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Remember your way forward.

January 19, 2010 2 comments

I woke up this morning with life feeling very… weightless.  As I considered my life it just felt without definition and clarity.  Have you ever felt that way?  I’m pretty convinced that everyone has those moments.  I suppose we can try to dismiss/discount them as “negativity” or bad dreams or silly thoughts but I’m pretty sure they are, like every other moment in life, an opportunity to turn and hear from God.

So I prayed.  And as I confessed my feelings of weightlessness, of a lack of definition in my life the voice of God prodded me back.  Back to my own story with Him. I began to remember in prayer my own history and how my story has grounded me and given weight and definition to my life here and now and a renewed purpose and clarity to my future.

I remembered…

  • the wonder, confusion and excitement of beginning to discern a greater calling on my life that cold winter night in January of 1993 up in the north woods of Michigan as I talked late into the night with my mentor and friend, Bob Wright.
  • the raw faith as I entrusted myself and my young wife to God for our move from rural Indiana to the foreign world of Chicago for ministry training back in the winter of 1994/95.
  • the sense of home that settled over us almost immediately as we sat gazing out our 9th floor sliding glass doors over the brown line L tracks and the Cabrini Green housing project.
  • the conviction that God was calling us into a longer journey in Chicago than we had anticipated when we moved into “the neighborhood” (Humboldt Park) in the Spring of 1996.  During that season the city went from being a place to get training to a place with faces and names and needs.  It was our Macedonian call season.
  • the vision clarity I experienced in 1998 and 1999 as I wrestled with a good friend to get to the heart of what ministry should look like on the ground in the city.  I came out of that period convinced of two things:  1) that the church was God’s plan A for redeeming the world and 2) that God was setting me apart for the purpose of raising leaders and planting churches.  I still remember the settled sense of conviction I had as we left the parachurch ministry we were working with and headed out into church planting, unprepared but full of faith.
  • the tears and anxiety and fear as we sat on the couch on Labor Day, 2000 and Gil asked me through her angry tears, “are you sure God is calling us to be here?” and then the deep sense of confidence as I gulped and prayed and answered simply, “Yes.”  I still remember the way her face changed in that very moment as she responded: “Okay. I just had to know that you are hearing from God if we’re going to keep doing this.”
  • the firmness of godly leadership when we shutdown our first church plant experience a year later, November of 2001.  At that time we were confused about where we’d come from and where we going–everything seemed suddenly up for grabs again.  But during that season we learned the value of godly leadership and a strong team.  Mark Jobe and Mike Berry were huge in that season.
  • the process of discovery as I wrestled with new and varied ministry tasks and began to discover more specific ministry gifting.  I was paying the dues of learning leadership through trial and error within the context of a strong and healthy team and it was a strong season of growth.
  • the discovery that God had wired me and called me specifically to pastor in Chicago and that I would raise leaders and plant churches while pastoring one myself as I anticipated ordination in May of 2004.
  • the satisfaction with releasing leaders and seeing them contribute to the birth of 3 new locations over the last 18 months.
  • the sense of God’s “yes” and “amen” over the new group of men I’m doing life with–men that are leading in our congregations and men with a call of God on their life.

As I prayed through my own story, my life regained its weightiness.  I remembered.  And as I remembered I regained footing for the future.  I remembered my way forward. Is your life lacking weight?  It is time to review your own story.

  • What has God shown you in your past with Him?
  • What hard-earned lessons have you already learned in your life with Him?
  • What were your past God-moments saying to you about your future back then?
  • Are you living in the path of what God has already shown you?
  • How is your past God story guiding your future God story?

Remember your way forward.

Like clockwork

December 8, 2009 5 comments

The Redhead is leading her small group to practice bible memorization.  (Single men, find a woman who likes memorizing the Bible.  Trust me–its sexy.)  I wanted to share the method she’s using because I think its both innovative and useful.

Using the clock as a guide, they are memorizing Scriptures that relate to times of the day.  So when they pass certain moments of the day their mind is prompted to remember a portion of Scripture.  In a time-oriented culture, this method can help redeem your busyness by attaching Scripture to moments.  Brilliant!

Here are some examples to prime your thinking:

  • 1:08pm–Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”
  • 2:10pm–Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
  • 3:16pm–2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (you thought I was going all John 3:16 on you, right;-)

You get the idea.  Now post your ideas.  And more importantly, go memorize some Scripture.

