Good To Be Home

I've not been posting because I'm doing something I've not done in a while...take a vacation. Part of that vacation has included body-surfing at Myrtle Beach as well as hanging at the Hard Rock Cafe. We've also made it back to spend time with my folks and go through the attic filled with old toys and junk my parents have not yet thrown out!

Most meaningful was the opportunity to speak at my home church Jarvis Memorial UMC in Greenville, NC. Not only did I have the chance to speak on Authentic Faith but also was given the chance to assist in worship. Many thanks to Dr. Dick Douglas (sorry about your Tar Heels) and Rev. Albert Shuler.

Just so ya know, I'll be back soon!

Thoughts on Authentic Faith, part 1

You can have a little faith in a new board and walk safely across a stream and you can have great faith in a rotten board and find yourself soaking wet.

Its more than just how much faith, it is about where the faith is placed. Authentic Faith has become my mantra. It is what provides a foundation for my service, my ministry and my life. For me, it is not merely that one’s faith be great or small but that it is The Authentic Faith.

Is there one authentic faith? As my faith journey has continued these past 20 years, from the foundation of Scripture, through my personal experience, through the study of traditions and the use of my mind, I am convinced there is.

In its Greek form, the word for faith is PISTIS. The most simple of definitions means, “conviction of the truth of anything.” It can be translated as confidence, trust or belief. However, it can also mean THE FAITH when it is contrasted with the law as Paul does in Romans 3:31 (NASB) Do we then nullify the Law through (the) faith?

On his journey to Jerusalem, Luke records various encounters Jesus had with his disciples, the crowds and with Pharisees. In one instance he records what has been a story which I’ve dwelt with often in recent years.

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
" "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

This story, I think reflects Wesley's thoughts in one of his letters to Thomas Church. John Wesley wrote,
“Our main doctrines, which include all the rest, are three – that of Repentance, of Faith, and of Holiness. The first of these we account, as it were the porch of religion; the next, the door; the third, religion itself.”

In this simple story, Jesus walks with us through the journey of one who took the steps to The Authentic Faith and contrasts this with one who knows not.

1. Notice where both men are: the temple. Faith can be demonstrated and experienced in any place but most certainly in the place of worship.
2. The tax collector pays no attention to the Pharisee, he can’t bring himself to look to heaven but instead beats his breast in anguish.
3. He acknowledges God’s place as God and repents: the porch.
4. He goes home justified by faith: the door
5. Does he go on into the house? The world may never know.

Brother Wesley writes to the church that they should encourage believers and “Exhort him to press on, by all possible means…” Now Wesley did not leave us guessing to those means. As he examined the Scriptures, he found there 5 primary means which the Christian ought to engage in:

1. Prayer:

"The central theme of Wesley was always heartfelt prayer. He said that prayer is the lifting up of the heart to God."

2. Searching the Scriptures:

"Wesley has long been described as the "man of one book," while it is well-known that he read extensively in other fields and published approximately six hundred works of various themes. For him, scripture spoke to life, in its reading and proclamation, at deeply human levels."

3. Communion (The Lord’s Supper):

"Connects individuals to each other and to the grace available through the work of the Holy Spirit in our taking the bread and cup."

4. Fasting:

"Fasting for Wesley was closely connected with the continuing practice of prayer: "It is a help to prayer; particularly when we set apart larger portions of time for private prayer."

5. Christian Conference (small groups):

"The religious life and community were also inseparable for Wesley. The literal meaning of "conference" is an intensive meaning of the word "together." Conference was not merely a loose association of individuals, but an intensive, accountable, organic community."

(see also Acts 2:42 & Acts 13:1-3)

Do something,” wrote Oswald Chamber, “the test of faith is in not doing.” Faith isn’t faith until you step onto the board, be it new or rotten, and start walking.

At the beginning of my journey, I offered to God my life to use how He would. It seemed the right way. It was the way God continued to open doors and lead. In the midst of dealing with cancer and depression I sensed the Spirit’s leading. I began exploring the possibilities and felt God calling me to seek ordination as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. I knew God wanted me to be a youth minister so it wouldn’t make any sense to be ordained as an elder and possibly be appointed as a pastor!

Well, after being told "not yet" twice by the Board of Ordained Ministry, what I knew was that I didn’t know what God was leading me into. And so I renewed the use of the means of grace. One night in August of 2004, I woke in the night and wrote down on paper, the vision for a new church.

I can tell you this rocked my world. I have had no thoughts, dreams or fantasies about being a pastor let alone a church planter. It may seem to you a short step from a youth pastor to an ordained minister but for me it was more like trying to leap the Grand Canyon. But I had to do something.

