To be loved is to be known
To be known is to be vulnerable
To be vulnerable is to be strong
To be strong is to endure
To endure is to love
Love is all
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I look forward to hearing from you about anything from ministry, missions, running and life.
To be loved is to be known
To be known is to be vulnerable
To be vulnerable is to be strong
To be strong is to endure
To endure is to love
Love is all
The writer Paul says “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17 ESV)
Your old self is who you used to be, it is your former identity. It is defined by all your weaknesses, your mistakes and what has happened to you.
Your old self is defined by your failures and successes, by the place you were born, the family you were born into, your preferences, your education and your occupation. The old you relies on all these things for its self-worth.
The writer Paul says “Be careful not to let anyone rob you of this faith through a shallow and misleading philosophy. Such a person follows human traditions and the world’s way of doing things rather than following Christ.” (Col. 2:8)
Your new self isn’t defined by any of these things, and yet it incorporates them into your identity. You have become one with Christ, the creator of the universe, and His identity merges with yours.
Henri Nouwen writes in his book Here and Now, “Jesus came to announce to us that an identity based on success, popularity and power is a false identity- an illusion! Loudly and clearly he says: ‘You are not what the world makes you; but you are children of God.”
All the things that have happened to you, all your bad habits and everything that once defined you is no longer who you are entirely. You are a new person and a new creation. Your friends and family should be able to see it reflected in your attitude, your words and your actions.
Instead of falling into your old patterns, you are learning to circumvent them and be who you truly are now.
Does this mean that you have lost your unique personality? Of course not. Have the difficult experiences in your life been erased and forgotten? No, they haven’t. The difference is that now, you have overcome them through the power of Jesus living inside you. It's a process of becoming.
Your past doesn’t go away, but you are able to rise above, to acknowledge and use it to make you better, stronger. He has taken who you are and He is doing something beautiful with it.
So why do you fall back into old patterns of thinking? Because you have forgotten to remind yourself who you really are, and because you are human. The difference is, you are no longer limited by by your old habits or thought patterns. You are free in Christ.
Repeat this to yourself every day. “I am a new creation. My life is different because Jesus lives in me.”
The day I started doubting that anything I possible is the day that my child-like faith died. Before that, with God on my side, I could accomplish anything, almost without trying. And, if I failed, then God would always be there to back me up - to catch me from falling too hard. My dreams were limitless, my vision had no horizon. No risk was considered, no calculation or planning necessary because whatever necessary would just happen. I believed so much.
Now I have a thinking faith. A "maybe" faith. A “what if it’s not possible” kind of faith.
My faith sometimes isn’t faith at all. It’s a “look at me God - bless what I want to do, I’m not doing that because it doesn’t make sense” kind of faith. I ask God for my heart’s desire, when all He requires is that I desire Him.
Faith is letting go, holding on, striving and relaxing all at the same time and I somehow lost that faith, the faith that doesn’t require answers or constant assurances. I now have a faith that struggles, that doubts, that has been to the mountaintop and yet still doubts whether it’s even possible to reach it.
I want my faith back. I want to be able to do anything again, to be able to jump without a crippling fear of falling. I want faith to take my hand again and lead me through the dark places. I want to be able to say “yes” when called, no matter where-to or when. I need to let go- of my all-important self-importance and my less than selfless good deeds.
I want my faith back, the kind of faith that drives me with purpose and desire. I want my all consuming, all trusting confidence in the Creator of all, for whom there is no limit.
But maybe the kind of faith I yearn for is the inmature kind, the nostalgia of an adolescent ignorance. Maybe this new faith is somehow more authentic and real because it does struggle with uncertainty. It takes more for me to act, which in reality requires even more faith than before.
Yes, I want my faith back, but not the easy answer kind - I could never go back to that. I want a faith that wrestles with God and is willing to be injured in the process, that willingly places my own desires upon the altar without expecting a ram in the bush.
What I really want is to know that when God calls, I will still answer without hesitation, no matter how "wise" I have become. That the faith I want back.
What do we idolize in our modern culture? Success, power, pleasure and consumption. In fact, this has always been the case for the world’s rich and powerful throughout history. The wealthy, not limited by resources, have always tended toward the hedonistic. Their “god is their belly” as the apostle Paul writes.
The rest of society, the majority of the population, has always had to live within their meager and modest means. Scarcity is the norm for the world’s masses. Because of poverty, faith in the majority of the world focuses on the daily pursuit of food, health, clothing and shelter. "I trust God to provide me with food today, or heal my sick child?" It also focuses more on the eternal things that give purpose and meaning to a person or community that feels helplessly trapped. Freedom to do and posess whatever just isn't a reality for most of the world throughout history.
In our modern Western society, however, material possessions are abundantly accessible to almost everyone; and personal freedom to do whatever, whenever is the expected norm.
This has changed how we see the eternal truths of God, always through a materialistic lens, always through the “how does this get me more of what I want” lens. Deep spiritual truths from the East (Christianity was first a middle-eastern religion) have been watered down and made into our own image.
We have co-joined religion and state, faith and consumerism, God and nationalism, spiritual and economic growth. There seems to be no way of undoing it in mainstream religion and faith. This is not just an American problem, but because we are such an affluent society, it is more pronounced.
