Ever feel like January is a bunch of Groundhog Day’s stitched together…like an iPod stuck on replay?
Perhaps you’re like me in the sense you wonder why so many are still hopping on and off the resolution bandwagon, scrambling to find the right short-term fix for their long-term “needs”.
If you can relate, then hear me out. ‘Cause today we’re going to talk about how we can better fine-tune our resolutions1 by focusing on three practical “heart goals” we can all aspire to in 2016.
Okay, okay…I know this is a “chalk” point2; however, it’s still worth mentioning considering it’s the most powerful form of communication we can experience.
Think about it: God loves us so much…He gave us a limitless lifeline (i.e. prayer) so we can dial into Him at any time…and join Him in making a difference.
I don’t know about you, but I find this [very] encouraging…knowing we can pursue God through prayer and partner with Him in His work no matter where we are or what we’re going through.
Granted, as bivocational believers, there will be times the enemy tempts us into thinking our prayers are less effective (compared to full-time ministers)…and distracts us into less frequent, circumstance-driven prayer.
However, the truth is: we can pray boldly and effectively because we’re made righteous through Christ (James 5:16)…and are equipped with a purpose and a plan that no one can strip away.
Thus, it’s important we take time to consider how God wants to use us through the power of prayer in 2016, whether it involves healing the brokenhearted…opening closed doors to advance the mystery of God…and/or shedding light on the truth of who God is (Colossians 4:3, Ephesians 5:13).
To be honest…I’m not the biggest fan of memorization; not because it’s a waste of time3, but because I’m simply not that good at it…it’s somewhat rudimentary (as a learning technique)…plus I’m perfectly content being familiar with as many things as I can.
So it should be no surprise when I say I don’t often involve memorization when studying the Word, considering I’d rather get the concept than the verbatim.
However…this doesn’t mean memorization doesn’t have a place in our spiritual walk…or that I’m even correct in my overall assessment. In fact, I’d submit it’s one of the most underrated forms of spiritual preparation (abiding + equipping).
Consider 1 Peter 3:15: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”
At the sake of sounding cheesy, whenever I hear “being prepared to make a defense“, I immediately imagine a 19th century cowboy minister being able “draw” the words of God on demand…like John Wayne, except instead of a Winchester Model, you have powerful words of two-edged truth.
But though Peter isn’t emphasizing a particular apologetic discipline here, it can be said memorization is a worthy component to any readiness strategy, given its tendency to root head faith deeper into heart faith.
3) Reach out…more.
Whenever we hear “reach out”, it’s easy to think go on more mission trips or go to the soup kitchen every weekend. But in this case, when I say “reach out”, I’m talking about confidently pursuing life-on-life opportunities…in the flesh. Person-to-person…face-to-face. Yes, there is a place for online community and virtual relationship (as I wrote about a few weeks ago); however, with more of our social interaction taking place by “i-Products” these days, it’s important we commune intentionally, especially if leaving a Kingdom legacy matters to us.
Case in point: A couple years back, my wife and I talked about this issue…and at the end of our conversation, she challenged me to initiate three hangouts/phone-calls (outside my normal routine) a month for three months.
At first, I had my reservations…especially since we were in the middle of a relationally dry season. But as I started to carry out the charge, it wasn’t long before I realized this is what I was made for; this is what I should be doing more often!
I’m telling you…simply putting myself out there was a game-changer. In fact, had I not gone into “challenge accepted” mode, I wouldn’t have been able to listen, encourage, and pray God’s will/best into action the way God had for me.
You see…often times, we think we have something to lose being vulnerable and available, but once we realize this kind of withdrawal mentality doesn’t come from God, we can take it captive and ultimately discover the pure thrill of reaching out on purpose.
In light of this, my encouragement to you, friends, is to keep the foot on the gas pedal this year…to keep doing the good things you’ve been doing…just more of it.
