Category Archives: Ministry

What Does God Want from Me?

A lot of people talk about doing the will of God. But to do that, we must know what He truly wants. God could have made this easy on us by writing in the sky, sending angels to answer all of our questions or making the Bible more like a manual or Life for Dummies book. But He didn’t do any of those things. Why is this hearing from God thing so tough? Some people talk as if everything is clear. Others honestly admit that they listen for God and all they hear is the sound of crickets. 

If there are so many paths in front of us, why doesn’t God simply remove the distractions? The good Lord could remove all room for doubt. But then would we really ever have faith or free will?

When many people think about the will of God, they automatically gravitate toward what they are supposed to do for God. But honestly, if God is really God, He doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. His plan does include human involvement. But that isn’t out of necessity. It must be for some other reason.

Talking with a high schooler today, I was inspired to write this post. Too often we think of God’s will as a place, action or destination. But what if it is something bigger and yet more basic? What if our thinking about this question is all wrong?

The Bible says we are to take up our cross daily, which seems to suggest that sacrifice is required to do God’s will. But the Old Testament also states that “obedience is better than sacrifice.” The Apostle Paul encouraged believers to become mature in their faith and the fruit of the Spirit. And yet, Jesus said that we could not even enter the Kingdom of God unless we have the faith of a little child. Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make more disciples, which suggests the focus of our mission should be about other people. But Jesus also said that we can do nothing apart from His power and life. So which mission is primary to know and love God or to share the Gospel, make disciples and extend His Kingdom on the earth?

The problem is that we tend to look at this as an either or situation. And in reality, outreach flows from our personal walk with God. As I have pondered this question, I believe the true mission for every Christian is the prayer that David prayed in Psalms 27:4, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

The primary mission of a Christian is to know and love God. It all starts with our personal relationship with Jesus. He is the living water as Scripture explains. Just as we need water to sustain life, we must have a relationship with God to live in the way as the Creator intended. This involves a wide variety of experiences and actions, such as reading and following sacred Scripture, prayer, obedience to the Word of God, thanksgiving, recognition of God’s power and presence in daily life, sacraments, spiritual gifts and miracles, confessions of faith, sharing the Gospel, etc.

And in order to have living water that remains alive and pure, it must have an outlet. Otherwise, we become like a stagnant pool where disease and bacteria can grow. That is why part of the Christian mission is to share the love and truth that God has deposited into our lives.

The Lord has given us a picture of this reality in the Dead Sea, which has no outlet. It is one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet because it is located at such a low point. Everything flows downhill and mineral deposits collect killing aquatic life. If you simply receive from God and do not give it away, you will become full and not be able to receive any more. And what had previously been living water can become stagnant, less useful and a breading pool for disease. This picture demonstrates the dual nature of God’s ultimate purpose for humanity. It can be seen in the words of Jesus. He summed up the law and the prophet by saying, “He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).

How you go about doing that is what makes you unique. The key is realizing that God’s will for your life is more about the journey you take with God and the person you become along the way than what you do for God or which path you choose to take.

LA Infusion 2013 Top Ten

(Ok, it was just too good for only 10, so top 15)

1.) Getting to know my small group. Seven incredible young men of God who are ready to rock the world for Jesus!

2.) Honest conversations with the Infusion staff about life and God, especially Matt Perez, Daniel Chae, Hannah Prothero, John Ribeiro, Johnny Gillespie, Nick Mason, Chip Messick and others.   

3.) Showing the love of Jesus to people on the streets of Hollywood. Meeting Logan and Jon on the street and praying with them. Logan and I are still in conversation via text message.

4.) Let’s Go Down to the Water – inspiring song by Jake Mason about the complete forgiveness of God for ALL of my sin.

5.) Feast at Bronnie Lee’s house with Infusion staff. The Lee family rocks!

6.) Hearing from God as He opened up 1 John 2:3-6 to me following the first teaching by Joy Dawson. Knowing Jesus changes everything. See my blog post.

7.) Watching  Jake and Katherine lead the Infusion team.

8.) Seeing at least more than 80 young people realize that God loves them and does speak to them. That’s priceless.  

9.) Brian Brennt’s Love Revolution teaching on Wednesday in Hollywood. We are family!

10.) Talking with Infusioners about their future and identity in Christ.

11.) Powerful prayer encounters with various Infusion students and staff.

