My One Word for 2015

Several years ago, I gave up on resolutions. I never kept them and there were always too many to really attain. The list gets so long and honestly a year is just too short. If we look at our lives with real clarity and understand how discipleship really happens, we realize that God doesn’t ask us to get it all together in a 365 day period. That’s just not how our walk with Christ operates.

ow14_250x250_custom_250x250Since I started really, prayerfully considering the one thing God wants me to focus on each year, I’ve been able to recognize God’s hand shaping my life. One Word flies in the face of the typical year end look at a long list that had more unattained than accomplished – more regret than growth.

The greatest example of this came in 2014. God moved and shaped me more in 2014 than in any year I can remember, but I don’t believe it is because 2014 is the first year He actually moved in me, but because I was actually looking for Him in a quantifiable way.

For 2015, I began to pray and seek God in where He planned to devote His energies in my life and not just where I wanted to see him move. The word the came to mind was “invest.” As I prayed and thought through it, I wasn’t satisfied that “invest” focused closely enough where God wanted to be in me in 2015. As God stretched and pulled at the word “invest,” He placed the word “devote” on my heart. “Invest” has a strong financial connotation in our culture, while “devote” is a personal, deeply relational word.

Devote: give all or a large part of one’s time or resources to (a person, activity, or cause).

In the book of Acts, we are told that the Church, “…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The Church gave themselves to the mission that Christ left to them. In Romans 12:10, Paul tells the church in Rome to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Devotion is the Biblical term for personal investment. We are called to give of ourselves so that others might grow. We are asked to give ourselves fully to God. He wants our devotion to Him first and to others second. How often am I devoted to me and my agenda? How often do I devote my resources to the cause of me?

In 2015, I will seek God to become a more committed follower of Christ. I will seek God to become a more devoted husband. I will seek God to become a more devoted father to my kids. I will seek God to become a more devoted pastor, who gives time and resources to see those I lead become devoted themselves. The thing I know in all of this, is God is able and willing to lead me here.

My One Word for 2015

One Word 365 – 2014

My One Word for 2014 was “New” and my prayer in choosing that word was that God would “make all things new in me” in 2014. God answered that prayer BIG TIME.

ow14_250x250_custom_250x250I got married in 2014. Gina and I have been navigating “new” for the last 8 months. It has been an amazing journey together and I don’t want to fall into ordinary. I want to continue to move and grow towards stronger, deeper and new with her.

With marriage, comes all the new you’d expect. I moved into a new community, neighborhood and home in 2014. It has been awesome to grow relationships with new family that I’ve added this year. I love my new family.

We also entered into new relationships with a small group in 2014. This group has become some of our strongest friends and where God has provided our core support system. God used these relationships to introduce us to Tony, the Campus Pastor at Austin Christian Fellowship – Brushy Creek.

This last fall, God opened a new door to a new full time ministry for me at ACFbc with Tony. Watching God move on our behalf has been truly amazing and a blessing. God answered my prayer in 2014.

Last December, I felt like God was stirring and moving in a new way and I resolved to pray for that movement in a big way and that is just what he did. I can’t wait to see what God does in 2015. I’m praying for God to lead me to pray with boldness again in this new year!