Seriously, just imagine if we all got in on this…how many more lives would be impacted…
- As January fades into February…I find the transition to be a great time to reevaluate my resolutions. After all, when we aim to cling to what is good, we should also want to cling to what is necessary…and appointed for such a time as this…so at the end of the day, we may reach the prize to which we’re running towards
- “Chalk” point = an obvious statement worthy of mention
- Though I’d say otherwise if it’s used as a primary means of retaining knowledge
Photo credits: themogulmom.com
Have you ever felt ‘home’ locationally yet far from it relationally…
…secure in the journey, but perhaps insecure in community?
No question, it’s an awkward emotional dichotomy…to feel in love where you’re at yet estranged at the same time.
Perhaps you’ve wondered what do when you feel like you’re not connecting or what to do when you feel God isn’t honoring your obedience with the right relationships.
If that’s you, then heed my words…
…’cause truth is: I’ve been there…
…and in some ways, I’m still there.
And I’m sure for many of you reading this…you can say the same.
With that said, here are three ways to rightfully cope with the contradiction.
1) Live and breathe God’s wholeness.
No doubt, God is enough. The question is: do you honestly believe it?
Consider Jeremiah…a prophet whose calling meant to be alone, as evidenced by his directive not to marry, go to weddings or funerals, be in the presence of feasters and merrymakers, etc.
When we study Jeremiah’s narrative, it shouldn’t surprise us to find him often discouraged and depressed. After all, Jeremiah was entirely human…and to be without friends is one of life’s greatest challenges. But though Jeremiah carried certain “love deficits”, this didn’t keep him from finding satisfaction in God, as noted by his tendency to open prayer with “sovereign Lord” and conclude it with a reference to His steadfast love and/or power. Though Jeremiah lived without companionship, God was able to use his singleness and isolation to fulfill His purposes1 through him in ways that couldn’t have happened had he shared dependence.
As for us, there may be seasons when God temporarily detaches us to cultivate greater dependence on Him, as He did with Jeremiah. But while these seasons may be arduous, we can still find contentment in knowing God always has our best in mind and always sees the beginning from the end.
Hence, it makes perfect sense to receive God’s wholeness since it not only helps us cope with our deficiencies, but provides spiritual nourishment to keep going…all the while, renewing our trust in His providence.
2) Pray the Word over your location.
Let’s be honest: It’s easier to pray for people you know than those you don’t, right?
…especially considering we live in a compartmentalized culture where our concept of the world is essentially our concept of ‘our world’.
However, let’s say God repositions you in a foreign place or season. Would the change be enough to diminish your prayer life or would you stay persistent regardless?
While prayer can certainly benefit from sound company, truth is: the tempo of our prayer life should not be dictated by our social life2 or lack thereof.
Why? ‘Cause at the end of the day, it’s God who orchestrates our connectedness!
Thus, if we’re feeling dissatisfied or desolate, we should feel compelled to turn to God without hesitation and seek his direction, considering if anything is in the way, it’s likely a stronghold of man.
So next time you find yourself disappointed by the hardness of your heart and/or surroundings, pray the Word over your location…and choose to make intercession your default as opposed to withdrawal.
Again, it may not be easy, but you can, at least, bank on finding fuel even when you’re running on empty.
3) Focus on opportunities to serve.
As mentioned before, we all want to belong…and find our place.
However, though the desire itself makes sense, the problem is often how and where it’s prioritized.
For instance, if the desire is overly prioritized, then we risk engaging community as a means to an end, where on the flip side, if the desire is not prioritized enough, we risk relationship being a nonchalant concept, dependent on chance rather than intention.
But if we truly want to bridge relationships organically, why not focus on opportunities to serve and invite God into the process?
Seriously…it’s not like we have anything to lose yielding to the Spirit’s leading.
And if you think you got to have friends before you can find your “place,” consider how God prepared the way in Scripture time and time again (i.e. God frequently prepped the territory before tending the inhabitants; see Deuteronomy 1-16, John 14:3).
In short, when it comes to seeking connection, the best approach is to let God be God by consecrating our relationships (present and future; real and hopeful), staying rooted in prayer, and seeking His desire to plant us in the best place possible…in the best way possible.
1) To fulfill his purpose, it was essential Jeremiah relied entirely on God, considering he may have a) integrated a fear of man into his prophecies or b) fallen away completely had he placed his own needs above God’s wants.
