3 Lessons I’m Relearning

As Ruth and I have continued to prayerfully seek God’s direction, we have had many “what if?” scenarios. It gets exhausting to continually project options and scenarios even in the most positive sense. Even for my analytical brain, comparing and contrasting pros and cons, weighing options and responses causes mental fatigue  If you would like to learn more about our previous step in our “what’s next” journey check out this post.

I am a debater. Anyone who spends any length of time around me knows that I like to argue both sides of any issue. The Meyers-Briggs test agrees with that statement time and time again. However, even with my debate like personality and learner/input mind, I have blind spots. There are areas of growth and sin that I miss and cannot analyze my way to improvement. Because of this, I have to dive deeper and deeper into God dependence to shape the steps I take in order to mold me as a person who thinks and acts like Jesus. Here are three lessons I am relearning during our next step journey.

Be Patient – This is not natural for me. Let’s be honest. I like to make things happen. I like to create. I would say my lifestyle is made up of pushing the right buttons and always pushing for progress. Marked by a desire to succeed and accomplish, the process of patiently waiting seems so inefficient and wasteful. There are things to be done and hills to conquer. While that perception may appear to be true, I’ve noticed those traits are not found in a Spirit-led character in Galatians 5:22-23.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

I love this passage because Paul highlights a pervasive characterer of the Trinity that manifests itself in Jesus and ultimately in us through the Spirit. This character is not natural, rather a product of the supernatural. Patience is not natural. I swear no matter how you slice it. I have a toddler and a newborn. Both are extremely impatient when they want help, food, something to drink, a toy, my attention, etc. Drive,  progress, opportunity, whether motivated by love or not, are still not mentioned; this is tough to swallow. Jesus was patient and did everything in The Father’s timing. He was patient for direction and He was patient with people. He sought the Father’s guidance in prayer. Why would I think my life needed to be much different? I must be patient and self controlled, not ready to rush into a situation or opportunity that may on the surface seem like a good idea and a logical one. Rather, in my dependence entirely on the Spirit, the Word, and prayer resolve myself to direct my eyes on Christ’s example. In following this example, I hope my life to be marked not by qualities that seem to benefit the short term, but character marked by eternity.

Communicate with openness  – Its not easy to be transparent. Sometimes our unwillingness to be open about what is going in our life is a mask for our desire for control. We intentionally hold our cards too close to our chest. Openness is hard. Trust me. There has been overwhelming temptation to hide options when talking with a potential direction God may want us to go. It seems easy enough to leave out other potential options in fear that it may hinder that “option.”

God is great so we don’t have to be in control.

I have had to reaffirm my belief in that statement. At one point or another, if you claim to be a Christian you have subscribed to the belief that God is all powerful, sovereign, or in control (whatever your word of choice is). Yet, often our decision to hide where God is taking us places “self” on the platform that Jesus is supposed to occupy in our life. I would encourage anyone that they need to be open and communicate the reality of the situation with anyone you come into contact with. If you do not share with openness then you cease the believe God is really in control. When we share where God is taking us it can inspire and encourage, while also challenging and convicting. In sharing with a potential endeavor, communicating with openness can also bring to light the true character and direction of an organization/person because how they respond to you sharing where God is taking you, even in the uncertainty. I have found out this can be scary, especially when talking with other adults, because I have relinquished my ability to control the narrative. I must now resolve myself to fall at the feet of God and surrender my control. For clarity, transparent communication explains where God has you and is taking you while countering the fear of uncertainty and judgment. I always appreciate people being transparent about their motivations and reasoning backed up by action. Even though the conversation may be hard it is always worth it because in the long term there has been a better chance of a fruitful relationship.

Be Present – It is easy to get caught up in where you think God is taking you in the best possible future anticipation. But, as you focus on where you are going, often we forget where we are. And if we focus on where we are it tends to be through a negative lens because we are not where we want to be. It is even easy to get caught up in what we should be doing, but what are you doing with where you are right now. I cannot help but think of John 4. Jesus takes the disciples through Samaria on a short term missions trip. They did not want to be there. They did not like Samaria, as much as many Christians do not like Muslims, which is sad, but save that for another debate. They we so focused on getting through Samaria with Jesus, they did not stop to think about the people they were currently around–people who had an opportunity to hear the good news because they were traveling through. They were focused on the destination, not the journey. The destination was important. Jesus was about to make a bold proclamation. But like the disciples, we forget to get our eyes up off ourselves and our journey and look to those around us. Jesus is a great model for us. He was not only the savior for those he was with, but for the Samaritans as well. He was present–fully in tune with the situation and place where he was. Because of this, he was able to stop and engage a woman at the well in a loving and truthful way. The text says he had to go through Samaria, not because there was not another way to travel to Galillee, but because it was his Father’s will. It was also His will to go the Nazareth, but first through Samaria. Even as we have pursued church planting God has continually put John 4 on my heart that Ruth and I are in Grayson for a purpose and we have to be here now, so be here even through the destination may be somewhere else.

“Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest.”

– John‬ ‭4:35‬ ‭HCSB

I look forward to sharing more about our journey soon! How is God working in your life? What are your blind spots? What is God teaching you?

Our Previous Step

I don’t know how many times I’ve written and deleted this post, or versions of this post–maybe 10 or 20 times. Every time I get the words out I feel the pros and cons lists growing in my head about whether these words are too truthful or foolish and I go back to word-smithing and tweaking sentences and phrases.

As many people who pay attention to this blog know that I write mostly about student ministry and how to equip parents to help their students own their own faith. Well, that will be changing. I’m still very passionate about people owning their faith and even teaching people how to teach others, but after 3 years at CenterPointe God has shut the door on that ministry and is preparing something new.

The reason I’ve written this post so many times is because I’m not sure what to share or even if what I share makes any sense at all. Do I share the whole story in one post? Do I share the journey Ruth and I have been on over many posts? Because we still aren’t sure what’s exactly next, should I wait to post anything at all?

Maybe, it’s time to stop thinking and still share even with many unknowns. So here it goes as of March 15, 2016.

The past 6-plus months have been a whirlwind. Since mid-August 2015 my wife and I felt God leading us in a new direction. We were unsure where this direction was taking us; the thought was most likely church planting, but maybe to an unknown opportunity. Based on wise counsel, assessment and a few trips, it seemed that direction was going to be church planting, so we have passionately pursued that option. Church planting seemed to be the logical conclusion, mainly, because why would a 24 year old with a wife and 2 kids leave a secure job and a thriving student ministry to step into the unknown if it wasn’t church planting? For sure, God had convincingly shown us it was time to depart from Lexington, KY to lead and learn somewhere else. I am and will forever be incredibly thankful for the people and leadership at CenterPointe and for the time God had us in Lexington.

In answering the question earlier, the short answer to why we left is because God said so. I hope to unpack what God has shown us and how we are arriving at what’s next, with God’s timing, in later posts soon.

The answer and reasoning to why we left seems so strange to many, not all, but many. It seemed strange to set an end date at a ministry when they next step wasn’t clear (the end date was Dec 13, 2015). As I’ve shared our story, it has dawned on me that the norm for some has become to only take a step to what’s next when the step is clearly laid out for them. I’ve faced this battle in my own life. I’ve been conditioned by my training for when I hear others say “because God said so” a red flag gets sent off and to be cautious–be skeptical. But, as I’ve walked this path for a few months now I can say that God dependence is a truly daunting endeavor in a “churched culture.” When a path does not seem logical or clear, direction from God drives fear and skepticism into the hearts of those who feel they could never do the same thing. Often, God reminds me that it’s easy to read stories in the bible of God dependence as fairy tales that happened in some parallel universe, or as epics in a galaxy far far away.

However, when it comes down to it, doesn’t God want us to be totally dependent on Him? What does that look like day-in and day-out?

If we don’t value (show fruit of it in our own life in accordance with His Word) God dependence then the antithesis is self-dependence and from my reading of the Bible that’s called sin.

Within the whirlwind of discovering where God is preparing for us,  it’s been exhilarating and a little frustrating to take God at His word and to just take the next step He shows us. I am thankful for the support and encouragement we have received as we take one step at a time. Ruth and I are also thankful for those who disagree or pose questions about the decision because God uses you to strengthen our convictions, while also using you to teach us.

All I know is that God has us right where He wants us and we will continue to take the next step. Pray that we continue to abide in Him, so that much fruit grows for His glory. I’m excited to see how God continues to draw us closer to himself as He shows us what He is doing across the globe.

Thank you again to those who have encouraged and supported us in prayer or provision while we have been on this journey!

CP Parents Taking Home the Word (10/4)

 The GATHERING

This week we continued our series called, “Lies We Believe.” This series is based out of a resource that has impacted my walk with God called The Gospel Primer by Caesar Kalinowski. Throughout this series we will be working from the perspective that every sin in our lives comes from disbelief in the character of God (Romans 14:23). When we cease to believe God is who He says He is we rebel in our depravity. We exchange the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:25).

When we cease to believe that God is good…we think we can find satisfaction in other things or people. Hence, why we try to fill that God sized hole with awards, food, alcohol, sex, approval, lack of stress. Ultimately, we try to seek comfortable stress free easy lives, which proves our satisfaction and happiness is rooted in stuff other than God. We make choices that make life easier, rather than involve God in the choice process. We become selfish and self-absorbed when we believe the lie that God is not good. However, when we realize that God is good…we don’t have to seek comfort, but pleasure that truly comes from Him

We challenged your students not seek postures of influence of comfort, rather surrender their life over to a God who loves us for exactly who He created us to be. He is good, so we can live lives of faith that reflect His goodness in our priorities and character. In order to do this, we must abide in Him to discover that He is the only one who sustains us and fulfills us. Because, once again, if we truly believe that God is good, that He is more important and we find true satisfaction in Him, then we can rest and repent of stressing out over people, circumstances or your future. We must walk by faith that God is good even in the midst of pain, suffering, and brokenness.