Prosperity preachers have co-opted the message of Jesus and turned it into a plan for making themselves rich. Conservative "Evangelicals" in America have conflated the teachings of Jesus with their "freedom" to have anything we want, whenever we want, at whatever quantity we want, and no matter how we treat others and harm the world around us.
Jesus was not interested in helping people accumulate massive wealth for themselves, period. In fact, he warned the rich on multiple occasions about their love for money (Mark 4:19, Mark 10:25, Luke 6:24.) He came to restore the relationship between the material and the spiritual, between the eternal and the physical. His ministry and message transcends, redeems and unites all things.
How do we escape the trappings of a modern consumerist religion and work toward a faith that is focused on the priorities of God's Kingdom?
Indulge me on this, because it's basically the same challenge that Jesus gave a rich young man who asked him what he must to do be saved.
A Simple Spiritual Exercise: Select one thing that you desire for yourself, and... let it go, take it off your wish list. Tell God that you need Him more than you need "it."
How does that feel? Did you feel a sense of loss? Are you secretly hoping that God will give it to you anyway since you've now passed some sort of test? Here's the clincher, you have given it up, period. If you have started saving up to buy it, you can now use that money for something else, preferably to help someone in need. You can stop dropping hints to a loved one that you want it.
This is getting more difficult now, isn't it?
Now what? Will you suddenly now become more spiritual and content? No, but as we learn to practice this simple spiritual act in our lives, our souls slowly become less consumed with self-indulgence and more concerned about the things of God, about His mission.
Say a simple prayer and thank God for His grace, and pray that He will use you to focus on the needs of others, and on the eternal Creator of all things.
Pray: God, you care more about me than I could ever imagine. You know the desires of my heart, both the good and the selfish ones. I pray that you would make me one with yourself, help my will be yours. Replace my idolatry of material things with true devotion. I give you what I have, knowing you will provide. Amen
My life is "almost" 100% more awesome than it actually is. There are so many things I have almost done, or thought about doing, or just didn’t get to.
Many times when I am speaking with someone, and telling stories from my experience, I have to mentally differentiate between those things that I actually did and the things that I almost did. If I’m not careful, I will tell a story of almost as if it really happened.
Or, I tell a story about how I almost did or accomplished something with the same excitement as if I had actually done it.
Why is this?
Because I have mastered the art of almost.
In our minds, the gap between attempting something and actually accomplishing it isn’t very big. When we think about doing something, plan to do it, and start to do it, we have already reaped most of the emotional reward.
Our brains get a boost of dopamine when we start something new. It may be a new relationship, a new project, a job, etc. However, these things quickly lose that “new car smell” and we are quickly on the lookout for the next new thing to start while we still haven’t finished the last one.
We love to tell other people about the newest thing we’ve started like books, diets, training, workout regimen, etc. This is why people are forever starting things and never finishing them.
Finishing something that is difficult is, well...difficult. It takes determination, endurance, hard work and patience.
So how do you move away from the practice of Almost?
One way is to delay your brain’s release of those rewarding chemicals by NOT telling people what you are starting, but only what you are committed to finishing. Don’t allow yourself to celebrate until you finish something. That takes too long? Then split up the goal into milestones and celebrate those along the way.
But you can’t finish everything you start, nor should you.
You should always be trying to learn new skills, habits, etc. This doesn’t mean that everything you start you will finish. However, you should be able to determine those things that are worth seeing to completion, and those that were just good experiences.
If you’re like me, you learn by doing. That means you only learn if you want to do something or not when you actually start doing it. Also, by dabbling in several different activities, you find out what you have a talent for and can become a more well-rounded individual.
One strategy is to group your activities into Experiments and Commitments. In other words, categorize the things you are doing into those that are worth finishing, and the things that aren’t. This process is explained by Scott H Young in his post “How to Build the Habit of Finishing What You Start.” How to Build the Habit of Finishing What You Start
Sure, telling the story of how you almost did something is fun. But, how many “almosts” will it take until you finally finish something of significance? That story will be even better.
Be a master of the "Almost." Tell the story of all the hard work that it took and all the failed attempts to finally accmplish something great. Just don't fall into the trap of believing that Almost is good enough. It is just a step on the journey to accomplishing something great.
credit to Wilco for the inspiration for this blog title: I used to listen to this album almost everyday on my morning run. Wilco - Art of almost - YouTube
Perhaps you work in a "traditional" job but are passionate about a business idea. For now you'd like your idea to be a side business, but you know that one day it could be more. To raise money for the business, follow many of the same guidelines that you would for a regular, full-time business.
Many people who start businesses as hobbies or as small endeavors neglect to write a business plan. This is a mistake. A business of any size should have a plan that covers areas such as sales and marketing, operations, development and finances.
Each area needs to be as comprehensive as possible for you to have any hope of raising sufficient capital from sources such as banks and credit unions. A well-thought-out plan also makes it likelier that friends, family members and community members might invest.
Believe it or not, having too much money (and perhaps too much time) can sink a business. As far as time goes, many people prioritize better and more quickly if their time is short, among other things. With money, investing in an unproven product equates to possibly wasting funds and resources. Alternatively, you might not work as hard to prove the product.
