Sin is the propensity for humans to live as if they are God. Sin is the decision to live life away from God rather than toward him. This decision can be subtle or blatant. It involves a contest of wills between humans and God. It is the oldest contest in the world, the pride of life, the saying yes to the temptation to live as if we humans are not accountable for our lives moment by moment to our Maker. Sin is the failure to surrender life, moment by moment, to the rule of God. We sin when we place ourselves in charge of our lives.
– Reggie McNeal
A Work of Heart – Understanding How God shapes Spiritual Leaders
It’s time to wrap up this series I wrote in the month of January. It was a great exercise to take a look at what I aimed to do at the beginning of 2010, and what I actually ended up doing! Some great lessons learned a long the way. By the way, this is a GREAT exercise for anyone to do on an annual basis, it helps cultivate focus in your life and implant the lessons you’ve learned in the past year. Leaders take note!
Now that I’ve taken a look back, it’s time to take a look forward for 2011. What does this next year hold for me as I consider what I know and what I hope to see happen (in no particular order)?
- I’m going on two missions trips this year. I’m actually flying out for Malawi (already here at the time of publishing this) and will be going to Ukraine for almost 2 weeks at the end of April. Missions trips always shake up my world and give me a HUGE appreciation for the work our missionaries do all over the world. I volunteer my web development skills for this, and this, because of a missions trip.
I’ve been away from here again for a few days and it’s turning this series I’ve been writing into a month long reflection. Nevertheless, I am determined to finish this! So let’s continue (if you’re new to this series, you can click here for some context).
Here’s what I wrote last year:
I love YouVersion.com and thanks to the many Bible Reading plans they’ve made available, I’m going to be reading through the Bible (again) this year. If you don’t read the Bible, you should – it’s one of the best things you can do (and the digerati team behind youversion has made it so easy!) My wife and I are working through a plan together as well.
I made it halfway through the M’Cheyne plan that I was working on. Kind of bummed I didn’t complete it but I try not to be religious in my Bible reading (otherwise it becomes a chore, it should never be a chore!). My wife and I didn’t complete the reading plan we were working on together either (Blended) – so many days where we just collapsed exhausted in bed together. I’m missing this though so I want to get back on track with another one this year. Now that we both have iPhones it should be easier to work together on this.
What I learned:
About myself: I work best with routine, but need to change it up once and a while. Otherwise it becomes just that, routine instead of reward. There IS NO SET FORMULA for when, where, how, or how much you should read! YouVersion has REALLY helped me with breaking the shackles of routine.
About my spirit: Spiritually speaking, the Word of God is “soul food” for me. I definitely feel it when I go any extended time without just reading the Bible with an open heart and spirit, expecting to hear from God. There’s almost an edginess, and dullness that exists in my life without it. Not only that, but I have found that my creative output goes down as well.
What about you? How does reading the Bible affect your life (or not)… and why do you think that is?
It’s time for another post in this series. Here’s another thing I wrote last year around this time:
I’m going to be memorizing scripture through the year along with others in my church family who are joining in the journey (I’ll be posting about this sometime in the next two weeks). My 8 year old daughter is also participating and when I sent her an email (yes she has email – I’ve introduced her to the Google Behemoth) to tell her that I’m doing it too she replied, “Neat. Bring it on Dad”. The gloves are down.
I’ve been memorizing every scripture every week and have about 38-40 scriptures memorized REALLY well and probably the rest I’m still working on. I’ve used a variety of tools to help me with this through the year but have settled on this iPhone app. Unfortunately my daughter didn’t have the stamina to keep up with her Dad (of course, at 9 years old, she’s got enough stuff going on!) BUT the cool thing is she is reading her Bible every day and goes out of her way to show me the latest stuff she’s reading. I love it!
What I learned:
- You may think you can’t memorize stuff. But you can. It still amazes me when I review the verses that I can even recite them from memory.
- Having scripture memorized enhanced my prayer life. There have been so many times when I’ve been praying for something and a verse came to mind that “fit in” with what I was praying. Powerful.
- Another benefit is that I’m finding when I read the Bible, the overall themes are more apparent because of the scripture I’ve memorized. I find myself thinking, “hey, that sounds familiar to something over in_______”, where the blank is a scripture I memorized.
- Memorizing scripture has helped improve my memory overall. This was unexpected, but I am finding that I’m remembering things easier than before. Names come easier. The coding I do goes quicker because I’m not having to look up functions as much. Remembering I locked my van door is easier (those who heard me talk about that in a message I spoke last year will know what I’m talking about).
