relationships

GMO-Free Community (part 2)

Photo credit: unsplash_JSheldon

My parents are gardeners. Growing up I ate fresh vegetables and fruit. I vividly remember the juicy taste of tomatoes and strawberries.

Yet, I remember the outward appearance of these naturally grown fruits was always different.

Organic community is both consistent and diverse.

What is the seed of organic community?

In the previous post I said organic community must have a raw and organic beginning, similar to how organic fruit or vegetables start with non-GMO seed. God is the original seed of community.

In his book Created for Community, Stanley Grenz states,

God’s triune nature means that God is social or relational— God is the “social Trinity.” And for this reason, we can say that God is “community.” God is the community of the Father, Son, and Spirit, who enjoy perfect and eternal fellowship.

From the very beginning God reveals that his way of life is not singular but plural. “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image'” (Genesis 1:26).

God is the consistency and we are the diversity of community.

The organic community of the early church

Looking at the birth of the early church, we see evidence of organic community.

In the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus came together with expectation. Imagine the emotions in the room!

Jesus left them with no formula but a simple command to wait for the promise of the Father,

“which you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4).

Many times we desire a formula on how to create community. We want to be told how to muster up results. Organic community is the opposite of that.

There are no formulas because the organic seed is God who is a relational being.

Diversity is the basis for organic community

God loves diversity. Organic community reflects the diverse and creative nature of God.

When the Holy Spirit encounters the disciples in the upper room, the result is not identical tongues (languages). The result isn’t a call for uniformity.

The result is a diversity of tongues (languages) calling together a diverse crowd of people. In Acts 2:9-11, the author mentions sixteen different regional locations.

Diversity was welcomed in the early church.

What shall we do?

Throw out your formulaic approach to community.

I've been training my mind to think differently about community. I avoid saying I want to create community, and replace that with, I want to nurture and foster community.

Embrace a relational view of community.

God is a relational being working within humanity. He is the creator of community because he is community. Community will always look different from the outside but will feel the same on the inside.

I encourage you to simply ask God what He is creating around you.

Are there dear relationships in your life? Invest your time and effort there.

God resides within people, we (believers) are His temple (1 Cor 3:16).

Look for God in His people, and you will find yourself in community!


This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski whom I've worked with the past few years teaching and training others in discipleship and Inductive Bible Study. You can see more of his posts at — http://kutrovski.wordpress.com/

Nothing Harmful

Photo credit: lightstock.com Pay your debts as they come due. However, one debt you can never finish paying is the debt of love that you owe each other. The one who loves another person has fulfilled Moses’ Teachings.

The commandments, “Never commit adultery; never murder; never steal; never have wrong desires,” and every other commandment are summed up in this statement: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor. Therefore, love fulfills Moses’ Teachings.

You know the times ⌊in which we are living⌋. It’s time for you to wake up. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first became believers. The night is almost over, and the day is near. So we should get rid of the things that belong to the dark and take up the weapons that belong to the light.

We should live decently, as people who live in the light of day. Wild parties, drunkenness, sexual immorality, promiscuity, rivalry, and jealousy cannot be part of our lives.

Instead, live like the Lord Jesus Christ did, and forget about satisfying the desires of your corrupt nature. (‭Romans‬ ‭13:8-14‬ (GW)


Many people hold the idea of doing no harm to others as a guiding principle. It's a good principle to live by. Along with this principle, many believe each person needs to define their own belief in God.

But a self-made, self-serving belief is exactly that—based on self, not God, the Creator of all humanity.

The true test of doing no harm is measuring our life against the summation of God's Law—love your neighbor as yourself. As it says—Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor.

The selfish nature is wired to one over-riding drive—to please itself and satisfy its desires.

When we give in to this drive, and we all do, we send out a ripple effect that touches others. The idea that "I'm only harming myself," just isn't true.

It is wishful thinking that we can live unto ourselves and do no harm. This is only possible when we trust in the Lord Jesus alone to do a transforming work within us. ©Word-Strong_2016

[bctt tweet="Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor" username="tkbeyond"]

Authenticity

Photo credit: lightstock.com Love sincerely. Hate evil. Hold on to what is good. Be devoted to each other like a loving family. Excel in showing respect for each other. Don’t be lazy in showing your devotion. Use your energy to serve the Lord.

Be happy in your confidence, be patient in trouble, and pray continually. Share what you have with God’s people who are in need. Be hospitable.

Bless those who persecute you. Bless them, and don’t curse them. Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad. 

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be arrogant, but be friendly to humble people. Don’t think that you are smarter than you really are. (‭Romans‬ ‭12:‭9-16‬ (GW)


At present, authenticity is highly valued in our culture. It's become a popular value connected to relationships, experiences, even to sell products.

As with so many things, words take on different meanings as culture changes. Current American culture tends to view things through an individualistic and relativistic lens. In other words, we frame things the way we want to see them.

Paul enumerates several ways Christian believers are to be authentic—real, genuine, reliable, true, and trustworthy. He begins with love for others, moral honesty, and true commitment to whatever we do, regardless of our circumstances.

The last few admonitions describe godly tolerance—tolerance from God's point of view. This includes blessing, not cursing, those who oppose us and humility instead of arrogance. All of these reflect the nature of Jesus.

Paul reminds us to not lose our focus on who we are within a world in rebellion towards God. We are to reflect the very nature of Jesus whom we claim to follow. He is gentle, humble, and full of grace and truth (Matt 11:29; John 1:14). ©Word-Strong_2016

Life Reflections

IMG_0819 What significance do life events have? Are they just random, or is there a distinct meaning and purpose for every life event that takes place?

These types of questions keep philosophers and theologians in business, so to speak. All people tend to wonder about such things.

I'm sure some events and situations have a purpose in our lives that have significance to us, but I admit, many life events can seem pretty random or insignificant.

Planned events and purposes

This past month, my wife and I spent time with our youngest daughter, husband, and now, two daughters. Our purpose in spending a month with them had two primary goals—being present for the arrival of our fifth grandchild and be of some help to our daughter and son-in-law.

We enjoyed our time immensely and fulfilled those two primary goals. But other life events took place while we were there.

I won't enumerate them all, but I want to note a few of them, then consider whether they are random, planned, or if their timing matters.

Random or planned?

Two births

The week we arrived, our granddaughter did not. If fact, it was the beginning of week three when she arrived.

The week we arrived, the pastor where my daughter fellowships announced his wife was pregnant. He shared with the church on the next Sunday about their miscarriage. It was a bittersweet morning, but the pastor handled it well.

But still, we awaited the arrival of our granddaughter, our daughter was overdue by a week or so. We were waiting with expectant joy and the pastor and his wife were grieving.

A death and a birth

Soon after our arrival in Germany, I heard of the passing of a dear friend in the US. I had been praying for her for several years, now I would pray for comfort for her husband and their three grown children.