Suppose your idea is to sell handmade religious jewelry. If you had a lot of money already, you might decide to lease a store and contract with 10 folks who make exquisite jewelry by hand—all this before even proving your concept. You might also hire a website developer to build a site with all the bells and whistles.
On the other hand, if you are relatively short on funds, your best option could be to network with a friend or two to make jewelry, or even make it all yourself. Instead of leasing a store, you go to community events and the like to sell and to prove your concept.
Perhaps the business takes off. Maybe it doesn’t. Either way, you’ve started small. If the customer demand is there, you have the evidence you need to show potential lenders and investors that your business can go places.
Crowdfunding is one way that many modern businesses raise money to open or pursue new ventures. Some sites such as FaithLauncher focus on specific faith-based entrepreneurship areas. However, remember that crowdfunding is usually not as simple as outlining your business idea and publishing it online. You have to do a lot of leg work to draw attention to your campaign (making a video could kick your idea to the next level, for example). Fortunately, you likely have built-in community support already—folks you know from church, for example.
If you have a regular/day job, you may have had the opportunity to save money for years. In fact, many entrepreneurs use their own savings to help fund their business ideas. Investing your own money in a venture is an excellent way to signal to potential investors the extent to which you believe in your idea. Of course, it may behoove you to remember the “start small” principle—don’t spend too much money on an unproven concept.
Using your own savings is one thing, but what about other ways, such as credit cards? You should proceed with caution here. It may be better to just save for awhile or to assess if your concept can be broken down even further, which would let you start testing your minimum viable product even sooner with less risk and less money. That way, if you prove your concept, you may feel more comfortable using a credit card.
No matter which funding avenue(s) you choose, there may come a day when your side business demands the attention and resources of a full-time job. You’re bound to learn a lot, and many entrepreneurs come away surprised by the fact that they can get started with far less money than they thought necessary.
In our current culture, true leaders that set an example worth emulating are getting harder to find. Sadly, this is true in ministry as well. There are several important traits that you should strive to embody as a ministry leader.
1. Stay Focused on the End Goal If you work in a ministry position you'll often be called to wear many hats. It's far too easy to get side-tracked and find yourself far away from what you're really supposed to be accomplishing. Write down your primary goals, post them on the wall right above your desk and enlist the help of other leaders and co-workers to help you stay on track.
2. Stay Christ-Centered As a church leader you always need to remember that Christ is the focal point of every endeavor. CTPastors points out that leaders must have a strong focus on things that always remain the same. There is nothing more unchanging than Jesus, the foundation of our faith. Having a strong, unwavering commitment to Jesus’ mission is crucial, otherwise you will begin to exchange lesser missions for the most important one.
3. Adhere to High Standards of Integrity If you've been called to a leadership position in ministry you will be held to a higher standard. Crosswalk.com states that integrity must encompass all areas of a leader's life, not just in a particular leadership position. To be a leader of integrity means to adhere to a high code of behavior in issues regarding the heart and the home as well as in public.
4. Learn to Deal With Criticism If you're in a position of leadership there will be criticism. Jesus received a lot of criticism during his ministry, both from those who adamantly opposed him and even at times from his own followers. It's important to not take it personally and respond with love and kindness.
5. But Still Accept Constructive Criticism Remaining humble and realizing you aren't going to get it right all the time is a necessary leadership trait. If you surround yourself with Godly individuals who genuinely care as much about the ministry as you do, it will be easier to take counsel and apply it.
6. Take a Team Approach Taking a team approach means you'll seek out and involve others in what you're trying to accomplish, and in the decisions you make. It also means working regularly with others and not going it alone. David Mathis in Desiring God writes that individuals are simply too frail, shortsighted and naturally sinful to go it totally alone without support from others.
Being a better leader takes a conscientious effort on a daily basis. Excelling as a leader isn't be easy, but this is what you’re called to.
What would you add to this list of crucial traits?
As a church leader, you can’t try to run a church, ministry or mission alone for long – you’ll burn out. One of your most important tasks as a leader is to find and develop other leaders -- the men and women who will lead your small groups, disciple others and carry the mission of the church forward beyond your own personal limitations.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “leadership is influence.” We use this phrase to remind each other that we all have a responsibility to lead ourselves and those around us as best we can.
Unfortunately, although every person is a leader in this sense of the word, far fewer people have been given the right mixture of leadership gifting and character that allow them to take up more formal leadership positions in ministry.
In fact, finding the right leaders can be downright difficult. So how can we search better?
The biggest obstacle many pastors face is that they don’t have time to look for and develop new leaders – they’re too busy running everything themselves!
You must carve out time for finding potential new leaders and then invest time in building a relationship with them. Only by getting to know them better can you assess their leadership potential.
Who has potential within your church? How can you make time to get to know them better?
Raw leadership talent is important, but it isn’t everything. A talented leader without the right character can do more damage to your ministry than a less-skilled leader with a true heart for Jesus.
In 1 Samuel 16:7, Samuel is looking for a leader, specifically the future king of the Israelites. God gives him some advice about what to look for:
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Examine the hearts of the people around you. Who has the character and faith to set a great example in leadership?
