Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What movitates me...

For over a month, my motivation for a lot of things has been waning. I asked myself, “what is wrong with me?” Over that time, I recognized it and thought to myself, “this too will pass.” I thought for a while that it was just a phase and I just needed to wait and it would pass. I hoped it wasn’t the weather for it was a bit too soon to let the cold weather get to me. We still had 3 or 4 months of cold weather on its way. I was hoping it was my dieting and workout routine since I had been working hard at losing 20 lbs (almost there) and I knew that would be over soon. I wondered if it had to do with my life circumstances changing in the past few years and it was catching up to me. I wondered if organic church life was impacting my life in ways that I hadn’t expected, if maybe it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Overall my relationship with my wife and daughters is as good as it has ever been, so that couldn’t be it.

In the past few weeks, I had shared my concern with others. I talked about it in our house church. I talked about it with my wife. I talked about it with my accountability partners. I talked about it with a house church coach I know. But, somehow I missed talking about it with the most important Person I know. My motivation to read God’s Word and/or to pray had been gone as well. So I guess I figured, “what good would it be to talk to God about it, I don’t really want to.” But after spending a half hour or so on the phone with the previously mentioned house church coach, I realized that the most important thing I could do would be to talk to God about it. I needed to get straight with God and share my honest feelings and struggles with Him. Somehow that conversation encouraged me enough to actually do it.

Yesterday, I opened my heart to God and I told him exactly how I felt. You know what? He listened and he responded with love and affirmation. He directed me to read Hebrews. As I read, I remembered how great Jesus was… correction, how great Jesus is. He is above all. He is greater than the angels. He is greater than man. He is greater than all of creation. He is above all.

In Him, there is mercy. In Him, there is grace. In Him, there is life. What I needed more than anything was to be reminded in a real and personal way, how great Jesus really is.

My life contains many good things. I have a wonderful wife. My daughters are a blessing beyond measure. I have some great friends. I really miss my Congo family right now and am looking forward to Christmas! I have a nice home. I am driving my dream car. I am working with a great group of people in a profession that helps people. I am following God’s call to plant churches. All of those things are really good. But, they all become devoid of much meaning without Jesus in my life. If my purpose is not found in God, then the rest is all for me. How self serving is that? It matters not how much we receive from others, but much more in how much we give to others.

I needed a new, fresh revelation of Jesus in my life. He loves me so much. He longs to display mercy in my life. He longs to give me grace. He longs to lavish his love on me.

I think it is interesting how I and many other Christians can talk so much about how Christianity is about a relationship with God and then we get caught up in outward religiosity ourselves. Can I just get caught up in Jesus loves me?!!

Now comes my confession though. As I read my Bible this morning, looking for something else, God brought something to my attention. If you read my notes/blogs and/or prayer newsletters, you will know what I’m talking about. Maybe you haven’t thought of it in this way, but I was convicted this morning.

I was reading Matthew 7 this morning and it said this…

You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around. So my counsel is: Don’t worry about things – food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body – and they are far more important than what to eat and wear. Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat – they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food – for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Will all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you. O men of little faith? So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all those things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.

So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.

This last line is one I need to constantly remind myself. I live so much of my life thinking about tomorrow. Some call that being a visionary. Maybe.

But the Word didn’t say don’t think about tomorrow. It said don’t be anxious about tomorrow.

Why? To be anxious about tomorrow demonstrates a lack of faith in God today. It reveals my lack of trust in the God that loves me so.

I admit, I’ve worried about my finances. I’ve worried about church finances. God has convicted me not to worry. He has convicted me to trust Him. He loves me so. He will provide what I/we need.

There is so much more I could write. But, I will conclude here today.

Know this. God is still speaking. I am listening again. His grace and mercy are greater than my need. He loves me. He loves me so.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Desperate & Discouraged

Yesterday I felt desperate. Then I felt discouraged. I wanted to talk about it last night when my emotions were in a swirl, but I didn't want to talk about it last night while my emotions were in a swirl and regret saying something or sound too whiny either. In these moments, I try to remember, "this too will pass."