They were a significant family in the life of the church we planted in the late 70's. They are good friends of ours and were some of our supporters while we were missionaries in the Philippines.

Over a week later, we welcomed little Brielle into the world and into our family. One person leaves this life, while another comes into it.

Timing

It's not so much the events, but the timing of these things. Is there significance to this timing, or is it just random?

Just before we left Germany to return to the US, I heard about a long time friend receiving a devastating diagnosis, and another friend passed away.

It's normal, maybe typical, for us to wonder about the timing of certain life events. But do we need to know or understand everything? Do we need to have a definitive answer and insight into it all?

Faith, randomness, and destiny

Some people see everything in life as random. I'm pretty sure that most believers in God, regardless of religion or theology, don't hold that opinion.

Still others see every event in life as part of a grand plan, even destiny. I suppose this can include people who are into conspiracy theories (I'm not one of those people, btw). The idea here is that every single thing is preordained (predestined) and has a meaning.

I don't doubt that life events have significance, but I've stopped trying to figure out how it all fits together, or whether certain events even do.

It's not because I don't care or don't think about all of this. I do. But I accept that some things are just beyond my capacity to figure out, and I've realized I don't need to know everything about all life events—mine, yours, or anyone else's.

Faith and reflection

An inherent quality of faith is trust. Not theological belief, but an implicit trust in God (Hebrews 11:6).

In 1997, a tragic fire took the lives of five children under our care, and nearly took the life of our youngest daughter. Everything we had in the orphanage building was reduced to rubble and ashes.

Remarkably, God sustained us in the aftermath. That's a long story all its own, but not for now. So many things didn't make sense, and yet it all made sense somehow.

Indeed, our family was in shock for quite a while, something like PTSD. All I know is this. God sustained us in ways we can't explain, through many people and a series of events that's followed that tragedy.

Why do we need to know?

People reached out to us, prayed for us, and cared for us. We, along with many, had the usual questions summed up in, "Why God?"

We don't have a clear answer to it all, but we clearly saw the hand of God upon us and the ministry for years afterwards.

I needed to come to a place of trust more than understanding. I accepted that I didn't need to know why.

It was a lesson in faith, in trust. Either God is God, or He's not. I believe God is sovereign and living and personal. I also believe in free will. I choose to exercise my free will to trust in the Lord without having to figure everything out.

That's faith. It's what Abraham was recognized for that brought him friendship with God (James 2:23). The Bible is full of similar people of faith, and I choose to be among them.

How about you?

Have you learned to trust God this way, or do you think you need to understand it all? 

(Please feel free to comment!)

Common Mentoring Myths

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ALitvin No one has all the answers. I'm wary of anyone who thinks they do or thinks someone else does. Sometimes we just get things wrong, I know I do.

If you don't think you do, you're setting yourself up for a fall and will probably take others with you.

The topic of mentoring has become more popular over the past few years, but it's not always what some people make it out to be.

Authoritarian or authoritative?

A while back I came across an article posted on Facebook about authoritarianism. It was related to American politics but it got me thinking.

An authoritarian leader is quite different from an authoritative one. I've worked under both and sadly, at times I've acted more like the first than the second.

What's the difference? King Saul of Israel was an authoritarian leader, while King David was more of an authoritative leader. An authoritarian leader acts more like a bully, while an authoritative leader sets a confident example.[bctt tweet="An authoritarian leader is quite different from an authoritative one"]

King Herod was a bully and tyrant (Matt 2:13-18). Herod wielded his authority out of insecurity. He didn't trust anyone and tried to kill anyone deemed a threat, including Jesus.

Jesus led by example, yet His authority was well-recognized—

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)

Mentors are not masters

One of the graduating classes from the Bible college in the Philippines gave me a poster filled with their thoughts and thanks. They called me their beloved "Tor-mentor" because their studies were difficult and I could be a tough teacher.

But mentoring is not about being a taskmaster, or any form of master. There may be a time and place to be authoritative, but this excludes using authority in an overbearing way.

Perhaps a more appropriate way to look at being a mentor is to see ourselves as journeymen (or is that journey-persons?). Mentors are people with experience and expertise who aren't stuck on themselves.[bctt tweet="Mentors are people with experience and expertise who aren't stuck on themselves"]

Mentors have something to offer because others have poured their experience and expertise into them. Here is a simple way to look at discipleship—we (mentors) pour into others what God poured into us.

3 common mentoring myths

Here are three mentoring myths that get in the way of mentoring well. They may not be spoken out loud, but are often latent attitudes among those of us who would be mentors.

  • I have the answers to your questions you may have answers to their questions, but they don't need to be given at the expense of the relationship
  • You need to know what I know— this may not be true at all, especially if connected to an air of superiority or arrogance
  • I'm a fount of great wisdom— wisdom can be gained from many sources, you nor I have a corner on wisdom

Perhaps there's some truth in these opinions, but they do more to offend than help. A common reason for generation gaps is an unwillingness to listen. If we, the mentors, aren't willing to listen, then why should anyone listen to us? Jesus understood this (Luke 2:46).[bctt tweet="If mentors aren't willing to listen, then why should anyone listen to them?"]

Here's a reframing of those three common attitudes—

  • You don't have all the answers— You may have answers to many questions, but sometimes you need to admit that you don't know something. This may open the door for a mutual pursuit of an answer.
  • You're not always right— I learned this with my wife and children first, but also with staff and students—I need to admit it when I am. This may be humbling, but it brings opportunities for a more open and healthy mentoring relationship.
  • Your advice isn't always needed— This may be hard to swallow at times, but it's true. If you're not asked, don't feel obliged to dispense whatever wisdom you think you have. This is especially true if you're a Boomer like me.

Good mentors are not experts looking for opportunities to dispense their wisdom, but people of experience and expertise with humble attitudes.

A different perspective

One thing that helps me is to level the relationship between me and whoever asked me to mentor them. I make a point to not insist on a role of superiority, and don't want to be addressed by any title, such as pastor. I may have experience and expertise someone else doesn't have, but it doesn't make me better than others.

When I make mentoring a mutual relationship at least two things happen. First, I make it clear that whoever I'm discipling know they have value and importance to me. This encourages a much more engaged and committed relationship.

The other benefit is being open to learn from those I mentor. Often I'm able to see things differently because the relationship is more open. This helps me mentor more effectively.

Are there any mentoring myths you've seen or run into?

 

ROI Expectations

Photo credit: unsplash.com A popular term bandied about now is ROI—Return on Investment. It can apply to various types of investments such as time, energy, personnel, finances, and so on. It originated in financial circles where investors wanted to know what to expect as a profit for their investment.

It seems more than reasonable that investors would expect a profitable return on their investments. After all, that’s their business. Even hourly wage earners expect something in return—a paycheck—for their skills and time at their job.

Jesus taught about a lot of things, including ROI. Think not? Just look at a some of His parables and other teachings.