When we talk about identifying and developing future leaders, we often assume this means young people – and it often does. It is important the church makes room for young leaders, but don’t discount other generations either.
This is especially true when you have a ministry with very few young people. Instead of choosing someone unsuitable, cast your net a bit wider. God can use anyone, at any age. Moses was about 80 years old when he led the Israelites out of Egypt!
Is there anyone you have unintentionally looked over because they don’t fit your initial expectations?
After over 15 years as the founding President and CEO of LINC International, I am stepping down from my position and handing over the reins to an interim leadership team.
I’ve always believed that most founders shouldn’t stay in their post for longer than necessary. After a period of time, you tend to have had your best ideas and can become stale in your position. You begin to know the organization so well that it’s difficult to see things with fresh eyes, and begin to take for granted the amazing miracles that happen every day throughout the whole organization. This is especially true for natural entrepreneurs, who are more energized when starting and creating than when managing for long-term growth.
I’ve observed myself over the past couple of years, and have realized that the organization that has grown so much since our beginning, is in need of new leadership. I believe that God has gifted me in unique ways, and that these gifts are best used for His Kingdom in a different arena. I’ve grown comfortable in my changing role over the years, but being comfortable doesn’t always bring out the best in me, and I want to give my best for the sake of Jesus’ mission. That being said, I have learned a lot about cross-cultural ministry in the city, and am proud of what we have accomplished with God’s help. And all along the way, it wasn’t easy.
When LINC Houston began in 2001, we were sure about one thing, that new ministries and new ministry leaders were needed to reach our dynamic and diverse metropolitan area. Houston’s population was already a world mission field, with people from hundreds of language groups scattered throughout our thriving metropolis. We had great support from local congregations and the Texas District LCMS, but still had to manage to find a way to survive in urban ministry, where sustainability and growth are often difficult. But we did learn how to survive.
To help grow our mission leadership, we hired a Mission Director, David Kim, who had just graduated from the CMC program at Concordia Irvine. He and I became a great team as I concentrated on growing the organization and he on growing our leadership and church-planting base. Together, we saw phenomenal growth in new ministries and disciple-making pastors and leaders for the Kingdom. I once again felt the call of God to focus on growth and expansion, and began to assist new cities to begin LINC ministries and Dr. David Kim launched the new organization GlocalMission.
Then we changed our organizational model and became LINC Ministries International, an organization that operates in multiple cities and countries to plant ministries through courageous local leaders of impact. God allowed us to start and support LINC ministries in new places like Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Milwaukee, Denver, Andhra Pradesh India, Thailand, as well as relaunch LINC Twin Cities under our umbrella. We’ve partnered nationally with other mission societies to plant and multiply new ministries among specific language groups. New LINC ministries are being birthed through our incubation model led by Rev. Dominic Rivkin VP of New City Development, with the same mission of raising up local leaders who start new ministries that impact their communities with the Gospel, and for that I praise God.
I am proud of what God has done through this organization so far, and am excited about what He will do in the future. The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Psalm 113:4. Most of all, I am proud to have been a part of something that has made an eternal difference in the lives of over 300,000 individuals through the outreach and evangelism ministries of over 50 new mission churches.
I am a starter and a builder, and will always seek new ways to expand the Kingdom of God using my particular passions, gifts and talents. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking LINC from our first years through various phases of growth. But I now feel it’s time for LINC to seek out a new CEO who can bring fresh energies along with new gifts of leadership; someone who will build the team even stronger, is excited by our vision, respects our values, and is able to take LINC International to the next level.
I am as committed as ever to fulfilling the ongoing vision of LINC. I have also dreamed that my entrepreneurial mindset could be used to further expand the Kingdom of God by creating an alternative revenue stream for ministries like LINC, even as I continue to serve as an ambassador for LINC’s ministry expansion around the world. As part of a new type of mission endeavor, I will work together with other Kingdom-minded leaders to build Business as Mission models that incubate and grow new businesses to fund mission work as well as create new opportunities to share the Gospel and make disciples among leaders in developing countries. I will be still be called by LINC, but as a bi-vocational Missionary At Large, and will continue to connect and work with local leaders in various places to grow and expand the Kingdom of God.
Some are wondering if I’ve lost my mind. Why would I leave a comfortable position in the organization that I founded and have led for so long, only to take a risk to start a new venture with no assurance of success? But those who know me best are not surprised that God is leading me in this direction, and I truly believe that this is what God is calling me to do in this new season of ministry.
LINC will not only survive, but thrive. With a strong transitional leadership team, a solid Board of Directors, and a talented, diverse, and hardworking staff, I have no doubt that LINC International is about to enter an exciting new future of growth. God will fulfill His mission; my prayer is that He also continues to use my wife Natalia and I to do so for His glory.
I believe that as humans, we are wired for challenge, and that something inside us dies slowly over time when we just settle for what is easy. That may be overstating it, but I've seen it happen time after time in people, ministries and organizations. I admit, I tend to lean toward attempting challenges that are beyond my abilities. This doesn't apply to every part of my life, in fact there are situations that I run from because they're not comfortable. However, I always pray that I will never limit what God wants to do through me because I preferred only to do what's easy.
