39 and something is still kicking me
1. He has shown me that I take on too much. I don't mean projects or events. What I mean is that I usually carry the burden of making ministry happen. Through a few friends named Paul, Vance, Mac and Aaron, God began to show me that it is not my job to grow the church or ministry but to stay connected to Him and allow His life to live through me. So many times I get overwhelmed at what I think needs to happen and I begin to carry the burden of making those things happen. But that's not what God has asked of me (or you). He asks me to stay connected to Jesus and allow the life of the vine to give me the bearing of fruit (John 15:5)
2. My identity is not who I make myself to be (or what others think about me) but what Christ has secured for me on the cross and in His grace created me through the life He lives through me. Most of you know I really do care about what people think about me (although I say I don't) and for years this has sent me spirally down a long trail of depression, anxiety and pain. I usually do something stupid through that pain and find myself thinking God hates me or won't use me anymore (the next point). However, through studying Colossians and Ephesians (and the rest of the N.T.) I am finding out that God has not only given me freedom from sin but also a new life and name (thanks Brent G.) God doesn't see me as the old wicked self but as His child and an heir to His kingdom. Through Christ's work on the cross which began His life in me, I am new, completely new (2 Corinthians 5:17)
3. When I sin, I turn my back on God while He graciously returns me to His face (Isaiah 29:13-14). He is wonderful to me when I am not wonderful to Him. My sin doesn't end the relationship (Romans 8). My sin now causes my face to turn from Him and my ears not to hear Him. Before Christ that last sentence was flipped (Isaiah 59:2). I will never suffer the condemnation of my God, but that doesn't mean He doesn't punish my sin. He does correct me, but that spanking is out of love not eternal hate. When I sin, I turn my back on God, but He doesn't turn His back on me.
4. That ministry is not my calling but what comes out of my calling (Galatians 2:20). For years, I have allowed being in ministry to dictate how I acted. Although a good thought, I have allowed thoughts about how a pastor is suppose to act get in the way of real life and allowing God to live through me. Vance once told me that "ministry is the overflow of intimacy". Paul has told me many times to trust what God is doing in me and that God would live through me out of that work. But many times I go back to struggling with point #1 and think that if I don't act or do certain things then our church is not going to grow. Can I tell you that no matter what you do, your church or ministry will not grow unless God does the growing! And He can do that without you or your obedience (this is not an excuse not to obey).
5. God grows things, I don't. I remember times when people would come up to me and pat me on the back for growing a ministry. Boy, how foolish I was to take those pats. I haven't grown one thing in my life. In fact, when done in my personal wisdom and strength (apart from staying connected to Christ), things seem to fall apart in front of me. Now, not everything fell apart, but I was miserable many times during God's growing things around me despite of what I did (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). My job is to stay connected to His life and allow His life to bring growth! Yeah there are times He asks me to water, to spread seed and even to harvest, but He is the one who grows it!
6. Finally and most important, my calling in this life is INTIMACY with God. It is the reason He saved me and it is His desire in me. God wants His Son to live His life through me. My life is to be a journey of intimacy with Jesus. This is all of our primary callings. We were saved for relationship and that relationship is with Christ (John 17:3). Adam messed this up but Jesus returned us back to the Father through His death, burial and resurrection on the cross. God saved me from Himself. God did not save me to start a church or to be a father, He saved me to be with Him for eternity. Now, while being intimate with Him, He leads me to the areas He wants me to live in, such as being a pastor or father or better a husband to an awesome wife. But this is not my primary calling, that is reserved in being with Him for eternity.
There are other things I have learned this year like: relearning how to surf, pidgin english, intentional relationships or how to enjoy Hawaiian food again, but those are things that I'll keep from boring you with.
Thanks for being my friends and praying for us. If you don't have an eternal relationship with Christ, you are in big trouble. Know that your eternity rests on what you do with Jesus. Follow Him, He is worth every good thing and every struggle you will have!
Peace out ya'll, there is a 6 foot swell coming into the south shore tomorrow with my name on it and I'm gonna surf it (or get beat up by it). Please God, keep the sharks away!