Wednesday, August 27, 2008

death of a vision

Tragedy can snatch a vision from one's grasp without warning. An acquaintance of mine birthed an inner-city work that was ravaged by a horrible flood and he is just now resurfacing in a new ministry. Another personal friend who works with young people recently experienced the untimely death of a young person under his care struck by lightening. He is processing his grief and grappling with God's purpose in continuing his ministry there.

How the enemy wants to gut our vision of something grand and beautiful for God! He will do everything he can to discredit us, discourage us, divide us, destroy us. He knows that if he can get us looking at the wrong things, he can kill the vision that we have.

Staying focused on God's call and not being deterred by the concerted efforts of the enemy to change our view of things by causing us to look away from what God has called us to do is a matter of disicpline. I am reminded of Hebrews 12:2 where we are challenged "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame..."
The death of a vision comes when we cease to look at God and allow our eyes to only see what is around us, not unlike Peter, who walked on water until he took his eyes off of Jesus. He sank and would have drownded, if not for Jesus' hearing his cry, "Lord, save me!", Matthew 12:22ff.

Don't let your view of things be shaped by circumstances; instead, look at Jesus, and keep your vision clear and focused. Don't let the enemy steal what God has shown and revealed to you by obscuring it with obstacles. Hold on to it tightly and see God's plan and purpose in the middle of the storm.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Appropriate pride

"Proud" was how I felt at our most recent worship service at Grace Fellowship! I know pride is a bad thing but in this case it was, I think, appropriate.

Our youth led the service on Sunday--greeting, ushering, leading worship, acting in a skit--and our youth minister preached his first sermon. For all of us at Grace it was a day to thank God for how He has blessed our youth ministry, even though we have never had a numerically large group. We have operated with a ministry philosophy of building a core group of teens who loved the Lord and lived out their faith.

The results "on display" Sunday...

*Our worship leader began as a thirteen year old just learning to play the guitar, taught by our then youth minister (now our associate pastor). Kyle is a student at Biola University.

*Our pianist, Tessa, has grown up in our church and recently graduated from high school.

*Our man who led in prayer, Brian, is a product of our associate pastor's youth ministry and now works as a volunteer with our teens.

*Our skit team was composed of five teenagers, including our associate pastor's daughter, Morgan, who was five when she arrived at Grace.

*Our missionary spotlight was given by Beka, recently returned from four weeks in the Ukraine as a completion of a class project from Simpson Bible College.

*Our "offerng leader", Richard, found Christ a couple of years ago out of a life of drugs, and now works with our teens and is headed for Moody Bible Institute in January.

*Our speaker, Christian, is now our youth pastor, though his roots go back to earlier days when we supported him as a young missionary doctor in Guatelmala while he was in the service.

It is no wonder I am smiling...and "proud" in an appropriate way...of our kids at Grace and our ministry team who serves them faithfully!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Getting ready for the fall...

“Getting Ready for the Fall”…that was going to be how I entitled this short piece for the church newsletter and then I noticed there was a possible double meaning hidden in those words. I want to be sure that I cover all bases so no one is left wondering, “What did he mean by that title?”

I just returned from a week away at the ocean, a favorite of mine for deep thinking and meditation. It was restful there, and unburdened by the cares of everyday life, I was able to find time to think about things that really matter—my ministry, my marriage and family, and my future—all things that are of critical importance. I am excited about ministry, I am committed to my wife and family, and I am trusting God with our future. That is how I would summarize all the ponderous issues that can be examined in these areas with an unavoidable measure of angst and worry. Ministry is always characterized by balancing need concerns with areas of growth; marriage and family issues always revolve around whose hurting or what can I do to help? And my future at age sixty…? Am I making the best investment of the resources I have?

“Getting ready for the fall” involves for me an inventory of what we are doing that is good and what are we doing that needs to be improved. It also begs the question, “What are we not doing that needs to get done?” Our staff will have met by the time you read this and have spent a day discussing all of these valid concerns as we seek to be good stewards of the responsibilities of leadership. We will be seeking God’s direction as we try to “fine-tune” the calendar and schedule for the balance of the year. I will be preaching from the book of I Peter beginning in September, and will be joined by Pastor Mark, in teaching the truths of this letter written to people who were going through really hard times. Some of our church families are experiencing the same so this book seems appropriate for us at this time—and for our ministry to other hurting people.

“Getting ready for the fall” for me means as well increased discipline and accountability as the weather cools and I move inside for more exercise…and, potentially, more “holiday-inspired” eating. It is also a time to guard myself against the unrealistic demands of heavy programming and heightened expectations that I tend to place on myself. What is critical here is for me to seek to please the Lord as I minister for Him.

“Getting ready for the fall” could mean something much more ominous. There is an election on the horizon that frightens me and some measures on our state ballot that are of huge importance as we seek to affirm the importance if the family and what a marriage relationship ought to look like. There are many religious political pundits who are forecasting a “fall” for our country if we make certain choices that signal an acceleration towards our own demise. “Getting ready for the fall” means for me that I will exercise my votes carefully and prayerfully and not fatalistically sit back and watch what I fear may happen, actually happen, because I chose not to vote. “Swing Vote”, an average movie, has a singularly important message in its hypothetical story—one man’s vote can make a difference. So get ready for the fall by being totally engaged in the political process. There are lots of ways to make your vote seem bigger than one.

“Getting ready for the fall” is a challenge I have already begun to embrace. I have re-examined my schedule, sorted through my priorities and am in the process of making some choices that may signal a fresh direction for my life. Why not join in the adventure?