One Word 365 – 2014

Good Gifts

For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Good gifts. We ask, God provides. That’s how this thing works, right? TV preachers, for years, have been saying that God wants to give us blessing and wealth; riches and all the good stuff. And that seems to be what Jesus is saying here, isn’t he?
What happens when God doesn’t give us all that STUFF? Does He hate us? Did we do something wrong to make Him mad? Is He withholding the blessing because we crossed Him?
Sunday, I preached on suffering with Christ. This seems to be a real part of being a true follower of Jesus Christ, yet here in the United States of America, Christianity has found its own brand of discipleship. A place, where the American Dream is directly correlated to the blessing of God. Now, don’t get me wrong, nothing is given or taken away, except by the hand of God. He is involved in the blessing process and nothing happens in this little universe without His knowledge.
BUT…
when we begin to associate our faith with material blessings, that faith is shaky at best and at its worst, is no faith at all. This “health and wealth” gospel as many call it only holds up as long as life is peachy and the sun is shining.
1282219_looking_at_the_sea
What happens when the rain comes and life is challenging? True discipleship happens in the tough times. Faith is strengthened by suffering. Paul and Peter both talk about how true faith is found in identifying with Christ’s suffering. Iron is sharpened in the fire, muscles are made strong by putting them through the wringer. Use whatever analogy you like, tough stuff makes us stronger if we are willing to walk through it with Jesus.
So what is Jesus talking about with these “good gifts”?
God’s idea of good gifts and our idea of good gifts, is a totally different discussion. Most times, in the USA, we aren’t even coming at this thing from the same solar system. We are world’s apart. God gives us, as Paul describes in his letter to the Galatians,
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Yes, sometimes we get some of the things that this world values – but God is most concerned, like any good parent would be, with our character and not our material lifestyle.
I’m still learning to live like this. Trusting in God’s brand of spiritual development, and not our Americanized version, is tough. How has God shaped you into who He desires you to be by allowing you to walk through tough stuff?
Good Gifts

One Word for 2014

I am a fan of AT&T’s current ad campaign. Who doesn’t love kids saying hilarious things on TV? The newest commercial began airing recently and I found it less funny yet more profound. 

Maybe unintentionally AT&T is onto something here with our New Year’s Revolutions.

Several years ago, I jumped on board with my friend Alece Ronzino’s One Word 365 movement. It truly has become a movement. I believe that so often we sit around and make list after list of things we want to change about our lives leading up to a new year and the complexity and vastness of the list actually hinders our ability to focus on what’s most important. We lack focus in the area that God truly wants to concentrate His efforts in us.

Isn’t that what’s most important anyway? Shouldn’t our priority be what God wants to do in us instead of the list of things we want to do in our own strength? It is the struggle of all struggles, after all, what we can do versus what He can do…what we want versus what He wants.

I heard a message from Austin Stone Downtown Campus Pastor, Jeff Mangum last week about how, just maybe, God wants to work in the small, dark places of our hearts that we haven’t even examined in awhile. That message helped me unpack what God had been speaking to me quietly for a few weeks, my One Word for 2014.

My word for this year is…NEW.

God isn’t in the business of cosmetics. He’s in the business of reconstruction…Complete tear downs and rebuilds. God does his best work from the ground up.

The Book of Genesis is a perfect example. God started Mankind’s existence from the dust. There wasn’t anything he had already made that he felt he could just improve on or modify, he just made something new. God is an expert on new.

In Isaiah 43:19 he says,

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

It is in this passage where I see the connection between Jeff’s point on small, dark places and new. There is a phrase we use about others, but seldom about ourselves, “He/she is rough around the edges.” We all have rough edges. Our lives are so full of hurt and pain that life is bound to scuff a few edges. Often times that comes in the form of poor choices we make and other times from no fault of our own. Regardless, how we smooth those edges is our choice. Many times we are disinterested in doing anything at all. Sometimes, we’ve become so accustomed to the roughness that we don’t even realize it is there anymore.

What we tend to want to do is to throw on a mask, or put new clothes on the rough spots. That’s not what God does. He takes the masterpiece that we already are and he begins to sand us down in the carpenter’s workshop. He planes us down to our foundation and resets our basis. From there He remakes us into a new creation.

The thing I’ve discovered in the last few months is that God doesn’t just smooth out the rough edges, the tough stuff. Starting from scratch also means the edges that were already smooth also get remade. Sometimes we hold onto good too long. We can let good get in the way of new.

Only God can do this stuff. Only God is creative enough to be able to make new the human soul. Only God can cause someone to be reborn. Only God can make me new.

