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Monthly Archives: January 2012

The private life of a public leader

“Ministry is a character profession. I can’t separate my private life from my public leadership. According to Jesus, it is the holiness of my private life that gives spiritual power and validation to my public ministry. This raises the stakes for my personal integrity; I must have people in my life who help me stay on track in my private world.”

Good reminder by Lance Witt in Replenish: Leading from a healthy soul

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Books, Character, Leadership, Quotes

 

The storm before the calm

Can God use a storm to teach you about himself? Can he use a trial to redirect your life toward a more effective activity? Can God use a difficulty to help strengthen your faith?

I started considering these questions after reading Mark 6:45-56. Immediately after feeding the 5,000 (30-44), Jesus compels his disciples to get back in the boat and head for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Meanwhile, Jesus stays and goes up on a mountain to pray.

Sometime early the next morning (between 3-6AM), Jesus sees that the disciples are stuck in the middle of the lake. Rowing against the wind, they are making no headway at all. Jesus leaves his prayers and walks on the choppy water to meet his men.

Verse 48 contains a curious phrase, “He meant to pass by them.” Why would Jesus go to his disciples if he wasn’t going to stop? Was he racing them to the other side? Was he teasing them?

Insight is gained when you discover that the same phrase is used twice in the Old Testament. God “passed by” Moses (Exodus 33:18-34:7) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13). Rather than ignoring these men, God was giving them a glimpse of his glory. He passed by in order to reveal something about himself.

In the same way, God was using the storm to help the disciples discover a new aspect of his character. He “passed by” and revealed that he had power over the wind and the waves. He demonstrated that the power of nature was under his control.

When the storm subsided, the disciples found themselves in a different location than their original destination. Instead of landing in Bethsaida (45) on the northeast side of the lake, they landed in Gennesaret (53) on the western side. Jesus used the storm to redirect them to a new place of service.

Can God use a storm to teach you about himself? Yes. During seasons of unemployment, God taught me he would provide for my needs. During my experience with vertigo, I discovered that I could lean on God. When I lost my hair, God strengthened my character.

Can God use a trial to redirect your life toward a more effective activity? Most certainly. God used times of staff conflict to move me from one church to another.

As much as it pains me to admit, I have learned to know and trust God more during trials than times of ease. While I might wish they were elective courses, they have been beneficial parts of God’s required curriculum for my life and growth.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

 
 

Soul care

To finish well, a leader must look to the health of his soul. That is the message of Replenish: Leading from a healthy soul, by Lance Witt. It is one of the books I picked up for my Kindle. During our power outage last week, it was one of the few things available to read while waiting for the power to return.

I was challenged by a statement the author made as he closed chapter one.

I want to get to the finish line still in love with Jesus, still in love with the church, still in love with being a pastor. With my head held high, with my dignity and honor still intact, I want to look back over my shoulder and say it was worth it.

I echo that sentiment. In order to reach that goal, I need to find better ways to care for my soul so I can finish well. That’s one lesson I’ve learned from the stress of the past four months. I don’t necessarily have an answer, but I am more aware of my need.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Books, Character, Ministry, Personal growth, Quotes

 

Traveling lighter

I leave for Russia in less than three weeks. While I won’t pack until the day I leave, I have begun to think about what to take. Last year, my wife and I chose to leave the suitcases at home and only use carry-on luggage. We took clothes that we could wear several days. That was a strategy worth repeating. This year I’m taking it a step further by deciding to leave all my books and Bibles at home. I picked up a Kindle Touch for the trip. Instead of several volumes taking up space in my backpack, I have one thin device that weighs less than half a pound. While I prefer the feel of a book, I like the idea of traveling lighter.

In much the same way that I will pack lighter for my trip, so Scripture counsels us to leave behind the sin, burdens, and worries that weigh us down as we travel through life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all you anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Just as packing lighter for a trip requires intentionally choosing to leave some clothes, books, and things behind, so traveling lighter through life requires the same intelligent choices of using confession and prayer to lighten my spiritual load.

 
 

Stay Centered

When your mind is focused on Christ, he can shape the patterns of your life into one of creative beauty.

During our time at SonScape in September, we were introduced to a sand pendulum. We liked it so much we picked one up for ourselves. It is a reminder to keep our mind, heart, and life centered on Jesus Christ. Though we may go to various extremes, we always come back to the center. In the process, intricate and creative patterns of beauty are formed.

 

The pendulum provides a helpful, visual reminder of the importance of maintaining healthy habits of the heart, practicing spiritual disciplines.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28–29)

 

Right at our point of need

Seattle’s Snowmaggedon 2012 found people in varying stages of helplessness. Some ventured out onto the highways and wound up in a ditch needing a tow truck. Some headed off to the grocery stores to stock up on much needed staples, only to discover others had already been there and stripped the shelves bare. Still others, like me and 300,000 of my closest friends, found ourselves without power and needing Puget Sound Energy to restore downed power lines. We all had needs that desperately needed to be met.

While tow trucks, grocery stores, and PSE met tangible needs this week, so Jesus Christ meets each one of us at our point of need in a far greater way. In Mark 6:30-44, we see that Jesus met seven unique needs for seven different groups of people.

