Archives For Faith

I was speaking with some friends last night and the subject of church came up and I had an opportunity to share about a paradigm shift I’ve made over the past few years that has revolutionized some real key aspects of being a Christian.

The first thing is that I believe God has given ME a ministry – to my wife, my kids, my neighborhood, my workplace, my church, etc. He desires me to live out my faith both with Him and the world around me daily – with passion, integrity and complete abandon.

Secondly, He’s given me a proper perspective on the role of my local church in that ministry. In the past, I felt like I was part of the ministry of my church – one small part of a much larger effort. This meant that I felt obligated to make sure I was operating within organizational parameters. From the curriculum I was taking my small group through, to the volunteer role I was playing on Sunday morning, to the various service activities I put my hand to – all of it was the ministry of the church and I was there to help fulfill it as I could.

That’s not how things are today. Remember, God has given me a ministry and is holding me responsible for it. It is personalized to me and takes into account who I am: my strengths, weaknesses, personality, experiences and the specific skills and talents He chose to endow me with. As such, the local church has become a resource to my ministry. Let me say that again – the local church is a resource to MY ministry; not the other way around.

This has produced a confidence of responsibility that frees me up to listen to the Author of my faith and the Designer of my ministry and move according to His plan. All of a sudden you have a new grid to filter opportunities through and it puts the power and accountability squarely on your shoulders, which can be a bit daunting if you think you are doing this on your own strength. That’s another post altogether though.

The local church’s proper role is to equip and unleash God’s people to pursue Him and His purposes in their lives. Sometimes this is easier for them to say than do, but I think we can help if we will adjust our thinking just a smidge to take responsibility for what God has given us and make that our focus.

As with other paradigm shifts I’ve talked about, there needs to be a cautionary note to prevent misinterpretation. I’m not saying that we should ignore and abstain from getting involved with what the local church is doing. Often, these events are great ways to grow relationships, meet new people and be a blessing to the world around us. The shift is in motivation. No longer do you have to do these things as an obligation to the church, but rather as a strategic choice in serving your God – and there could be no more lovely fragrance to Him than a right heart that’s passionate to serve Him and be a part of His plan for His people.

So, the question comes down to motivation. Are you abdicating the responsibility for your faith to the church or are you taking personal responsibility for your ministry and seeking His guidance about what’s next? You don’t need permission from anyone to do what God is calling you to – you only need faith expressed in courageous obedience.

Faith of the Mind

Steve —  4.23.2010 — Leave a comment

In college, I was surrounded by very smart people. I went to a small Liberal Arts college in Central Arkansas that had a reputation for excellent academic standards and somehow they let me in, but that’s not the point. I started my freshman year with a small idea about who God was, but had no faith in Him whatsoever, but that changed on April 1, 1991 – the spring of my freshman year when I was re-introduced to the person of Jesus and I placed my faith and heart in Him to do with my life whatever He wanted.

I tell people I was drafted because the next three years were a flurry of activity. I was being taught and was teaching others who wanted to learn about Jesus and it was in talking with other students that I often found myself in a recurring situation. Because the average student was brainy – the discussion invariably came down to understanding God with their mind before they would allow their heart to hear His call. A hard conversation to have for sure if you are wanting people to believe something, since beliefs are rooted in the heart.

Recently, I was having a Facebook “discussion” with a proclaimed Atheist that took me back to those days in college, but something was different. I think that part of my roadblock back then is that I didn’t know how to get people to move past their mind and listen to their heart. Today, that’s not the case. You see, I think God understands how we work – at a physiological level, we have to “get it” with our mind first.

The “ah-ha” for me came when I realized that in order to understand God mentally, I had to broaden my capacity to embrace something that I couldn’t prove, touch or existed in my past experiences. It’s hard to do – don’t get me wrong, but completely possible and it starts with humility. Recognizing that there exists a possibility that I don’t know or even have the capacity to grasp everything about this universe is the first step, which is hard for brainiacs.

If your mind is open, if just a little bit, to that possibility, the door to your heart will start to open and His love is able to make all things seem right – both mentally and emotionally.

I believe God wants to engage the WHOLE person – mind, heart and soul – and He designed our minds to be the gatekeepers of the heart for a reason. The pursuit of knowledge is a worthy one – we are made to learn and use that knowledge to enhance our world. That pursuit should include, most especially, those things that we can’t explain or readily understand.

Ditch View of the Center LineIn the recent past, if you were to ask me, “How’s it going?”, I would jokingly reply, “Well, I’m between the ditches.” Translation: Life was moving down the road and I had managed to keep from putting it in the ditch, but that was about all I could say.

The ditch was a metaphor for when much wailing and gnashing of teeth took place – either through my own or some external mess. You see, life for me had become about setting up “barriers” that would help me hug the center line – as far away from the ditch as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I still found myself in the ditch, crumpled and smoking and in need of a tow truck and a body shop. So the strategy wasn’t without it’s kinks, but it was what I knew…

Until December 2009.

My bride and I were on a rare date with dinner at Pei Wei. We ran into some friends that were also on a date that asked what we were doing afterwards. We didn’t have any plans and when we asked back, they said they were going to a Shane & Shane concert. Our eyes lit up as this is one of our favorite bands. We found out where they were playing and had a great time.

On the drive home, literally on the freeway, God asked me to forget the ditches and focus on Him. My mind immediately recognized this as how it should be and in that moment, He showed me that ditch avoidance games weren’t the answer. He made it clearer than ever that my relationship with Him is what will keep me hugging the center line.

It’s a subtle shift for me, but a profound one to be sure. On the surface it seems scary until I’m reminded of who I’m placing my trust in – He, and He alone, will make my paths straight! Besides, I’m much more excited about chasing after Him than I am in fighting my own nature as a ditch-avoidance strategy.

Fear paralyzes and disables; causes second guesses when your gut is telling your loud and clear; robs us of confidence and makes us forget of former victories. Fear is not good.