All in all this has been something that I’ve found to be a VERY beneficial discipline. Have any of you had experience with memorizing things? How has it worked for you? What benefits have you noticed?
Been away from here the last couple days, but now I’m back. Let’s continue this series shall we? Last year I wrote a “looking forward” kind of post for some of the things I hoped to accomplish, change in the coming year. This year I’m writing a series of post reflecting on that list and what happened in 2010. Here’s the next item on the list that I wrote:
I’m going to continue working on being a great Dad and husband to my family…if I fail at that, then it doesn’t matter what else I succeed at.
A work in progress! I think I’m not doing too bad, but I know I could always do better. One of the hardest things for me in the past year was balancing my time. Between my full time job at my church, the freelance work I did, and my work on Organize Series, it’s been a challenge spending the quality time needed to be a good husband and father. I know I could have done better – correction: I know I MUST do better. Why? Because it’s one of the few things that really matters.
There are some things I’m doing to get better at this and I’ll hopefully write a blog post about it at some point. But for now, I’d love to hear from you, my readers about what you do to make sure you are investing quality time for the things that really matter in your life? So let me hear it in the comments!
This post continues the series I’ve been writing as I reflect on 2010. This has been neat thinking through some of the things I aimed for in the New Years post I wrote last year and what actually happened. Let’s continue:
I still continue to support both Villages of Hope in Malawi and Zimbabwe along with developing and maintaining their websites (pro-bono, you knew you’d find out the reason for the title of this post right?) . This continues to be something I LOVE doing. Here’s why:
- Anything to do with web development is ice cream to me. I like ice cream.
- These two organizations are doing incredible work in providing hope and a future to kids who have little of both. They’ve captured my heart.
- The people working there have sacrificed much to get there and continue what they’re doing. I want to do what I can to make their job communicating things a little bit easier.
- There’s IMMENSE satisfaction knowing that you are using your skills and abilities to contribute to making a difference in the world. I know God smiles at the work I do for them.
What I learned
I’ve had to be a good steward of my time. There are so many things I want to do but there’s only 24 hours in a day and I have to be careful of the things I choose to do. Sometimes that means choosing what I won’t do. In order to keep doing the websites for these folks I have had to choose to cut back in some other areas of my life. Which is okay (reread my list above for why).
There have been different points through the year where I’ve had to revisit this important principle when I realized that I was taking on more than I should and not letting things go (that may be good, but not better than something I want to add to my life).
I challenge you to take a look at your gifts and abilities. Is there something you are giving them to, that makes a difference in the world? There’s nothing like it. I’d love to hear about it!
Oh and another thing I wrote last year:
I may be going on a trip to Siberia this year. Yes, that’s crazy.
Yes it was crazy. I didn’t go. It was one of those things I had to say no to. This February I’m going to Malawi (to the Village of Hope there actually!!) and I may be going to the Ukraine in April. You’ll hear more about these in the future.
Let’s keep going on this series shall we? Here’s what I wrote around this time last year:
On that note, it’d be an awesome honor to be invited to be a guest blogger on one of the blogs I read. Dunno if I have anything to offer, but still it’d be cool.
I still think it’d be an honor to be invited but it didn’t happen. Well, that’s not entirely correct. I didn’t get a specific invitation – they have given a general invitation to all their readers to contribute (and get paid too!) – I just haven’t taken them up on it (yet).
What I learned:
Aside from the fact that I’m obviously not as in demand as a writer as I thought I was (sic), this is a good example of waiting for something to happen that needs your involvement to happen. In other words, there are some things in life that won’t happen until you take steps towards it happening. Honestly, when I wrote about becoming a guest blogger last year I wasn’t really expecting that I would get invited, it was more of a “it would be cool if..” kind of a statement. Realistically, if I really wanted to be a guest writer on ChurchCrunch I would have wrote an article and submitted it to them. They had already extended the invitation.
This made me think, “this is like our relationship with God sometimes” We pray things like, “Hey God, you know it would be really cool if you took care of my debt and blessed me with wealth” and do nothing. Sure, God could do amazing things like that, but more often than not he’s waiting for us to act on things he’s already told us to do. In other words,
- you’re asking for financial blessing – how are you spending and stewarding what you have?
- you’re asking for a better marriage relationship – what are you contributing to the relationship?
- you’re asking for increased influence – what are you doing with the influence you already have?
- you’re asking for a raise – have you been faithfully working in the job you’re doing now?