It follows you

December 3, 2009 2 comments

Dallas Willard, in his book The Great Omission, repeatedly points to bible memorization as the most important spiritual discipline a follower of Jesus can engage in.  His words have motivated me to climb a mountain in memorization.  With my son as my coach, I have begun memorizing the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It has really put a log on the gospel fire in my heart.

Here are some reasons why I think memorizing the Bible is so powerful:

  • It passively supplies biblical language to your prayers.
  • It causes many life situations to bring specific Scripture to your mind.
  • It empowers the Holy Spirit to nudge you back toward Jesus.
  • It excites your heart–you know that you have locked up treasure when you can repeat Scripture without a Bible.
  • It gives you a tangible spiritual reality when so many spiritual realities are intangible.
  • It brings joy, all by itself.
  • It treasures what God treasures–His words to people.
  • It breeds faith and courage.
  • It follows you (even when you aren’t feeling up for following Jesus.)

Here are some reasons why I believe we don’t memorize the Bible:

  • No one challenges us to.
  • It seems like it will be too hard.
  • We’re not sure it’s any more valuable than merely reading the Bible.
  • We’ve believed lies about what our memory is capable of and so we give excuses: “I’m too old”, “I’m not a good rememberizer”, “I don’t have time to memorize things”.
  • We lack tools or methods that would help us.
  • We’re apathetic or at least haphazard in our commitment to spiritual growth.
  • We’re pretty content with far less than God’s best.
  • We’re intimidated by the scope of the whole Bible so we fail to take a small first step in memorizing it.

So please, let me give you this simple, bite-sized challenge:

  1. read a chapter of the bible today
  2. pick one verse from your reading
  3. write it down on a piece of paper
  4. put it in your pocket
  5. memorize it before you go to bed tonight

(And no, John 11:35 does not qualify for this exercise.)

“follow me and I will make [me] fishers of…” cash?

December 2, 2009 1 comment

“Follow me.”

If I were to play word association, you would probably identify the speaker as Jesus. Its one of the most recognizable New Testament phrases. And maybe that’s why it makes a such provocative statement on the cover of a business magazine.

…but with one simple change–the actual speaker is none other than the creative genius behind Punk’d:  Mr. Ashton Kutcher. If you take the time to read the article you will discover that Kutcher, though defined primarily by his adolescent behavior & characters, is in this article a man with a very adult focus on what he wants: cold hard cash.

For him the massive social network he’s created is not to provide an altruistic peek into his celebrity lifestyle–its an opportunity to market products to his very loyal following.  “Its really a war to make money,” says Kutcher.

So to complete the biblical reference for Kutcher, “follow me… and I will make myself much more wealthy.”

The original quote finishes quite differently, doesn’t it?  “Follow me… and I will make you fishers of men.”

And so Fast Company’s magazine cover inadvertently provides one of the more valuable contrasts between the life of a disciple of the American Dream and the life of a disciple of Jesus.

Finding a better word

December 1, 2009 1 comment

Over the last 10 years the words leader and leadership have been a big concern in my life. Understandable, I suppose. As a Christian who derives a living from ministry leadership, it seemed like the most important word. And all the books on ministry seemed to confirm that this word was most important. Truthfully, its a word that still matters to me.

But over the last year, a new word has replaced it on the top of my big-words-that-shape-and-focus-my-life list.  It is a word that has much, much more biblical profile than leader or leadership.  It seemed to be a favorite word of Jesus.  It seems to be a disliked word in American culture–a prejorative for people who don’t have life figured out.  The word?  Follower.

In a great post by Leonard Sweet, he says:

My fundamental category is “follower.” Even when Jesus calls me up to the front of the line, I still lead “from behind.” For the last fifty years the church has made a fetish of a word that is hard to find even once in the New Testament (“leader”) and has ignored a word that is found hundreds of times (“mathetes” or “follower,” “disciple”).

I can say that the same has become true for me.  And so as I launch a new blog, I’m shaping it around following rather than leading.  I want to share my journey as I follow Jesus.  Leadership won’t be a dirty word here.  But it will be subject to followership, following, follower and disciple.

Thanks for stopping by and joining me as I follow.