No social club here

DSC_0072.JPGOne thing I have noticed about today’s culture is that so many of us go about our day seeking the next best opportunity, the next best opportunity to fulfill some kind of desire, wound, status, name your “wants”, for our selves. We are seek the highs of life, we go from one experience to the next. Seeking the experiential highs of life, afraid to make commitments just in case “something better comes along”. Even worse, we cancel our commitments when something better does come up, or we cancel because we decide, “uh, no I really won’t have fun with him/her”.

I witness this kind of mind set all to often, and you know what it is exactly the same inside the Church and outside. So it’s not a Church problem, it’s a culture problem. Sure, I believe the Church needs to address it, but it is very hard to address something for which we have bought into, and sometimes we even encourage it. We encourage it with our worship services, with our snazzy programs, etc. I thank God that I’m in a community (aka, my church) which strives very hard to not promote this, however, the pressure is on and it shows it’s nasty little head quite often.

The genesis of this posting wasn’t really the obvious disregard for other people’s needs that I see each day, it actually came when I observed my elders buying into this. When I say elders I don’t mean the “council” or “deacons” or “leaders” or “pastors” at my church, I mean the people I respect in my life who are a generation or more ahead of me. With much disgust (from my perspective) I’ve recently seen the very people I respect, love, and look up to, make decisions on their commitments in the exact same way I see much of our “pop” culture doing. With things such as “well, we didn’t feel we were needed”, and “I just wasn’t experiencing what I wanted”.

Now these are blanket statements, that need more context, and to be fair, “sound bites” and small quotes never paint the full picture. However I hope you’re getting my drift. You see, I think it bothers me more coming from my elders because I (and many more as many of my friends have stated too) desire for them to lead me. I guess it’s a sense of abandonment, a sense that, well if I don’t get what I “want” or if I don’t “feel” what I want to, then I should just go somewhere else. I want to scream and make it known, WE WANT YOU, we CARE, and we NEED you. Obviously there are two sides to this coin. I need to speak up (and my peers), and we all need to pay attention to the generations below us, no matter where we are.

You see, I don’t see the Church as a social club, it’s not optional, and it’s not something we shop around for, it’s community, it’s intentional connection, it’s seeking God, seeking God’s hand through others, and seeking to be used by God. Of course it doesn’t mean sticking around some place trying to live authentically when no one else will, and it certainly doesn’t mean staying some place where you’re being abused (in any way shape or form). What it does mean, is being intentional about meeting the needs of others, and allowing God to be bigger, humbling yourself to serve, and not seeking the experience, but instead, seeking the one who has done it all, so that we can be the light he has called us to be, in serving and proclaiming, with love and truth. Our culture is hard, and I run into the stumbling blocks all the time, I have a hard time thinking outside the culture so that I can reach the culture, it’s not easy, but I strive for it. It’s like the picture, all pretty outside, but stinky inside, yet it meets the need and provides relief.

This little thought brought to you by 1 Peter 5:1-11

1 And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you:2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.4 And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.
5 In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for

“God opposes the proud
but favors the humble.”s

6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisterss all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.
10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.11 All power to him forever! Amen.

Not being paid, but love it.

Emma and mama 032.JPGAlexis and I have been involved with leading ministry since before we were married (we took a year long break just after our wedding, 4 years ago this week!), and during all this time I have worked full time. We are currently in the process of becoming licensed Pastors (yes, both of us) and do not have plans to become “full time staff” anywhere. While there are times where I personally have longed to have 100% of my focus on ministry, I am seeing some things change in our world where I don’t think that’s going to be the norm.

I believe the people of the Church should support the Church through their tithes and extra special offerings, if everyone who had a Church they called “home” would tithe 10% we might see a lot more, not because there would be more money, but because there would be more sacrifice, tithing is not about supporting/paying the Church, it’s about your personal sacrifice, do you trust God in your life with your finances? Tithes are also not a tax, we can’t expect “services” from our tithes.

But with that said, I also believe that bi-vocational ministry (working full time outside the Church, and serving as a pastor, leader, teacher, etc inside the Church) can play a key role in building the Church to a place where we can “prepare God’s people for the works of service, so that the body may be built up” (Eph 4:12). I believe with all my heart that every single person who has a relationship with Jesus Christ has the gifts to minister, both inside and outside the Church. We must be mentoring our young, and we must be wise to listen to our elders, weather or not we are in a full-time paid ministry position, or simply obeying God by walking out our gifts, we are a called people! Ministry is not a job, it is not “work” in the sense of paid-work, it is love in action, it is the Church being who the Church is.