I just watched The Evolution of "The Speedgoat" telling the story of professional trail running legend Karl Meltzer, his dedication to the sport, and the sacrifices he has made to do what he is made to do. He has won more 100 mile races in his career than anyone, and also holds the speed record for the Apalachian Trail. Truly an inspiration for me as a runner and as the leader of an organization attemping audacious things for the Kingdom of God.
Three things converged this morning:
God, I hear You. I won't settle for the safe and easy path. When faced with a challenge, I will trust in your power and strength and not my own.
“You heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.” Joshua 14:12
Caleb’s faith in God never wavered, though everyone around him doubted. God convinced Caleb that the children of Israel should enter the Promised Land, but the people were intimidated by giants and fortified cities (Num. 13:28-33). Their disbelief forced Caleb to wait forty years in the wilderness before he finally entered the Promised Land. Even after all those years, Caleb was as confident as ever in God’s power.
When God was dividing the land among the Israelites, the people were asking for the lush valleys and grassy plains. Caleb asked for a mountain. The Israelites had driven their enemies into the mountains, where they had built fortresses. This did not intimidate Caleb—he asked for a challenge! He did not trust in his own strength but in God’s presence. Caleb longed to see God work in power, and he knew he would be less likely to rely on God if he dwelt in the easy places. He chose a situation in which he would have to trust in God. Caleb knew his inheritance from God was on the mountain. He refused to allow the difficulty of gaining it to stop him from enjoying all that God had promised him.
If you always choose the easy way, asking for the peaceful valleys, you will never see God’s power displayed to enable you to take a mountain. Seek out the mountains, and you will witness God doing things through your life that can be explained only by His mighty presence.
Excerpt from Experiencing God Day by Day
As I dropped off my daughter at preschool for her Valentine's Day party, I was reminded again how excited kids are about the littlest things. When a teacher says that they're going to do something, the kids get excited. Her teacher, however, told the class yesterday that if they didn't be quiet she would take their party away.
Her teacher’s words put such a doubt in my daughter's mind that, even after I repeatedly assured her, she was adamat that the party was cancelled. If adults continue to do this in her life, she will soon learn that they can't be trusted. Believe me, I know plenty of parents to use this tactic with their children, and they can't figure out why their children don't respond to their threats.
This situation really made me think about my own parenting style, and question whether or not I give and break promises as a reward and punishment. What about my other relationships? Do I fulfill my promises based on how I feel about a certain person at the time, or based on the fact that I gave my word?
If I am truly honest with myself, I would have to admit that I often behave just like my daughter's teacher. That’s not the kind of person that I want my children, or my coworkers and colleagues to know. What about you?
Because I know people use empty threats to control behavior, I was able to promise my daughter that she was indeed having her party, even though "teacher said." We took her bag of Valentines for the class, and got ready for the party that wasn't cancelled.
James 5:12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
Increasing My dependance on God.
Living life in the modern world makes it difficult to depend on God. I start to believe that I have everything I need, and I rarely have to pray for God to provide my daily bread. This is not the case in other places around the world for people are truly concerned for their next meal.
What are we supposed to do to increase our dependence on God? I know that this may sound simple, but here are two things I am trying to do more of.
I know this should be a given, but even I sometimes fall out of the daily habit of reading scripture. Yes I read devotionals, books and look at spiritual memes on social media, but this is no substitute for digging into the Scriptures on a daily basis.
Without hearing from God its easy to forget him. Without digging through the Scriptures to find internal truth, it's easy to Think that I have everything figured out. When I read the word of God, I understand that many people throughout history have been in the same situation as I, but still had a deep dependence on God. I can learn from them in their example. I'm also reminded that Life is tenuous, and that without Christ my future is insecure. Only his death on the cross and his atoning sacrifice for me can give me any security. Everything can be taken away tomorrow, but Jesus will never leave me. This is what reading the Scriptures reminds me of among other things.
In any relationship, when you stop talking or communicating with someone, then you begin to lose your deep connection to them and thus stop depending on that relationship for anything significant. The same happens in our relationship with God. Whenever we stop talking to him, bringing our cares and burdens to him, meditating on his word and confessing our sins, our dependance on him begins to weaken. Spending time meditating on His word and truth not only helps free our mind from the lies that we tell ourselves, but also helps center our thoughts and actions on the things that really matter. The less we do this, the more independent we become. The more we practice this daily spiritual discipline, the more God becomes a necessary part of our life.
Yes, this is elementary. But just doing these two things daily will grow your faith and help you to depend more on God and less on yourself.
Is. 55:6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near."
I take for granted that God will always be there when I need him. Sometimes he appears to distance himself from me just like a parent does for their child when wanting them to grow and mature.
It also seems sometimes that things just to go well while at other times they don't. A worldly phrase maybe, "get it while the getting's good." But is more than just getting what we want. This is the very presence of God, his present help in our time of need.
Sometimes I look back on my life and it seems that God was very directly involved in what I did. I had a real sense that he was with me, guiding me and I can say without a doubt that he was near. Other times, I'm not so sure that I could say the same, even though I know he never left me.
Why does God seem to be involved more directly in some circumstances and less in others? Is it just my perception or is God really more distant at times?
