Moving is Hard… BUT… He is Worth It…

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Well, this has been one busy, crazy, emotional, exhausting, celebration filled, loving…WEEK!

We have:

–  Finished boxing our house

–  Celebrated our last Sunday w/ our FBC Ocala Family

–  Enjoyed a going away party w/ dear friends

–  Loaded our home (w/ tons of help) to find out the moving truck was not large enough

–  Did an on the fly drive to Tallahassee (w/ 2 awesome interns) to unload truck and drive back at 2:00AM

–  Loaded the truck a 2nd time

–  Signed the papers on the sale of our home

–  Enjoyed a final dinner w/ FBC Staff

–  Drove 2nd load to Tallahassee

–  Unloaded 2nd load into storage unit

–  AND… I’m sure I’ve missed something…

So, why all this…

A simple answer based on deep conviction.

GOD and the calling He has placed on our lives is WORTH IT!

Sacrifice, discomfort, exhaustion, trials… all the things mentioned above… are only for a brief moment compared to the eternity, satisfaction, and completion that HE will provide in Himself.

When Jesus is in the equation of “counting the cost”…the cost is always worth it because the Return is infinitely GREATER!

I ask you to PRAY as we move forward to pursue this call to Plant a New Church in SouthEast Tallahassee.  However, as much or more I ask you to STOP and ask yourself a question…

WHAT ARE YOU PERSONALLY GIVING YOUR LIFE TO?

There is cost for everything… are you investing, spending, sacrificing YOUR LIFE for something that is WORTH IT?

I have GOOD NEWS…Giving Your Life For The GOSPEL Is ALWAYS WORTH IT… Giving YOUR Life to HIS CALLING on YOUR LIFE is WORTH IT!!!

There will not be one moment wasted and not one moment spent unnoticed.

When Sacrificing for something that is GREATER than ourselves, producing something greater than we ever could… It just doesn’t seem to much like a Sacrifice anymore.

Buckle Up.  Get Focused.  Put it all on the table.  TRUST…and DIVE IN TO THE DEEP…where the realm of thoughts, words and deeds collide.


A Different Kind of 4th…

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Today is a day of celebration, a day of remembrance, a day of reverence, a day with family, friends, swimming, the lake, laughter, watermelon, grilling out and many other expressions.  However, this July 4th is a little different for my family.  As many of you know my family and I are moving in just two weeks to plant a church in Tallahassee, FL.  We are beyond excited and humbled that God would choose to use us for such a large task.  That being said, as we box up our house on this 4th preparing for the move I can’t help but notice through social media all the celebration going on and I, actually I should say we, long to be a part of those.  Honestly, moving stinks…plain and simple…nothing fun about it.

This is when God gently reminded me:

1.)  There will be other celebrations

2.)  You are celebrating freedom…by being obedient to what I have called you to do.  There is no greater freedom than being in the center of my call for you.

3.)  Freedom is why I have called you to go.  My desire is that you would proclaim my name where I am sending you that others may not only celebrate freedom on one day, or for a short life while on earth, BUT for eternity.

4.)  Nothing worth doing or having in this life does not come without some level of sacrifice.  Do not run or avoid sacrifice, but learn to identify it for what it is and what it is producing.

God is always faithful and He is sufficient.

I will say through this time of work I have been amazed in so many ways by my bride.  She is an amazing, godly woman, who loves the gospel and loves people…but she is also a woman that knows how to work, push through things and get things done.

She has basically boxed our entire home all on her own in a very short period of time.  She amazes me and I do not deserve the amazing woman that she is.  God definitely allowed me to “marry up” as they say.

So, to all of you out there celebrating today, ENJOY, STAY SAFE, REMEMBER today is about freedom but it did not come without a price…AND…some BAIRS will be joining THE PARTY somewhere, NEXT YEAR!!!

HAPPY 4TH!!!

#IfTheSonHasSetYouFreeYouAreFreeIndeed  #merica


Contract on the house!!! Praise God!!!

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First off, we just wanted to tell all of our family and friends how appreciative we are of them and their willingness to pray for our family as we move forward to plant a church in Tallahassee, FL.  We are greatly humbled that we are loved by so many…

Based off my last post, announcing church planting, we listed a few items specifically to pray for.  One of those items was for the sale of our home.  Over the past few weeks I have prayed earnestly and in detail to God.

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Phil 4:6

For those of you that know me, I am a planner, possibly to calculated.  So in the arena of stepping out on faith to plant a church I am having to adjust in many ways who I am.  Much of the future and answers are still yet to be determined (guess it is always that way, but we are just not mindful of it).  Because of this there is plenty of room for anxiety, but we know that God has called us, and because of that He will meet all of our needs in Himself.  Notice I said in His person, not in my circumstance.  God is faithful and sufficient.  As I think of Paul writing later in Phil. 4, he had learned what it meant to be content in all things.  I would like to think that I am doing the same and what God is revealing mostly to me is that He, and He alone is my only need…period.  If I add anything else to my list of needs, then Christ is not sufficient…BUT He is.