For Heather and I it was a retelling of Abraham and Sarah. It was and is a journey of faith. I remember clearly the evening when Heather said to me,

“I didn’t want to be a pastor’s wife.”

To this I responded from my heart,

“that makes two of us 'cause I didn’t want to be a pastor.”

We begin at that point to reflect on where we would go, for like Abraham," faith..., when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going, (Hebrews 11:8, 11-12 NASB)"

Faith has to do something.

May I Ask: When has your faith been put in a solid board? A rotten one? What did you learn?

Preaching Performance

What did people hear in worship yesterday? What did you say in worship yesterday? The two are not always the same. Now, I recognize not everyone who reads this is involved as a preacher but then the article I'm referencing isn't from a preacher.

Speaking as a Performing Art was posted on Guy Kawasaki's blog this past week. As I was at Annual Conference, I didn't have much opportunity to reflect on this. Until this morning.

Having myself taken a speech course and been a theatre minor, some of these points I was familiar with. Having been in ministry for over 10 years, I can affirm many of these techniques. The reality is, however, there is always more to learn.

I would encourage you to regularly get feedback from people and even record and watch yourself. Recently, Tom, my senior pastor, listened to one of my sermons and commented about number 11. Tee it Higher. It seems I preached most of the sermon in my upper register, conveying much more urgency than I intended too. It also sped up my sermon.

You can have the best message in the world but something gets in the way. Sometimes it is the heart of the people. Sometimes it is the time of the year. Sometimes it is the enemy. Sometimes it is music. But sometimes it is the messenger who becomes the barrier.

May I Ask: When was the last time you got a critique of your sermon or talk?

May I Suggest:Give someone you respect a copy of
Speaking as a Performing Art and have them review your work this week.

Up with Pop!

Let me be honest (not that I imagine you would stop me) and tell you I was not a really good baseball player. For that matter I wasn’t too hot at basketball either. I was okay at soccer but I had problems with my knees in fourth grade and my doctor ended those career hopes. Through it all, my dad was there, my very own superman.

Today, as a dad, I know the truth: He wasn’t always there and he wasn’t superman either.

The fact of the matter is, I am glad my dad wasn’t superman. No super powers played a part in the making of my dad. It was determination that helped him work his way through college. It was for the dream of a better life for his family that he pressed on in his career which would provide for us.

Nope, he was not and is not superman at all but he is my dad; my Pop. This is not all he taught me but these are at the top of the list,

1. Get Up.

When I was a teenager, on Saturday mornings every summer, Pop would wake me up. Before my friends were up, we were mowing grass. Later, mowing grass became my first business. It was a simple lesson in initiative.

2. Stand Up.

Pop taught me to stand up and take responsibility for my actions but he also taught me to stand up for what I believe to be right.

3. Lift Others Up.

I can remember learning to ride a bike. I hated it. At the end of the week, Pop and I sat in the front yard and breathed a sigh of relief. That was when I saw his bloodied, scarred hands that had reached out time and again to catch me and lift me up.

4. Give Up.

You cannot do it all and if you could, how would you have any time to do things which are most important? Family dinners and road trips ranked important to Pop. Figure out what is important, what you love and let the rest go.

5. Shape Up.

Pop is a learner. The first time I saw his resume it reminded me of a small novel! I had no idea how much my dad knew or how well known my dad was in his field. Leaders are learners.

6. Look Up.

Pop was in the choir at our church and took up roles as a leader when asked. He never forced faith on me but Pop’s actions told me more than words could - make time for God.

Pop lived a better sermon than I could ever preach on Proverbs 22:6:
Train a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not turn away from it.

So thanks Pop, for teaching me the way to go and how to do it for the ones who are now looking to me.

May I Ask: Who is looking to you? What are you teaching? What could you teach?

NGA Annual Conference Coming to a Close

The final tally for Jurisdictional is:

Bridgette Young
Bill Britt
Diane Parrish
Joy Melton
Mike Cavin
Clay Jacobs
Renita Thomas
Sondra Jones
Mike Long
Leon Matthews
David Nagley
Dee Shelnutt
Jackie Rose-Tucker
Parks Davis

A motion was passed to take one last vote and fill the Reserve Delegation with the top five vote givers.

