Monday, December 2, 2013

Measuring Our Effectiveness

Measuring our Effectiveness

Wanted to take some time to have a friend of ours share a thought he shared with our STS team at Ft. Campbell a few weeks ago.  Matthew Clark is currently leading the Ft. Campbell Navigators ministry as I am coaching him as he is leading our ministry.  Matthew has done a great job of helping our ministry continue to progress in the depth and commitment level to in depth bible study.  He is also doing a great job of continuing to push the vision of discipleship that Jesus modeled for us.

Here are a few points that I asked Matthew to post on our blog to share with everyone...
Hope it stirs some good and challenging thoughts and applications as we move closer and closer toward the model that Christ left us.

 Recently I had a conversation with a fellow soldier and they were confessing to me the age old frustration. They were banging their heads against the wall in ministry but seeming to go nowhere. As we talked through the challenges of being a Christian in their unit and trying to be an example for Christ the inevitable phrase came out: “I am doing the best I can but no one in my unit seems to be interested in Christ.” As I drove the two and a half hours home that night this began to stir up a lot of thoughts in my head. I confess that I have often felt this way myself. As a young Specialist, newly arrived at Ft. Campbell, I was often frustrated that no one in my unit seemed to respond to me talking about Christ. I could easily throw my hands up and say that no one was interested. And I would wash my hands and say that I had done my best and move on.  But I have come across some verses that are worth consideration.

Matthew 9:37 – Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

John 17:20 - “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.

If God promises that the harvest is plentiful, and if He also promises that there will be those that believe through my word, then the question dramatically changes. No longer can I say that no one in my unit or sphere of influence is interested in Christ. Now I have to ask myself why am I am being effective in reaching out to them?
                Christianity is a very different culture from the World. And because of that we create a gaping chasm of a rift between the two worlds. Lots of things contribute to this gap; culture, values, purpose. In all reality we are living for very different things than the world is. And if we let it this can very easily alienate us and set the distance further and further away until we become irrelevant. Normally our approach is to invite people to church or to a bible study if they do not come then we throw our hands up and say, “Well I tried, they just weren’t interested.” But again if Jesus promises a harvest then either Christ is lying or we are using the wrong tactic. We expect those people to come out of their culture, their comfort zone, their family to take part in ours. What would persuade someone to want to cross this gaping chasm by themselves to take part in what is going on with us?
                In truth people will make this jump. But I argue that these are the people that are already desperate for Christ, people who are already relationally isolated, and people who are broken. Because these are the people that we are attracting to us it is no wonder that we spend massive amounts of energy bandaging them and taking care of them and very quickly lose an offensive and aggressive mindset. And although these people need Christ desperately I think we are losing the battle in long term influence by separating ourselves and only being attractive to the relationally isolated population.

                And first and foremost I do not think this is the model that Jesus left for us. Jesus did not remain on the fringes of society, drastically different, and expect everyone to come to Him. Jesus was attractive to them. Jesus went to them. And Jesus sent us to them.

Matthew 9:35 - And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.

Luke 10:1 - After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.

Jesus bridged this chasm leaving us an example of minimizing the distance people have to go. And He went to the world rather than expecting them to come to Him. Jesus’ example was to be close enough to the world to influence them but different and challenging enough to show them something different. But the most important thing is Jesus went to them.
Often times people are afraid to grab a beer with their fellow soldiers after work. They are afraid to go to a cook-out. Or they don’t know how to interact with the world because the divide is so far apart. But if we want to have a global impact and a lasting impact then these are fundamental skills we need to develop along with an understanding that we need to go to them, not the other way around. And it starts with me engaging one person in my unit, relating to him, and influencing him the way Jesus modeled.

God promises a harvest. So either God is a liar or we are becoming increasingly ineffective and irrelevant. Let’s look back at Jesus’ example and do what He did. Let’s go to the world instead of expecting them to come to us. And let’s influence one person and watch it grow exponentially.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NEW Creation... NEW Identity


I'm excited to Introduce Caleb Tate- whom I asked to write up a few thoughts from something we discussed over IM the other day.  Caleb is prepping to deploy with the Army and although he is away from our fellowship, God is continuing to work out things in his life and help him grasp and understand truths that HE is trying to communicate with us.  I've asked him to be our guest blogger....  enjoy...

