Power of the Holy Spirit…

there’s a group of us that have been going through a discipleship curriculum called “sonship” by world harvest mission. one of the lessons calls us to share “justification by faith” with a non-believer. to do this takes courage. to do this also takes an understanding of our faith as christians. but more than these, to do this takes a dependency on the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do. i’ve stumbled and fumbled my way through sharing the gospel plenty of times and have a hard time communicating justification by faith without using the words “justification” or “faith.” what about you? do you ever feel ill-equipped or at a complete loss of words when you’re in a place to share your faith?

i believe that it’s in these moments that we’re supposed to move forward and depend on the Holy Spirit. i think that it has less to do with us than we think. i’ve seen and experienced people come to Christ through a fumbling and stumbling of words. and, i know that my revelation of God and Jesus Christ was not because someone convinced me, but because the Holy Spirit breathed life into me.

when will we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit? what will it take to let go of our limitations and press further into our life’s journey led by Jesus Christ? i’m not writing this as a criticism. i’m writing this to challenge myself and hopefully you to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit!!! let’s go… as Scripture says, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” and as it says in the next verse, i’m praying that he Lord of the harvest will send you and into “His” harvest field!!! (Matthew 9: 37-38)

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The Power of “With”

I’m starting to realize the power of being “with” someone. I know that we’re always looking for specific answers and used to asking specific questions of “how,” but I’m learning more and more that spending time “with” someone creates change.

If we knew everything that we were supposed to do, we’d be more lost. We’d find less reason to have a relationship with God. We’d no longer be human. I know that this is a strong statement, but I truly believe that God was calling us to Him to be “with” Him. It’s not about letting us know what we should or shouldn’t do, but about loving us and being in relationship with us.

What would it look like if we really, truly spent time “with” one another instead of just knowing what to do in life? Maybe there would be more love, more grace, more forgiveness, more justice, and more reconciliation…

A Posture of Openness…

I was thinking last night about how I approach scripture and God in prayer. I have so many questions about my life and am typically seeking answers. So, I open up my Bible in hopes to find some kind of wisdom for my circumstance/problem. Or I’ll ask God for clarity or help to see my plans through.

I started to wonder, however, if I’m coming at this from a wrong angle. What if I didn’t come in looking for answers to “my” questions or looking for clarity for “my” plans, but instead came in posture of openness and listened more broadly? What if I sought God to and allowed Him to really direct my steps and future instead of asking Him to bless what I bring before Him? I thought of how scary and yet how freeing it would be. It’s scary because I know it would stretch me, break me, and challenge me. It’s freeing because I wouldn’t be so locked into my plan and what I perceive to be “detours” would actually be “the” path…

I come today in a posture of openness…   

Outside In…

You’re a product of your environment…

I actually agree with this statement to some extent. When I was in college, I had a roommate from Tennessee who had a southern drawl that I quickly picked up. I mean, after so many conversations and hearing it over and over and over again, it just started to come out of me. Other people actually started to ask me if I was from the South…

When I think about my life, faith, actions, and such… I wonder how much of it is correlated to my time spent with God and in an environment that helps foster my growth as a Christ follower. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that we should have our “holy huddles” and separate ourselves from the rest of the world, but what about time with God and time with fellow believers who encourage us and build us up? I think it’s necessary for us to be in an environment that strengthens as well as challenges us in our journey of faith.

Would love to hear feedback on this. Do you have this kind of environment? Do you think it’s necessary?

Moments…

As I’ve been stretching and growing these past couple of years, I’ve wrestled much with my faith as a process and a journey. I have to admit that I’m a pendulum swinger when it comes to my thoughts and ideals. I moved so much into the idea that our faith is a process that I completely discounted “moments.” I devalued Sunday service thinking, “it’s just an hour on Sunday.” I wanted to get away from creating events and focus on the long-haul. I know that we yearn to be incarnational and live among the lost that we might build strong relationships and solidarity. We want to move away from programs and events that get in the way sometimes of real, authentic relationship.  