“Seek the Lord." If I could just remember to do this, to truly seek Him, then I would be much closer to him and he would seem much closer to me.
Our modern lives have become a little boring haven’t they? The most excitement most of us have during the week happens on our commute to work and on our Facebook feed. Like a homebound senior citizen, we end up living our lives vicariously through media and through our conversations with others.
Here’s the thing, I believe that we are hard-wired for adventure.
Humans have always longed for adventure, it’s in our nature. Without adventure, our world becomes incredibly small and our lives are reduced to mere existence.
Life is either a great adventure or nothing. —Helen Keller
But, how exactly does one begin to add more adventure into life?
1. Sign up to do something you’ve never done before
This doesn’t have to be something extreme like an ultra marathon (although I would personally recommend it), or some exotic trip that costs a fortune. It could be something as simple as eating a new type of food or going camping. If you don’t like it, at least you have a good story to share about how bad it was. That’s the thing. Living a life of adventure isn’t about being comfortable all the time. In fact, the most memorable adventures are usually the ones that take far outside our comfort zones.
2. Don’t be afraid of discomfort
In fact, adventure and discomfort are often inseparable. So are Joy and Pain, Sunshine and Rain (‘cause this is how the Rob Base feels.)
Think about the best adventure story you’ve heard from someone. Did they only recount the wonderful things they experienced? Didn’t they also tell you about the challenges, obstacles and discomforts?
That’s the point! Adventure opens us up to a whole new realm of possibilities, both good and bad. It forces us to face our discomforts, our dislikes, our fears and our limitations. A REALLY good adventure stretches us beyond what we previously thought possible.
Stretching yourself hurts, but it’s the only way to grow.
I could tell you dozens of stories about how miserable or uncomfortable I felt when I tried something or went somewhere new. And while sharks will never have a week dedicated to me, I would also tell you that I’m a much more interesting and well-rounded person because of those situations.
Want to be more interesting? Have more adventures! In fact, risk having more adventures that could potentially turn out horribly bad.
3. Bring someone else along for the ride
While it may be easier and more efficient to go on your own little adventures, the adventure becomes bigger when others join you. Different people experience things differently. That means that their recalling of the story will ad nuances and layers that you alone can’t. Whatever happens, it will be multiplied (literally) when others are part of it.
“Remember the time we almost ran out of gas in the middle of a lonely desert in Mexico?”
For example, I could tell you about a wonderful trail run I took that ended at the most beautiful high mountain lake scene I’ve ever seen. I could even show you a picture of it, except I forgot to take my camera along. This was a great adventure for me, but I’m the only one who can truly know and express what it was like.
Adventure is a lot more fun when exciting when someone else is living it…
The trails I hiked with my family, however, were even more memorable. That’s because I experienced the whole situation differently than they did. I was totally in my comfort zone and enjoying the sites, while my daughters were probably thinking more about the miserable temperatures and endless walking. I also had the added burden of caring for their well-being (and survival) as we walked along cliffs and risked potential dehydration. It was an adventure for all of us, one that we still refer to.
Note: Adventure makes you more valuable to others
I love this story about Jephthah from the Bible in Judges 11. He didn’t come from a “normal” family. His mother was a prostitute, he was cut off from his family inheritance, and he fled to a new land. He was forced into a life of adventure. Then, “a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him.”
But here's the kicker. When the Israelites needed help, they went to Jephthah and asked HIM to be their commander.
Judg. 11:4 Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel, 5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 “Come,” they said, “be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.”
Some people will never allow themselves to be stretched, and in so, they will never have great adventures. Because of this, they also won’t have honed the skills necessary to do great things or to face bigger challenges. That’s where someone is needed who has those skills that have been honed by experience, hardship and adventure.
As a person of adventure, you now bring stories and experience, and frankly, make things more interesting. People will begin to live vicariously through you, and will come to depend on you for advice when attempting to do new things.
I believe that our lives should be in service to others. I also believe that having more adventure in your life actually gives you the ability to better serve others. It opens up new opportunities, grows your base of skills and gives you more courage to face challenges.
Why not plan (or just improvise) your next adventure today?
It could possibly be both the best and the most uncomfortable thing you could possibly do today.
We the church have been given a mandate by our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, to make disciples of everyone everywhere.
Everywhere we look, there are people who don’t yet know how much God loves them. They haven’t heard the Good News that Jesus died for their sins so they may have peace with God. Instead, they try to make it in this world as best they can. And this world can be a very difficult place, causing many to lose hope.
Because of wide-scale poverty, families in our urban communities struggle to even put food on the table. Children grow up in neighborhoods where the streets have more influence on them than their parents and teachers. Families struggle to stay together and most children grow up without a single positive role model.
Immigrant families struggle in much the same way. Language barriers, lack of education and higher lever job skills make attaining a well-paying job extremely difficult. Most piece together multiple part-time jobs, which leave little time for their families and provide very little money to sustain them.
People from everywhere around the globe now live in our cities, and they bring with them their own cultures, beliefs and values. The city is a challenging mission field to say the least. But this is the mission field where LINC has been called by God to focus all of our efforts, the communities that are the most unreached and underserved by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
We also wanted to expand our ministry into new cities where the same challenges are present, but in order to do this well, we first had to figure out how to overcome three basic challenges: the Challenge of Impact, the Challenge of Sustainability and the Challenge of Scale.