Continue reading

What has God invested in you personally? What has He given you the capacity to do?

What are the gifts God has entrusted you with? Who can you bless with your life?

This is a guest post on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Click on the link to read more– ROI Expectations


We'll return to our study in Ecclesiastes next week.

20 Years and Counting

DSC_1021 How can I put into words what is beyond expression? Even a photo, like the one above, doesn't capture the breadth of relationships and experiences we celebrated this past week.

Just twenty years ago, a small Bible college was established in the central region of the Visayas, in Dumaguete City, Philippines. We started off with a small student body—five people, and the following year our second class was even fewer. But year by year, the school grew and developed.

ptr-alumni_hats

Over the years, many churches have been planted by our alumni, and some of those earlier ones planted more churches. Even Bible schools and extension campuses (non-English teaching) have been established in a few places, including Southern Thailand.

Welcome-CCTC

Missionaries, pastors, children's ministry leaders, and other workers have been equipped and sent out. Each alumni learned to serve in the ministry while they studied, and out internships helped cement what was learned in class.

TK_mpr-alumni

Our celebration included some important reminders from God's Word through some of His servants, and we had some great fellowship.

Diningroom

It was a sweet time of worship, Word, prayer, and of course, we enjoyed some delicious food!

dinner-beach

We also made time for fun!

Imo-vball_guys

 

Many of the alumni came as young men and women, some were teenagers, and now they have their own families. I've been privileged to be a part of their lives over the years.

guys-atbeach

It's been a treat for me seeing so many people I haven't seen in a long while, as well as those I see each year. The time has gone by too fast, and it's hard to say good-bye again, as I head back to my US-home.

MPR_CCBCP

From Sea to Shining Sea

©2015-@tkbeyond I've gone from the Pacific, to the Atlantic, then back to the Pacific this weekend. Well, the last trip was more virtual than actual.

After six weeks in Juneau, AK, I returned home to Jacksonville, FL—from the far NW coast of America to the SE coast. After an enjoyable day with my wife, I had the treat of meeting up with a pastor-friend from the Philippines.

I joined him, his wife, and two other couples to watch the big fight, featuring Manny Pacquiao. It was like spending an evening in the Philippines, well, sort of.

On assignment

Mendenhall-glacier

Six weeks ago, I left the warmth of sunny FL to serve as pastor for a church in Juneau, AK. I was the last in a team of five pastors with Poimen Ministries.

As mentioned in an earlier post, we provided pastoral care and leadership while their pastor is on sabbatical. Each of us served with a different style and focus of service.

Our point man, and team leader for this assignment, laid a solid groundwork for the rest of us. After Juneau in the winter, the founder of Poimen Ministries went to Peru on an extended assignment at a Bible college. My pastor-friend who preceded me went to serve in Eastern Europe and the Middle East this month. BTW, when I say assignment, we see ourselves assigned by God, not by any institution.

It's been a privilege to serve with my fellow pastors, and to serve the Body of Christ.

A new family connection

tk-4-ordin

My role focused on discipleship and leadership development, but my first responsibility was to engage with the people and embrace a new church family.

It's a bit daunting to serve the church body of a fellow pastor, especially when you're the last of five surrogate pastors. I say surrogate because we served in the place of a fellow pastor.

It's quite an adjustment for this church family, and it's a bit like being a substitute teacher for each of us. Thankfully, this church welcomed and served us, as we endeavored to serve them.

I was privileged and blessed to build new friendships, teach and encourage the church, including preach on Resurrection Sunday, and recognize and ordain four men as leaders in the church.

I also got to do some cool (literally!) hiking and sightseeing, including a seaplane ride, and take a bunch of photos. It was a great time with a great church family. After six weeks away I was ready to be home, but it was with mixed feelings I left this new-found family and many friendships.

Back home, back to work

tk-Garays

Of course, it was great to see my wife after six long weeks away! I left a much cooler beginning of spring in Juneau, to arrive to the typically perfect spring weather in Jacksonville. After a sunny breakfast in the backyard, Susan and I headed to the Shrimp Festival in Fernandina Beach, with lots of people, vendor booths, and, of course, lots of shrimp.

An unexpected surprise was reuniting with a Filipino pastor-friend in Jacksonville. He and his family now live in NC, but he and his wife were visiting friends. I was invited to join them and two other couples to watch the Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match.

Although the outcome was disappointing, it was fun watching a Filipino folk hero with Filipino friends. For a short while, it was like being back in the Philippines!

Now that I'm back home, it's back to my regular work. But then, my life and work have never been what you would call regular.

©2015 @tkbeyond

Building a Leadership Team On a Solid Foundation

©tkbeyond_2015As a young boy, I was not a great athlete. I wasn’t even a good one. I was skinny, had no confidence, nor any gift or skill of athleticism. But I loved sports! What I lacked in skill or gifting, I made up with hustle and effort. Consequently, when it came to choosing up teams, I was one of the last, if not the last, to be chosen. Come to think of it, a lot of my life has been like that.

I don’t know how I developed a love for sports, since my dad wasn’t a sports fan. But I loved baseball! To this day, I’m a true-blue LA Dodgers fan, even though I live in FL. I enjoy team sports, but know that having good athletes is not the secret to having a great team. So, how do you build a solid leadership team?

How do you start building?

Always start with a solid foundation. Just as with building a home, or any building, a good, solid foundation is critical. The classic example? The leaning Tower of Pisa.

[bctt tweet="When building a leadership team, always start with a solid foundation"]

When it comes to a ministry team within a church or other ministry, a solid relationship with Jesus needs to be priority one. This is where I left off in last week's post. This is also true for any business venture involving Christian believers. If relationship with the Lord isn't priority one, the venture will be built on shaky ground. When it comes to ministry work, this should be obvious.

I see at least five components needed for building a leadership team on solid ground—humility, purposeful vision, commitment, respect, and shared responsibility. Sorry, no clever acronym, and all the points don't start with the same letter. I just couldn't make that happen, so I'll try to keep it short.

#1–Humility

Since a personal relationship with Jesus is our best foundation, lets consider Him as a leader. Want was Jesus like at His core? His very essence? Here it is in His own words—

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30 NIV)

First of all, He tells us what His nature is—gentle and humble. Hmmm, doesn't sound much like what we tend to value in a leader, but there you go. As I mentioned last week, Paul (Phil 2:5-8) and Peter (1 Peter 5:1-5) stress the importance of this as a leadership quality. Humility is an important value for a healthy leadership team.

[bctt tweet="Jesus' humble leadership style is much different from most leaders"]

There are some encouraging promises given. Jesus will give us rest when we look to Him as our first priority—a rest for our souls—an internal rest. And, He promises a good working situation with Him as our senior partner—our genuinely humble leader.

#2–Purposeful vision

Most vision or mission statements I've seen try to be pithy and powerful. However, in some cases it's just a statement without action to back it up. For a vision to propel a leadership team forward, it needs to be purposeful.