Morning Breaks @ NGA Annual Conference

We awoke this morning, packed our bags, checked out of hotels and arrived at Annual Conference to find that clergy had elected an additional five to Jurisdictional Conference. The delegation now includes:

Sondra Jones
Mike Long
Leon Matthews
David Nagley
Dee Shelnutt

Thoughts on Humility

"We must struggle with God together in a culture that misundersands humility and grace." These words from Nancy Folsom are providing for us a context to consider our ministry and integrity as clergy and laity. We've also heard from a single mom who had been abused who expressed how important humility is in the journey to wholeness.

May I Ask: What are you learning as you walk humbly with God? How can you share what you've learned?

More Than Meets the Eye @ Annual Conference

This week a number of friends have asked about my blog, why I do it, what the purpose is? For me, an authentic faith is given expression in daily life. This week, my daily life revolves around Annual Conference, the yearly gathering of Conferences in the United Methodist.

This is an important year because of the elections surrounding those who will elect bishops. It is also elections for those who will help shape the theology, government and mission of the church at General Conference which will be expressed in our Book of Discipline.

Those who were elected for Jurisdictional Conference today are:

Brigette Young
Bill Britt
Diane Parrish
Joy Melton
Mike Cavin
Clay Jacobs
Renita Thomas

While I'm certain some of you who read this of other denominations may disagree with our form of government as expressed in elections, we believe God works in and through this process. However, I think there is more to it than meets the eye.

Where Is Our Face Set?

This morning, I was reading from the book of Luke and read these verses:
When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." And they went on to another village. Luke 9:51-56 NASB)

Jesus' face was set to Jerusalem because His goal was to bring honor to God by fulfilling the Father's will. God's will was to provide a solution to humankind's sinfulness and rebellion.

There is a tendency to worry so much about other differing view points that we begin, to go on the offensive. That is convicting for me because this day in conversation with others, I spoke negatively about a candidate. In his reflection on these verses, Adam Clarke said, "...[you] do not consider that the zeal which you feel springs from an evil principle, being more concerned for your own honor than for the honor of God." Ouch.

Authentic Faith In A Bigger God

For authentic faith to grow, then I need to place my faith in God. A God bigger than my biases. A God bigger than my honor. A God big enough to defend His own honor. It seems to me at any point we allow such words or actions to sprout, then like Clarke said, we allow an "evil principle" to start a root system in our lives.

So an authentic faith says I need to confess to my bretheren the "evil principle." It means too, a more attentive reflection on my motives and words. You see it doesn't seem to be the system of government in a church (or business, or country, etc.) that is at the root of the problem but what is always at the root of the problem: the condition of the human heart.

Of course when the theme is that "We are called to walk humbly with our God" we can only imagine how God might layout the deck so we might truly get what it means to be humble. And apparently, I could use a little more humility.

May I Ask: How will you practice humility this day? This week?

NGA General Conference Delegates elected!

Okay, we've already established the laity have done their business. But it is also a time to celebrate our delegation for General Conference:

Ed Tomlinson
Jonathon Holston
Wiley Stephens
Jim Cantrell
John Simmons
Jane Brooks
David Jones
Jamie Jenkins
Richard Hunter
Steve Wood
Richard Winn
Nora Martinez
Alice Rogers
Chuck Savage

While I'm sure there are a multitude of opinions but from my perspective this represents a cross section of our conference. Do I disagree theological with some? Sure, but I expected that I would. Would it be a fair representation if an entire caucus elected their delegation? No, I don't think that would reflect our conference.

Shouts Out to Gary Greenwald
We took a moment to recognize to Gary's 9 years of service to Camp Glisson. Gary and his family have been great friends and influential part of our family for a number of years. He has exemplified what it means, " do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8) Thanks Gary!

May I Ask:How often do you celebrate your accomplishments? What about your friends? Do something this week to celebrate one, the other or both!

Sleep tight as Conference goes into the night.

We wrapped up Wednesday session at 9:30pm and left celebrating the work of the Laity here in North Georgia. Check this out:

General Conference Delegation
Laity: 14 Clergy: 8

Jurisdictional Conf. Delegation
Laity: 14 Clergy: 0

Congratulations to a laity that elected (it appears) their entire JC Delegation in one vote!


On a personal note, I can't tell you how proud I am of Chris Fuller who spoke tonight as the president of Wesley Student Movement in the North Georgia Conference. Chris was in my youth ministry at Gainesville FUMC for four years. Chris has an awesome family and deep roots as a Methodist Christian. He is an incredible young man and inspirational leader.

Times like tonight help to keep me going and remind me why living out an authentic faith is so important. You don't always know who is watching and other times you know exactly who is watching. God's blessings on you Chris!

May I Ask? What time did you go to bed tonight?

