You Have My Attention: When God Breaks In

image26About 2 months ago, I remember thinking to myself, ‘I can conquer the world!’

I honestly believed there was nothing that could hold me back and nothing that I could not accomplish. I felt like I had the ‘correct’ answers to everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen God do extraordinary things this past year – some of which I cannot even explain! I have been a part of a student ministry that is absolutely flourishing! There is a barely a week that goes by that we do not see students come to know Christ or baptized! Our numbers have drastically increased and our leadership is stronger than I could ever imagine!

On a personal level, 2014 was a challenging year, but also a fruitful year. Our family saw God work in ways that did not make sense – many times when we least expected it. We saw a 3-year debacle over our house on the east coast of Florida end via 2 phone calls over the course of 48 hours. We proceeded to sell the house  for more than we were asking within 4 weeks! We feel blessed beyond measure for the health and joy we have experienced this year!

I truly believe that there is nothing impossible for God, but my pride often gets in the way. I fool myself into believing that there is nothing too powerful for me to accomplish as well. I take the place of God and attempt to accomplish things on my own, ultimately missing what He has for me.

I like to think I am a strong leader – organized, efficient, capable, empowering, and competent. I also tend to think that my character and integrity is most often Christlike. Now, yes, there are those times that my pride and arrogance gets the best of me and, just like Paul, I struggle doing what I know I am not supposed to do and not doing what I know I am supposed to do.

About 3 weeks ago, I was quickly reminded that my ability, my strength, my energy, and yes, even my mind is a blessing from God, the one who gives and takes away. There is nothing I can accomplish outside of who He is. There is no fruit I can produce outside of His love, His character, and His will!

At 1:55 pm on Sunday, December 14th, I came stumbling out of my bedroom and went into a grand mal seizure that lasted about 3 minutes. I tripped over my 4-year old son and ended up falling onto our tile floor. In the process, I also dislocated my shoulder, which is causing me constant pain. As a teenager, I was diagnosed with adolescent epilepsy and was on medication for about 16 years. This past year was the first year that I have not taken any medication, and I was under the assumption I was in the clear – until about 3 weeks ago.

I feel like I have been to more doctors over the past 3 weeks than the past 10 years combined. My wife has become my chauffeur, because legally I am not allowed to drive for 6 months. I am also dealing with the effects of my body getting used to epilepsy medication again, which has caused me to be an emotional basket case on more than one occasion.

It has been a rough few weeks, one that has humbled me and opened my eyes to where my priorities need to truly be. I have been forced to do nothing. My wife even went to the extent of asking me how it felt to have my independence taken away. If it were not for the inability to process my thoughts into words quick enough, I would have responded with some sarcastic comment back at her.

I have realized that I do not have this thing called life figured out. I do not have this thing called leadership figured out. I do not have student ministry, family ministry, or my own relational life figured out. Unfortunately, I have not reached perfection, and if you ask my kids, I still have a long ways to go!

But I do know one thing for sure – God has EVERYTHING figured out!

His love casts out all fear

His grace His sufficient

His mercy is new every morning

Great is His faithfulness

He is MY rock and MY redeemer

He is the beginning and the end

He is the Good Shepherd

He is the great I AM!

And at the end of the day, He has all the answers to all the questions. He has my future in His hands. His purpose for my life far exceeds anything I could ever desire or imagine. I am His vessel, living out the life He has called me to live!

There were several factors that went into me having a seizure and there are still physical, mental, and emotional consequences I am working through. But I truly believe it was God trying to get my attention. I veered off course just slightly and was allowing my pride to take the place of what God had in store for me.

It doesn’t take much of a change in direction to miss what God has for us. For Peter it was taking his eyes off Jesus’ eyes. He was walking on water, with Jesus in his vision, but his eyes were not focused on the Savior’s eyes. For David it was a quick second glimpse off the patio that caused his eyes to lose sight of God’s eyes. For many of us, we feel like we are right there, doing exactly what God is calling us to do, but our pride has caused us to veer just slightly off course. God is in our vision. We believe we are moving towards Him, walking with Him, and living as He has called us to live. But, there is a difference in focusing on the direction of Jesus and focusing on His eyes.

Think of it this way… if I want to drive from Cape Coral, Florida to Buford, Wyoming, simply heading west may not get me to my final destination. Even though Wyoming is constantly in the direction I am headed, getting to my exact location takes more precise accuracy than simply heading west. God is not generic, He is specific. He has a clear plan for each and every one of us that requires us focusing directly on His eyes!

As Christians, we cannot get caught up in our own abilities that we miss the priorities God has mapped out before us. Our first step (or in some cases 5, 20, or 50 steps) often has to be backwards. We must reset our priorities and schedules in order to focus on what is most important.

We have to remain faithful to God’s leading, no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient that may be. And at the end of the day, we must never forget that no matter what happens, God is in completely control and He has EVERYTHING figured out!

God has my attention, and my prayer is that He either already has or gets yours! We not only need Him, but we must want Him more than anything this world has to offer. I am committed to seeking Him more this year than ever before. My Lead Pastor put it perfectly, ‘Our faith becomes stronger through our intimacy with the Father’

May this year, we grow more intimately in love with Jesus. May He truly remain our first love in everything – every situation, every event, every circumstance, and amongst every relationship!

Stop Loving Me So Much!

Philippians-3-8-web-nltThere are times in life where I feel like yelling at God, ‘STOP LOVING ME SO MUCH!’ To add to that thought, Paul’s words in Philippians 3:2-12 drive me insane! If I can be even more transparent, selfishly, I would rather live a comfortable life that is not affected by pain, turmoil, loss or defeat. Nobody enjoys trials. Nobody stands and says, ‘Bring it on LIFE!’ Nobody desires to be faced with one difficult circumstance after another!