A vision that inspires and motivates people needs to have a clear sense of purpose and scope. The vision has a mission built into it. It answers these two questions—

  1. What is the distinct reason for why we exist as a team? [purpose]
  2. Who are we leading and serving, and how will we do this? [scope]

[bctt tweet="Vision that inspires and motivates needs to have a clear purpose and scope"]

#3–Commitment

There's the old fable about a pig and a chicken regarding their different levels of commitment to a breakfast of ham and eggs. Obviously, the pig has to die to contribute to the breakfast, while the chicken continues to live after contributing the eggs.

Real commitment requires risk. It's a matter of trust, even when a certain level of confidence exists. When building a leadership team, commitment is essential, but everyone needs to buy in to what ever the mission is. This is why the vision, which expresses whatever the mission is, must be purposeful and clear.

[bctt tweet="Real commitment requires the willingness to risk and trust"]

#4–Respect

Respect is a valuable, but often underrated, even neglected element of a solid leadership team. With team sports, the more respect and trust (commitment) each member has for the others, the more likely the team will function at a high level.

Over and over, teams that play well together, but without superstars, defeat teams laden with talent who lack team unity. Members of a solid team will say they "have one another's back" as an expression of commitment and respect.

[bctt tweet="Respect is a valuable, but underrated and neglected element of leadership"]

Respect also needs to be shown when things don't go as expected or wanted. This is where members of a team realize the intrinsic value of each member. The famous quote by Alexander Dumas, in The Three Musketeers, expresses this idea— "All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall."

#5–Shared responsibility

This is where a team becomes a real team. Each person needs to realize that their area of responsibility is not just theirs alone. The "all for one..." quote applies, once again. A team is a complementary relationship. Each member fills a role, and the strengths of one member flow over and fill the weaknesses of others.

[bctt tweet="A team is a complementary relationship, where strengths and weaknesses fit together"]

The church, the Body of Christ, is to be a model of this, as the apostle Paul points out in his first epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12:14-27), and in other epistles.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Rom 12:3-5 NIV)

These traits—humility, purposeful vision, commitment, respect, and shared responsibility—based on a solid foundation, are a good start in building a healthy leadership team.

What are your thoughts on these traits?

What's your experience with leadership teams—good or bad?


This is one of several posts on leadership. The most recent one on leadership teams is– Leadership Transition and the Value of a Team

What Do We Have in Common?

Photo credit: lightstock.com A tribe is one of the newer terms to describe a specific group of people with a common bond. Whatever the common bond might be, it ties people together as a like-minded unit. It could be a cause, a leader, or a common interest.

A tribe needs someone to be the leader. In pre-PC days they might be referred to as a chief. But their title or designation isn't what's important. What is important is their leadership. For a tribe or any community to continue to function as a unit, the leader needs to be able to lead them together.

A Body, not an institution

The church—the Body of Christ, as it's called in the Bible—is a community of believers with a common bond. What's the common bond for the church? Jesus. He is also the head of the church—its primary leader. It's more than a tribe, it's a family with one Father and many children.

The church is not an institution, as some may think. Not God's church. It stretches far beyond any organization or institutional hierarchy governed by man. And God never designed it to be populated by individuals who participate only for how it benefits them or best fits their needs.

[bctt tweet="The church stretches far beyond any organization or institutional hierarchy of man"]

How God designed His church is illustrated by the celebration of communion, also called the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist. It is not a remembrance of Jesus' suffering on the cross, but a time to remember Him. He who is our common bond and the Shepherd of our souls. We are to remember who He is and what He did upon the cross and through His resurrection.

A common commitment

Our common bond as a body of believers is what enables us to be a community, but it doesn't mean we function as one. Our ability and willingness to function as a community is based on our commitment to surrender our will and life to Jesus.

[bctt tweet="Our common bond as a body of believers is what enables us to be a community"]

He is our common bond, and it is our collective relationship with Him that enables us to be a community. We function best as a community when our surrender and humility to Jesus overflows into our relationships with one another.

This is the picture revealed to us in the book of Acts where, "All who believed were together and held everything in common..." (Acts 2:44 NET). Again we're told, "The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common" (Acts 4:32).

What was their secret?

I wrote a post recently about the value of a team in leadership transition. It got me thinking, "How does a church develop a leadership team?" This got me to reflect on what the church's foundation is for being a team. The early church "held everything in common." This is what made them a true community.

[bctt tweet="The early church held everything in common, which made them a true community"]

The biblical Greek word for this commonality is koinonia (1 Cor 10:16 NKJV), which is also where we draw the word communion. As mentioned above, what draws believers together when celebrating communion is our common relationship with Jesus.

This is what Jesus prayed for on the night He was betrayed—

“I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me." (John 17:20-21 NET)

The apostle Paul exhorts the church in Philippi with a similar heart—

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Phil 2:3-5 NET)

Humble leadership

When we experience this type of community as a church body, we have the proper foundation for developing a leadership team. It reflects the nature of the chief Shepherd, Jesus (1 Peter 5:1-5).

Next week I'll look at how to build a leadership team on this foundation. If you haven't read the 3-part series on leadership transition, links for the first two posts are in the third post. Here's the link–Leadership Transition and the Value of a Team

What do you think is needed for building a leadership team on a solid foundation?

Stay tuned!

Leadership Transition and the Value of a Team

What does good leadership transition look like? Should it be on a grand scale and made with great promises? How long should it take, and what's the secret to a successful transition?

Last week I started a three-part series on leadership transition, using the illustration of passing the baton in a relay race. A relay race is composed of teams of four runners who must be quick, strategic, and smooth in running, pacing the handoff of the baton, and the handoff itself.

One critical element is often overlooked in our age of super-stardom. The four runners must work together as a team. No one runner is more important than the other. Each has a role to play. Yes, it's great to get off to a good start, and have a strong kick at the finish. But, it's also vital that the second and third runners gain, regain, or keep the lead, along with seamless handoffs so no precious seconds are lost.

Teamwork is critical for good transitions of leadership. But where and when does this teamwork start?

From great to not so great

Last installment (part 1) we looked at the story of Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles. It is a sad example of a transfer of leadership from one leader to another, from King Solomon to Rehoboam, his son. It can also illustrate a transition of leadership in most any organization, including a church.

[bctt tweet="Teamwork is critical for good transitions of leadership."]

One thing especially difficult is a transition from a founding pastor (or leader), to a younger, much less experienced leader, as in this story (2 Chronicles 10:1-19). "Filling the shoes" of someone who established the culture of a church (or organization) is very difficult, and is even more difficult under the shadow of the founder, if they stay within the organization or church.

Here are several questions that should help bring some healthy consideration towards a good leadership transition. Healthy leadership transition shouldn't start as an afterthought, or in the last few months of a leader's tenure, but needs to start early on. It should be embedded in the whole vision of the church or organization.