Conferencing and Serving...

To date the score stands:

Laity 13 Clergy 3

Clergy elected are:
Ed Tomlinson
Jonathan Holston
Wiley Stephens

We took another ballot before breaking for lunch and our Great Day of Service.

Budget Presentation and Ammendment

Also presented this morning was a written copy of ammendment to the budget. This year, the Council on Finance and Administration presented a budget which would cut the Office of Church Development by 15.7% This was not merely cutting a requested increase or denying the increase.

Facts about Church Development

The new churches which we've started in North Georgia in the last 10 years represent 12,074 of the Conference growth, or 21.7%. At the same time, these churches were only receiving 11.7% of the Conference budget. These same congregations gave over $1 million in apportionments.

Have all of our new churches been as successful as we'd all like? No. Have they put back into the conference as we'd all like? No. As a church planter, do I have at least a little bias? Yes. Our church development budget reflects the development of not just white-anglo churches but African-American churches, Korean churches, and Hispanic churches.

We are far behind what we believe we should be in professions of faith in North Georgia yet we still lead the entire nation. Annual Conference celebrates so many things every year. There are great ministries which we do. Can we not find a moment to honor churches who grew because of professions of faith? Isn't that the heart of "making disciples of Jesus Christ?"

Great Day of Service

I'd also like to ask, how many other businesses or organizations take part of their time during the convention to serve the host community? Come on, think, I can't think of any either. Yet today in Athens, GA, hundreds of United Methodist conference goers will volunteer their time all over this community to try to make it a better place.

This is conferencing at its best. You'd think that ought to get some press somewhere!

May I Ask: What is your organizational mission or your personal mission? Look at your budget. Are you funding them?

Adventures in Conferencing...

Today completes day 2 of the Annual Conference here in Athens. The score to date:
Laity: 9 Clergy: 0

Laity have elected 9 of their 14 delegates and the clergy have only gotten one ballot done thanks to computer errors. So no delegates elected yet from the clergy.

However, voting and legislation are only part of conference. There can be a number of ways to look at this. For me, I'm trying to look at this time through the eyes of my own journey of authentic faith. I indicated earlier that for me, I'm reflecting on the nature of conferencing in our tradition. As I have been nametagging for the last two months, I've learned the power of connecting but what of conferencing? Conferencing was an important aspect of early Methodist Christians. It was one of the 5 Instituted Means of Grace which John Wesley saw in the life of Jesus.

Regarding this issue issue of conferencing, Dean G. Blevins writes:
Generally the term might be used to include all of Methodism in its various social groups. The emphases of Wesley's groups were spiritual renewal, mutual accountability, mutual responsibility, and Christian practice in the world.

Our connectional system is intended to harken back to this. However, many aspects of the connection have been lost such as the penitent bands and the class meetings (not to be confused with Sunday School unless a Sunday School follows those rules of Wesley's).

My observation has been that there is a much more respectful attitude for differing view points at this year's Annual Conference as opposed to recent elections. All sides have found a way to have voice for their points of view. As one of our newly elected lay delegates said, "Our elections are unque form of Christian conferencing." What we are seeing is great ideas represented by great people being expressed in a great process towards a greater purpose.

May this be the spirit which continues to carry us through.

And May I Ask: What great idea do you have that needs a voice? How will you become that voice?

Ordination - Done!

Last night part of my journey ended and another began. It was great to be part of a group of ordinands who could literally stand in honor of one another. It has been a long journey and it is exciting to have this last step done. My thanks to all of you who have been in prayer for me and supported me through these years.

So now I hit the road with my clean, white name tag and my clergy teller pin and take my place as full-connection elder and the opportunity to cast my vote. Or is it more importantly, I take my place as a humble servant to people of God called humanity and accept that the world is my parrish?

Bishop Davis reminded us that our orders don't belong to us, they belong to the Church. I like that, no really, I do. The role of elder is a calling but it is also entrusted to each clergy by the people of the Church. The piece of paper I received last night is a symbol of what has been entrusted to me. I do not carry it by right but by privilege. My ordination is not mine, it is the Church's and if I succeed as an elder, then I should say only the words of a servant, "I did only my duty, have mercy on me." If I should stumble or fall, then I should say as the tax collector, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." Pray I always offer mercy.

May I Ask: How have you been shown mercy this week? How have you shown mercy?

NGA Annual Conference begins

Athens, Ga
Alright boys and girls, it is time for annual conference here in North Georgia! It is always great to see some free publicity out of it as I discovered this morning in the Marietta Daily Journal Online Edition: Hagler's Ordination in Athens (I promise, I had nothing to do with it!) But as Guy Kawasaki has an affinity for saying, "Any publicity is good publicity."