12.) Working in the kitchen with Teresa Kwon, Nicole Kwon, Matt Perez and John Romaine.

13.) Korean style prayer with the student leaders from GMI. These young people know how to pray with passion and love.

14.) Playing RAVE! Ball and getting three outs in the T-ball game during game night.

15.) Conversation with Johnny Gillespie about modeling Jesus’ radical love in marriage.

Five Major Challenges Facing Churches Today

While the universal Church of Christ is as strong as ever, many local churches in the United States are struggling. Mainstream denominations are in decline. Up to 48% of pastors experience burnout or depression so severe that they decide to leave vocational ministry, according to Beliefnet.com. Localities are rocked by scandals at churches. Longstanding congregations split over leadership and theological differences. It can be difficult to lead a local church. And many top pastors feel isolated or insecure in their positions.

In our fast-paced world, many Christians struggle to figure out what it means to follow Christ and impact the world in their current culture. I know that I have had my own challenges with discovering this path for my life. A lot of people talk about discipleship. But actually shepherding people in authentic discipleship to Christ can be difficult.

Steve Saccone in Protege: Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders, wrote, “Four critical things that church leaders continually struggle with are burnout, moral failures, irrelevance to the surrounding culture and division within.” These are certainly four crucial areas of concern in local churches and the reason why many fall apart.

But I think this book missed one of the biggest weaknesses facing churches today. And that is appearing to be successful by putting on attractive programs and services while failing to accomplish the main mission of preaching the Gospel, which is to make disciples of all nations. Worse than having no mission is for a church to have the wrong mission. The reason is that churches with no mission with die a slow death. They will not really impact the future discussion of what it means to lead a local church. But a church with the wrong mission may grow and attract a lot of people while the real aim of Christianity is ignored. Spending lots of time “doing good” can be a distraction and lead to a great delusion if churches are not oriented around the truth of the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit and the mission that Christ gave His Church.

Discipleship first requires evangelism. And evangelism usually starts with meeting people’s needs, relating to the unbeliever and sharing the good news of Christ. But the focus should not be on just meeting physical needs or attracting large crowds of people. Our good works must be accompanied by the Gospel or else we have withheld the greatest gift we have to offer.

Are you busy doing good but failing to do what is best? Are you really on mission and in alignment with God’s command to the Church? Christian leaders need to worry more about succeeding in what doesn’t matter than failing in what the world values and is less than God’s ultimate mission for the Church.

Finishing Strong! – A Tribute to Mike Pohlman

When I think of my friend, Mike Pohlman, the one thing that I am sad about is that I didn’t get to spend more time with him. I wish I had gotten to know Mike sooner. I wish Mike had lived much longer than his death early this morning.

A beautiful soul in God’s kingdom, Mike was a rock for his family. His big bass voice was a calming influence to those who knew him. If you met Mike, it was hard not to like him. Even on his death bed, Mike remained hopeful, trusting in the faithfulness of God. A few days before his death, I visited Mike. I went to encourage him, but I left the one encouraged. I had gone to bless him, but Mike was the one blessing me.

What a beautiful life! It doesn’t really matter how we start life. Even what takes place in the middle is inconsequential if we end strong. How we finish is everything, and Mike ran the race with vigor to the end. I am reminded of the verse that says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Mike, buddy, you finished strong and your life is a testimony to us all.

I wrote the following poem tonight as a tribute to my friend.

What A Beautiful Life!
To the end, you taught us all how to live well.
A perfect pitch, a proper tone, a new song in the midst of pain.
While others fret, you never worried.
You gently said, “God is in control.”

To the end, you never gave up hope.
Whether in life or death, you resolved to glorify Christ.
A steady rock for those who knew you,
your pitch pipe will be missed,
it helped keep the rest of us in tune.

To the end, you sprinted toward the finish line.
While others may have seen your sickly body as a sign of weakness,
those who know you saw a spirit that never lost its purpose and strength.
Full of vigor and a countenance of praise,
you followed the example of Jesus who was no stranger to sorrow.

To the end, you encouraged those who came to cheer you up.
Imparting one last moment, word or gift,
you made the most of your final days.
While others asked hard questions,
you simply believed knowing that one day you would receive a better resurrection.

To the end, oh, what a beautiful life!
I will never forget you — Mike Pohlman.
How I wish that I had known you sooner and longer.
Dear friend, my solace is that you are in a better place.
You are whole again, singing in a choir beyond compare. Amen!