I know this sounds extremely prideful, selfish, and some may say this mindset even goes against Scripture, but humanly speaking, I don’t want to suffer through day-to-day not knowing what may hit me next. In Philippians 3 we see some of Paul’s most astonishing words. He begins in verse 4 by letting everybody know that humanly speaking, he had the right to be boastful. In other words, he was better at life than most people during that time. He had accomplished more in his lifetime than most people put together.  (Thank you Richard Sherman for those words of wisdom.)

Paul goes on to describe everything he has accomplished – his historical background, vocational achievements, and family heritage. He had the perfect credentials of a Jewish man!

Then we pick up in verse 7 and see a completely different perspective of how Paul viewed his own success.

Philippians 3:7-12 – But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Reading these words hurts… Honestly – it cuts right to the heart of our humanistic view of success, comfort, knowledge, and prosperity. After saying ‘I am better at life than you,’ Paul comes out and says, ‘none of it is worth anything.  In fact, I would rather suffer my way through life with Christ than to succeed based nf my own doing.

Paul takes it a step further and says, ‘I am willing to give everything up for the cause of Christ, including my own life.’ The concept of suffering until the point of death rattles my brain and rocks my world. It doesn’t make sense and honestly doesn’t put a smile on my face. I don’t want to suffer; I want to be comfortable!

And then I remember how incredibly powerful and gracious God’s love is for me, and also how incompetent I am when I fail to actively seek God’s face. As a prideful human, I must allow God to pick me, flip me upside down, and shake the craziness out of me! I must not wallow in my trials, but through God’s strength, overcome them. My purpose in life is to become more like Him – even to the point of willingly giving up everything for His sake! My prayer is to become content with being uncomfortable.

I don’t know why God puts up with me. I will never fully comprehend His love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness. I can only trust and believe in who He says He is. I have seen God at work in ways that doesn’t add up or make sense. I know His love for me is real, unconditional, and without limits! His desire is to see me become more like Him every day. The challenging part of this takes place in the midst of suffering. Even though God’s love for us can cover a multitude of sin and He is powerful enough to take us through anything, when we give our lives to Christ, we are guaranteed to face moments of difficulty. Often times, the more we experience His love, the tougher life becomes. Yet, this is often when we experience the most growth.  These are the moments we truly see how much Jesus cares for us individually and incredible His love is!

As you evaluate your own journey with Jesus, here are a few questions to seriously think through…

  • Are you living comfortably?
  • How are you seeking to know Christ and the power of His resurrection – sharing in His sufferings?
  • How are you being challenged spiritually?
  • Are you relying on the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ to get you through every circumstance of life?

Developing Spiritual Discipline Amongst Leadership Teams: Part 1

SpiritualDisciplinesSlideOver the past several years, God has shown me the significance of developing spiritual discipline amongst our leadership teams.  Successful ministry cannot occur without our leaders working every day to become more like Christ! 

‘Spiritual discipline’ sounds like a phrase from another era of history.  Whenever a book is written or a sermon is preached on the subject, people wonder if it is a subject only for ancient saints or a group of monks cloistered away in a mountain retreat.  But we must understand that spiritual disciplines play a significant role in our spiritual development.  They represent practices of our faith that give us the opportunity to interact with Christ.

After accepting Christ as our personal Savior, our faith is developed over time.  Certain spiritual disciplines help us become stronger in our faith.  Unlike spiritual gifts, which are provided to us by the Holy Spirit, spiritual disciplines are more like finely honed tools that aid us in our spiritual journey.  Yet each of the spiritual disciplines takes time and effort to develop and incorporate into our daily lives.

How Do Spiritual Disciplines Work?

A spiritual discipline is a good habit that allows you to remain open to God and become more like Christ.  Discipline is one of the hardest things for us to learn.  Think of some of the finest athletes… Most of them have a strong sense of discipline, because they have to build up strength, endurance, and skill to be good at a particular sport.  Surgeons spend years developing their surgical skills and learning the human body so that they are able to skillfully fix what is malfunctioning in the body.  Our favorite writers have the discipline to sit down every day to write, edit, and re-write until the story is right.  They hone their language skills and their ability to see a final product in all of the chaos of storytelling.

That’s what spiritual disciplines are to our faith…

Spiritual disciplines exercise our spirit, mind, and emotions so that we become closer to God.  They help us see His will for our lives more clearly so that we can live the life He desires for us.  The more we practice these disciplines, the better we get at them, and the stronger we make our faith.

Spiritual disciplines also help us simplify our faith.  How often do we feel discouraged because we don’t quite know what to do or if we are making the right decisions?  Spiritual disciplines have a way of clearing out the unnecessary things so we can get back to the basics.  Sometimes we overcomplicate things, and growing closer to Christ on a daily basis can keep us from making our lives more difficult.

Practicing spiritual discipline also gives us the strength and ability to keep our eyes on God.  When we focus on God, we stop letting other things get in the way of who He desires us to become.  Our lives find clarity when we stay disciplined in our faith.

In John 13:35, Jesus says, ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’  True spiritual discipline begins with our understanding of what it means to love as Jesus has loved.  As ministry leaders, we must set the bar high when it comes to the spiritual discipline of our teams.  It takes prayer, dedication, and a compassionate heart for those we are leading.

We must answer the following two questions in order to see this practically carried out.

  1. What is the purpose in developing spiritual discipline within our own lives?
  2. What practical steps can we take to develop spiritual discipline amongst our ministry teams?

In I Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Paul provides enough information for several weeks’ worth of messages out of these 4 verses.  In tomorrow’s post, I will walk through 3 simple points we can all take and apply to our daily walk with Christ as ministry leaders and will break down the practicality of spiritual disciplines amongst our leadership teams…

Part 2: Monday