But… are “moments” meaningless? Aren’t there moments that change our lives forever? I think of my revelation of God and Christ. I think about the moment in worship where I felt like God was compelling me to go into the ministry as a pastor. I still remember the sermon that changed the way I looked at my finances and started giving radically. Or, the moment where I heard the word, “Convergence” and ultimately moved my family to Oakland to plant this seed of a dream. There are moments that we experience that lead to real, genuine life change. Moments have more impact than we can ever fully realize…

A Day, A Week, A Month, A Year, A Decade, A Generation…

How long are we wiling to wait to see results? We typically have short-term goals and long-term goals that we create and aim for, but there’s this nagging monkey on our back that’s called impatience and pressure to always meet our goals on time if not ahead of time. In business and in ministry, we’ll make annual evaluations to see what we’ll continue to do and what we’ll stop doing. This has always intrigued me because the expectation of the “speed of change” is so high.

When I consider the pressure to perform and create results in this fast-paced environment, I can’t help but think about the ramifications (good and bad) that emerge. It’s good to be highly flexible and adaptive, but I also think that we can end of short-cutting and killing some things that are good, but take time. I also think that the shorter time intervals reinforces a selfish nature. I consider philanthropy and how at times there is pressure from donors to “perform” based on their investment. They want a return on their charitable contribution because they want to know that their money is well invested (even charity). This, however, is a self-fulfilling, demand driven philanthropy that can choke the beauty and long term development of an organization/movement.

All this is to say… how long are we willing to wait? Do we believe in patience? Moses led a movement through the desert to the promised land but never made it. Are we willing to be a generation that moves without ‘seeing’ results? Are we willing to invest everything that we have and every fiber of our being for the sake of the next generation? Imagine the potential for true, sustaining change…

Out of Control…

So, I’m breaking my hiatus from blogging today!!! I’ve been spending time offline but am getting back into the swing of writing, sharing, and blogging.

To start things off, here’s a lesson from tomatoes: I came home on Saturday afternoon to find a huge bowl of tomatoes on our dining table.

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My daughters had actually picked the tomatoes from our backyard. A little background and context on this: I planted tomatoes months ago in an attempt to slow down and enjoy the hobby of gardening. I planted them, watered them for a few days and then they were on their own until now. I got really discouraged because ‘tree like’ weeds started growing all around them and seemed to have swallowed them up. I wrote off my tomato plant and thought it was a lost cause. But my kids (Sami’s in the pic below swimming through the weeds to get a tomato) fished through the weeds and pulled out some really solid tomatoes!

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Two things I learned from this day:

1. Just because I didn’t take care of every little detail doesn’t mean that God’s not at work or can’t work…

2. I may plant the seed and not see any growth and the next generation may see and reap the fruit…

It’s absolutely crazy what you can learn about life and ministry from tomatoes…

The Manna Project

Israel, Egypt, and the Exodus

Where we see ourselves…

The old testament is filled with story.  When we typically read any story, we find ourselves choosing a perspective.  This perspective is typically the one of the protagonist/hero or the victim/oppressed in need of saving.  Very rarely if at all do we read ourselves into the role of the antagonist/villain.

A call to repentance…

God poured out grace to Pharaoh.  He was allowed the opportunity to repent and free the Israelites.  His heart, however, grew harder and his stubbornness became impenetrable.  Egypt was an empire and Pharaoh was the center of its leadership, authority, and power.  Its economy demanded more so that it could consume more.  It was oppressive in nature because of the demands for excess.

The desert…

God calls us into the desert in order to simplify and purge out the strongholds that have become mini-gods in our lives.  It is a trying time that sometimes leads us to believe that God is absent more than He is present.  It’s a time where we feel displaced and unsure of our survivability.  We feel like we’re living backwards because we hold on to the belief that adding things to our lives creates our identity.  It is in the desert, however, where we learn to wholly depend on God and truly discover that He is all we need and the source of our true identity.

Manna…

God is our provider in every way.  When the Israelites were walking through the desert, they began to hunger and so God provided manna.  The caveat of manna was that you were only to collect what was needed for the day.  If they collected more (hoarding), it would mold.  Why would God do this?  Maybe the better question is “Why would we do this?” Hoard that is.  Maybe it’s because deep down they didn’t trust that God would provide for them day after day.  Deep down they weren’t sure about God.  Are we any different?