Compassion for the Lost – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 1

Mark 6:34 (NIV)
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Prayer

Jesus, May I see people with Your eyes of compassion, not with a judgmental attitude. Erase the emotional distance between me and those You have called me to love. May a passion burn in my heart to see the lost come to saving knowledge of You.

May I never be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers in need. In the midst of the crowd, may I identify the individuals that I am destined to connect with in order to share what You alone can do. There are many who are lost and need direction to the truth. The lost go about life blind to the reality of their need for You. They do not recognize the loving arm You extend to them. They have followed blind guides and have listened to the wrong voices.

As I share the Good News, may I never become proud. I am what I am by Your grace. In humility and compassion, may I share Your truth out of a sincere heart of love. May everything I share be said in love with genuine concern for those who don’t know You.

Amen!

Divide and Conquer

Satan’s playbook is fairly simple. He divides and conquers. This includes churches, cities, races, people groups, families, God and man, and the generations.

Over the last year, I have become increasingly convinced that a key to revival in this country is connecting the generations to appreciate, pour into and learn from each other. Churches divide people into age and interest groups in a move to appeal to consumerist tendencies. Give people what they want, and then they will come back. But what if what we want is not the thing we really need?

Now, I am all for youth groups, seniors groups, MOPS, the choir and so on. But there need to be more, intentional efforts to connect these various groups. I know what you are thinking. Yeah, we do that every Sunday. It is called a church service. But realistically, it is hard to connect on a personal level with others at church service.

I believe churches that are intentional about connecting the generations will see greater moves of the Spirit.

Craig Groeschel, lead pastor of LifeChurch.tv, spoke at last year’s Catalyst Conference on this topic. Groeschel, said, “Generational division is bad although generational tension can be a good thing.”

He admonished the audience, “Don’t resent, fear or judge the next generation. But pour into the next generation. Let the young folks lead. They are different and supposed to be that way. Don’t get hung up on style.”

In reality, many older folks in our churches eel insecure around teenagers and young adults. Groeschel suggested, “Recognize this tension and manage it by letting go of it… You can be uncool all day long. The key is to be real.”

I believe that there will be an exchange of grace that will annoy the “hell” out of our enemy if we realize what the older can give to the younger and visa versa.

Groeschel encouraged younger folks to honor those older than us publicly because honor publicly leads to influence and respect privately. He explained, “When we truly honor those authorities that God has placed in our lives, we honor God.”

From the Greatest Generation to the Boomers and the Xers to the Millennials, we all can learn from each other. But this doesn’t happen by accident. We have to start somewhere. I think the best place to start is to give those different from you a chance. Don’t just think they are an old geezer or a young punk. Consider this advice offered by Groeschel, “Honor believes the best. Dishonor thinks the worst.”

Is It Cool to Be Hip These Days?

Brett McCracken’s recently released a book titled Hipster Christianity: Where Church and Cool Collide. It details the stories and pitfalls of attempts to be relevant to the 20 and 30 year olds who have left church after adolescence not to return.

McCracken recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that ‘cool Christianity’ is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.”

McCracken added, “If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.”

I agree with McCracken that attempts to play the hip game will always come up short for churches because they can’t out hype Hollywood or the latest must-listen-to band. And that shouldn’t be the goal. Being different in a good way is what will make a difference.

Young people want relevant, connected and authentic expressions of worship and journeying through life together. Attempts to market Jesus will only backfire. If you remember Jesus wasn’t big into marketing. He would do great miracles and then tell the recipient not to tell anyone. At the end of the day, it really comes down to helping young people feel connected to a story bigger than themselves that still seems relevant to the world in which they live.

I think that any time we set out to copy what others have done in a church setting we have to be careful. There is nothing wrong with learning from others. But you have to first know who you are as a local body of Christ and what makes you unique. A church can’t steal the identity of another congregation and expect it to work.

In the end, a local church has to first know itself in relationship to Christ before it can truly benchmark from others. If you try to benchmark first, you will only end up copying someone else’s dream.

Here are two interesting articles on the book and topic of Hipster Christianity.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111704575355311122648100.html

http://www.religiondispatches.org/books/atheologies/3142/cooler_than_thou%3A_will_hipsters_wreck_christianity/