In the afternoon, I was preparing a rough draft of our financial budget for our house church network. (For my pastor and parachurch ministry friends out there, I know I've said enough, you understand completely.) However, for those who don't understand, here are a few tidbits. When you start looking at the total amount given and you start looking at what could help you reach the next level as a church/ministry or in our case as a house church network and things don't even come close to matching up, it's easy to have some intense emotions connected to that. The increased part of that for me is the type of idealism that we are trying to reach. We want to create a church system whereby most of our money goes to help those in need. We want to give away more than we use. And of course, we are still in an infant stage, but this is also where precedent can/must be set in many ways. What do we stand for? What are we about? What do we hope to accomplish? What is our vision? I believe WE ARE living those things out for the most part, it just doesn't show up on paper in black and white. Which, I suppose is fine, but it has it's emotional struggle attached to that for me. The question I'm left with is, "how do you live in a church paradigm where your intent is to help the needy instead of using it on yourself in the form of salary, building, and programmatic needs, when you have salary, building and/or programmatic needs?" This is the tough question we are dealing with. And it carries with it a lot of emotion. To be honest, I feel responsible for the failure because my family needs it's portion through a part-time salary to maintain our own survival mode of life. I do see light at the end of the tunnel. My wife may go back to work next school year. I'm going to start a Master's program to be a school counselor that should take 2-3 years. Our house church network will conceivably grow. The economy will pick up. But, all of those things are still in the future.Today, I feel desperate.

Then later in the evening I was reminded of where we are as a people learning how to love one another. In the midst of a nice, friendly discussion learning about organic church, a heated and emotional conversation took place that left me wondering why are we doing this? One of my goals in starting a house church network is to see increased depth of relationship and truly loving one another in Christian community. While I will not say that our flare up was in opposition to this truth (in many ways it was the result of depth of relationship), it still left me wondering. My mind wandered to the other situations that I've experienced with members of our house church network that made me wonder,"is this increased Christian community or is it the same old, same old?" I began to get discouraged.

One reality of depth of relationship is an example of when a couple gets married. I know a greater depth of relationship has this great appeal to it, but with that comes a whole new reality. Consider when a bride is getting to know her new husband. At first, the socks on the floor aren't that big of a deal. But, after some time, somehow it becomes a big deal. Does she still love him? Why, of course. Does he still love her? We think so. But, now the harsh reality of depth of relationship causes them to figure out how to love one another. Sounds rather simplistic and unimportant, but socks left on the floor of a relationship over time lead to harsh emotions of feeling uncared for and/or even abandoned in a relationship. Common, practical patterns of behavior lead to conflict and/or emotional struggle for two people trying to experience a deeper sense of relationship. The rubber has met the road.

The discouragement comes when we forget these realities are inevitable. The encouragement comes when we remember that these are opportunities for growth, for responding to a person's expressed needs, and being reminded of how very much our interactions and lives affect others. Another problem we have is telling a person we have a problem with that we have a problem with them. We think if we sweep it under the rug, it'll be okay. We think if we just talk to someone else about it, we'll feel better. We think if we can try to just manipulate things behind the scenes, we will get our way. The truth is all of these things cause damage. They can destroy a relationship. The best thing we can do is to simply tell someone what our problem with them is and ask how we can do things differently. Remember, problems are created by two. Someone does something I don't like, then I respond in a certain way (emotionally or in my mind, even). Therefore fixing the problem needs the work of two people. Perhaps someone can change the way they do things or perhaps they don't need to, but you just need to understand why they are doing what they are doing. Perhaps a little of both is necessary. Perhaps a lot of both is necessary. The key here is to be willing to share the offense you've felt with the person who offended you in a kind way, seeking a solution that will increase your relationship. Of course, it takes two to reconcile. But, as much as it is within your power, seek to live at peace with everyone. SEEK! That takes effort and initiative, not passivity, not avoidance, and not manipulation.

Wow! And to think last night, I was desperate and discouraged. Today is a new day! Even now as I've worked through these issues through blogging, I feel much better! I feel great hope! I know God will help us through as we seek His direction and guidance. I am reminded of his grace and mercy and how much we all need it. I hope you have experienced that as well and are helping others to experience it through a depth of relationship that speaks volumes and volumes of love for others!