My focus in 2014 is on allowing God to make me new. the crazy thing is that God just doesn’t do this new thing one time. Remember the Isaiah passage? He is in the present tense, always now, making new. It is a daily newness that comes from walking with Christ. I am so looking forward to what God is going to do in 2014 in every area of my life.

Just maybe AT&T is onto something with this New Year’s Revolution thing. God isn’t into a resolution in our souls, he’s into starting a revolution of newness in us.

One Word for 2014

Dropped Connection

Take a minute to look at your Facebook wall.
How many “friends” do you have? Hundreds? Thousands?

Take a look at your Twitter account.
How many people are you following? How many follow you?

How often do you send and receive texts?

We have been fed this line that we’re more connected than we’ve ever been. We have more ways to have “meaningful” relationships than any generation that has come before us. If that is truly the case, why do we feel increasingly more lonely?

We aren’t really more connected with one another. We’re actually more isolated than we’ve ever been and worse than that, we believe we’re not. We’re missing connection and deceiving ourselves into believing we’re more connected than ever. We can’t figure out why we feel so lonely.

Our connection online and through these internet connected devices we carry with us have sold us a false sense of connectivity and human interaction.

Don’t get me wrong, the potential for increased connectivity exists today that has never existed before. We have the opportunity to start new relationships that were once impossible, but only if we take the next step in community building. We have to take the step of face to face interactions. We don’t take our connectivity far enough. We stop short of real human-edifying connection.

We’ve replaced real relationships and intimacy for bad habits. We have become a people who can no longer communicate beyond 140 characters. We are more reluctant than ever to have difficult conversations because these conversations have become increasingly more difficult now that we no longer have deep respect and intimacy with others. In place of respect and intimacy, we’ve put passive aggressive behaviors like texting difficult and important information.

Our culture is on a breakneck pace in terms of developing technology, but we are also on an equally paced downward slide of relational competency.

I am challenging myself to take a step this week to have a face to face connection with someone just to develop the relationship.

What about you?

Dropped Connection

The Challenge of Living in Transition

We spend so much of our lives planning stuff. We plan everything from entire days to trips to the grocery store. There’s a part of our culture that looks at you kinda funny if your life isn’t all planned out and shiny bright. We say things like, “When I get into my dream home…” or “When I get my stuff together, then I can get married.”

I have spent the better part of the last four years in perpetual transition. Relationships, homes, money, jobs, churches…LIFE. IN. TRANSITION.

I keep thinking, “When I finally get into that perfect job opportunity, in that perfect place, with that perfect person, life will be back to normal.” I’ve spent time reluctant to build strong relationships and plant roots because life didn’t feel normal.

But, the more I yearn for normal, the more I realize that Jesus is calling me to a normal that is comfortable in transition. So maybe the challenge of living in transition is actually being ok with living in transition.

What do you think?

The Challenge of Living in Transition

Is it planning or worry?

Have you ever been in a situation where you know the next move you are supposed to make but you are waiting on timing? You’re living in the balance of waiting on God and stepping out in faith.

I’ve been there. I am currently there. Honestly, I don’t have the answers. As a matter of fact I’m looking for answers myself.

I got reacquainted with a story in the Gospel of Matthew over the weekend that got me thinking about it again.
Jesus is sending his disciples out for ministry. He tells them that he is giving them everything they need. He’s promised them that they have His power to heal and do signs and wonders that point to God’s greatness. Then he says this:

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. (Matthew 10:9, 10 NIV)

Jesus promises that they will have everything they need if they just go in His name. He assures them that he will provide.
This theme runs through the Gospels and is central to Jesus’ teaching. Our job is to go. His job is to provide for the details. We’re not supposed to worry. He takes care of the big picture.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:25, 26 NIV)

Then he says…

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33 NIV)

This really resonates with me, yet I can’t help but think about what I’ve always been taught.
Aren’t we supposed to plan and watch and pray?

Do we go with our heads up and our hope in Christ or do with watch and pray?

Is it planning or worry?