I love doing what I do in the Church, listening, encouraging, speaking life into people, loving on people, simply “being” there, speaking truth (even when it’s hard), and giving grace. I love, love, love it. I so badly wish I didn’t have to work, I wish I could do this full time, sometimes I really hate how tired I am from “work” and I really don’t feel like “pastoring” or “loving” or “ministering”. However, it never fails that as soon as I humble myself, let my flesh burn a little, and I obey God’s voice to do what he has gifted me to do, my energy level rises, my passion grows, and God does amazing things. So, as I read today in Isaiah 6:8 – “Here I am. Send me” – just as I did nearly 5 and a half years ago as I began my first year interning at East Hill. Love is how the world will know us, and our love of the Church (or lack thereof) will determine just how much actual (remember, who is love?) love spreads.

Good work ethics are demotivating


Picture was taken at the central Library MAX stop downtown Portland waiting for the train home. Mobile post ahead, spelling and typo errors ahead…

I work with a lot of people, both in ministry and in my vocation. A lot of these people are fantastic hard working people, and…. well a lot are just not. Now when I say hard working I’m not talking about the work-aholics, that’s a different breed. I’m talking about people who have good work ethics, people who take on what is theirs, don’t blame shift, and look for solutions. When people opperate like this then I’m glad to work along side them, past mistakes, and help accomplish the bigger goal.

When I’m working with the type of person who is constantly blame shifting, covering up mistakes, and not looking for solutions then I begin to get frustrated. This is always a hard line to walk, because ultimately I need to walk the high road and love the person through the conflict without enabling them to live/work on in dysfunction. The issue and temptation I run into is paitience within myself to work with God and find the teachable moments.

Whether Christian or not, people are in one of these two categories, to varrying degrees of course. Living in harmony as Paul instructed the Romans is key to my walk with Jesus, so a value I live out is having a strong work ethic, working alongside others who don’t share that is frustrating, but not a license to micro manage, freak out, or ignore the issues. Nor is it the time to become demotivated and give up on humanity, it’s exactly the opposite, it’s time to act and be who I’m called to be and work in my skills and gifts.

Fear and Surrender

The potential of a person is not for other people to determine, it is only for other people to encourage.  Seeing a person be insecure, unable to talk, and unable to identify their own passions is something which stirs me to action.  My heart is moved and many times God’s voice clearly says “speak my truth” – the truth that all people have a purpose, and it’s more than they can imagine, and it scares them to death.  The risks involved are almost always the issue.  We can’t be stupid, we’ve been given knowledge for a reason, however, and the knowledge is a tool, not the means.  For me, faith comes into play when what I know God is asking, is impossible without Him.

Many times I realize that if I am dwelling on how God will come through, I just end up waiting longer and longer – it’s when I surrender, straight away or quickly after a quick panic, that God begins to show me/us the blessings – and usually it is in ways that I would never have done on my own.  Surrendering is the key, without surrender, it becomes a burden, and I know that once something feels like a burden I am not letting God be in control.  I have found these last few ideas to be the greatest confidence building tools for myself, and I have witnessed others take these steps and become amazing leaders as well.

Bottom line (not to be read as reducing to a pat Christian “answer”, but rather encompassing everything above into a thought producing idea for further pondering): When fear arises, what does God say?  Is it a risk to do what God asks?  When you address the fear speak with the authority you have been given (see the end of any of the Gospels and what Jesus says to the disciples, and us, the descendants)!

What I’m thinking…

One of the many reasons I don’t write on here anymore is that, as self-focused as it sounds, I think far to hard about what people may think about what I’m writing.  So, I end up canceling out any thoughts with silly weird arguments about why not to post something.  The whole idea behind this blog in the first place was simply to write about what I was thinking, about life, about God, about people, etc… But with more and more of what I (we) are doing in the future, I feel I need to filter things far more than I would like.

I suppose the challenge is that I should write in a way that I still express myself honestly, and at the same time in a way that honors the God that I so claim to follow and love.  Yet, many times the things I’m thinking about are about the disappointments of life, which are all quite real, and need to be discussed.  I know there are plenty of people who appreciate the reality, but I also know (all to well) there are people who want to “make sure God is involved” – and then there’s the “You’re going to be a missionary, right?, YES!  So, don’t you think you should be positive and focused on God… well yes… but…”  I understand these comments, I really do, and at the same time I strive to not be religious and not be giving pat, common, text-book, Christian answers.  God is far bigger than that.

