Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fallowed Much?

There's a corner in my backyard I've been working on. I'm trying to break it up and move it so that I can do some new landscaping in that area. Let me tell you...it's a lot of work! I'm pretty sure this area has not been cultivated probably since the house was built 35 years ago. It's petrified, ugly, and unusable (right now anyway). One might say it's pretty fallow ground.

As I work away with my shovel and pick axe I'm reminded of the scripture in Hosea 10:12:

"Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you."

God also told the men of Judah to break up their fallow ground, and to not sow among thorns (Jeremiah 4:3). Like the ground, I know my heart can get hardened and useless.

I find it interesting that in those two passages, it's not the work of God to break up the fallow ground. Rather it is a work that I must do. Just like I have to get outside and work the ground in preparation for a new purpose, it's my job to break up the ground of complacency and routine in my life.

Our hearts and our ministries can become fallow from several things. It could be a relationship issue that has made us bitter, or a really painful situation that has left us numb. We can wait, we can pray hoping that things get better. However, if our heart has been hardened and we've hit a dead end, The Word encourages us that the next step is ours to take. We must act.

God wants to do a new work in us over and over again. However, our fallow ground impedes the absorption of his righteousness because of our lack of fertile soil.

As I work in the corner of my backyard and come across weeds, roots, rocks, trash and Cable TV lines, I'm reminded of all the junk that I've allowed to harden my heart. Weeds of mistrust, roots of failure that have grown and expanded, rocks of lies from the enemy, and yeah, all that trash from Cable TV. I have to take action to rid my heart of these things so that God can have His way in me.

It happens to us all, what matters is what we chose to do so that we can experience the power of God working in us in a new way. So we can either sit on the couch of complacency, or pick up the shovel and get to work!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Calling all sinners, report for ministry.

Upon finishing the Calvary Chapel history book called "Harvest," I came to a glaring conclusion. God often doesn't call leaders who haven't lived sinful lives. It is a person's experience that validates them to minister to the people God is calling them to. It is clear to see that in the work of the Calvary Chapel movement, through the stories of how he called the druggies, the hippies, the drunks, the suicidal, the abusers and the abused to minister to people who are walking in these same life experiences. God doesn't often call super straight laced people who have never done anything wrong because what validation would they have to minister unto people who have been in a lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll? If you don't know someone's situation from experience, you have less of an ability to say "I know what your going through, and believe me God can deliver you from this because he did it for me". Not to say that God can't use the straight laced for reasons of ministering to the people who have never done anything wrong, but let's face it, most of us have done some bad stuff in our life.

Reading this book reaffirms my calling into ministry. It reaffirms my understanding of why God would call this wretched man to a work of facilitating the saints into the throne room of God. My life experience is anything but pretty. I've experienced so much bad, and God wants me to use that for good. I'm reminded of the words of Joseph (Gen. 50:20), and several other stories throughout The Word of God of people being called to minister out of their trials and misfortune.

Everything from growing up in a broken home watching physical abuse between my Father and Step Mother. To my party days of college where I was engaged in a lifestyle of getting drunk and inappropriate relationships. To the trials my wife and I have faced in her battle of endometriosis and issues conceiving a child and then having a hysterectomy. God had a plan for me. I can remember so many occasions since even my high school years where I've had the opportunity to minister to people who were going through something that I've gone through.

I can remember praying with a young middle school kid that was watching his parents go through a divorce. I had just sung a song with my band at a summer camp. It was a song that I wrote about divorce and God's comfort that spoke to him and he came to me. God's calling on my life began to become clear at an early age, but I'd still have a lot to walk through.

From the valleys to the mountain tops my relationship with God and understanding of his great and awesome grace has become a reality. Not just a superficial reality, but something I know to be true in my heart of hearts. It is the wellspring of which I can minister out of. It's the context to my worship and the power in my praise.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ice Melts

Ever felt disconnected, disassociated, disfunctional, disjunked, disapproved, distant, disappointed...just straight up dissed? We  know the problem isn't God, God doesn't disconnect people. In fact he designed a model for us to be a part of that is imperative to who we are as Christians. It's called the body.

"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one spirit we were all baptized into one body---Jews or Greeks, slaves or free---and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body."
                                                                                                                 -1 Corinthians 12:12-15

For most of my life I can see from a ministry specific viewpoint that this body analogy that Paul speaks of is vital to the church for a church to be functional. For the body. Not for me, but for the body.