I say this to point to His Word and the my practice.  I am not sufficient in myself and I rely to much on outcomes and circumstance…God knows this about me and guess what…He knows it about you as well.  So He tells me in His word to bring my request to Him.  Not because He is not aware, but that I may place them at His feet and trust Him.

Back to praying.  I prayed a few things specifically on the sale of our home: 1.) right timing, 2.) right buyers, 3.) that our home would sell in such a way that God would receive credit and be recognized, and lastly 4.) it would happen fast.  Yes, you read that right, I prayed with my natural desire…as if God did not already know.

GOD IS FAITHFUL!!!

Now before we get to the outcome I want to put a warning out here.

God is NOT faithful because He answered my prayer the way I wanted.

God is NOT faithful because of a desired outcome.

God’s faithfulness has NOTHING to do with me.

God’s faithfulness is found within HIMSELF.  He is the very nature of faithfulness.  I get to experience faithfulness from God, not because of myself, nor because I deserve it, but because of who He is and what He has done.  God is faithful because He is God.  So, wether our home sales like we prayed or God has other plans, He is still faithful.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…”  Eph. 3:20

So, why did I pray specifically?  Simple, GOD CAN!  I did so because I do not serve a small God and I will not try and reduce Him to such.  I also did so because I believe that what I am praying for is not based on myself, but based upon desire to bring God glory…the aligning of my heart and actions that He may be lifted up.

I know that my God can do ALL things!

One more thing on my prayer… as with all my prayers, I prayed that His will be done.  I also know this about myself and my walk with God, that often times my will and His will are not the same.  His will always trumps mine.  I am always to take the submissive role to His will.  Why might you ask?

He is God and I am not…

I gave my life away to Christ…

He is the potter and I am the clay…

His kingdom, not mine…

His glory, not mine…

He knows the future, while I don’t know the next moment…

I believe with my life that He can be trusted…

So, God can AND God can choose not to if that be His will.  God can choose to sell our house as we prayed and God can choose to sell it differently.  Understand…His will is perfect.

So…. the outcome.

We placed our home on the MLS last Thursday and in less than 48hrs we have received a contract on our home to the detail of what we hoped and prayed for!!!

PRAISE GOD!!!  GOD is Faithful!!!

Continue to pray…

  • a smooth closing on the house
  • transition from Ocala
  • schools for the kids
  • finding a new home in Tally
  • church plant partners
  • the people that will join the work that God has called us to
  • those that we will reach with the Gospel
  • timing…in all things

Bair Family Tallahassee Church Planting Announcement

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Yesterday we shared with our church family the news that we will be moving to Tallahassee the end of the summer, embarking on the journey of church planting. This is a very exciting, scary, emotional time for us as we step forward in faith, trusting Him.  We are very humbled by God to be considered worthy of such a great call and in many ways feel inadequate.  However, we know and trust that it is not so much “what” we bring to table (as if God needs anything, He is God), but more so our willingness to be obedient and offer ourselves to the Lord, to be used & poured out in any way He desires, to reach those far from Him, for the gospel.

Ocala has been home for us the past 5 years and we have built many life long, kingdom relationships while God has allowed us to serve Him here.  As we continue on this faith journey we will continue to post updates here and on other social media outlets.

Please be praying for us:

  • as we adjust all that we know to His plans
  • as we say goodbye to friends over the next few months
  • the sell of our home
  • the raising of financial support
  • the hearts God is preparing in this new work


the Not so Social side of social media…(part 3)

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Wow… last post… Jan. 9th… guess I took my words to heart (and to be honest was busy and still used other venues, while monitoring their usage).  So, good break, but back to it.

Let’s wrap this up…

Just some quick thoughts on how to use social media effectively.

1.)  Communicate a message

Probably 80%-90% of what I post is to spur on thought or to stretch myself as well as readers.  We all are people that live in routine and in typical, often mundane lives.  I personally need to be pushed and called to come awake/ alive.

What MESSAGE are you communicating?

Also, is what I post about self more than others?  Infatuation w/ self is the greatest risk when strolling through social media land.  Keep it real, keep it focused, keep it about others.

2.)  Share your Life

Now this may sound contradictory to #1, but just read.  Social media is a great way for others to follow what is happening in your life…especially loved ones that don’t live near you.  Post significant occurrences… some may include:  photos of your family, photos of unique places in the world, significant events.

I find that a good general rule of thumb to use is basically use it as if your were making a personal call to someone.  Don’t waste their time.

Also, be careful… in the real world I am careful of who I share my life and my family with.  Use wisdom…especially those with kids.

3.)  Don’t Waste Your Life or Others

Pay attention to what you post and what you spend time reading.  I know many friends/ family that have gotten rid of certain social media outlets, as they know how much time/life it can suck out of them…filling up on…well, nothing.  Everyone hates the “no point” posts (going to the bathroom, I had a bad day, etc etc)

If you need to to post EVERYTHING, then you are probably posting NOTHING.