Jesus provided:

  • Rest for the weary (30-32). Jesus’ disciples returned bone-weary from a ministry trip (6:7-13). They were so busy they did not even have time to eat. Jesus took them away for a well deserved retreat.
  • Compassion for the lost (33-34a). The crowds continued to follow Jesus. Rather than view them as an inconvenience, he saw them as sheep without a shepherd. They lacked leadership, nourishment, and protection.
  • Instruction for the seekers (34b). Jesus taught the people, explaining the nature of the kingdom of God.
  • Challenge for the self-sufficient (35-37). By the end of a full day of instruction, people were hungry.  Jesus’ disciples wanted to send them to the local grocery stores to get food. Jesus challenged the twelve to take responsibility and feed them themselves. Knowing it was impossible, Jesus wanted them to transfer what they learned on their previous ministry trip to this new challenge.
  • Significance for the inadequate (38). Far too often, we feel as if we have nothing to offer in service. However, if we give it to Jesus, he can take our little (five rolls, two fish) and use it to feed a multitude.
  • Satisfaction for the needy (39-42). Everyone ate enough to proclaim, “I couldn’t eat another bite.”
  • Encouragement for the faint-hearted (43-44). The disciples had no idea how to feed 5,000 people. They were convinced it couldn’t be done. Not only were the people fed, but there was enough for 12 baskets of leftovers; perhaps, the disciples’ lunch for tomorrow.

A God who can feed 5,000 people from five loaves and two fish can do anything. What needs do you want Jesus to meet in your life?

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Preaching, Scripture, Theology, Winter

 

Powerless

Snow + ice storm + downed power lines = 18+ hour power outage = a dark, cold day.

The weather guys overestimated Wednesday’s storm and completed missed Thursday’s. They predicted 16 inches of snow on Wednesday; we got four. They predicted 45 degrees and rain on Thursday; we got an ice storm. Because of the snow and ice weighing down the branches on the trees, it’s no wonder power lines were downed and we lost power. By the time our power was restored 18+ hours later, it was 49 degrees INSIDE the house. BRRRRRR!!!!!

Since I was unable to work on my laptop out of concern for using up the battery, I spent the day reading near a window where there was light. I read Henry & Melvin Blackaby’s book, Experiencing the Spirit: The power of Pentecost every day. It was fittingly ironic to read about the power of the Holy Spirit on a day when we had no power. ;-}

In the same way that ice can weigh down a tree branch and cause it to bring down a power line, so we can allow sin to weigh down our lives and grieve or quench the power of the Holy Spirit. We waited in the cold and dark for Puget Sound Energy to clean up the mess and restore power to 1,312 customers in our region. (Thanks guys!) In the same way, we need to confess our sin before the power of the Spirit can be restored in our lives.

A valuable lesson for a cold, dark day.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Books, Personal growth, Theology

 

Snowmaggedon 2012

Seattle braces for the worst winter storm of the century, or so the weather experts would have us think. While the worst of the storm went south of Seattle, we got enough to make the roads treacherous and the sledding fun.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Photos, Seattle, Winter

 

Making spiritual growth sound too simplistic

Book Review: The Jesus Mission, by Steven K. Scott

How can you have a relationship with Jesus Christ? How can you grow in that relationship? The Jesus Mission is designed to answer both of those questions.

The Jesus Mission is divided into three parts. The first third of the book explains how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. It addresses the basic questions that each one of us has about life. It explains what it means to be “born again” and gives numerous examples of those who have undergone that process. The author attacks the “pray the prayer” approach to evangelism and presents conversion more as a process of being transformed and demonstrated by a changed life.

The second part of the book answers the question, “How can I grow in my relationship with Christ?” The author explains four “missions” that Christ gave each believer—Know God; Grow in your faith; Fellowship with other believers; Share the gospel. It is the standard fare of discipleship, though presented in a compelling fashion as a “mission” from God assigned to “you.” It is basic material aimed at a young or immature believer.

The final section of the book examines who Jesus Christ really is. The author briefly touches on the person of Christ and spends more time on the work of Christ. In his discussion of the work of Christ, the author tries to explain that Jesus completed “27 missions” while on earth. It is a unique way of examining Jesus’ work, but it struck me as overly complicated. I was put off when the author went on a rant against liberal politics in his attempt to prove that Jesus wasn’t a socialist. He takes a couple of parables out of context to prove his point.

My main reservation is that the book is written in a success formula format. Here are three steps, four roadblocks, five activities, and if you follow the checklist, you are guaranteed success. While the promises of Scripture are true, the Christian life is not quite that easy. The author doesn’t address the issues of spiritual warfare, persecution, or any other type of opposition that is thrown at us. Those issues need to be included to have a balanced understanding of the challenges of growing in Christ.

The book reads a bit like a seminar that was transcribed and then published. Part of it is a bullet point outline that should be fleshed out more. It is an ok book, but it feels too simplistic to be a great one.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
 

The cleansing power of forgiveness

Seattle enjoyed a rare snowstorm yesterday. It was more enjoyable if you could watch it from the warmth of your house rather than drive in it.

Seeing the newly fallen snow put me in mind of Isaiah 1:18,

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

In the same way that snow covers the dirt and makes the world clean, so God’s grace and forgiveness can cover the dirt in our lives and make us pure. But while the snow melts and the dirt returns, God’s grace never fades or fails. Grace really is amazing!

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Photos, Scripture, Theology, Winter

 
 
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