So here I start on a very long, overdue, rant and soap box… however I will start with the core of my God-given heart’s desire in life….  I wrote the following and realized it was a bit convoluted, but maybe it will start some conversation, and then I can clarify with posts to address the questions and/or discussion that comes – or maybe it will just sit here and I’ll create conversation in my head and post my thoughts as I go…

The strongest passion I have for others is that they be encouraged in their walk with God, and not just in the private aspect of a relationship with God but in the ministry piece.  In fact, sometimes I wonder if our walk with God is truly full unless we are actively ministering to those around us.  I often find myself frustrated, disappointed, and concerned for the “Church” do to the apparent lack of concern for caring (ministry) to others.  Then again, I find myself equally frustrated by myself because I myself do not step up when I know that God has given me many opportunities.

So, as a person who is fully aware of what God is calling me, and my family to do, I am constantly looking for ways to encourage others to trust God, and take risks.  Many times throughout biblical stories we see the characters faced with life-changing risks.  The blessings that come from following through, and having the discipline to honor God with our decisions, are more than I could ever explain in a short posting here.

The challenge every person faces come not in the big decisions, but in the everyday decisions, the choices that are presented to us when we first greet our co-workers in the morning, or how we engage in conversation with our peers.  Yet there are so many forces which drive our interactions with those around us, everything from how our parents treated us, how “popular” we were in school, to poor choices and uncontrollable life circumstances that eat at our soul and take us off track.

Most of what I write is simply me processing the events that I witness, in the Church and outside the Church, as I see people of all statuses and of all walks I am humbled to know God as I do.  I am challenged each day with the ideas of why has God given us, my family,  the joy of having such amazing family and friends…. while others are seemingly aloof, floating around in this world without any connection points.   Then I am reminded that it was because someone, at some point, obeyed God, and reached out, took a while to minister to someone, who did the same, who eventually ministered to me, and the same to Alexis.

I thank God for those that have this discipline, this passion, for I am eternally grateful.  I wish to not be like these people because of these great things, I wish to do these things because our God has an amazing and wonderful life to give us, when we surrender to him.  This is the heart of everything I am, want to be, and will be.  I have nothing to be discouraged by, as long as I am choosing to obey and discipline myself… even then God’s grace is sufficient if I fail to meet “the mark”.

Let those that have ears hear.  May those in the Church be encouraged to take the risks, the “lost” have the choice, only if they experience it though, we also have a choice – but I’m not so sure we can easily forget (that voice is pretty consistent) when we choose to ignore it.

Running away… not a choice.

I know we’ve all had those times in ministry, leadership, family, with friends, etc, that we just want to run away from.  You know, the relational crap that makes you sick to your stomach?  While I don’t have any relationships that are in dire straights, I do have some crucial conversations on my horizon.  

What is messing with me the most is that I’m sure I communicated some things one way, very specifically to prevent the mess that has happened, but what the people in question heard was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to communicate.  I even clarified the conversations… So this seems like a case of remembering what you want to hear… or something.

So I sit here, unable to sleep, because relationships are the most important things in life, and while no one hates me, I can see where relationship growth has been hindered.  It grieves me, and all I want to do is drive far, far, away, not because it would help anything, but maybe my mind would be put at ease…  maybe.

That’s not what I meant!

Have you ever had a meeting with someone, someone important in your life, like a boss, mentor, maybe a parent, or pastor, that after you left the meeting you said to yourself “dang I should have said this or that” or “why did I say that!” and you just can’t stop thinking about it? 

Well that’s me these past few weeks.. I was asked the question “what other kinds of things do you see yourself doing in the future”?  I replied with the strangest answers… only one was something I have a small passion for (writing), the rest was just filler, it wasn’t anything that I really would have liked to do, except just “vocational” things.  The truth is, my heart, my passion, and dare I say “calling” is in pastoral ministry.

After listening to the message tonight at church I’ve realized that I’ve let some of my fears prevent me from confidently walking in this calling.  Yes, I’m leading in a number of areas, and yes we plan on going to Poland in about two years for full time vocational ministry – yet, why didn’t I say that?  I think it’s because to say it to someone that is important in my life is like getting your driving license, or stepping foot on a university campus for the first time as a student – it “makes it real”.

Of course I can’t just self-declare this kind of thing, but I can align my life to it by having faith in what God has called me to, and not shying away for fear that “man” won’t accept it.  Man will because God has called it, but nothing will happen unless I walk it out first.