2) Or how we feel our social life is
Last time out, I talked about three unique challenges for 21st century youth pastors. Today, I’m going to change course a bit and discuss three reasons why bivocational ministry is necessary, especially in the time we live.
1) It Extends Kingdom Power
For those who are in Christ, there’s no greater call than to be an extension of God’s life (i.e. fullness, wholeness, and freedom) to the lost1. Unfortunately, for many churches, such life remains concealed by a culturally-dictated ‘separation of church and state’ philosophy.
Granted, the relationship between church and state has been controversial since the discovery of America. Yet, despite where the 21st century western church is today, I believe the body of Christ must remain fearlessly committed to farm faith and carry the Gospel torch into secular arenas, especially the bivocational.
‘Cause when we dare to live what we preach, we help chisel away part of the wall between culture and church by giving people within our sphere of influence the opportunity to taste and see that the Lord…is…good (Psalm 34:8).
Now I admit: representing the Gospel consistently in the ho-hum places of the world can be a great challenge; however, if we truly seek to leave a Kingdom legacy wherever God takes us, we’ll not only inspire people through the decisions we make, but also position ourselves to be supernaturally refreshed.
So in short, if we’re faithful to salt our surroundings with faith, hope and love, we’ll not only inspire the broken, but also encourage the saved (through steadfast encouragement and accountability).
2) It Promotes Greater Reliance
Bivocational ministry is complex…especially when you consider we live in an increasingly pluralistic society where more and more ministers juggle multiple responsibilities and work secondary jobs to make ends meet.
While this may sound like the foundation of a stress-laden lifestyle, truth is, there are many benefits to living a life full of personal and financial sacrifices.
For one thing, a bivocational life compels one towards greater reliance upon God.
What do I mean by “greater reliance”?
Well, for starters, “greater reliance” means you don’t have to live in perpetual discouragement when you find yourself wishing you had more time to invest relationally and/or ministerially. In fact, with “greater reliance”, you can simply confess your limitations to God and invite Him into your circumstances, regardless of how they look2.
Note: For those looking for deeper theology here, I know this may sound painfully basic, but trust me…when you put “greater reliance” into practice, you’ll not only strengthen your spiritual walk, but the tent pegs of your faith’s influence as well.
How awesome is that?
3) It Encourages the Saints
I mentioned earlier how bivocational ministry is necessary in the sense it extends the power and influence of Christ’s Kingdom further into secular settings.
While this is undoubtedly true, it shouldn’t overshadow the fact bivocational ministry is also meant to be a place of encouragement for other leaders trying to stay the course.
In fact, I’m submit we should be just as passionate about reaching “the ends of the earth” as taking advantage of the “open door” opportunities God sets up for us to share our testimony with those in similar boats of life.
As far as people thinking this isn’t necessary, especially since more bivocational ministers leads to a more diluted pastoral profession, let me just say this: if we’re serious about expanding truth, then shouldn’t we want to reach those who’ve been given the opportunity to reach more people? Or are we so concerned about our own qualifications we forget God has already qualified the called (Romans 8:30)?
I mean…I confess…I can be a “challenge accepted” kind of guy.
But as one who doesn’t buy into the ‘pastor is only a pastor if he’s a licensed full-timer’ notion, I believe it’s important for bivocational ministers to realize though the balancing act may involve certain acquiescences, ministerial professionalism (which includes supporting our fellow leaders in the Lord) should never be one of them.
As the Scriptures say, we work for the Lord in all things (Colossians 3:23-24)…and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to be on call to live the call3 (#ambassador) every waking moment. ‘Cause at the end of the day, whether it’s from a pulpit, cubicle or cash register, what truly matters is God being utmostly glorified.
1) In other words, restoring God’s original design
2) Thus, living bivocationally not only carries the potential to develop stronger reliance, but sweeter intimacy as well. Furthermore, I’d submit if we’re living our bivocational callings effectively, then there should be moments along the journey where we have no choice but to fully surrender and proclaim our dependence upon the Lord
3) Somebody issue a ‘Hashtag Watch’ for this 😉
Photo credits: http://www.releasetheape.com & centerpointchris.files.wordpress.com