Thursday, September 28, 2006

agony & ecstasy

“I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other friends who have never known me personally. My goal is that they will be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have full confidence because they have complete understanding of God's secret plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. Col. 2:1-3

For almost 9 years Michelle and I have labored here in this field, partnering with God and you to build New Community Church. It truly has been the agony and the ecstasy. Our goal has always been to build life-long relationships that enrich the lives of all who enter into them. Our desire is to share the great news that Jesus can completely alter people’s lives and bring healing into their hearts. That is what He did for me. I am still amazed at where I once was and where I am today. Only God can do this in someone.

As I said, it has been a mixture of joy and pain, like birthing a child and watching it grow. Giving nurture, teaching, modeling, praying, crying, laughing and a whole host of other experiences along the way.

What is most rewarding (ecstasy) are the relationships built along the way. I have deep and growing relationships in our church. It has been a joy to watch many of you get married, have kids, and build your lives. It has been a privilege to walk with some through the difficult moments as well. Our hearts are deeply invested in you. Our lives are happily entangled with yours. I would not have it any other way!

What I have found to be utterly heart-breaking (agony) is when people break away because of hurt. The painful truth is that people leave churches. Some leave our lives the right way while others fall short. The bonds of love were not strong enough. Because of the sin in all of our lives we must work to strengthen our friendships. We must communicate until we understand each other. We must pray together until God’s Spirit produces unity. Of course, there will always be those who will still walk away. In these moments we must guard our hearts and allow God to heal us from the painful loss of relationship.

I believe that if we allow Jesus to be at the center of our church and relationships we “will be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love”. In Jesus, is all of the wisdom and knowledge we need to work through all of life’s challenges.

May we allow Him to have our hearts today.
May we Center ourselves on Him.
May we move into our future together allowing Him to build strong, abiding relationships among us.

“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” -Jesus John 13:34-35


Monday, September 25, 2006

Brain Fried

“for we want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. I work very hard at this, as I depend on Christ's mighty power that works within me. I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other friends who have never known me personally.” Colossians 1:28-2:3 (NLT)

On Mondays I am usually “brain-fried”. Today is no exception. The life of a pastor can get interesting. It can also be very draining. I was just reading this morning in Colossians about Paul the church-planter. I bet he was fried often.

But there is one thing that he said today that has my attention, “I work very hard at this, as I depend on Christ's mighty power that works within me.”

What exactly does it mean to work very hard all the while depending on Christ’s strength? At times I work very hard and at times I feel completely exhausted. To tell the truth, I have felt exhausted for a couple of months now. There have been moments of mental and emotional drain that have taken me to my limits. It is at my limits that I learn lessons about Jesus’ power.

I have learned that His power actually is available to me. There have been times when I have simply said, “Lord, I can’t. You are going to have to do this.” We have all been to places where we feel that we can’t go on. This can be an exciting place for me. It all depends on where I turn next.

I have learned that His power is already in me. At the moment I realize I can’t, but try anyway depending on Him to help me, I find “in me” reserves of strength that I did not think I had at all. There is a powerful truth that all too often I can forget-Christ lives in me. Greater is He that lives in me than anything this world can or Satan can throw at me.

I have learned that I often don’t depend on Him until my resources run out. This is the unfortunate truth. Then I get frustrated with myself because I know I should have depended on the Lord’s strength, and I didn’t. I start out the day determined to depend on God only to find myself a few hours later trying to get it done on my own.

At 40 years old, I am seeking to learn more about working hard while at the same time depending on Christ to give me strength. I believe this is primarily a matter of prayer. I also believe that if I don’t learn this lesson, I won’t be able to finish this difficult race that is set before me.

May we work hard today. May we work very hard depending on Christ’s mighty power that lives in us.

“Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.” Eph. 3:20

Thursday, September 21, 2006

holding me together

Last night I stayed up watching the news. I was discouraged to see so much happening on the world stage in terms of hatred for the United States. From the oil rich Presidents of Venezuala and Iran to nuclear bomb ambitious Al Queda--all desire to see our country financially unravel or utterly destroyed.

The other day I spoke with someone who is facing financial collapse. As we spoke, I could tell that he was trying to keep it together. Much of the solution for him is out of his control. I visited a man and his wife in the hospital two days ago. He was about to go into emergency surgery to remove his kidney because of a large tumor that had grown on it. Today they are waiting for more news from the doctor. A man told me Sunday that his wife left him after many years of marriage and now he is facing the prospect of life alone.

There is so much instability in today’s world. Everywhere we look we see people and things coming apart. People are living under tremendous pressure. Keeping it together is difficult when your world is falling apart.

It was not long ago that I felt like things were coming apart myself. I am encouraged to know that it is not my job to hold my world together. Colossians 1:17 reminds us that “all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Getting centered means trusting that Jesus can hold me together in a world where so many things can quickly disintegrate. It means reaching out in love to others and providing emotional strength in the midst of suffering. It means putting my ultimate hope in the joys of heaven where there will be no more crying, tears or pain. It means consistently thanking God for all of the things that He does give so generously.

Getting centered does not mean that things are not going wrong or even that I ignore the chaos around me. It means that I place my focus on Jesus and depend on Him to hold me together in the midst of it all. It is believing that he can cause all things to somehow work together for my good. That is what getting centered means to me. It is Jesus-the Center of everything.


Monday, September 18, 2006

avoid dizziness

Avoiding dizziness in an unpredictable world of constant movement and change requires intimate knowledge of an Unchanging Center. In the first chapter of Colossians, Paul tells us in several ways what, or better, who that Center is.