Resist the temptation and be intentional and thoughtful when you post.  Also, when you browse, look for substance, skip the trash, keep it focused.

We all have the same 24hrs in a day, spend it wisely…a little “virtually”, but most of it in “reality”.


the NOT so SOCIAL side of social media… (part 2)

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The response to my first post about this topic has been overwhelming, indicating that I may have struck a nerve.  I have had multiple people communicate to me that they were struggling with this area of their life in deep, controlling ways and the blog was able to help them articulate their feelings.

The following is in response to the … NOW WHAT…specifically setting up Boundaries

Obviously, we live in a technological age and simply trying to remove it completely or ignore it is just about impossible.  For many of us social media is social but it also involves our work places, marketing, family members/ loved ones, and a way to keep the pulse of the world/ current events.

So, again…NOW WHAT

Below are list of helpful boundaries and warning signs I have personally adopted after praying, digging deep, and talking with others.  Maybe some of them will help you in mastering this potential monster.

 

1.)  Make first things first…

What comes first in your life?  What do you think on, dream about often?  What takes up most of your heart?  What do you find delight in?  These are important questions to ask, and even more so to answer…sincerely.

C.S. Lewis is famous for expounding upon this principle in one of his writings, providing timeless wisdom.

“. . . You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.”

“Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”

For the believer in Christ, Gods order of priorities in life are: God, others, and self is last on the list.  But, maybe your not a believer…the principle still stands if you intend to have a relationally rewarding life.  Relationships require sacrifice, demand time and will only thrive in sincerity and authenticity…others still come first.

2.)  Accessibility all the time leads to separation…

You ever come across that person that is always accessible…maybe you are that person…or maybe you are frustrated at everyone else for not always being accessible.  A major convenience initially brought one by technology was the ease of accessibility…however, have things gone to far?  Have things gone to far when you can’t even walk in front of your TV without being accessed?  Have things gone to far when you can’t even go to the bathroom without being accessed?  I would say YES and NO.  This is where it gets tough, because the excuses are plentiful, often times being cloaked under:  It’s my job, I’m that important, it will only take a second, people need me, etc.

Here is the reality;  YOU control your accessibility.

Being accessible all the time is NOT HEALTHY.  

TURN it OFF!!!

Not being accessible is a time of regrouping, a time of recharging, a time of reflection, a time of peace.  In a very real sense I believe this is one of the elements God intended w/ the Sabbath.  That we would disconnect from the distractions of every day life by focusing on Him and RESTING.

All the time accessibility eventually leads to separation…especially with those that love  you most.  You see, if we are accessed all the time, then that means we are never accessed completely by those whom are closest to us.  There are always interruptions, always mood changers, always things that will take our minds away from the moment at hand.  Let me ask you, how many times have you been away, maybe vacation, and you or someone you are with reads a Facebook post, a tweet, an email, a text and the moment is ROBBED!  What one second is joyful, fun, loving is immediately side swiped.

Don’t let accessibility rob you of the present blessing God has given.

3.)  Sacred spaces…

This is simply just practical; Adopt and agree upon sacred spaces in your life.  What I mean by sacred (use what ever word you want) is there are no electronic devices allowed within this area…including, but not limited to: phones, tablets, computers, leapfrog, TV, etc.  If you have family members, loved ones, or friends that you live with communicate and agree upon them.  Hold true to them and enforce the guidelines of the space.  There will be great liberation if you do so.

My Spaces: (catchy I know)

–  the dinner table…  This can be one of the greatest places of connection w/ loved ones.  Take time, have long meaningful conversations, ask about others, speak words of encouragement towards one another, ENJOY the real company of those you love.

 the bed…  This one might take some of you by surprise, but let me explain.  The most important relationship I have, aside from Jesus, is with my wife.  When we are in this space it should be seen as a rewarding, restful, and meaningful space…both physically and symbolically.  She deserves my awakened full attention…of course until the ZzZzZzZz’s kick in.

–  dates…  The kind of thing that people do when they love each other, not marks on a calendar.  Dates are carved out places in our busy lives, often times costing money, that we set aside to focus on that whom we LOVE.  There are fewer things in this life that crumble love than being half-hearted.  Don’t share the time…love the one you are with.

 worship venues…  (yes, for all of you haters…I know our lives are worship)  I am talking about the place/ experience you go to.  The place we visit/ set aside for worship, should be just that…a time or space  you have for you and God to connect.  It is also a time for you to connect w/ other people…meaning real people…those that are actually in the building/house/ place.

 special moments w/ family…  You ever go to kids sporting events, to vacation spots, etc. and you notice that many are missing out on what they supposedly came to be a part of.  That’s just it…be a part of what is important.  Communicate to your family that they are worth your full undivided attention that refuses to be interrupted.