For the body.

But what about us as individuals?

Ever heard of someone losing a limb or digit and their body adapts, or rather they have to adapt because they are missing an integral part of their body that used to make life easier? Yes, the body can limp along and in some cases is even more successful without that member of their body.

In turn you never hear about that leg they lost, or that finger that went missing. In most cases it's not even sitting on a shelf in a jar, it didn't have a funeral, there's no memorial set up in its honor, it's just gone...it's dead.

I think there is something deeper that Paul wanted us to grasp about this body idea than we realize at first or even 52nd glance. That, specifically, is that we need the body. It's not just a nice option for you as a Christian, it's not to fill seats every weekend in our local church, it's not even for the success of the church and it's ministries, it is vital to our life. It's for us.

For us.

The author of Hebrews (more than likely Paul if not, one of his pupils) talks about the importance of the individual to be in community:

"Let us hold fast the confesssion of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

                                                                                                                    - Hebrews 10:23-25

We can see that the importance of us being a part of the body for the body's sake is not mentioned here, but is for the intentionality of being in relationship with Christ and the hope we have in Him as well as the encouragement we find from our fellow brothers and sisters.

Our society is becoming more and more removed. With social media, and the rapid and frantic race we are all running it's easy to be disconnected. Ever thought, "wow, I'm just too tired to go to church, I'll just watch online"? Technology and life is getting in the way of what God intended for us. To reach our full God given potential we must be intentional in our connectivity of the life force which is the body.

Otherwise we are just an organ or a finger sitting on ice. And let's just face it people.

Ice melts.

Friday, June 21, 2013

I'm not ok...

"I'm not ok..."

"Wow, did I just say that?"

These were the words that I found myself saying to myself and my wife on our last vacation. It took 4 days into our vacation for me to realize this, standing in the middle of the pool at our hotel. In fact I followed it up with "wow, I'm pretty jacked up."

The pressure that most people don't see from my cheerful disposition on Sunday mornings had crept into my life without me even knowing it. The constant shouldering of new tasks, life events, and my regular vocational duties had finally landed me in the doctors office talking about a possible anxiety disorder. Even that took place before vacation and it still didn't occur to me at that time there was something wrong with me.

I was in the Word and had what I considered a pretty steady prayer life. Could it be that those two things aren't enough? Could it be that the pause in my life had become non existent. God's word talks about keeping the Sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8), which I thought I was doing. I took Mondays as my Sabbath and wouldn't do a thing. Often didn't even leave the house. So I'm in The Word, praying, and keeping the Sabbath, but I'm still not ok? What gives?

It occurred to me as I stood there waving my hands through the water in the pool that I hadn't taken a 'true vacation' in over 2 years. Not just any 2 years, but perhaps the most intense and difficult years of my life (probably a big reason why I didn't take time off). Sure I'd taken time away from work, but usually that was time I took to go DO something. I hadn't gone somewhere to just be...

...just to just stop...

...to just let go...

...to rest in God.

For more than a day I needed a severe pause, a selah, a hiding place. I needed to leave my zip code, leave my work responsibility, and unplug.

Sounds selfish and maybe even unspiritual right? I can remember people telling me that if you're feeling burnt out it's because your not relying on the power of God enough (which I think is always true of everyone). I can always use more of God working in me, working through my humanness, but the more I considered what I needed the more I remembered that Jesus often got away.

The God of all creation in human form needed solitude away from everyone and responsibility?

Ok, maybe He didn't NEED it, but He modeled it. Jesus got away from the crowds, away from it all to seek God and allow God to speak (Luke 5:16). It's recorded several times in the gospels. He would either slip away early in the morning (Luke 4:42) or even send the disciples on ahead of Him (Matthew 14:22-23) and catch up later (walking on water). Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior got away, and sought the Father.

So, maybe I was in The Word, Praying, and even observing the Sabbath, but I was missing one very important geographical piece. I'd didn't get away. I tried to seek the Lord in the midst of it all. Don't get me wrong I'm sure that my prayer life and time in The Word kept me from totally losing it, but what if I was able to get off the hamster wheel and seclude myself so I could more clearly hear the Father?

So how are you? Are you ok? Are you really "jacked up?" You might not even be aware of it. I sure wasn't. In fact you could have asked me before my time away how I was doing, and I would have said "I'm great!"

Are you getting away from people, from work, from even family and friends to recharge with the Lord? If the answer is "no."

That's not ok.