Trust

577462_10200444369724239_1728339791_nBack on June 23, our good friend Sandra Kyung Lee entered into the presence of her Savior after a heroic battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. At her service at SeaCoast Grace Church, I shared that while we were trying to be attentive to Sandra’s needs, God did something within us that was truly remarkable…He used Sandra to bring us all closer to Jesus and to help us to experience the incarnation of “God with us”, through this wonderful thing called church.

One of the ways God worked through Sandra, was as this caring community that was serving the Lee family began to grow, the women of our church started a 90 Day reading plan and assigned various women to one another for prayer and reading accountability. The group designed the plan so that it would be accessible to Sandra, as her health began to fail her. So they decided that they would text or email one another. This worked for Sandra, as she was a rock star on the iPhone, relentlessly texting away with her left thumb.  From her home she could text, email and respond to the gals in the group as well as stay connected in community, especially as her life began shrinking around her. She, along with a few others, would also send out a Monday devotion. It became this great thing that ultimately over 100 women were committed to this organic challenge and to keeping each other accountable.

At the service, one of the gals from this group shared a devotional that Sandra wrote on Monday, October 15th, 2012. It gives a glimpse into the struggle of ALS, but it also offers hope and inspires me to have courageous faith as Sandra did. So today, I thought I would share it with you.

Trust

lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:20, 21 NKJV

The past several weeks have been difficult. My left arm and hand is getting weaker. I’ve experienced with other body parts this feeling before it became useless. If I lose my left arm and hand, it’ll mean I won’t be able to feed myself, nor write on my iPhone to communicate. I’ve struggled with anger these few weeks. I didn’t know where it was coming from. Now I realize the anger was from just feeling utter helplessness and having no control over the matter. I do carry hope of miracle. But dealing with this day-to-day, the anger snuck in without even me realizing it.

I confess that I was worried over what’ll happen if I lost this arm as well. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body  (Matthew 6:20, 21, 25 NKJV).

God has demonstrated how faithful He is to us. His timing is impeccable. I have tons of stories in our lives as well as from others of how God has provided in the past. I must not forget and remember that God is trustworthy. When we forget how God parted the red seas in our lives, we may die without ever seeing the promise land.

I may be in the desert struggling to survive but if we ask God for manna, he will give us just what we need for the day. Let tomorrow take care of itself. Today, I will trust my Father who provides for me perfectly. Thank you Father!

– Sandra Kyung Lee

Just as Sandra completed her seventh LA Marathon on March 17th of this year to the cheers of those at the finish line, she also finished her race on this earth surrounded by those she loved and was welcomed into the arms of Jesus who I am certain said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Small Groups, Big Impact

Small-Groups-Fall-11There is an old adage, “If you grow people, the people will grow the business.” I have been thinking a lot about that lately because I think we focus way too much energy on church growth. The bottom line is that it’s not about growing a big church. It’s about growing big people–people who serve sacrificially, give generously, dream ridiculously, and love gracefully.

My fundamental task as the Groups Pastor at Adventure Church is to achieve smallness and connection within a large organization. And in my opinion, the way to grow larger is to grow smaller via small groups. I honestly don’t think God will grow us beyond our ability to disciple people. If small groups are our primary context for discipleship, then the number of small groups we have will determine our growth potential as a church. It’s a stewardship issue.

So how are you growing the members of your church and helping them to become world-changers? Jesus invested in the few for the sake of the multitudes and I think we would be wise to follow his example. By spending less time thinking about the next big program, we’ll free up the time we need to invest ourselves in the lives of the men and women of our church, who in turn can change the world.

Head Scratching CCM Moment

PFR-12-in-2012-Opening-Concert-211If you know me, you know I am huge fan of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)! I have been listening to the CCM genre since 1980 and have a huge library of discs that span the decades. In addition, I was a disc-jockey at KGFT FM in Santa Barbara during college, so I have some pretty rare 45’s and songs. However, in all my years listening to CCM, I have never heard this song from PFR, nor have I seen the video, until yesterday.