4.)  Time accountability…

I challenge you to log your usage (time/where) and your reason (motivation) for social media for a solid week.  The results might just startle and sicken you.  Here are couple quick questions to help gauge:

–  Did I spend more time with/on it then with what I say I love most?

–  Am I an adult, but still use a “pacifier”?  

Are you wasting your life, by letting the pacifier in your pocket suck it out of you?

–  Am I wiser or dumber for using it?  (that’s right…energy, mental capacity, and effort are used to interact…even with social media).  I found I actually became smarter (I know, debatable) when I used/ interacted w/ it less.

5.)  Listen to others…

This may sound too simple, but I believe it can be one of the most helpful on the list.  Simply put…LISTEN TO OTHERS.  I have found that w/ social media and other areas of my life, God has often times warned me about my overindulgence/ abuse by others speaking into my life.

Do others make comments to you like:  you sure are on that a lot, can you look at me, can you put that down, I’m talking to you, you’ve got an addiction, I never see your face, etc.

I believe these are all warning sign questions and should be alarms to us tech junkies that we have probably crossed the line of obsession/ addiction/ dependancy.  The hard part about this, is our rebellious hard hearts never want to listen to others that question what we so deeply covet.  In many ways, we will guard these sins and embrace them close to the chest, where few have access to.

LISTEN TO THOSE WHO LOVE YOU…THEY LOVE YOU.

In my next blog post I will try and help by offering ways in which we can use and enjoy social media in healthy ways.


the NOT so SOCIAL side of social media… (part 1)

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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Heb. 12:1-2

Just this past week I went on an overdue vacation with my family.  As with any time away it included packing the car, leaving town, a destination, crying kids, etc.  However, this trip was different…particularly for me as I decided to UNPLUG.

unplug |ˌənˈpləg|verb ( unplugs, unplugging , unplugged ) [ with obj. ]

                                           1 disconnect (an electrical device) by removing its plug from a socket: she unplugged the fridge.

2 sever the connection between a peripheral device and a computer

                       3 remove an obstacle or blockage from: a procedure to unplug blocked arteries

As indicated by the definition above, I choose to completely turn everything off (all social media, email) NOT for an hour, not a day, but an entire week…yea, I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth …BUT it only hurt for a moment.  What I learned was life changing, refreshing, and reminding…so I figured I would share, as this may also help you break free from the chains that cling so closely.

“Off the grid” hiatus:

1.)  communication does not equal connectivity…

What does it mean to be “connected”?  Is it simply swapping gestures, languages, phonetical signals back and  forth?  For most of us, we know that being connected is a deep rooted desire within us (God placed) and is much more than that which was just listed.  To list a few, connectivity includes love, focus, attention, desire, feeling, proximity, intimacy, etc.

A danger for many of us is that we mistake “social media” communication for connectivity.  We can communicate w/ the masses and connect with none.  Here lies the danger…those who are closes to us, that so desperately want to connect w/ us are sacrificed on the virtual alter.

My kids and my wife want my full attention…and they deserve it.  God has given me great treasures to connect with if I will see and embrace this reality.  Do you ever wonder why our kids and children in general want to do board games or activities that are so demanding on our time?  It is because they desire “us”.  They long for connectivity, not just merely being in our presence w/ the occasional grunt back and forth.  We can not give this to them if we are not willing to offer all of ourselves.

The struggler here lies that we, being finite beings, are limited in how much connectivity we can offer at one given time.  As I type these words I can think of people in my life that I love to be with, and guess what is in common w/ all of them…they offer all of themselves when I am with them.

2.)  the grass is plenty green where you are if you stop staring at others yards…

As noted in the verses from Hebrews, God has laid out a “race” (a path, a direction, a life) for each of us.  Social media has a tendency to remove our focus off of the reality of what God has placed us on/in.  This often leads to lusting/ coveting after someone else’s lane or race, which is sinful and destructive.

STOP COMPARING!!!

REALITY is where you are now, not where everyone else is.  If we are always gazing upon others reality (which is often NOT TRUE NOR ACCURATE), then we will neglect our very own.  If this is the case, we have failed to run the race and have been entangled by an illusion…a “virtual reality”.

“the grass is always greenest where you water and fertilize most” -unknown

3.)  the sinfulness of my virtual life…

Why do I post what I post…why do I read the post of others…only you can answer these questions.  If I am honest and transparent, here are just a few reasons I found often fueling the characters of my deceptive heart.

–  I want everyone to “look at ME”, “look at ME”…

–  I want MY life to be better, MORE exciting, MORE successful, MORE pleasurable than yours…

–  I want others to desire what I have…

–  I want what others have…

What just these four reason show me about myself is that I am sinful.  I look for “significance” via the praise of others and not the praise of the One that matters.  I am prideful and arrogant.  I am deceptive and desire for others to covet.  I covet myself and am discontent with what God has provided, cursing the hand and purpose of the one that is to be praised, Christ Jesus.