PS.  We’re looking for 467 people to donate $15, what’s a few Starbucks drinks?

Measuring “fruit”

Measuring fruit can be quite a chore, with so many different kinds of fruit.  What I mean is – you can’t measure the size of an apple and say it’s good just because it’s bigger than its neighbor… So the same is true when measuring ministry, and our peers in our Church families.

The New Testament makes it clear that we each have different gifts and abilities, multiple times.  We should do our best to encourage these abilities, as Paul says in Romans 12, if you are an encourager, encourage, if you are gifted in generosity, than give, and etc, etc…

So, why do we tend to measure success by mere numbers?  Numbers are easily understood, they reflect a certain about of truth.  Yet we also must keep in mind we are dealing with God, who provides when the numbers don’t show up.   If he orders it, he will pay for it.  So when we are dealing with the fruit of a ministry, and trying to determine if a ministry is “growing” the mere numbers matter, but we must also look at the character of the fruit, does it taste good?  We can have 1000s of apples, but if they are all sour, have no character, than it’s a bad crop.  A bad crop won’t reproduce and will ultimately die.  A small crop of good fruit will die without proper nurishment.

So as I move forward into what I know God has called my bride and I, I strive to taste the fruit, making sure it is good.  If the numbers are small but the fruit is good, it is good, but if the numbers of good tasting fruit reproduce themselves, it is best.

Love the hell out

True love of others and of God is loving the hell out of people. Not shaming people, but giving them grace to be human, to be selfish, to be well, full of sin. We simply can not expect people who haven’t given their life and heart to Jesus to understand our values, principles, and morals. We can’t logically argue with a person who doesn’t understand living by faith. We can try, but many times (not all) it’s in vain. Someone who is avidly pro-choice abortion, or pro same-sex marriages, isn’t going to understand the reason having faith nulls those issues.

Faith gives us a much bigger understanding beyond ourselves, it gives us the courage to carry a child even when circumstances are terrible. It gives us the courage to see that our sexuality is more than physical. Faith gives us the understanding that God will take it into his hands when we give it to him. My faith in Him has relieved me of my homosexual desires. Having faith gives us the courage to tithe first and give our offerings even when when our bank account is empty or negative and we still have hundreds of dollars of bills.

So, we must first love people, live in faith, and remind ourselves that Hell is real. When we love people, in and out of the Church, we bring them out of Hell and into the Kingdom of God. That is why Jesus is the savior. He desires for us to be in relationship with him, not stuck in Hell, 100% alone, but with the knowledge that Jesus simply wanted our hearts so he could bless us in our free will to choose him. Those that do end up in Hell, they won’t be partying, they won’t be hanging out with like minded people, they’ll be utterly alone, unable to be in relationship for eternity, yet knowing, and I believe seeing the rest in relationship and living in the glory of God.

So, love the hell out of people. Bless them. Speak the truth. Live in faith. Live the truth of God’s love.

Obligation to love

This Thursday I’m speaking at our young adults group, I’m calling it “An obligation to love”.

We really don’t have a choice to love. Our God doesn’t have the choice, He gave us free will so that we would love genuinely. As a disciple in the teachings, divinity, and person of Jesus, I do not have a choice to do anything but love people. For who they are… human. Everyone sins, we all make mistakes, our flesh is weak. And still I must love, I must accept people’s faults. None of this is a free license to be walked on, beat up, and spat on. No, that would mean I wasn’t loving myself.

To love God, is to give him praise, allow him to speak into my life, and obey Him in his commandments (to love Him and people). To love people is to treat with respect, listen, have sympathy for, speak encouragement, and most of all speak a life of truth. If I notice another brother with red flags in his life (IE, spending habits, the way he talks with girls, etc) than to truly love him I must confront him out of the relationship that I have. Confront someone is not shaming them, it’s not condemning them, it’s speaking truth where it counts (as Jesus did w/ the woman at the well). If a friend is always seeking to be with people, and is feeling lonely when not with friends, than I may probe into the priority prayer in their life.

For our culture, these ideas usually prompt the response of “it’s none of your business” or “that’s personal”. Yes, I know, and because I love you I want to see you grow in that area. The key to all of this is relationship though, and speaking gracefully, the more grace, and the more relationship we have, the more our love for Him and others can be shown.

We must stop being afraid to love in truth. This is what I believe worshipping in truth and spirit is.