[bctt tweet="Healthy leadership transition shouldn't start as an afterthought"]

Self-accountability questions for leaders—

  1. How is your relationship with the Lord? Are you going through a spiritual growth period or a dry spell? Are your devotional times with the Lord somewhat hum-drum or are you experiencing some special times as well?
  2. Who are you discipling? Are you investing any of your life and walk with the Lord in someone else? How are you transferring any of what the Lord has done in your life to bless others?
  3. Who are you training up for positions of leadership? Who is able to take your place if you're called to do something different someday? Will what you are doing outlast or survive your involvement and presence?
  4. Are you accountable to anyone? Who? Do they know this? Do you make regular time to be held accountable? If not, who can you go to when you need guidance, help, or restoration?
  5. What vision do you have for ministry now and the future? Do you have a sense of vision for the ministry you're involved with now? Do you have vision for other ministry beyond what you're doing now?

Now rather than later

That's a bunch of questions all at one time, but these are not to be answered once and set aside. They should be looked at and considered from time to time within a given year—maybe 2 or 3 times a year.

Discipleship will naturally produce leaders. It worked well for Jesus, and it still works. It's just a slow and deliberate process, which is why now is the best time to start doing it! Keep it simple, personal, and deliberate. It will spawn good spiritual growth for the discipler, as well as the one discipled.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship will naturally produce leaders, as it did for Jesus"]

Looking ahead

In the next installment I'd like to address some questions for younger leaders. But even young leaders can benefit from the above questions. If Rehoboam followed the advice of the team of advisors to his father (King Solomon), it would be a very different story. But he didn't.

Trusted and proven advisors are a valuable asset to young leaders, any leaders for that matter. New and young leaders can bring fresh vision and energy to the table, but not know how to get things started or how to implement the vision.

[bctt tweet="Trusted and proven advisors are a valuable asset to young leaders"]

Next week, we'll look at a few ideas to prepare for leadership transition long before it needs to happen.

What is your experience with discipleship?

Are you investing any of your life and walk with the Lord in someone else?

Who are you training up for positions of leadership?

What vision do you have for ministry now and the future?

Foodies, Fools, and Drunks—Beware!

Photo credit: lightstock.com

It's an understatement to say things have changed over the last century. Air travel not only became a reality, but thousands fly internationally everyday, something only millionaires thought of even 50 years ago.

Communication has gone from wired to wireless. McDonald's only sold burgers and fries in the beginning, but now offer salads and lattes. Cats and dogs can eat gourmet food now, while millions scrounge for the next meal, living at subsistence level poverty.

It seems like things have changed a lot, even over the last decade, but maybe not as much as it might seem. One thing that hasn't changed is human nature.

Scripture

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, pay close attention to what is in front of you, and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite. Do not crave his delicacies, because this is food that deceives you. Do not wear yourself out getting rich. Be smart enough to stop. Will you catch only a fleeting glimpse of wealth before it is gone? It makes wings for itself like an eagle flying into the sky. [vss 1-5]

Do not eat the food of one who is stingy, and do not crave his delicacies. As he calculates the cost to himself, this is what he does: He tells you, “Eat and drink,” but he doesn’t really mean it. You will vomit the little bit you have eaten and spoil your pleasant conversation. Do not talk directly to a fool, because he will despise the wisdom of your words. Do not move an ancient boundary marker or enter fields that belong to orphans, because the one who is responsible for them is strong. He will plead their case against you. [vss 6-11]

Live a more disciplined life, and listen carefully to words of knowledge. Do not hesitate to discipline a child. If you spank him, he will not die. Spank him yourself, and you will save his soul from hell. My son, if you have a wise heart, my heart will rejoice as well. My heart rejoices when you speak what is right. [vss 12-16]

Do not envy sinners in your heart. Instead, continue to fear the LordThere is indeed a future, and your hope will never be cut off. My son, listen, be wise, and keep your mind going in the right direction. Do not associate with those who drink too much wine, with those who eat too much meat, because both a drunk and a glutton will become poor. Drowsiness will dress a person in rags. [vss 17-21]

(Proverbs 23:1-21  GW) [Context– Proverbs 23]

Key phrase— Do not envy sinners in your heart

[bctt tweet="Do not envy sinners in your heart"]

Digging Deeper...

What are the first five things we are warned not to do?

What is the reason for each warning? How is it expressed through picture language?

What are we exhorted to do in contrast to the other things we're warned about?

Why do you think we want what we don't or can't have, and envy those who do have these things?

Reflection...

Customs, culture, social norms, and fashions change over the years, but not human nature. Greed and envy are still active and strong. Those with power and influence still wield it regardless of its cost to others.

How can a person navigate life facing challenges where we feel powerless? The Serenity Prayer has some helpful wisdom— "God grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change...." Perhaps the most powerful wisdom is contained in verses 17-18—

Do not envy sinners in your heart. Instead, continue to fear the LordThere is indeed a future, and your hope will never be cut off. (Proverbs 23:17-18 GW)

This is not wisdom found in philosophy classes, nor corporate boardrooms. It is wisdom that endures and gives hope, and it helps anyone navigate any challenge in life.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What do you find yourself longing for or wishing you had?

How much time do you spend each day thinking about what you will eat, drink, or wear?

Do you make a point to pursue godly wisdom, even at the cost of popularity?

Do you have healthy, encouraging relationships that help keep you from envying others?

A Community Is Not a Clique

Photo credit: mashable.com Many people have difficulty connecting at church, especially larger ones. A myriad of reasons contribute to this, and blame can't just be laid at the feet of the church itself.

It's easy to get into church-bashing and stories of abuse, but it can also be the person's inability or unwillingness to connect.

I've been in many different churches in different nations. I've been an outsider and part of the church body infrastructure. Too many times, I've seen a cliquishness within good, solid churches. It happens, and it usually isn't intentional. But it happens.

Trouble connecting?

Community is a popular theme today. But what is meant by community? It depends on the context. A community can be defined as a group of people who have something in common, or are related by something common.

You or I may be in community with others and benefit from it. Yet others, not included in our community for whatever reason, may view us as a clique. Without going too far down that trail, let's understand a simple truth—a clique is not a community—and I'm speaking of a biblical community.

It doesn't matter that we don't think we are a clique. When others feel or seem excluded from our community, we are a de facto clique. And yet, we feel a common bond, which makes us a community.

A look at biblical community

Many are seeking genuine community within and outside of churches. It's a legitimate desire, in fact, I'd say we all ought to be seeking community. It's what the church was intended to be, and what we see in the Book of Acts.

In the late sixties and early seventies, community began to spring up in a natural, biblical way. My wife and I lived near one such communal (community) house connected to our church. It was a small version of what we see in Acts. Today, not many of those types of church communities exist in the US, though there are still some legitimate ones.