The song is so ridiculous and the video so funny, I just had to share. The first two minutes of the song are essentially a sweet music video version of Marley & Me. The bands sings a sentimental ode to a beloved golden retriever named Goldie, as viewers watch clips from home video of the friendly pooch playing fetch, running with the family and frolicking on the beach. Then, jarringly, at the 2:13 mark things take a dark turn as the band sings the bridge, informing the listener that Goldie may have in fact met an untimely demise, and something far more sinister is afoot: We are confident that this incident / Was not an accident / As per our investigation.

Well, what the heck happened to Goldie? Are they suggesting Goldie was murdered?! Disturbingly, there is a brief shot at 3:05 that appears to show the band members digging a shallow grave for Goldie! The video then mysteriously returns to its solemn tone as if nothing weird just happened. The world may never know what truly transpired on Goldie’s last day.

I can’t believe that this song ever got published. Let alone, that there was a video made for it.

Faith is Not a Feeling

by-faithIn Hebrews 11:1 we are told that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Then after giving us a wonderful definition of faith, the author of Hebrews goes on to give us a list of men and women who were commended for their faith in remainder of the chapter. These people where simply men and women who took God at His word and obeyed His command.

For example, we are told that God asked Noah to build an ark because He was going to bring a massive flood. Noah took God at His word and built the ark (v5). God told Abraham to go out to a place that he would receive as an inheritance. Abraham took God at His word, left his familiar surroundings, and he went (v.6). God indicated to Sarah, who was long past the age of childbearing, that she would conceive a son. The Scripture states: “She considered Him faithful who had promised.” She took God at His word. Regardless of circumstances, despite arguments of logic and reason, and regardless of how he or she felt, each person mentioned in Hebrews 11 believed God and His word and chose to be obedient despite of their feelings.

Feelings are neither right or wrong, but as Christian’s we do not depend upon feelings or emotions, but we place our faith (trust) in fact — the trustworthiness of God and the promises of His Word. You see feelings are valid, but not always trustworthy. However, God’s Word is. Therefore, God’s Word is:

  • truer than anything I feel
  • truer than anything I experience
  • truer than any circumstance I will ever face
  • truer than anything in the world

Why? Because heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will not. This means that no matter how I feel or what I experience, I can choose to depend on the truth of God’s Word and his faithful promises. You see, you and I can either grow accustomed to listening to our feelings, thoughts, and circumstances, letting them control us, or we can be in the habit of taking God at His word despite our feelings and life experiences. We need to choose with our wills to believe that His Word is truer than our feelings.

The promise of God’s Word, not our feelings, is our final authority. Therefore the Christian needs to live by faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God Himself and His Word.

Soul Care

imagesThe most common response I hear to the greeting, “How are you?” is “Busy.” I hardly ever hear someone say they’re enjoying a “peaceful, joy-filled day.” I know people don’t talk like that, but you get the idea.

As leaders, it’s imperative that we practice what we preach, specifically when it comes to the topic of margin. I don’t think there is any way we can talk with integrity about “the abundant life” Christ offers, if we haven’t come to grips with this issue ourselves. I know many pastors who are stressed out and overloaded, and I wonder…why? After all, doesn’t Jesus say, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”? Is it possible that we are no longer taking the correct yoke—Christ’s yoke—on ourselves? Or is it possible that we have bought into a worldly idea that puts the highest value on more, bigger, and better, rather than faithfulness, obedience, and love? When my surrender is complete and Christ’s yoke is accepted, my soul will find rest.

At its core, margin is about trusting God and loving others. By creating margin in our lives, we allow our body and soul to have the internal resources to love God and love others. I suspect the people who passed the wounded man on the road had no margin, while the Samaritan who stopped to help him did. Jesus seemed to think he had the right idea.

That leads to a question: How would the people around you describe you? A great leader? A good teacher? A man or woman of faith? Or would they boil it down to say: He/she is really loving?

Creating Margin

be_still_and_know_that_i_am_god1How often have you been asked the question, “Are you staying busy?” If you’re like me, I imagine you’ve been asked that question a lot, as if “staying busy” is the ultimate objective in life. However, this is the world we live in. A world that demands us to add more detail to our lives. We live for events we can post on Facebook and keep ourselves busy as a badge of honor and significance. And I admit, I fall prey to cultural demands just as much as anyone else. However, lately I have been asking myself, how much is enough, knowing that we can only handle so many details in life before we exceed our threshold and find ourselves on overload.