When most people think of ministry in the city, they think of charity work and service projects.
But charity work among the destitute actually serves a very small percentage of individuals in the city who are unable to function normally in society. The vast majority of the poor throughout our city don’t fall into this category of needing charity. Instead, they need empowerment and opportunity.
Service projects by outside groups are a tremendous blessing to people like the elderly and those who are truly helpless. The problem is that most of the projects that outside groups come to do in the city actually take initiative away from proud and able -bodied individuals who could learn to do these things for themselves. Instead of helping people fix their situation, it helps keep them there waiting for the next handout.
Most service projects create a lot of good will among the volunteers, but make very little lasting positive impact in the local community.
And possibly the biggest challenge for the church, is that we’ve come to equate relief work with mission work.
Let’s look at what mission work is: To take the message of Jesus Christ to places where the His kingdom of grace isn’t yet established. In its narrowest terms, every heart without Jesus is a mission field.
The outcomes for all mission work ultimately results in new disciples and new churches. At LINC, we seek to accomplish these outcomes by training new leaders for ministry who plant new churches that reach, impact and transform their communities with the Gospel of Christ.
We believe that this focus provides the best potential Kingdom impact in our communities.
The outcomes for all mission work ultimately results in new disciples and new churches.
Another challenge to work in the city is sustainability. Usually the communities that need the most focus and attention also have the fewest financial resources.
In low-income communities, families often live day to day or week to week, not knowing where the money will come from for tomorrow. When whole communities are living in survival mode, its extremely difficult to sustain even basic services without outside assistance.
Mission work in these communities faces the same challenges. Outside resources are instested into new mission work in an new community. When those resources eventually go away, that mission is typically left unsustainable and struggles to even survive. In fact, most don’t, and that community is left without a mission presence until the next outside group rallies the resources to start new work. This cycle repeats itself over and over until the residents stop trusting any new work, and outside supporters stop believing that their contributions will actually make a lasting impact.
By focusing on the development of local leaders who can properly leverage their own resources, we know that our work will be more sustainable. A missionary leader who learns to develop the resources God has put in front of him primarily needs the proper training, coaching and incentives to do the work they’ve been called to do. That is precisely what LINC provides in order to create a sustainable mission field.
By focusing on the development of local leaders who can properly leverage their own resources, we know that our work will be more sustainable.
Because of the unique challenges in each community, a ministry model that works in one location rarely replicates itself into another. It typically takes such an incredible amount of energy and ingenuity just to make something become effective and sustainable that the idea of scaling or multiplying is unfathomable. That, or we try to scale ideas prematurely with little success.
LINC has been working in the city of Houston for 14 years, and has helped other LINC organizations begin around the country. This isn’t based on a single model that is difficult to replicate, but on the basis of principles that are universal to mission work in the City.
The first principle is that the main goal of all mission work is to make disciples, who in turn make disciples. The second principle is that planting new churches is the primary means of making new disciples, through the Means of Grace, Christ’s Word and Sacrament. The third principle is this, that mission work is best done through local leaders who are indigenous to that community. The fourth principle is that work in the city must be holistic in nature in order to truly be impactful. In other words, that community transformation should be an intended outcome of all urban church planting.
Because of the unique challenges in each community, a ministry model that works in one location rarely replicates itself into another.
We’re now doing everything with the end-goal of multiplication. Multiplication of disciples, ministry leaders, churches and community transformation work here in the cities like Houston where LINC already works, and into new cities across the world.
We’re networking leaders on a local and a national level for encouragement and the sharing of best practices. We’re producing programs and materials that are teachable and reproducible in every community. Finally, we’re building a back-end system and replication model for launching LINC ministries in new cities.
Only by God’s grace are we able to move forward so that more lives and communities will be transformed by the power of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
That God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life.
I don’t see myself as a very courageous person, even though some may say otherwise. Yes, I tend to jump into new challenges with both feet, often not considering the potential consequences. This may be interpreted by some as courage, but I would sometimes disagree.
If I would know ahead of time how truly difficult something might be, I may or may not have the courage to attempt it. Is seeing challenges through rose-colored glasses the same as courage? I don’t think so.
True courage is knowing the pain and struggle required, but still making a commitment to act. Courage is putting yourself on the line and staying put when others bail. Courage is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people, but must be rallied either from within or externally.
Many people allow their fear to keep them from even attempting something. Fear of failure, pain, loss and embarrassment is often at the root of the roadblock. But, courage is not the opposite of fear. Courage is feeling fear and still choosing to act.
Courage is being realistic about the potential for failure and still choosing to act.
Courage is knowing that you may totally embarrass yourself and still taking a chance at accomplishing something great.
Here are four ways that I can think of to gain courage:
Where do you find courage when you need it?
For me personally, it's looking to Jesus when things get scary. He is my rock.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matt. 14:27
I have to admit that I talk a lot about things I'm “going to do,” but never get around to actually doing. There are things that I do, that while small and seemingly insignificant, either lead me toward fulfilling my purpose or lead me away from it.