God’s Kingdom has a center
“ For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” vs. 13

Our Understanding of God has a center
“He is the image of the invisible God" vs. 15

All Of Creation has a Center
“the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Vs. 15-17

The Church has a Center
“And he is the head of the body, the church” vs. 18

My Hope has A Center
“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Vs. 27

It is impossible for me to maintain balance in this crazy life without Jesus at the center. Everything was created by Him and for Him. Yes, everything you can see, feel, smell, and touch are for Him. It is all for Jesus. This includes me. My life makes sense when He is the central focus. My identity and purpose are discovered in Him. Those who desire to follow Jesus must center “EVERYTHING” on Him. It is simple-not easy, but simple: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Cor. 11:3

If I center myself on Jesus, I can experience peace (lack of dizziness) no matter what. It truly is that simple.

He is our King so we obey Him.
He is our God so we worship Him.
He is our creator so we find my purpose in Him.
He is the leader of our church so we follow Him.
He is our hope so we look to Him.

May this simple yet profound truth penetrate and refresh your heart today.


Friday, September 15, 2006

bad choices

As a leader, I am continually faced with decisions: What should I do? How should I do it? When should I do it? If I choose well, those I lead benefit, if I don’t they could suffer. Do you need to make wise decisions? Leading a “Centered” life involves making good calls and executing them with wisdom. Life can spin out of control on its own; I don’t need to add to that with poor decisions.

“So we have continued praying for you ever since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better.” Colossians 1:9-10 (NLT)

A centered life requires friends who are prayerfully involved in your spiritual development. Paul prays for his friends to “understand what God wants them to do”. I have my share of moments where I don’t know what God wants. In these moments, it is important not only to pray yourself, but also to have others pray for you. God always seems to honor people who pray together about His will. He won’t hide His will, He will reveal it.

Spiritual friends can also be involved in making us “wise with spiritual wisdom”. In prayer and conversation with other people who have committed to center their lives in Jesus, a wealth of life experience is shared. Knowing what to do is one thing, knowing how to do it is another. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. Wisdom comes from two places: life experience or advice. This is why having a group of friends to pray and counsel with is so critical.

“All the while, you will learn to know God better and better.” The most inportant key to leading a Centered life is a growing relationship with God. Just simply setting aside time for Him each day. Praying friends encourage us in our relationship with God. He will give us understanding and wisdom. He is the Center anyway. Closeness with Him is Centeredness.

May you have some praying friends in your life. May you know God better and better. And with God’s help, may you make excellent choices today!


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

under pressure

Recently, I heard a man at a conference say “People who are under pressure put people under pressure”.

Many of us are living with extreme pressure. They have little or no margin in their lives. Deadlines, expectations, unforeseen circumstances, and countless other concerns leave us feeling overwhelmed. Yet the scriptures promise over and over a “Centered life” of peace and joy. My quest is to experience this rather just talk about it on the weekends. It is the message I am seeing as I read the book of Colossians.

Paul starts the book off by talking about some people who have found a very centered life and he describes them in three ways: “Or we have heard that you trust in Christ Jesus and that you love all of God's people. You do this because you are looking forward to the joys of heaven—as you have been ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.” Colossians 1:4-5 (NLT)

Centered people: Trust in Jesus-Love God’s people-Place their primary hope in heaven

I want to talk about the first one. It is the constant challenge of my life to remain centered in Christ. To trust in Jesus is a daily discipline. I must continually remind myself of His faithfulness in my past. Trust in any relationship is built over time through actions that prove someone faithful or trustworthy. Jesus has proven Himself faithful to me for more than 15 years now.

In spite of this track record, there are times of extreme anxiety in my life. I believe these moments are the result of me getting “off center”. I have set my goals. I have made my decisions. I have taken off down a path, and now I am trying to get Him to make it a smooth one.

Could it be that the more I center my heart on Jesus the less I feel all the pressure? Maybe most of the pressure I feel is self-imposed. Maybe if I could adjust my focus and see my life from His perspective I would experience something completely different. Maybe the whole picture would change. My perspective would at least.

I mean-a life centered in Jesus has His purpose driving it right? A centered life has some margin. A centered life experiences peace in the midst of environments where others feel overwhelming pressure. A centered life finds its way back to joy after being knocked off track by life’s inevitable challenges.

Are you centering your life in Jesus? Turn to Him now and “Get Centered”.


Monday, September 11, 2006

life won't mind me

I can’t seem to get everything to mind me. I mean, about the time I get things under control in one area of my life, another area starts spinning. Sometimes it seems like the whole world is spinning out of control.

Things move fast now. Technology moves so fast that your computer is outdated by the time you learn how to use it. The economy goes up and down and round and round. People almost never behave do they? It seems there is always at least one person in your life that is out of control-challenging your mental health and causing major stress. And how many terrorist groups are plotting to completely destroy us now? I lost count. I’m getting dizzy again! That’s just the stuff going on around me. I have not even mentioned the things going on inside me.

Life comes at you in real time. Real time is fast. It seems like you must continually adjust. People are stressed out. You hear much talk about balance these days. It’s increasingly more difficult to find my feet with everything constantly moving and changing in today’s world.

What stays constant? How does a person find stability in it all? Where is true north? Can I really experience peace or is that just religious rhetoric?

Believe it or not, there are some things that never change at all. There are some things that I can base my life upon. There is a Rock-a firm foundation. There is One who is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” and His name is Jesus. He is at the center of everything. He is at the center of the storms that blow in and around my life. As I learn to live near Him things calm down.

Join with me for the next couple of months as we journey through an ancient text called Colossians. These Holy writings from two thousand years ago will bring much needed wisdom and perspective for today’s fast-paced, hectic lives.

Join us for our new weekend series: “Get Centered”