Friday, December 26, 2008

The Great Door

1 Corinthians 16:5-9
After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

These words have jumped off the page and have hit me square in the face.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth about coming to see them and staying a while. His destination is Corinth; however the Lord is clearly opening a "great door" in Ephesus for him now. He explains to them that if God permits he will be with them, but for now God has opened a great door to do effective work.

For years I have thought of "destiny" as the arrival part of life. I think we all have asked God, "what is my destiny in life", or "God show me my destiny you have for me." But I see in this scripture that Paul has learned something that we may not recognize; that there is a vast difference between "destiny" and "destination."

Here is the key insight: Destiny is the journey getting to your destination.

Think about yourself when you were a kid, or maybe even your own kids, on the way to grandma's house. Every 15 or 30 minutes that famous question pops up, "are we there yet?"
Why do they (we) do this? Because they (we're) so focused on the destination that they (we) forget how to enjoy the journey.

I'm looking forward to sharing some insights on this subject starting in 2009.
God has opened my eyes to a great door before me.
A door of destiny that He has opened for effective work.

God Bless and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Change of Plans

When I'm not traveling and speaking, or doing graphic design work for churches, I somehow find the time (that meaning I have plenty of time..ha) to exercises my creative hobby and do some video contest projects.
Last week I was contacted by Circuit City to let me know I'm a top 10 finalist and that voting would start next week and go until the middle of January.
Circuit City just called and said they are changing the voting period for their contest, which means, VOTING STARTS NOW (Monday, Dec.15th) and ends Sunday, Dec. 21st!!!

If you can send any votes and voters my way at it would be awesome.
You can vote once a day, everyday till the contest ends this Sunday....and as always, THANK YOU! so much for the support!!!
Merry Christmas,

Friday, December 12, 2008

Something Recognizable

Tonight we are having our second annual "Christmas Progressive Dinner" with our small group.
Last year it so much fun, I can't wait till tonight. I'm so looking forward to it.
A few days ago I told Lora that I felt like--before we exchange gifts--I would like to lead us all in taking communion together.
I'd like to share right now what I plan on sharing tonight.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
(Matthew 26:26-28 NKJV)

We see in this scripture a habit that Jesus consistently practiced. Whenever Jesus meet with people and ate He would take, bless, break and give the food.
This practice is all throughout scripture. It's in both accounts of Matthew and Mark with the "Lord's Supper", as well as in all accounts of Jesus feeding the 5000 and again with the 4000.
With that in mind, looking at Luke 24:13-49

I'll paraphrase: After the crucifixion of Jesus, two of His followers are walking to Emmaus. Jesus meets up with them and they did not recognize Him (verse 15) they spend the entire evening talking about what just happened and how depressed they are. (verse 19) Again they don't know it's Jesus.
Jesus even talks to them about prophecy and all the things that had to happen. (verse 25)
Finally, it's late and the two were going to stop for the night, but Jesus was going to head on. (verse 28) They convinced Jesus to stay over with them and eat. Verses 30 and 31 says, "Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight."

Something recognizable happened.

Jesus is in the taking, blessing, breaking and giving business.
It's what He's known for.
It's what He does.
It's what He still does.

As followers of Christ we say "Yes, Lord! Take my life, it's yours." then we look and actively expect blessings, but we get a little hesitant about the breaking part. The truth is the breaking part is hard. None of us want that. It's why it's called "breaking."
But without the breaking part in our lives there can't be the giving away.
Isn't it amazing that it was the action that opened their eyes and not the countless scriptures and stories? I believe, much like this story, we should be known by our recognizable actions like Jesus was.

This process in our lives is much like a well-washed head of hair. "Wet, soap, lather, rinse...REPEAT.
I have grown up hearing the principle, "what God blesses you with, He breaks you with."
Honestly, I'm at a point in my life where I'm discovering it to be true. Hard truth, but liberating.

Tonight as we take communion--and it the next time you partake--ponder the process in your life. Where are you at in these stages? Let this be your prayer:

Lord, as a follower of you, I truly want you to take my life and use me.
I thank you and joyfully receive the blessings you've given me.
Lord, with those blessings, what would you have me to do?
I pray that as I can stay broken to the things that break your heart.
Thank you for breaking me with Your loving mercy and grace.
Let my life and all I have be given to others.
Lord, repeat often.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Right Fit

I've recently been doing some personal research behind the mentalities of Small Groups.

This is partly due to the fact that it has been the small group that Lora and I lead that has sustained us throughout this difficult time in our lives.
I've always been a small group guy. I grew up with them in my home church in Arkansas.
I started them at the church where we first youth pastored.
I ran ahead of them at the church where we most recently youth pastored.
It was our small group at Harvest Time that took care of us when our daughter tried to come three months early. It's been our small group here in Alabama that has held us up and given us strength.

I've come to understand and accept that there is no one way to do small groups and with that I'd like to share the three structures in which small groups can operate . This is not an issue of "right or wrong" way to do small groups. It's an issue to "pick the structure that's right for your church."

Church with Small Groups
Church of Small Groups
Church is Small Groups

Church with Small Groups
The two churches where I served as youth pastor had the "church with small groups" structure. Small groups were in every part of the church. Special interest small groups. Youth group had small groups, ladies' and men's ministries were small groups. Doesn't sound too different from most of our understanding of small groups other than the one major factor that separates this group from the rest. Small groups are just another ministry the church has to offer. In other words, choir was a small group, too. So was every Sunday school class, even the elders. Children's ministry workers, and so on. Church life happens and small groups happen with it.

Church of Small Groups
The church I grew up mostly used this format. The major difference between this structure and the previous one is that a church of small groups is just that: they are a community of small groups that make up the bigger church. In other words, there is more of a specific process in place to get people to a final destination. Taking care of each other, building accountability, fostering spiritual growth happens in a small group. The focus is for everyone be in this type of atmosphere of community and then together make up the total church experience. The larger church is simply a community of small groups together.

Church is Small Groups
This past weekend I spoke at a church that is a "Cell Church." "Church" happens in the small groups because the small groups are the church. Everything happens in the small groups: pastoring, accountability, caring, follow-up, evangelism, serving, communion, etc. The purpose is to get everyone in a small group to build and create more small groups with that focus. A once-a-week combined worship service is held to bring everyone together to ensure all are on the same page for what's about to be launched in the upcoming week in small groups. That once-a-week service exists for the small groups as opposed to the first two structures where the small groups exists for the service.

Again, there is no wrong way to do those small groups in your church. The point is to choose what structure you as a church leader like and want and make it yours for your church. For me, I like one structure over the other two, so it goes to say I know what I like and don't like.
And knowing that now will help me to go far in the next step in life. Beforehand I didn't know why I was frustrated or confused. It was much like putting a square peg in a round hole.

Nothing wrong with the hole.
Nothing wrong with the peg.
Just not the right fit.