I am a broken, sinful man, in need of the grace of God…in need of a changed heart…in need of a HOPE other than myself.

4.)  where I am is “my race”…

As I stated above, reality is where you are.  Every moment I spend in virtual reality is a moment I lose and neglect in reality.  In order to run the race well that God has laid before me, I must be focused and diligent to remain within the lane that God has placed me.  This is my race that I should find joy in because I know the One that has laid it before me.  My joy does not come from the race, but the in the One who has set it in motion.  A runner runs for the finish…the prize…the goal.  A winner achieves this by focusing on it, while all other things fade into the background.

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross

I/we are not omnipresent.

God has called each of us to focus on one thing in this life, that being Himself found in Jesus.  When we do this, all other things work themselves out as God molds our heart to see and experience as He would.

God has created me to live this ONE life He has given me, in real time, w/ real people…NOT vicariously, not virtually…BUT in the realm where REAL people live…that have real feelings, real hearts, real consequences, real dreams, real souls… real FUTURES.

God sees the reality of our heart, not the virtual reality  we often times prop up.

GOD SEES RIGHT THROUGH THE FACADE

5.)   my children see the desire of my heart…

What we “do” so clearly communicates…especially to our children.  While being unplugged, my desire for my children and my wife grew stronger.  They were no longer interruptions to me, but once again became my delight.  I lived and loved with them in that current moment, refusing to share it with anyone else…especially a false reality.  Guess what… they noticed.  They clung to their dad, they laughed…and they even said, “you are smiling more”.  They knew that they had all of me, a “house not divided”.

As these liberating moments were occurring, it dawned on me…I am lighter…I am more free…I CAN SEE!!!  There was one moment that my kids were playing in an indoor play area (yea, I needed to catch my breath 🙂 ) that I glanced around at the countless adults surrounding me.  Something became strikingly clear…none of them were really there.  Yes, they were there physically, but not emotionally, not mentally, not lovingly.  This is not a stone throw, as I am guilty of being the one w/ the hauntingly illuminated face and frantic thumbs… but they all were somewhere else…which was communicated by their actions.  As their children paraded, laughed, ran, and jumped all of this was missed, sacrificed, and traded for an unquenchable lust…that sucked the life and joy of the real moment.

Our children will be us one day, often times amplified.  I pray that I teach my kids that those whom we love and are called to serve deserve our full, real attention.

So…where does that leave us…

Before you cry “hypocrite”…yes this is in a blog and yes I will continue to use social media.  Let me say that all of social media is not bad.  Much of it can be enjoyed and used for good, even kingdom good.  The question is who is the master and how to master it…but that my friends is for another post…stay tuned.


loving the “how” over the “Who”…

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Isn’t it ironic how we can take simple words/ letters and reorganize their structure/ order and end up with something so different.  As I wrote the title of this blog, “how” and “Who” is one of those examples.  The implications of which word we choose to love/define us are life changing.

Most people that claim faith in Jesus upon initial response would say it’s about the “Who”.  However, is this what our lives echo by actions?  Sadly enough, I believe we often times subconsciously embrace the “how” because we mistaken it’s identity for the “Who”.   In a sense we can all have a  form of spiritual “dyslexia”, getting our letters/priorities out of order, and not even know it unless we diagnose it by our symptoms.

Below are just a few measurement tools/ questions I use as reminders/ litmus test in order to keep my “Who’s” Who’s and my “hows” hows.

1.)  What sustains/ defines me?

This is really an “identity” question.  As a believer in Jesus, it is imperative that I understand the truth that God loves me because of Himself and not because of me.  God loved me when I was unlovable and did not love Him in return.  The Scriptures clearly communicate that “while we (me) were still sinners Christ died for us.”  We so often times skim over this core truth, when in essence it is the heart of the gospel, that an all sufficient God would choose to love an insufficient creation.  Simply put, God does not save/ rescue us because of what we do (our works), but because of who He is.  Our salvation is accomplished/ incapsulated within God Himself, through Jesus.  Jesus is why God sustains and defines us as His.

2.)  Is my “how” secondary to the “Who”?

All I have to offer God and this world originates from God, not me.  John 15 explains this in great detail from a horticultural angle.  If God is the source of anything beneficial in this life then I better not stray from Him.  When my time with Jesus personally does not match my time externally lived out in “what” I do in “ministry”, I run a great risk of withering and dying and leading people to follow me.  (See point 1)  We must always be in close communion with God by the feasting/ taking in of Scriptures and by intimate communication through prayer. This can be accomplished through large times and brief moments.  In prayer I especially try to maintain often and constant conversation in my spirit with God.  (yes, I do hear voices in my head 🙂 ).

3.)  Does my “how” match the “Who”?

“Are the methods I use God honoring?”, is another way of saying this.  I often teach and remind myself that God does not need me to accomplish His plan.  He chooses to use me as vessel for His glory.  God does not need unholy/ungodly methods in order to accomplish His plan.  The only way I will know this is by being a studious student of the Word/ Scriptures.  Although, the newest methods may not be spelled out in the Bible, God’s heart is.  Our “how” must match the “heart” of God.