The following thoughts come from my recent experiences in dealing with my identity in Christ.  I believe God has revealed to me something profound.  While this may seem a small thing, my experience has been that when God drops a pebble in a still pond, the ripple can turn into a tsunami. 
2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come".  I've had this passage memorized for several years.  The concept is pretty simple and easy to understand, but until recently, I haven't truly grasped onto this truth in order to apply it to my life.  Understanding that my identity comes from Christ is a big deal, and I've always known that, yet I never quite realized one small detail - that my identity is IN Christ.  This makes a couple of times now that God has chosen to reveal a profound truth to me in a verse of scripture that I've had memorized for quite some time (others include Ephesians 2:20 and Isaiah 53:6).  I knew that two things needed to happen: I needed to stop viewing myself as I always have, and I needed to begin to view myself as God does (through the blood of Jesus).  These two things were as easy for me as explaining string theory.  I didn't understand how to just switch perspectives simply by reading in the Word how God looks at His children. 
People can respond in many ways in conversations.  They either don't care about the other person in the slightest, they only talk to the other person because the circumstance happens to have both of them in the same place at the same time, or they are genuinely interested in what the other person has to say.   Very recently, as I lay down to sleep, I was having a bout of loneliness and I knew that I needed to pray on it. The idea that God wants me to talk with Him has always been foreign to me.  This fact was frustrating to me at that particular time as I lay there.  I knew that my upbringing wasn't the most conducive to me having an accurate understanding of who God is and how He views me.  I've known that for quite some time.  What I did not know was that I had not properly dealt with it.
I woke up early the next morning and did pray.  I can't remember exactly how the prayer went, but I thought about all the events that were burned in my head that helped to shape my current identity.  The gist of what God showed me is this: I don't need to hang on to those memories.  I'm not talking about God magically erasing those memories from my brain, I'm talking about asking God to heal the scars and the pain that the memories continue to cause.  Jesus healed all kinds of people when He was here in human form, and He continues to heal people today, but for whatever reason, I never thought to ask Jesus to heal me.  What does Jesus say to people? "Go in peace, your faith has made you well."  I guess I just thought that the emotional pain and scars were just a normal part of life.  That morning God showed me that it isn't.  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come."  Unfortunately, in my Bible the phrase, "the old has gone", is not bolded, italicised, and underlined, but that's what the Holy Spirit is there for at the proper time.  Matthew 7:16, "By their fruit you will recognize them.  Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?"  In this passage Jesus is talking about the difference between a true prophet and a false one  but I believe this principle can be applied here.  Grapes do not grow on thornbushes.  If I want to have an accurate understanding of who I am in Christ (grapes), it can't come from my current way of thinking (thornbush).  The thornbush must be uprooted: the old has gone.  The roots are the memories.  The unfortunate scenes in my head that shape how I think and bring legitimate pain must be properly put to rest.  I've written down specific events and memories from my past to ask God to heal.  "Your faith has healed you, go in peace." 
This process is not like a substitution in a basketball game.  It is better compared to an actual thornbush being chopped down at the root.  A shovel is needed to pick out bits of root and rock from the dirt so the soil is fertile for the new seed to be planted.  Water, sunlight, and time bring about the new identity.  This process will not happen automatically; deliberation is key.  God knows this process isn't easy, but I think that may be why He invented the gift of hope. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Making God Centered Decisions

Making God-Centered Decisions
            Life is about making decisions … so how is a person who is trying to follow Christ, able to negotiate decisions in life that will definitely bring blessings or consequences?

I'm going to digress for a bit....

I’m thoroughly enjoying our STS/Character study about the Life of David.  David was an ordinary person- that reckoned that God would be with him.  As a result- he does marvelous things.  As a result of following God and being more concerned about what God thinks of him- he makes tough choices that reveal a character about him that God says how David is a “man after my own heart.”  (1 Sam 13:14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command."   NIV)
            One of the things that caught my attention this past week from my study that has really impacted me and is causing me to rethink how I think about decisions and talking to God about them….This is the  passage that has gotten me thinking…

