when the disciples asked Jesus how many times they had to forgive their brothers and Jesus said, ‘seventy times seven’ which meant, like, ‘infinity’?”
“I know it. That’s crazy talk.”
How are you doing with loving “difficult” people?
I’ll be honest. If I could write my own story, there are people I would remove from its pages. I would erase them completely. I’d pencil in new characters to take their places. Characters who were neither arrogant nor hypocritical nor small; characters who did not steal from me, or belittle me, constantly compete with me, or otherwise cover my light with their bowls. I would cut the characters that cut off people’s heads in God’s name; and I would dispose of those who sell girls to wealthy bidders. There are people who simply would not exist in my world – if I could write my story. Hmmm. Maybe Jesus is onto something.
Unforgiveness distracts us from Jesus. It diverts our gaze from Him and cements it to our pain. Jesus wants to break the shackles that bind us to our wounds. To fully experience the freedom that Jesus offers, we must choose to walk away from the wounds and to release those who inflicted them. We must… forgive.
Forgiving “those who trespass against us” is not easy. It can be a process. Here are some things that help me. I hope you find them to be useful:
- Surrender your right to not be wounded. Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “why not rather be wronged?”
- Cancel the debt. Write down on a sheet of paper what the offending party owes you. Respect? Credit? Dignity? Reputation? Then tear up the paper. Debt cancelled. It is Jesus who makes us whole, not people.
- Embrace Jesus’ suffering. Jesus suffered unjustly. Sometimes He gives us an opportunity to share in that suffering. Truly, an opportunity. I have discovered there is a special flavor of intimacy in that place where we consciously occupy Jesus’ suffering. It’s hard to describe, but I know it when I taste it – and it’s sweet, not bitter.
- Set up my assailant as a prayer target. Have you ever tried to forgive someone but it just doesn’t seem to stick? You find yourself having a thousand imaginary conversations, reliving the offense again and again? Remember, we have an enemy who will leverage our pain to distract us from Jesus. Try this: Every time these thoughts assail you, fight back with prayer. Aggressive, war-footing, prayer. Speaking out loud may help:“Here’s the deal. Every time I hear these thoughts, I am going to pray for _________. I’m going to pray for this person everything I would pray for myself. I’m going to ask the Lord to prosper him / (her) and draw him near and conform him to His image. So, if that’s what you desire as well, I invite you to keep bringing me these thoughts to remind me to pray. Thank you for the prompt.”
Then, allow for the possibility that your persecutors may have been brought to you by the Lord so that they may be set free in response to your intervention. I know, twisted, huh?
Okay, let’s strip this down to its foundation. Is it possible to forgive, to truly forgive at a heart level, absent the life of Jesus pulsing through us? I would say “no”. No, because in order to forgive, something in us must die. Let’s call this something the offended Self.
We who are being conformed to Christ’s image will eventually experience what it means to forgive someone who does not deserve our forgiveness. In this, we are invited to join God in the ministry of reconciliation of which Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians.
Yes, forgiveness will cost us – just like it cost Jesus.
“While we were enemies of God, Christ died for us.”
My roommate was right. We don’t have to like them. We have to LOVE THEM. We have to love them to death.
1 Corinthians 6:7, Romans 5:8
A Stern, Prophetic Warning to America
by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn
From the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast
January 21, 2013
In his keynote speech, Jonathan Cahn brought to light biblical passages concerning the fall of nations (as characterized by the fall of Israel) and connected the dots between those harbingers and the potential judgment of America, as a nation that has made itself a stranger to God.
Rabbi Cahn presides over Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, NJ and Hope of the World Ministries, also in Wayne, NJ. His book “The Harbinger” has been a best seller, but we will not be featuring it here because, in my opinion, it is a bit more reiterated fluff and filler than concise and theologically sound content. For purposes of intellectual honesty and full disclosure, this assessment is not from my actual reading of the book, but a conclusion based on first watching this video, transcribing it, and reading sound reviews of the book online.
Chew the Watermelon,
Spit Out the Seeds
Warning: We believe that parallels of America and Israel can be quite dangerous. The church is God’s chosen means to reach the world, not America, nor any other geo-political entity. So, any attempt to consider it a “chosen” nation is in error. America is not the hope of the world, unless we begin spelling America “J-e-s-u-s”. A once shining city on a hill, as Cahn reminds us, but not the hope of the world, nor a nation without hope.
That aside, we cannot argue that we have much to learn from the fall of Israel as a world power both on a macro and micro level. America‘s foundation is firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian values and has strayed greatly as a culture from this for many decades now. The signs and symbols present in the front page events he describes bear incredibly eery parallels to past biblical events. Disobedience still brings death. Perhaps not actual, biological death, but death in some form. God still punishes sin, if only with temporal consequence and a removal of the veil of protection from such consequences. We are by no means suggesting any form of salvation by works and I don’t believe Rabbi Cahn is, either.
If Rabbi Cahn is correct about these harbingers, which I currently hold he is, we must begin praying fervently and frequently for great, national revival and surrender more soundly to the call of Christ to “go forth and make disciples”.
“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to his death. (Prov. 19:18, NIV)”
The most dangerous addicts are the ones who don’t know they have a problem. They endanger themselves and those around them by either their ignorance or their denial.
This morning, I was talking with one of my mentors – a guy who knows the God of the word and the Word of God. He’s a very savvy business guy and I’m honored to have his voice speaking into my life. We were chewing on the topic of clutter. We agreed that an upcoming talk I’ll be doing about clutter could really hit some guys hard. My concern wasn’t just that it hit guys hard, rather that it hits the guys who need to hear it.
When a man hears that another man will be giving advice or wisdom regarding clutter, chances are strong that he’ll mark it irrelevant if he doesn’t see himself as having a clutter problem. I don’t see you nodding your head in astonishment… Of course not – it’s obvious – and you probably already know firsthand the value of accountability. So often, it takes an outside eye to “yasar” (chasten, admonish, discipline) us when there’s sin in our blind spot. But, who wants to be a nag? Who wants to be the bearer of bad news? Who wants to be a Nathan to David?
When we don’t have ears to hear that we’re overweight, drinking too much, looking too long, etc. what’s required is a father figure to save us from our own folly while there is hope. Blind spots are funny like that… you never see them coming. David didn’t and it cost him a mighty man named Uriah and a son who was born to die.
But, sin always brings consequences, often brings collateral damage, and failure to point out sin in others’ lives doesn’t have to be about being a nosy Christian with nothing better to do. If you chasten me not to have one more drink for the road, you may save more than just my life – you might save your neighbor’s kid’s life who just got his license and doesn’t see me coming until it’s too late.
Jude tells us to “snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” James ends his letter to the 12 tribes with this: “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (Jas 5:19-20, NIV)”
So, what do we do? Do we risk being called a “nosy Christian” or do we speak up? The fine line we are encouraged to cross is the one between having nothing better to do and looking out for the safety, well being, and life or death of those around us. Check your motive – are you seeking to feel better about yourself or truly concerned for saving your brother/son/other “from death”? If there’s danger lurking at the end of their sin, be a nag… and be alive.