4.)  Does my definition of successes match “His” success?

When I get pumped/excited about what I am doing I can often times become intoxicated/drunk by methods.  What do we know about drunk people?…They don’t think clearly, vision is impaired, and they do things that are contrary to the core of who they are.  Our tendency to become infatuated with our “how” is tied to our sin desire to be “self sufficient”.   As much as we want to point towards God we still have a nature within in us that wants to take the role of God.

What or who is elevated by my success?

5.)  Do I love my “how” over my “Who”? 

We all love our own creative abilities, especially when we birth new things.  This can occur in a secular line of work and also occur in ministry.  We often times receive praise, awards, monetary advances, placement, position, and the list goes on.  God has gifted us with His creative ability.  The danger is when our heart begins to love what we do over who we love.  It is an easy trap to fall into because we can see the results of our efforts with our eyes.  Others can see them as well.  Our efforts take on the facade of supporting our needs, our families, our hobbies…

However, what if God wanted to change how He uses you?  Would you be willing?  Would you be willing to leave all that “you” have created?  All that you labored for?  Could you sacrifice your “how/methods”?

When I struggle with answering this question I know I am getting close to loving what I do more than Who I love.

Below is quote from Andy Stanley from his book “7 effective principles of ministry”.  I believe he captures well what can happen in our lives/ ministries if we are not careful.  It also provides a perfect segway to my final thought.

“Individuals have been allowed to build their identity around a program, not a mission. It is normal for leaders to take pride in what they create. But it can become an unhealthy situation if leaders hold on to what they create too tightly. When individuals tie their identity to a program they’ve created, they lose the objectivity that is necessary to evaluate its effectiveness. And so mainstream denominations and conventional churches collectively pour millions of dollars annually into programs that should have been buried a decade ago. There is a very fuzzy line between building your personal significance around a program and attaching your heart to a mission. Programs need to change; a mission can last a lifetime. When leaders give their heart to a mission, they hold whatever they create with open hands. Why? Because the value of a program is linked to how well it helps accomplish the mission. And a good leader is always more passionate about the mission than about the program.”

6.)  Is “how” I am doing it accomplishing the mission of “Who” it is for?

God exists and has redeemed us for His glory/purpose.  However, we must be careful here that we do not confuse our purpose with God’s purpose.  God’s purpose is to be glorified and worshipped.  His purpose defines our purpose, not vice versa.  God does not exist for us, we exist for Him.  Our purpose is to worship the one true God and to lead others to do the same.  This effort is often times referred to as “mission”.    The mission simply put is to Make Disciples.  One author was once quoted as saying “one day the mission will cease to exist”.  When this age is over there will no longer be a mission but only worship of God in all His glory and splendor.

Is what  we are doing accomplishing the mission?

The following is what I use to determine this in my life (family, friends, vocation):

REACH–  Is what I am doing reaching people that do not know Jesus

BAPTISM–  Is what I am doing producing fruit of people placing faith in Jesus

ENCOURAGE–  Is what I am doing encouraging other believers to love Jesus more

EQUIP–  Is what I am doing equipping believers to be secure in their love for Jesus, enough to defend it.

MOBILIZE–  Is what I am doing motivating believers to externally do what matches their internal change.

LEADERS–  Is what I am doing producing leaders that are not dependent on me, but on Jesus, to the point they are making disciples on their own.

However, I must offer a warning…

Our natural nature/ tendencies will try to justify what we are doing and marginalize those areas that we are not.  If we are truly making disciples all areas must be present.

Let us all love the WHO over the how…


hospice church…DNR.

decaying church

Guessing the title of this blog may have caught your attention.  Being up front, this blog has nothing to do with churches at hospice sites…I know, sorry.  However, I do want to stimulate some thought about about what these terms represent and how they may apply to the church.

Over the past few years I have had some dear loved ones (grandparents specifically) pass away, but before they met Jesus they went to a place called “hospice”.  Hospice, if not familiar with it, is basically a service/ place offered for those who are dying that nothing more can really be done.  In essence, the individual is to weak, to sick, to old, etc. to sustain any type of cure.  The potential cure would kill the patient.  As a pastor, when you hear the words, “hospice has been contacted”, you know that there is nothing else to be done.

Another medical term usually combined with the above described condition is DNRDO NOT RESUSCITATE.  

DO NOT REVIVE or BRING BACK TO LIFE

This secondary label is given to patients not out of cruelty or lack of concern, but out of the understanding that nothing else can be done and by reviving, loved ones are only delaying the inevitable while dragging out suffering.

In a very sad, but very real sense, this describes the current state of many churches in North America.  Churches that at one time were alive, active, purposeful, loving…but through a turn of events, age, sickness, unhealthy lives… have entered into a “hospice” state.