Even the community we see in the first few chapters of Acts ran into some dissension (Acts 6:1-7). It was resolved, but it shows it's difficult to maintain that type of community. What was the secret of the early church? I don't see a particular secret, but I see a few things that make up biblical community.

5 Basic elements of biblical community

The first biblical model of community is found in the Old Testament under the leadership of Moses. But the community in Acts was based on what Jesus modeled for us. Of course, one obvious thing is that a church community is the Body of Christ, so Jesus is the Head of it.

Here are five general things based on the early church model in Acts. You might see more or less, but here's what I see.

Biblical community is relational

The early church had one thing in common. That one thing was their relationship with Jesus as their Lord, though they referred to Him as Messiah. Jesus was their primary bond. This is the heart of observing communion, or as some call it, the Eucharist.

The one obvious thing of any community, biblical or otherwise, is that it's relational. This is the nature of being a community. A biblical community not only has a shared relationship with Jesus, they have close ties to one another because of shared experience. This is seen with the early church.

The disciples were devoted to the teachings of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.... All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other. (Acts 2:42, 44 GW)

It is inclusive, not exclusive

When we have close relationships—people with whom we're comfortable and familiar—it's easy to become exclusive. It's not intentional, hopefully, but it happens rather naturally.

The early church, following the example of Jesus, was inclusive, not exclusive. People followed Him who were not part of the religious community of that day. This created opposition, as it does today.

When I was involved with my community working with a drug intervention program, someone in my church said to me, "What if those kinds of people start coming to church?" I told the church that I hoped they would, and they'd be welcomed. It didn't sit well with some and they left our church.

It is dynamic, not static

A real community changes, even when we want it to stay the same. If it doesn't change, its life gets choked out. It's been said that the last few words of a dying church are, "But we've never done it that way!"

I planted a church towards the end of the seventies and remember our growing pains. One that shocked me was the attitude towards the church's growth. "Pastor, I miss the days when we were a small, close-knit group."

Although I understood what they meant, I could see the problem it caused. As new people came to church, they weren't easily included, especially when they were different in some way.

It is open and non-discriminating

We tend to discriminate for a lot of reasons—race, status, doctrine, appearance, behaviors, even politics. Sometimes, we don't even realize how we discriminate.

Every day the Lord saved people, and they were added to the group. (Acts 2:47b GW)

Will the church be open or discriminate against the LGBT community, people of other religions, the de-churched, and unchurched? We discriminate against non-believers by our attitudes of self-righteousness towards them, though we say we want to win them to the Lord.

Remember, Jesus broke a lot of social norms and met a lot of opposition because of it.

There's a shared sense of responsibility

Do you remember the call of the Three Musketeers? "One for all, and all for one!" This expresses the idea of a shared sense of responsibility. It goes beyond having a common bond. It's a commitment to one another.

The whole group of believers lived in harmony. No one called any of his possessions his own. Instead, they shared everything. (Acts 4:32 GW)

This may be one of the more challenging elements of true biblical community today. We live in a culture that asks, "What's in it for me?" But, a biblical community asks, "What do I have that benefits others?"

Sharing is what we're supposed to learn in kindergarten, but not out of obligation, nor emotion. It needs to be out of a commitment of love for Jesus and His people.

To connect or not to connect?

It's not up to a pastor or a church, it's up to each believer within the church. Each of us is responsible for creating community and not a clique that appears to be community.

Each of us is responsible to be relational, inclusive, open to change, open-hearted, and committed to others. These are my thoughts on the subject, but what about you?

How have you experienced healthy community within the church?

How have you contributed to a healthy and biblical church community?

 

 

Have We've Become Too Results Oriented?

Photo credit: weknowmemes.com "What's the bottom line?" This was the classic question of the 80's. Similar clichés abound today—the most bang for your bucktrading time for dollarsetc.

On one hand, I expect this in the business world, even though many leaders tell us it shouldn't be that way (Ex– Good to Great).

During our small group men's study last week, I saw how much this attitude permeates the Christian realm. I don't see this as a good trend for the Christian faith. But how can we change it?

How many followers do you have?

As an author and blogger, I hear a lot about building my platform, increasing my email list, and getting more subscriptions. All important things in this day and age. Why? So the message will get out to more people, and to sell more product (books, courses, etc.).

I understand the reasoning and incentive, I'm just not so sure it's what is most important.

If the goal is success, a better lifestyle, fame or money, then I guess those things are really important. But those things aren't so important to me now.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against such things or see them as wrong. I just think there's more important things than focusing on results.

What's most important?

What could be more important than results? Relationships!

In our discussion last Friday, we talked about sharing our faith and helping others grow in their faith. We talked about online devotionals and studies, book and pamphlets, and different local ministries.

It's subtle, but we realized this is part of the getting results mind-set. Do you see it?

[bctt tweet="Are results more important than relationships?"]

All these are great ideas, but they all move in a common direction. Each are a suggestion that replaces spending time with whomever we want to share our faith.

Where did we get so off track in our commitment to share our faith or encourage others in faith matters? Does it matter...really?

What matters is getting back to what is centrally important—building relationships.

[bctt tweet="What matters is building relationships"]

WDJD?

Remember the WWJD fad? Let's be honest, it became another marketing trend than a means of sharing faith. I posted an article that addressed this by looking at what Jesus didWDJD.

Reading through all four Gospels, it's not too hard to see what Jesus' priority was. It was people.

When people brought children for Him to bless, or asked Him to heal a child or deliver someone from demonic power, He didn't suggest some alternative to taking time to personally deal with the request. In fact, He insisted on personally taking care of the need.

Was Jesus result oriented?

Was Jesus result oriented? I suppose you could make a case for that, but it seems He was more concerned about the people themselves, not just caring for their need.

How did Jesus disciple those closest to Him? He spent time with them. He used real life situations to teach them. And the closer He got to His main mission (the cross), He intensified the time spent with His apostles.

[bctt tweet=" When Jesus discipled those closest to Him, He spent time with them."]

Whether we consider the approach of Jesus and His apostles to evangelism, discipleship, leadership, or extending God's kingdom (i.e. church growth), it most often started with one or a few persons. The goal wasn't numbers, but relationship. Bringing people into relationship with God, and guiding them in their relationship with God.

Can we do better? I don't see how.

[bctt tweet="Consider the approach of Jesus—it most often started with one or a few persons"]

Results or relationship?

Do we need to choose between results or relationship? I don't think there's a need to choose one in exclusion of the other. Based on what we see in the Gospels and Acts, it seems that results naturally follow building relationships.

I would rather have ten to twenty personal friends than hundreds of Facebook friends. I'd rather see more followers of Jesus than followers on Twitter.

What about you? What's more important to you—results or relationships?

It's a matter of time and priorities. Wherever we make the greatest investment of those two, reveals what we value most.

[bctt tweet="Whatever we invest in the most reveals what we value most."]

Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Photo credit: Lightstock Has someone ever laughed at you, yet you're clueless as to why?

When I was a young pastor grappling with the responsibility of shepherding God's people, I knew discipleship was key to doing it well. Buy I had no plan or program to do so.

I told a good friend who assisted me in the church that I needed to find out how to disciple people. His response? He laughed at me!

Discipleship as a way of life

Why did my friend laugh at me? He told me I was already discipling people. Because I was discipled, I naturally discipled others. It was how I came to follow Jesus.

Because I was discipled, I naturally discipled others

I can trace it back to one of my good friends in high school who became a believer ahead of me. He was young in the faith, but he shared about his life since following Jesus. Since I knew him from before  ("BC"), I could see the change in his life.

He was gracious with me as I touted my own spirituality. I was caught up in the philosophy and morality, or lack thereof, of the times (late 60's/early 70's), but he shared his faith in Jesus along with the love of Jesus. It was simple, relational, and intentional.

My friend was not a pastor, nor is he today. He was a follower of Jesus. He has remained faithful and still follows Jesus. Though we are separated by a few thousand miles and time, we're fellow disciples of Jesus who disciple others.

...we're fellow disciples of Jesus who disciple others

Everybody's got an opinion

Recently, I read and reposted an article written by Seth Barnes. I saw it in a leaders blog I'm subscribed to and went to his site. I'm funny that way, I like to know something about the person writing the article.

I read and liked the post (appreciated, not just social media "liked" it), so I reposted it. I also read some of the comments. Several people also appreciated his article, but quite a few took exception with it. They thought he should include their view of discipleship.

Here's the thing. It's easy to have an opinion, but opinions are cheap and not always true. The question is— If you think discipleship is important, are you doing it?

From what I see of Seth, whom I don't know personally, he's doing it and doing it well. He has what Jesus says is important in John 15:16 NIV—fruit that will last.

The question is— If you think discipleship is important, are you doing it?

Discipleship is something you do

I'm not a program type of guy. I don't have a grid for discipleship that people need to fit into. I am committed to discipleship. In 1995, I started up a Bible college in the Philippines. The crazy thing is, I never finished Bible college myself.

I developed a curriculum of study through the Bible that was inductive and text-based. It was simple. I realized a few years later that the key ingredient wasn't the curriculum, although it was important, it was the personal involvement with the students as they studied.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I learned how to teach while in the Philippines. Of course, as a church planter and pastor, I thought I knew how to teach. I'm still learning today, as I disciple and mentor others.

Discipleship is done, not taught, per se. Yes, it can be studied, written about, and curriculum can be developed for it, but it must be done to bear fruit—lasting fruit. This is what Jesus did and we cannot improve upon it.

Discipleship is something that needs to be done, not talked about or studied.

Here are some more questions and thoughts to consider

Do you talk about discipleship, or do it?

Do you intentionally and relationally disciple others?

Discipleship is more about life example than doctrine or theology.

Jesus discipled in a very personal and intentional way.

The question is— If you are a follower of Jesus, who's following you as you follow Jesus?

I would encourage you to read some of Seth Barnes's articles (see links above). He's got some practical and proven things to say about discipleship—things he's done throughout his life. It rings true to me and lines up with my own experience with discipleship.

I'm not a well-known expert on the subject of discipleship, but here's some thoughts I have on it— Thoughts-Discipleship_2014 [Feel free to download it by clicking on the link]

But here is what's more important than my thoughts—

  • Learn about Jesus and follow Him (Matt 11:29; 16:24)
  • As you follow Him, be mindful of your example and influence on others, and... 
  • Develop gracious relationships with people who need and want to follow Jesus

That's what my friend did for me, and what Jesus did with His first followers.

Self-Preservation at Its Best

Photo credit: lightstock.com

It's been said that self-preservation is a basic instinct. But what's key to preserving oneself? Is it self-indulgence or is self-control a more valuable asset?

When our hearts start wandering, they are not the best guide. This is when self-discipline becomes important.

Is your life driven by desire or guided by discipline? Each has a very different end point.

Scripture

Drink water out of your own cistern and running water from your own well. Why should water flow out of your spring? Why should your streams flow into the streets? They should be yours alone, so do not share them with strangers. [vss 15-16]

Let your own fountain be blessed, and enjoy the girl you married when you were young, a loving doe and a graceful deer. Always let her breasts satisfy you. Always be intoxicated with her love. Why should you, my son, be intoxicated with an adulterous woman and fondle a loose woman’s breast? [vss 17-20]

Each person’s ways are clearly seen by the Lordand he surveys all his actions. [vs 21]

A wicked person will be trapped by his own wrongs, and he will be caught in the ropes of his own sin. He will die for his lack of discipline and stumble around because of his great stupidity. [vss 22-23]

  (Proverbs 5:15-23 NCV) [Context– Proverbs Chap 5:7-23]

Key phrase

Each person’s ways are clearly seen by the Lord...

Digging Deeper...

  1. What is the primary focus of these exhortations? What picture is given and how is it a reminder to guard our hearts?
  2. What are the questions and encouragements directing this person to do? How is this the best kind of self-preservation?
  3. What two things are we reminded of about God and the lack of self-discipline?

Make it personal...

What areas in your life are difficult for you to have self-control?

Are there times when you feel isolated and disengaged from important relationships?

What are some simple things you can do to develop self-discipline and self-control in your life?

Reflection...

Our culture in America exalts self-gratification and promotes self-absorption. This is a destructive and disruptive focus. When desire is pursued—whatever its flavor—and comes up empty, what is left? Relationships are tossed aside and disillusionment is the reward.

Self-discipline and self-control are not popular topics in our culture, yet there is great need for them. In the end, a person who is not driven by desire and who honors valuable relationships will enjoy the best kind of self-preservation.

 

The Light of Dawn

Photo credit: lightstock.com

Images are powerful.

Many people talk of our present culture being image-driven, especially in our high-tech era. But images have always been a powerful influence in people's lives. Ancient literature often relied on images to stir imagination.

The Proverbs are full of images called figurative language. These are also called picture language—words that graphically express what isn't conveyed by mere description. A common use of images is to draw contrasts, as simple as between light and darkness.

Scripture

My child, listen and accept what I say. Then you will have a long life.

I am guiding you in the way of wisdom, and I am leading you on the right path. Nothing will hold you back; you will not be overwhelmed. Always remember what you have been taught, and don’t let go of it. Keep all that you have learned; it is the most important thing in life.

Don’t follow the ways of the wicked; don’t do what evil people do. Avoid their ways, and don’t follow them. Stay away from them and keep on going, because they cannot sleep until they do evil. They cannot rest until they harm someone. They feast on wickedness and cruelty as if they were eating bread and drinking wine.

The way of the good person is like the light of dawn, growing brighter and brighter until full daylight. But the wicked walk around in the dark; they can’t even see what makes them stumble.