God parted the Red Sea, but Moses had to lift up the staff first. God stopped the flow of the Jordan River, but the priests had to walk into it with the Ark of Covenant first. God knocked down the walls of Jericho, but the worship team had to lead a parade around it first. God will give you a new nature, and an incredible relationship with him past the end of time, but you have to receive the gift of salvation through Christ first.
What are YOU doing with what you have?
(incidentally, today I read this article by Stephen Furtick that approached this idea from another angle, he knocks it out of the park!)
Hey everyone, I hope your day is going well so far! I love enjoying this time with my family and friends. To all my readers, have a blessed Christmas and a very HAPPY New Year!
I’ve included for your reading the text of what I shared last night to my church family (modified a bit for the context here). Enjoy!
We all know about Christmas. We all know that it’s commercial thing with a frenzy of gift buying and gift wanting, and “stuff” being exchanged. We all know that it’s a nostalgia thing, with the Christmas plays, the nativity scene, Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, tinsel, decorations, lights and carols, and movies we’ve seen every year. We know that Christmas is a food thing, the chocolates, the turkeys, the stuffing, the oranges, the baked goodies. Oh, the baked goodies.
There are many things we know Christmas for and many things we’ve become familiar with. Familiar. There’s danger in that. The danger of Christmas, the season, the event, is that we get so familiar we lose the wonder of what Christmas really represents. The wonder of the INCARNATION. It’s really not a word you hear too much. But it is a word that captures the wonder of what happened. God coming in flesh on this planet. Tonight, for just a few minutes, I hope to remind you of this wonder. To have you pause in awe at the majesty and significance of what can be robbed by the familiar.
If your church closed down tomorrow, would anyone notice? Would there be a negative impact on your community?
I think every church has a desire to have an impact in their community. Even the church I work at, has this desire written into our purpose statement. But it is important to evaluate what kind of impact we are really having. A good start is Mile’s question.
Then, in the article Miles goes on to say the following:
Imagine if people in your congregation were initiating contact with community agencies, building positive relationships, and securing partnerships for the ministry.
He describes how his church has intentionally encouraged their people to volunteer in various community organizations in their city, outside the church walls. He describes the impact they are making as a result.
Included in the article is a marketing pitch for a resource they are releasing, but the question Miles asked is the same question I’ve often grappled with. Is our impact more measurable by the things we do outside the walls of the church or inside the church? Certainly, we need volunteers to implement all the activities in the church:
- musicians, singers, sound tech, media operators etc. for worship services
- ushers, greeters.
- children’s workers
- class teachers
I don’t discount their value. But I wonder, would it be worthwhile to keep things in the church as simple as possible so we can encourage people to have more impact outside the church in the time they have available to give?
Let’s flip this around a bit. How often does the church berate or complain about people not attending and showing their commitment to church activity and programming when some of those same people are volunteering in the midst of the community we’re called to reach by:
- serving as coaches, helpers, fundraisers in their sports organizations
- volunteering at their local schools
- participating in organizations like, Heart and Stroke foundation, Red Cross etc.
- participating in a neighborhood association…
- involved in organizations like the Rotary Club, or other clubs like it…
- helping out with soup kitchens, homeless shelters
What do you think? How do you see the church of Christ making the biggest impact? How do we get there?
About a month ago I read a great post by my friend John Pellowe touching on the whole subject of competition between Christian Ministries. You should go read it then come back here. It prompted a comment from me as follows:
I love the position you outline here about competition among ministries and it’s a great suggestion that leaders take the time and make the effort to align their own thoughts on competition.
I echo your thoughts on this. From a church perspective I’ve always thought of things from concentric ‘circles of participation’ perspective using the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.
In other words (much better via diagram!):
The first circle: the believers in a local church all each have individual “parts” to play as a part of their local church body.
The second circle: the local churches in a community are all called to their community and have unique role as a part of the Christian church body within that community.
The third circle: The denominations at the national level each have unique roles within the body of the national church of Jesus Christ.
The fourth circle: The national church’s each have unique roles and callings as a part of the worldwide Christian church.
Bottom line: It’s about advancing Kingdom of God business, not a “I’m better than you” mentality.
Ministries, and churches, and Christian charities should always be working to discover, “What is the unique role or calling that God has given us as a part of His body and how can we do the best we can at that WHILE contributing to the work of His kingdom at large in the world?”
As I was writing this comment, I actually had an image of my mind that I was trying to describe. Recently I came across a great tool that helps communicate that image. And here it is:
Have you ever given thought to “competition” among Christian churches/ministries? Have you formulated a position about it? Please, share your thoughts as well!