1 Sam 26:1-12 The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, "Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?" 2 So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand chosen men of Israel, to search there for David. 3 Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the desert. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, 4 he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived. 5 Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him. 6 David then asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, "Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?" "I'll go with you," said Abishai. 7 So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him. 8 Abishai said to David, "Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won't strike him twice." 9 But David said to Abishai, "Don't destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord's anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the Lord lives," he said, "the Lord himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord's anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let's go." 12 So David took the spear and water jug near Saul's head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep. NIV

(I’ll tell you in a little bit why I highlighted this last verse) 

So… David is being chased down by Saul.  God makes the entire Israelite camp fall asleep.  This gives David and Abishai a great opportunity to sneak down into the camp and finish off the man who is causing him so much trouble and heartache.  David and Abishai stand over king Saul and Abishai tells David this is the chance to finish off his enemy and God has given him the chance.  Abishai says he will run him through with his spear- “I won’t need to do it twice,” Abishai says.  But, David is convicted.  He cannot be part of such an act and decision.  David chooses the high road and instead chooses to take the king’s spear and water jug as a testament that he was there and had the opportunity to kill the king- but didn’t.
            This is my point….
            God made the entire Israelite camp fall into a deep sleep- EVERYONE.
            So God engineered this opportunity for David to kill the king.
            David entered the camp.  David saw the opportunity.  David ……..   did NOT kill the king.  David proves his character before God, before the men, before himself.
It wasn’t just enough to have an opportunity or an open door.  The issue for David was to have the kind of character that would CHOOSE the high road, the Godly decision (even though it meant prolonged trouble, discomfort, pain).  David saw the open door and was able to make a BETTER decision.
My conclusion and application:
·         Don’t pray for opportunities or open doors- pray for the character to know what decision to make

That is my hope and prayer for me, my family, my friends, and our ministry.
No doubt someone out there is feeling a little upset or insecure about the idea of not praying for opportunities or open doors-  I’m not intending in any way to attack or demean those who do (I have prayed for these opportunities and open doors too) 
My point is that I believe it takes a higher degree of commitment to Godlike character to pray for Christ like wisdom- so that I can make God centered decisions in the face of these decisions throughout my life.  Just like David, just because the door was open, doesn’t mean that I MUST take it.  David had the opportunity to take the open door (in this case, end the man who was hunting him down).  But, David doesn’t take the open door and instead, he proves his God like character.

Lord… May you bless me, my family, my friends, and those who’ve partnered with us in our ministry, that we can all display your wisdom and God like character in the face of life’s decisions…  Amen.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Campbell/Knox Spring Conference 2013

Campbell/ Knox Spring Conference 2013 at White Mills Christian Camp

The Ft. Campbell Nav ministry met with the Ft. Knox Nav ministry just this past weekend for our Spring Conference.  It was a quick conference, with the bulk of the conference occurring this past Saturday.  Doug Cote was the key note speaker.  We had some great fellowship time, fun, and great discussion as we mulled over the things Doug shared with us from his testimony and the 2 messages he shared with us.  Here are few high points from the weekend talks....

  • Doug had opportunity to get bitter with God- but he chose not to get bitter with God or with people 
  • Doug made Lordship decisions to CHOOSE to spend time with the people who could effectively train him and develop him as a laborer and disciple-maker
  • We use our logic to determine life decisions- but many times God has his OWN PLAN on what He wants to do and what He will do with us
  • The POA ensures that God will always send men and women who are committed to Him 
  • We need to pray for WORTHY men and women for God
  • We need to BE... WORTHY men and women for God
  • Our ministries are led by sinners- so we need to give each other some slack because we all need Jesus' help
  • Job 2:10- Accept adversity from God 
  • We need to realize we WILL go through adversity in our lifetime
  • We need to quit talking about being 'broken' when we're really not
Hope a few of these points will re-energize the thoughts from the conference and that it will also challenge us to move forward and further in our personal walk with Christ and how we can build and invest in others as well.

Monday, February 11, 2013

God's Blueprint Diagram

God’s BluePrint Diagram

A diagram that I drew up to highlight some key points in how a young believer begins to move forward toward maturity.  Just to head off any confusion.....
Once we've shared the Gospel or hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we have taken the steps to now walk with Jesus Christ- this outlines some key points in how a believer can move toward maturity and Engage in the Mission of Christ.