To understand overload we must first understand our own limits. Physical limits are measurable, we only have so many hours in the day. We are only one person and can’t be in more than one place at a time. So we need to understand our own limitations. Humans are not infinite. We have limits to our ability–and we must recognize them and be at peace with them. God created us to live within certain limits for our own well-being. Therefore, overloading occurs when the requirements upon us exceed that which we are able to bear, resulting in disorganization or frustration.

In the past, margin was a normal part of people’s lives. By default, rather than by choice, people lived slower, more deliberate lives. They had time to help a neighbor and attend social events. Yet even if we agree that margin is good, for many today it seems like a luxury. There is so much to do, so much to see, etc. And if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves exhausted and burned out. In fact, in our technological word, overload happens naturally, but creating margin takes work.

So today, I find myself thinking of ways to create a little more margin in my life. And if we find our emotional energy is gone, how do we get it back? Here are ten options that I have seen work:

1. Cultivate social supports – Some people fill us, others drain us. Therefore we need to intentionally develop relationships that nurture us, with people who understand us and care about us.

2. Get a pet – Pets are capable of bonding, loyal and often affectionate—just the kind of things that increase our emotional reserves.

3. Reconcile relationships – Broken relationships are huge emotional drains. Resolving the tension helps to fill our tanks.

4. Serve others – A University of Michigan study found that those who performed regular volunteer work showed dramatically increased life expectancy, as well as experienced more joy.

5. Rest – “Be still and know that I am God!” Have you tried this one recently? If not, try to set aside time regularly for quiet and rest, even if it’s just a few minutes per day.

6. Laugh – Laughter is good for the soul. Read Proverbs 17:22.

7. Cry – Allow yourself to release the grief, the pain or sorrow. Tears can release the tension and heal the soul.

8. Create appropriate boundaries –  We need to be able to say “no” at times, or other people’s demands will overwhelm us.

9. Give thanks – A lot of negative things go away in our life when we are thankful.

10. Worship – Make sure you’re taking regular time to be with Jesus and worship Him. It puts life into great perspective.

The list could go on! What have you found to be helpful in creating margin and refueling in your life?

Approaching God With Confidence

a-place2wrshpIt seems almost daily that I am hearing of great hurt in the lives of those around me. Families on the brink of divorce, battles with cancer, loss of loved ones…the list goes on and the occurrences seem to be on the increase. For those struggling, each prayer request is unique…seeking relief from the pain, anger at the loss, crying out for peace in the turmoil, understanding from the trouble, strength in the fear and uncertainty. Yet for those that know the Lord, despite the affliction, many are comforted by the One on the Throne. Although we all have our own stress and strain, perhaps not as deep as others, we are assured that our requests can be made to God and that we can seek refuge in the One who created and knows us. He knows both our strengths and weaknesses and yet he still invites us to come boldly to the throne.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NIV

Another translation says “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16 NLT

Isn’t that great news! That we can come boldly to the throne with confidence, remembering who we are approaching, the Creator, the Alpha and Omega, the Omniscient God. He knows our needs and loves us so much that he offers us his mercy and grace.

I often can’t even begin to understand the suffering of those around me. Nor can I imagine enduring my own stress and strain without my Savior, but I am confident in the One on the Throne and I know that I can seek him with confidence in my time of need. I am comforted in the fact that I can boldly call upon him in prayer lifting up those who need additional comfort and support.  I can seek Him with sureness, knowing that he hears each request, sees each tear and feels each heartache. It is with this assurance that I know I will receive his mercy and grace. What a blessed assurance!

He Will Reign

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” – Revelation 11:15, NIV

imagesI love this verse, from which Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus originates, because of the definitive message that God is in charge and a day is coming where we will be united with all the saints in a glorious celebration of eternal life. And I look forward to the day when we all live in the real life Hallelujah Chorus. Where pain, sorrow and death are no more.

In these verses, we read that God has won the battle over evil and when our struggles will be over. In the meantime we have our work before us. To know what that is, we have to stay connected through worship, prayer, Bible reading and in community.

For the day is coming and the time is short. God’s kingdom is at hand…now is not the time to stop and wait. Now is the time to press on and show our joy and rejoicing with all those we meet, so that all will hear of the name of Jesus.

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