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” — C.S. Lewis

Parents, does your child fear stress or demands? Or, do they constantly want for life to be easier?  Do you sense that your child seek comfort in the midst of tough situations? Do they desire to quit when things get tough or stress gets high? I’d encourage you this week to lift God up as good.

The good news is that we can live a free life because a good God exists. We can let our redeemed and rescued lives reflect that God’s story is bigger than our own.

KEY TEXTS: John 6

CRITICAL QUESTIONS: What does it look like to believe God is good? Do the conversations about whats important reflect God’s goodness, or satisfaction in something else?

CP Parents Taking Home the Word (9/27)

 The GATHERING

This week we continued our series called, “Lies We Believe.” This series is based out of a resource that has impacted my walk with God called The Gospel Primer by Caesar Kalinowski. Throughout this series we will be working from the perspective that every sin in our lives comes from disbelief in the character of God (Romans 14:23). When we cease to believe God is who He says He is we rebel in our depravity. We exchange the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:25).

When we cease to believe that God is gracious…we think we have to prove ourselves (to ourself, to others, to God). Hence, why we check Instagram or Facebook to see how many likes we are up to. Ultimately, we try to impress God with our lives so that he will bless us or be happy with us. We think the same way with other people. We even seek positions or postures of power over others in potentially destructive ways. However, when we realize that God is gracious…we don’t have to strive, we can simply respond in gratitude.

We challenged your students not seek postures of influence or power over others, rather surrender their life over to a God who loves us for exactly who He created us to be. He extended us grace, while we were still living wrongly. We must live lives of gratitude and grace where we don’t pressure ourselves to earn respect or fear humiliation. Because, once again, if we truly believe that God is gracious, that He is more important and His grace-filled relationship to us carries the utmost importance in our life, then we can rest and repent of stressing out over people, circumstances or your future. We must walk by faith that God is the most gracious not what we can see with our own eyes.

Parents, does your child fear humiliation or a lack of respect? Or, do they constantly argue for control over situations?  Do you sense that your child seek approval from others to be accepted, or fears rejection from friends? Do they struggle with jealousy and envy? I’d encourage you this week to lift God up as gracious. As a parent you don’t have to prove yourself, stop trying to prove yourself and your value through the success of your students. Make a conscious effort to encourage your student to follow God in such a way that Jesus’ name is made famous, more than your family name & more than their name. If you struggle with validating your parenting through the success of your children, check out Trophy Child.

Grace is the free and unmerited favor of God in response to our sin by sending Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of our sin. We didn’t earn our salvation, God gracious extends it to us. Let’s let grace characterize our relationships, attitudes, and posture.

The good news is that we can live a free life because a gracious God exists. We can let our redeemed and rescued lives reflect that God’s story is bigger than our own.

KEY TEXTS: Matthew 6:25-34

CRITICAL QUESTIONS: What does it look like to believe God is gracious? Do the conversations about whats important reflect God’s glory or proving oneself?

CP Parents Taking Home the Word (9/20)

 The GATHERING

This week we continued our series called, “Lies We Believe.” This series is based out of a resource that has impacted my walk with God called The Gospel Primer by Caesar Kalinowski. Throughout this series we will be working from the perspective that every sin in our lives comes from disbelief in the character of God (Romans 14:23). When we cease to believe God is who He says He is we rebel in our depravity. We exchange the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:25).

When we cease to believe that God is glorious…we think we have to fear people. Thus, we have to keep up an image or put on a good face for people because we fear disapproval. We even seek affirmation from others in potentially destructive ways. However, when we realize that God is glorious…we don’t have to fear what others think.

We challenged your students not seek affirmation or affection from others, rather surrender their attention and their life over to a God who loves us for exactly who He created us to be. We must live courageous lives and fear only God. Because, once again, if we truly believe that God is glorious, that He is more important and His relationship to us carries the utmost importance in our life, then we can rest and repent of stressing out over people, circumstances or my future. We must walk by faith that God is the most glorious, not what we can see with our own eyes.

Parents, does your child fear your disapproval? Or, do they look for affirmation from you? Maybe your opinions and your standards have been held up as more desirable that God’s? DO you sense that your child seek approval from others to be accepted, or fears rejection from friends? I’d encourage you this week to life God up as glorious. Make a conscious effort to encourage your student to follow God in such a way that Jesus’ name is made famous, more than your family name & more than their name.

The word glory means “weighty,” as in “a person of importance, a weighty person.” Who do you seek to bring glory to?

The good news is that we can live a free life because a  glorious God exists. We can let our redeemed and rescued lives reflect that God’s story is bigger than our own.

KEY TEXTS: Matthew 6:22-24, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

CRITICAL QUESTIONS: What does it look like to believe God is glorious? Do the conversations about whats important reflect God’s glory or fear of man?