Here is a stark truth…some churches need to die with a DNR being placed on them, as they are actually working against the reason why they exist.

BUT THERE IS HOPE…

Different than people (as we will all die as a result of the curse of sin)…

CHURCHES DON’T HAVE TO DIE!!!

If churches that find themselves with death knocking at the door will Repent, Be Faithful, Be Obedient, Be Prayerful and Be Lead by the Spirit there is hope for the future.

If there is one thing we know about God, it is His ability to take dead, lifeless people and bring them to life!  I believe He can do that with many churches as well.

Current Church Landscape…

As you may have seen by recent polls/ stats the established evangelical church (facilities) in North America is on the decline and has actually been doing so for quite sometime.  Even with current trends in church planting (new church starts),  the number of church closures is higher than that of starts.  (see following article for stats: http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html).  To some this is greatly discouraging, but to others there is a sense of opportunity to reach more w/ the gospel.

2013 resembles more of the spiritual landscape of the early CHURCH than ever before.

Here lies the bigger, more important question for churches that fall into this “hospice” category…

Will those churches (maybe your church) have REVIVE (revival) after it’s name OR will it have DNR?

How we understand what the church is and why it exists will determine the future.

BACK to the NUMBERS…

So what does all this mean?  Below are few questions/ thoughts I think we should ponder on.

1.)  What is the church?

The word church is highly misused and misunderstood in todays’ society from it’s original intent.  The church is made up of believers in Jesus Christ.  It is not an address, location, or building.  A church can consist of handful of believers to thousands that gather together.  However, the church is often represented by a building (church building) because that is where believers meet…no believers there, no church, just a building.  The church is a living, alive spiritual organism.  The church was established, is sustained, and is lead by Jesus (God Himself).  The church is referenced as the “bride” of Christ, indicating His deep interest and love for her.

2.)  Why does the church exist?

The church exist for the glory of God.  The church exist to worship God.  One of the primary ways in which the church accomplishes this purpose is by making disciples (followers of Jesus).  John Piper in his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, discusses how the church makes disciples through missions, however missions is not the purpose of church, WORSHIP is.

“Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more”

The church exist to worship and glorify God.

3.)  Why are we just now noticing the decline?

Osterich in the sand…

There are many different answers to this question, with fingers being pointed at many different sources/ people.  Here are a few that I think could be on that long, long list:

–  Leaders & members chose to see what we wanted

–  Admittance of decline is to admit something deeper is wrong

–  Pride/ Arrogance

–  Self sufficiency

–  Money is running out or already ran out

4.)  Is God’s plan failing?

You may struggle even asking this question and that is OK, but I know many that are wondering…

NO…I repeat, NO…God is NOT failing and neither is His plan.  God is self sustained and is self sufficient.  He does not need us to accomplish His plan, however He chooses to use us by the redemptive power of His Spirit.  That is the amazing, beautiful thing about the church!!!  I believe that God desires for His church to reach North America and the world at large with the gospel and to do so effectively.  God has not called us to a failing mission!!!  He is redeeming people every day, bring the dead to life!!!

So what if you are not seeing that happen in your life or in your church?  The answers to these few questions may give you some insight.  I constantly ask these questions to myself.:

–  Why do you exist?

–  Does how you live your life support your answer?

–  Why does your church exist?

–  Does how your church function (what it does, not what it says), support why it supposedly exists?

–  Are unbelievers being reached with the gospel through the efforts of your church? (in specific measurable ways)

–  Do I really on my strength and methods more than my obedience, humbleness, and admittance that I can do nothing apart from Christ?

–  Do I trust God to fulfill His plan?

5.)  Why are so many churches failing?

Wow…loaded question (can hear the ammo being loaded).  Short and sweet, churches often die because they elevate something above the glory of God and their primary function…to make disciples.  What churches choose to elevate, causing their demise is a long list, but here might be a few:

* members over those needing to be reached

* methods/ models.  (Andy Stanley explains this element well in his recent book, Deep and Wide, by saying that churches often value their “methods over the mission”.)  People like “how” they do church over “why”.

* control.  People like to control (or at least think so) that which is God’s

* people’s opinion over God’s guidance outlined in Scripture

6.)  The cons to churches closing…

Before I lay out a few thoughts here, let me preface this section by saying I understand some churches close because of uncontrollable circumstances (the main business leaves town, churches move to different facilities, etc), but for our discussions sake I am referencing those places that didn’t have to die.

When a church closes it’s doors it is a sad day.  A place once filled with worship, life change, intentionality ceases to exist.  Vacant churches are reminders and discouragement for many believers.  Rotting churches are fuel for those that are antagonistic towards Christianity and the gospel.  These empty shells are a harsh reminder of the reality that when God’s people waiver from Him and His heart they cease to be a light house in a community.  Closed churches were poor representations of Christ.