Ultimately, who you become is influenced by what you are currently doing. The small habits, the daily routines, the little things that you do each day all add up to become the whole of what you are.
1 Pet 1:13 says “therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.” Many people allow their actions, or lack of, to sabotage their lives. Every positive action you take is something to build on, while every negative action tears away at your foundation. Being self-controlled is difficult, but in the then, is what makes the difference.
“Prepare you mind for action” means to think through what you are going to do. The context of this verse is about avoiding doing evil and doing what God wants. This simple step by step process is something I’m trying to get better at doing with regards to doing what is right.
This is easier said than done, because our sinful nature rebels against God’s will. Only through the Holy Spirit’s power can we do what we are supposed to. Pray for His power and guidance.
Doing Community Development Work is In Our DNA
The church has historically been at the forefront of community development work. It was Jesus and his disciples who preached a radical new equality for society. It was the early church that was famous for its love in action, both for those within the church and those outside of it. Throughout history the church has built hospitals, looked after the poor, helped widows and orphans survive and make a living, was leading the fight for civil rights and has provided jobs through social enterprise.
The Christian church takes a holistic view of community. In other words, that the people in communities are both physical and spiritual beings and should be treated as such. It is our view that it is not simply enough to address one or the other, but rather we should seek to better our communities in both realms, the spiritual and the physical. While many of us would like to think that our responsibility for the surrounding community is simply spiritual in nature, Jesus showed us on numerous occasions that how we respond to the physical needs around us are of high importance.
While this holistic approach may seem common sense to some, as a church we have largely moved away from this practice. With the rise of public services, many of us who follow Jesus have abnegated our responsibility for the well-being of the community that surrounds us. Also, as many of us have been insulated from true poverty for most of our lives, and as such it is more and more difficult for us to relate to those in need. After all, we have what we need. Why can't others just work harder and get what they need?
The truth is that, in many communities, the basic building blocks for personal and professional development are simply not there. While we can point to some exceptional individuals who have risen out of poverty to become successful, we have to ask ourselves why this is not the norm? The other question we have to ask ourselves is "What is the churches responsibility for its community?” and “What should be our response?”
As a primer for Christian community development, we should look at a few key points to remember.
The first issue we need to deal with is the root cause of poverty in communities. While there are several possible causes, and each community is different, there are some common themes and issues in underdeveloped communities around the world.
Indeed there are many acute causes of poverty like war, natural disasters, famine, drought, etc. In these situations the church’s response should always be to help provide for the immediate needs of those affected. Poverty in traditionally poor communities, however, is normally fueled by ongoing factors that inhibit the individual's ability to become successful. These factors are both systemic in nature and chronic.
Major factors leading to poverty in communities include (but not limited to):
It is true that not every middle class caucasian is a racist, we also can't deny the fact that many of these poverty factors are due to historical and ongoing inequality, injustice and prejudice. If the church is going to be serious about addressing poverty in communities, then it also must be honest about the causes and the part it has played in promoting those up to this point. Doing so can go a long way in the church’s ability to actually deal with real issues, and not just those on the surface as seen from our viewpoint.
So why are communities poor? The first step in community development is to discover the answers for your particular community. Only then can you address real issues that can build up your surrounding community and not just continue to put Band-Aids on the symptoms.
“They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Neh 1:3-4 NIV)
The first response of the church when faced with the reality of broken communities should be the same as that of Nehemiah. We should actually feel something when we realize how broken and under-resourced our communities truly are. It is not enough to talk clinically about statistics, however, we must be moved to action through our God given compassion. Nehemiah sat down and wept when he saw the broken down gates of Jerusalem, but he didn’t just stay there. Nehemiah fasting and prayed seeking God’s help for his community.
An emotional response to the reality of poverty in our community also shouldn’t lead us to knee-jerk reaction just to feel better. As followers of Christ, we must first seek His will and His help, knowing that Jesus is the only source of all goodness and hope for a better community.
So if we believe that the church should take responsibility for the well-being of it's surrounding community, that there are identifiable causes for brokenness and poverty in community, and that we should seek God on behalf of our communities, what do we do next?
I admit, I don't always treat others with grace.
I've been forgiven so much in my life, yet I am often critical of others who I don't agree with, or who don't agree with me. Everyday for me is a reminder that for someone like myself who has been forgiven so much, I need to learn to forgive faster. Even more than that, I need to treat others with respect and love, no matter how unloveable I feel someone is being at the time.
Here are five things I will try to do to show grace:
Eph. 2:8 Because by grace you have salvation through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is given by God: 9 Not by works, so that no man may take glory to himself.
"Just look at how many followers I have, and how many likes I get."
It seems like the biggest ambition of many is to be famous on the internet. The fallacy of the imprtance of social media followers has caused many to believe that the simple face fact that they're alive and breathing means they should be followed and adored by thousands.
I can only imagine the monster I would've been if social media was around when I was in high school. I was completely self-absorbed. I truly believed that the whole world revolved around me, and that everything I did was awesome.
Is this something that people will grow out of, or do you think this is a trend that is unlikely to wane?
Either way, if I had a cat that looked like this, I would be pretty famous.