Sunday, April 27, 2008

Getting Back to Basics

Our small group has been going through a book taking us through some basics of living a life following after God. We have been reminded of the importance of the scriptures and prayer over the last few months and are about to embark on a 4 part tour of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are also beginning to develop and re-develop scripture memorization using Navpress' Topical Memory System. We just focused on Galatians 2:20 and are focusing on 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Romans 12:1 over the next few weeks.

For me, all of this brings back some sweet memories of when I first became a Christian. Especially the memory verses as I memorized the same verses back then. Mostly I remember my new found relationship with Greg and Donna Herrick, who mentored and discipled my wife and I for 4 years. I wouldn't trade those 4 years for anything. Personally, I credit them with giving me a good foundation in following Christ. Had it not been for that foundation, I would have left the sometimes hard-to-understand-and-live Christian life behind (assuming God would have let me go - which I doubt!)

I can't begin to tell you the importance of finding someone to help you establish that foundation. Start with your church. If there is no help for you there, be intentional at observing those you consider mature in Christ and once you find someone who you think you can "click" with, ask them to mentor you. If it doesn't work out, persevere until it does. Though God speaks directly to our hearts in many ways, He most often uses others to speak to us. We all need someone to be Jesus with skin on in our lives.

Can you tell I am passionate about discipleship?

I now have the privilege of joining the other members of our group in re-learning these verse. I am looking forward to seeing what God will do with these verses as they memorize them and commit to apply them to their lives. They have brought me so much wisdom and understanding about who God is and how he works. Memorization, though it is a difficult discipline to undertake, is worth every effort we can invest in it. God's Word always pays multiple dividends in our lives.

Pray for our group. Ultimately, we want it to be a group that we can invite our unchurched friends to where they can see and learn what it looks like to follow after God - all the ups and downs and struggles and victories. My prayer is that these folks, whom I imagine thinking the church and Christ irrelevant, will find peace for their lives and a safe place to work out their issues with God. A place they can finally come to an understanding of who God is what His plan for their lives are. But first, we have to establish a spiritually healthy and thriving group - one that perseveres through the hardships our busy schedules sometimes put on our meeting schedules. And we have to be diligent in practicing the disciplines of reading our Bible, meditating on what we have read, applying it to our lives, prayer and memorization. That way we can pass that along to others and testify to the great things God has done through our commitment to Him and His ways.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Church

I was reading an article over at Christianity Today about the 20-somethings generation being disillusioned with the church.

You can read it here.

I am no 20 something, but I have been disillusioned lately. So instead of posting a response on their website, I wanted to post here.

I have been guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath water. I have written off the church in frustration more times than I care to remember. Each time though, God reminds me that if it's good enough for Him, it should be good enough for me.

Of course, then I tell Him it's too messy and people can be so hard to deal with. Funny thing though, I haven't really had that many negative interactions with the church if I am being totally honest. My problem is seeing what others have gone through and thinking to myself, "I am not even going to put myself in that position so I don't have to deal with that pain and anger and frustration." So I throw stones at the church. Calling it irrelevant, pointless and a waste of time. Seems like nothing more than a place where people can gain power to build their own little kingdoms and create messes that split apart not only churches, but the very soul of those involved.

As I read the article though, a thought came to mind: "How about focusing less on the institution (though it may be a necessary evil) and more on what does God want from me in regards to the church? What does that look like? I have found myself focusing on what the church does wrong so often that I gave up and began to look for other avenues of serving and worshipping and being in God's will. One problem though, God keeps tweaking me about my relationship with the local church - really my church FAMILY. He won't let me get away with just finding some likeminded people and creating a community with them wherein we can worship and serve God in the ways we want to (without having to deal with that silly church and it's traditions, hangups, etc.). He wants me in church, amongst those that maybe don't always agree with me (and vice versa), where I can see what He's doing and be a part of it. It is sure to be messy, but then again, name one part of life that isn't? Life is always messy. So why expect it to be any different at church?

So I have purposed to become more involved in church, allow the messiness to enter my life, and we'll see what God has in mind for me.

Hopefully He has a huge quantity of patience, strength and perseverance in mind for me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Missing God's Best

I sat in devotion this morning (since I am just now writing this, the actual day was 4-14) listening to Geoff Moore, the talented Christian singer/songwriter talk about the process by which his family convinced him to adopt his daughters from China. From the beginning, he wasn't in the mood to discuss adopting - he wasn't on the same wavelength as his wife or his children. But eventually he came around and they ended up adopting from China. He spoke of the fact that he was glad God pushed him to change his mind through his family, otherwise he would have missed God's best for him. He said if it were left up to him, he would have missed what God wanted him to do.

The question here is obvious: How many times have I missed God's best for me? How many times have I shut down any thought of doing something that God was trying to get me to do? It reminds me that I should be open continuously to what God wants me to do - even if I don't want to think about doing something He may want me to do.

Praying that you also are continuously open to God's best for your life...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Grateful

My wife and I just returned from our small group meeting tonight. And I have to say, it was a great time of looking into prayer and our need to be constantly connected to Christ through it. It's our lifeblood. But another thing happened. We took our openness and honesty in our struggles to a new level of trust. We shared our fears and struggles and prayed for one another. We prayed for God's strength and peace amidst the storm and for God to show us what He wants us to do in our given circumstances.

I for one am grateful for a group that cares about me and for a group which I can care about and pray for. I believe we are close to God's heart and original intentions on which he established the church when we are intentionally in a community that cares for us, encourages us, exhorts us and never condemns us, but gently challenges us to persevere in living our lives with God's purpose in mind.

Thank you Lord for my brothers and sisters in our group. For their willingness to be honest about their struggles and having the courage to seek your will despite their fears and apprehension their frustrations with their situations. Lord, nothing encourages me more than to know I am not alone - that you have placed people in my life to keep me keeping on.

I pray that you would vanquish Satan from darkening our thoughts and attitudes as we all deal with our struggles and remind us all that we can have joy in You and experience freedom in your love for us. I lift your name up on behalf of our group and hold you up as the reason we continue on in our relationships with each other and You, for your glory and for your kingdom. I pray you would draw those you want us to influence and lead us to help them find you through our group. Thank you Lord that you are ultimately in control of all of our lives and we worship you for that fact. In your Son's name we pray to you, Amen.