7.)  The pros to churches closing…

When unhealthy churches close vacant real estate is opened for healthy churches to start at that location.  Also, when a church closes it’s doors an incorrect representation of what the church should be is removed, actually being better for a community.  That’s right, you read correctly…a church that does not function as Jesus intended it to can actually be more a detriment/ harm to it’s surrounding neighbors than a help.  In addition, when a church closes an opportunity for “church mergers” exist.  A church merger is when a healthy purposeful church absorbs a dying church under it’s structure and leadership…the one ceases to exist while the other expands it’s ministries/ reach.

Wrap it up…

Some of what I have said, may sound harsh, hard to swallow, and even mean…but it’s reality.  Churches through out the ages have come and gone, many of which disappearing because they forgot why they existed and ultimately because they left their “first love” (Revelation, Ephesus).

What we have to answer by our visions, our models, our systems and our actions is whether we will be churches that have titles/ labels after our names saying:

HOSPICE CHURCH, DNR

OR

REVIVED CHURCH, FOR THE GLORY OF GOD.


my 7 year olds God questions…

DSC_5252-WM

The other day I was enjoying morning breakfast w/ my family, but especially w/ my son Gabriel.  My son and I speak often of God, Jesus, church, the world around us, and of course all the stuff in between.  If there is one thing I love about my son, it is how his mind works and that he is always thinking about something…even if it appears by his crazy behavior there is nothing going on upstairs.

I have always encouraged my kids to be questioners, to ask “why”, to look for answers.  This is not always easy as a parent because of course they ask, probe, and question you ultimately…of course always done so with respect (…yea right…)

Before I move on and talk about his question I think there is a good point to be made here about faith.  Some live under a fear that it is wrong or unacceptable for us to question God…not so much His authority, but more so to ask “why” things are a certain way or happen the way they do.  Some would have us believe that if we question it indicates doubt. However, I disagree.  I believe that God has created us in His image and because of that we are naturally inclined to be questioners and seekers of the truth.  Some of the deepest areas of my faith development stem from asking questions.  By doing so, and many times no one having the answers, it propelled me to dig deeper, and deeper…and you guessed it deeper.

Back to breakfast.

So, here were my sons question(s) for the morning:

Why did God create Lucifer when He knew he would rebel?

Why did God create Adam and Eve when He knew they would sin?

(It’s ok for us to admit we have the same questions…)

Of course, it was fairly early and I was still waiting for the coffee to kick in…so I can say my response was slow at best. However, I think there are a few things to point out as a parent and as people in general, that we can all be reminded off, which were my answers to my son.

Here we go:

1.)  We are not God…

God has the ability to understand, foresee, plan, love, etc. in ways that are beyond us.

God is infinite, I am finite.

God is sovereign, I am subject.

God is for the glory of Himself, I am created for His glory

2.)  God loves us…

Because of God’s choice to love, show mercy & grace, & provide faith to believe in Him we escape the consequence of sin.  In an amazing way God can conquer and overcome our rebellion by providing resolution/ rescue  by offering Himself in our place.

3.)  Angels are not humans…

God created angels as heavenly host servant beings.  He did not create them like man.  Man was created in the image of God, being God’s most prized/ elevated creation.  Man can repent and experience restoration, angels can not.  Also, angels do not become humans and mankind does not become angels (even though popular modern day spiritual thinking would like to think so)

4.)  Evil existed pre-mankind…

The rebellion of Lucifer (and his followers) occurred before the fall/ sin of Adam and Eve.  There is debate of wether or not evil and sin can be equated as the same, especially dealing w/ angelic beings vs. the human race.  What we know is that the evil of angels was not what contaminated the human race.  Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey God is what set sin into motion.  Obviously, the  evil and rebelliousness of Satan is what offered the temptation to Eve in the Garden of Eden, but evil/ temptation in itself does not equate to sin.  Evil temptation acted upon is what is ungodly.

5.) (possibly the most important)  I don’t know…but I TRUST…

That’s right, you read correctly…”I don’t know” was one of my answers to my son.  It’s ok for him to realize and understand that even his father (me) is not Jesus, has sin, and yes…is limited.  After giving all of the above partial answers, ultimately I had to tell him the truth, that is I don’t completely understand all the ways, ins and outs, complete mind of God.  I hope to ask God many questions when I meet Him face to face, however I am guessing a lot of my questions may not matter then, we shall see.

It is important for our kids to know that we can trust what do not fully understand.

You may find the urge to argue with that truth, however if you will pause and be humble for a moment, much of the natural/ scientific/ engineering realm you do not understand.  No man understands to the fullest every subject matter.  If I can admit this about the created order then I can most definitely do so with the heavenly order.

I want my son to know and see that his dad trust Jesus, because He has never failed Him and never fail.  I do not want him to believe in Jesus/ God because he can answer all the questions.

We run a grave danger of missing our creator when our limitedness trumps His limitless…and mystery.

Until his next question, we will love Jesus, talk often about Him, follow Him and trust that He is in control even when we can’t understand.


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