Present Day Significance…

We are facing one of the greatest economic crises in history.  We are a credit-based community and it has now reached a point where we are over leveraged and our debt must to be paid.

Who are we in the story?  Are we the Israelites in need of saving? Yes.  Are we the Egyptians who are held captive to a self-power driven, empire model of life? Yes.

In either role, we are a people being called to repent and a people called to the desert where we can once again learn that God is our sustenance.  We are to relearn discipleship – a genuine following of and trust in Jesus.

What will we do? Where do we begin?

I believe that we are to examine our lives and make some changes.  There needs to be an evaluation of our life that includes: what we buy, who we buy from, how much we consume, how much we give, etc…

We can begin by taking an inventory of our assets (money and goods).  And, as we pray, we can consider what we need and what is genuine excess in our lives.  This is not a “get rid of our junk” session. It’s a time to be honest with God and with ourselves about who and what we live for.

Next Step?

My conviction is that we are to take our excess and find some way to match it up with those who are in need.  There are still questions (i.e. how do we determine who is in need? Or how do we find those who are in need?) that are unanswered, but this is version 1.0 of this conviction that God has given me.  I share it with you for your feedback, your counsel, and potentially your support.

you adulterous people!!!

ok, so the title of this entry might strike  a defensive or even hostile chord in your heart, but it’s an important truth that we “all” need to understand.  at times in Scripture, God’s chosen people are referred to as “adulterous people” or an “adulterous generation” or as “adulterer’s.”  though the language may seem incredibly harsh and may make us want to cringe, we are adulterers and need to understand why it’s such an important truth for us as Christians and as human beings.

many of us will look at our Spiritual lives and think that we’re doing well or not doing so well and we’ll typically gage this based on a list of actions and morality: i pray or i don’t pray, i read my Bible or i don’t read my Bible, i’m serving or i’m not serving, i’m not ‘sinning’ or i’m ‘sinning’ more than i ought.  then, once we’ve assessed ourselves, we’ll make some kind of correction by trying harder.  the issue with this is that everything is relational in God’s kingdom and in this world.  our spirituality and our growth is not a list of tasks that we “must” fulfill, but a relationship with the living God.  doing the right things is meant to be the fruit of a devoted relationship with God through Christ.  We, however, make it about self development and self improvement.

So, why are we adulterous? because if everything is relational, then when we sin it’s not merely about doing something wrong or being wrong; it’s about breaking our relationship with God.  it’s about breaking our covenant with Him.  it’s like breaking our marriage vows (adulterous).  i can’t go to my wife and tell her that i love her and am devoted to her but still demand that i will still do whatever i want.  that doesn’t make any sense at all.

now, if we look at “sin” in this context, it changes everything.  maybe we would grieve more about breaking God’s heart rather than only focusing on our failure.  maybe we would understand that our “sin” doesn’t just affect us, but it has impact in our relationships and relationship with God.  maybe repentance would look different too since it’s not about doing it better, but about loving more.

redefining good in a bad way…

i was reading an book on raising infants and it raised a really interesting and insightful truth. why do we refer to babies as “good” or “bad” when it comes to their actions? if a baby cries, doesn’t sleep, and is unconsolable we refer to him/her as a “bad” baby. but if he/she eats well, sleeps well, and rarely cries, we refer to him/her as a “good” baby. interesting… how does that make them good or bad?

i’m wondering if we start redefining things in our lives when things don’t match up. and then i’m wondering if we take these new definitions and use them to evaluate everything… even God. for instance, a “good” baby is one that doesn’t disrupt our lives and makes our lives easy. so now, a “good” God is one who doesn’t disrupt our lives and makes our lives easy. hmmmm… that’s maybe why we ask ourselves the questions, “why would God do this?” “if God is good, why would he make me suffer?” “how could a good God allow pain in my life?” So, is God good? if we define good as not interrupting our lives, not transforming us, not helping us, and making our lives as easy and as comfortable as possible, then maybe not… So, maybe it’s time for us to look to Him to our definition of good and to see Him as truly God. Maybe we should approach God with humility and brokenness so that we can be formed and informed by Him.

The Truth: God is a never changing constant and He is always good.