First we have to accept and submit to the Lordship of Christ.  What hamstrings many believers from even moving forward toward maturity in Christ is that we talk about following God- but yet we keep the control of our lives and do not submit to God's authority to direct our lives.  Which means we continue living how we WANT to live rather than finding out about what God is after and submitting ourselves to Him so that we can begin moving toward accomplishing those things.

Next... a person must realize that we are sent by God to accomplish a Misison.  If we dodge this issue- there is NO reason to grow and invest in the Basics of the Christian life.  The Basics of the Christian life will simply be things that I check on the block on sundays and maybe every so often on wednesday evenings or when a friend drags me off to biblestudy during the week.    Just an aside.....  I met a Vietnam veteran in the mid 90s when I was on active duty and there were no current conflicts we were engaged in at the time.... One of the things he said to me was "It was pretty hard getting (GI) joes to clean their M-16s... but as soon as the war (Vietnam) hit- it wasn't a problem convincing guys to clean their weapons or go to the range to practice."
We are in similar situations spiritually- if the believer doesn't see a mission that they are called to be part of- they will not see the need to invest in biblestudy, prayer, fellowship, evangelism training or any of those things that will help us move toward maturity.

The Basics of the Christian life- Time in the Word, Prayer, Fellowship, Witnessing, Obeying Christ, M2M discipleship... these things are going to form the backbone of what helps us move forward toward maturing in our Walk with God.

Maturity- Becoming the Warrior Leader on the battlefield that God has called us to be...
I love the story of Gideon where the Angel comes to him and calls him a "Valiant Warrior"- but Gideon has NO IDEA of what that means... particularly as he is hiding out in a cave.  But God sees us that way and wants us all to ENGAGE IN REACHING OUT TO EVERYONE around us for His Name.

The test of Discipleship
The Test of who we TRULY are as Believers
This is what Christ has called us to.... so....  are there disciples in our wake?
Matt 4:19  "Follow Me", Jesus said , "And I will make you Fishers of Men."  Can I truly call myself a follower of Christ if I'm not involved with Fishing for people the way Jesus did?

God's Desire- that all men come to Know Him....
Even in the OT we see that this was on God's heart.
His people knew that too.
1 Sam 17:45-47 David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands."    NIV
Young David knew this...
The story of David and Goliath was NOT a neat, little, fun story for us to talk about overcoming giants and bullies...  it is about God doing something BIG to bring glory to Himself- to create VISIBILITY to His name.
throughout the WHOLE world people would know and realize that there was A REAL GOD in Israel that moves and interacts and fights and is involved with people.

That is what God wants.
He wants to be involved with us and have us KNOW Him.

Lets find someone who doesn't know Christ and bring the Message to them... Lets find a believer that needs direction and lets get them trained... Lets go hunting for some giants.....

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Daniel- 1st STS study of 2013

Daniel- A Great Picture of God Orchestrating the Continued Visibility of His Name
          Working through the study of Daniel 1 with our STS team and I’m excited and encouraged to continue to see how God is bringing forward His own name to people everywhere- even though His own people have not stayed obedient and loyal to His name.
          Why would a conquering king bring nobility from a conquered nation into his own palace to become his own advisers??  Maybe a strategy to keep exiled Israelites from become restless?  Maybe the exiles would follow their own who were part of the Babylonian government?
          Nevertheless… the result of this decision by the king  brings Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah into the service of the king.  As a result, God is made visible not only to the King- but to everyone in the nation as well as the Babylonian kings order their people to recognize and follow the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
          There are so many things to take away from studying Daniel.... one of them: seeing how God orchestrates and works to the benefit of His people and His own Name at the Micro-level (with us and our own interpersonal interactions) but also at a Macro-level.  (creating visibility and recognition of His name through the city of Babylon, the Babylonian Empire, and the world)
          Daniel and his friends must have been through quite an ordeal to be conquered and taken away into exile and also to be 'educated' in the Chaldean culture and wisdom.  Yet throughout all this... we do NOT see Daniel or his friends wavering in the commitment and loyalty to God nor do we see them losing ground to bitterness.  If we are to continue forward with God and continue with boldness, conviction, while also managing to counter the effects that bitterness can have on our lives- it will be through the recognition and understanding that God is in control AND does have the best in mind for us.

Prov 21:1 The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.