  (Proverbs 4:10-19 NCV) [Context– Proverbs Chap 4:1-10]

Key phrase

The way of the good person is like the light of dawn...

Digging Deeper...

  1. What is the fatherly advice given in the first few sentences? What general promise is connected with this advice?
  2. What are the exhortations that follow this fatherly advice?
  3. What encouragement is given for following this fatherly advice, and heeding these exhortations?
  4. How is this encouragement contrasted with the consequences of not accepting this advice or heeding these exhortations?

Make it personal...

If you don't have a good and reliable relationship with your own father, is there anyone in your life who is mentoring you?

Do you have people in your life whom you trust to give you good counsel and advice? If not, have you made any effort to build healthy, beneficial relationships in your life?

Do you choose to surround yourself with people who are encouraging, and who instill hope? If not, are you willing to make some hard choices to do so?

Reflection...

I've had both unhealthy and healthy influences in my life. At one point in my life, I made a choice to seek out healthy relationships, ones that encouraged my new-found faith in God. It was a vital decision, one I've never regretted.

We all have choices to make. Either we make them by default and continue on an unhealthy path of life that grows darker and darker, or we make wise choices for a path filled with the light of dawn.

How do you know if you're making the right choices in life and your relationships with others? Is the path ahead of you getting darker or brighter? Do you see what made you stumble before, or are you still wandering in darkness and without hope?

Once you start making wise choices, you need to keep making wise choices—day in and day out. May you make wise choices, so your life's path is filled with the light of dawn!

Bye-bye!

I'll have to resume my normal posting schedule later this week. 

staff-us_despedida

We've been super busy with goodbyes, Despedidas (farewell parties, outings, and dinners), packing, and clearing things out.

We had a great time with our staff at some fresh water pools up in the mountains. It was a sweet time. We also got together with some good friends through the week and into the weekend. We've been blessed with many great friendships over the past 23+ years!

Tomorrow will be a bittersweet time, as we leave Rainbow for the last time, and the sendoff at the airport. We'll be spending the next couple days in and out of airports, but that's been a part of our life for a long while.

This will still be our home in so many ways.

Some Good Dont's to Observe

Photo credit: lightstock.com

Many people complain that religion is full of do's and don'ts, as if this is wrong. But isn't it the nature of a civilized people to have laws that govern society in a beneficial way?

Not all "don'ts" are restrictions of freedoms or rights. It's the nature and purpose of exhortations (or laws) that is the issue. When a parent says to a child, "Don't hit your friend," is this a wrong or negative restriction? Hardly!

Scripture

Whenever you are able, do good to people who need help. If you have what your neighbor asks for, don’t say, “Come back later. I will give it to you tomorrow.”

Don’t make plans to hurt your neighbor who lives nearby and trusts you. Don’t accuse a person for no good reason; don’t accuse someone who has not harmed you. Don’t be jealous of those who use violence, and don’t choose to be like them.

The Lord hates those who do wrong, but he is a friend to those who are honest. The Lord will curse the evil person’s house, but he will bless the home of those who do right.

The Lord laughs at those who laugh at him, but he gives grace to those who are not proud. Wise people will receive honor, but fools will be disgraced. (Proverbs 3:27-35 NCV)

Key phrase

Whenever you are able, do good to people who need help.

Digging Deeper...

  1. What are we exhorted to do? What things are we exhorted not to do?
  2. What are the qualifying statements connected to each of these exhortations?
  3. How are the exhortations, in verses 27-31, related to the statements in verses 32-25?
  4. How are these statements both promises and warnings?

Make it personal...

How are you a blessing to others you come in contact with, and those with whom you have a relationship?

Are you aware of thoughts in your heart and mind that are harmful to your relationships with others?

What are specific ways you can choose to be a blessing to others, and live your life in a way that benefits others?

Reflection...

There's something to be said for the expression, "Practice random acts of kindness." But what if it wasn't random? Wouldn't it be better for us to practice kindness as a way of life?

How we treat others depends a lot on what our thoughts are towards them. If we have negative, vengeful, or hateful thoughts, then this will be seen by how we treat others.

But when God's wisdom and kindness are valued and held in our hearts and minds, then kindness towards others will more naturally flow out of us.

 

Too Many Goodbyes

Last staff dayOne thing we learned early on as long-term missionaries—you say a lot of goodbyes. So do the nationals with whom you build relationships. It's not something you get used to, but it comes with the territory of being a long-term missionary (for at least a year or more on the field).

You say goodbye to family and friends when you first go to the field. This is tough, but it's tempered by the excitement of "going" and ignorance of the separation you'll realize later.

Once you've settled into building relationships with the people you live and serve among, you have more goodbyes. When family, friends, missions teams, and other visitors come to see you, you'll have another slew of goodbyes—some tougher than others.

Family, friends, and furloughs

Pays-RVM_airportThen there's furlough time. The more traditional mission agencies require long terms on the field (3-4 years) before going back on furlough. FYI, furloughs are not vacations! They're often stressful and overloaded with meetings.

When you leave to go on furlough, you say goodbye to your friends on the field, both national and ex-pat. When you leave what used to be home to go back to the field, you say a bunch more goodbyes.

I'd like to tell you it gets easier the longer you're on the field, but that wouldn't be accurate. Well, at least not for us, and we aren't so different from most other missionaries.

There's a saying that goes, "The only time a missionary feels at home is on the plane (or boat) going to or from the field."

When are you leaving?

One of the first questions we get asked after arriving on the field is, "When are you leaving?"

At first, it may sound like they can't wait to see you go, but it's deeper than that. Nationals (of any country) who have known and worked alongside western and near-culture missionaries have their own experience with goodbyes.

This is easy to overlook by us western missionary-types, but it's a mistake to do so.

In the cultures of MOTROW, friendships are forever. It's not easy building long-term relationships knowing that one day you'll have to say goodbye.

It's not easy building long-term relationships knowing that one day you'll have to say goodbye.

Now

Ks_LoriAnd that brings us to our present time at Rainbow. We are saying a lot of goodbyes, and it's not fun. But... it's part of the territory and everyone knows it.

More than a week ago, we had our reunion-celebration at Rainbow Village. Now we are in Despedida mode. This is a word borrowed from the Spanish. It's a farewell celebration.

Our reunion was a Despedida for Rainbow's ministry. Today was the last official work day for the staff, and the giving of their last paychecks (sueldo). It was a tearful time, but of course, a time for pictures, and some laughter!

Last staff day_FreddyThis Friday we'll have a staff-only Despedida with Susan and I. It will be a special time spent with those we've had a special relationship with for so many years.

I told them no tears on Friday! Well... we'll see. At least we're going to a fresh water pool in the mountains, so tears won't be so obvious!

Then Sunday, we turn over the keys to Rainbow's compound to the director of the foundation who blessed us with the property. The next day we close the gate for the last time, as we head to the airport.

I try not to think about that now.