So anyway, I'll be posting from Athens this week and serving as a teller (which means I'll be helping with voting - no napping allowed). "All eyes" are supposedly on the NGA Annual Conference. I just love connectionalism.

This year includes voting for Jurisdictional and General Conference delegates. This year The Wesley Covenant Renewal group was formed to establish a list of recommended candidates. Interestingly, they have caught a lot of "heat" for doing so. But they have been out in the open as opposed to other voices in the conference who have been very secretive regarding organizing.

May I Ask:What are the implications of being secret in the midst of a connectional system? What can you do to get at the heart true of connection?

Its a Small World

If you haven't seen these two Chinese guys, then I hope this will make your day.

(Thanks Bert Gary!)

I'd encourage you to go to Google Video and type in Backstreet Boys and then view the whole collection of these two. They even made it onto Chinese TV. It is a testimony to how cultures are blending together (and how absurd a lot of music is).

The ideas and experiments of Web2.0 continue to blur lines of race, creeds, country and religions. While it is good and healthy in some ways what are the full ramifications to our worlds and lives?

May I Ask: What do you know of Web 2.0? (Go to Wikipedia and find out if you don't) How do you see it touching your life?

Considering Controversies

This message might be justifiably called a rant. Just so you know.

As Annual Conferences are getting underway, headlines are being made on various blogs. The gossip chains regarding who is getting appointed where have been in full swing for months. It is a voting year as the United Methodists elect delegates for Jurisdictional and General Conference.

But please tell me, what is the real controversy we are facing as a denomination and as a church? Is it regarding James Holsinger's nomination and the further heating up on the church's stated beliefs in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality? Is it the continuing "politification" of the church into camps defined by our voter registration cards? Is it regarding the authority of the appointed elder (be they a lead pastor or bishop)? Is it in regards to the authority of Scripture and then how it is understood (or in some instances appear to be trumped) by tradition, reason or experience)?

Or is it this, a simple question asked of both probationary and full-connection elders:

Describe the nature and mission of the Church. What are its primary tasks today?

My response (not in total) was this:

“The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ” (Book of Discipline, 87). This has not changed since Jesus spoke the words to His first disciples,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. (MT. 28:19 & 20, NKJV)

The same tasks Jesus gave us 2000 years ago remain true for us today. Any gathering of Christians should remain on track to fulfill the call of Jesus Christ. Thomas Oden reminds us this is not a work Christians are doing on our own but it is “God working in us and through us” to redeem the world from sin and build the Kingdom of God.

When we don't agree on the mission of the church, how can we come to agreement on anything else? In considering the other controversies, this is the one which truly matters: what mission are we on and how do we achieve it?

As an elder in the North Georgia Conference, I serve in one of the fastest growing states. I serve in the fastest growing conference in the U.S. I serve in the Atlanta-Marietta District which leads the conference in professions of faith in Jesus Christ. I serve in one of the 10 churches responsible over 55% of that growth. I've also been appointed to start a church in a county which has been as high as 4th in population growth in the U.S. in recent years. I've been called and appointed to make disciples of Jesus Christ. I've been sent to connect people to God.

When the daughter of your neighbor doesn't know what a pastor is because they've never been to a church, then the controversy is asking the question of ourselves, "what have we been doing that this little one has not heard the Gospel?"

Check Your Facts

I can't say homework was one of my favorite things to do. Heck, I didn't like schoolwork much either. I remember my first grade teacher, Ms. Swain, finding all my worksheets crumpled up in my desk. Man, was she mad! Thankfully, first grade didn't set the tone for the rest of my life (contrary to the opinions of some). I've grown to understand how researching, writing and asking questions are all important things to put on your agenda.

Questioning in Context
Now my work is as a pastor and church planter but I think the points can be applied to others as well. I've learned to read and question thoughts and ideas of others as well as myself. Whether you are a pastor, business owner, teacher, astronaut: ask questions, lots of questions. Be sure to question yourself too. If you are a church planter, don't spend too much time asking questions of church planters. We all love way out ideas and some are in another galaxy. Same goes for other professions - research outside your field. Spend time with proven leaders and lead pastors.

When did you last prepare a picnic?
“The examined life is no picnic” wrote Robert Fulghum. If you've done a picnic recently you know how true that is. Let's face it, picnics today consist for most of us as KFC or a pizza. But then I attribute this to the problem of...

Defective Definitions
Why does easy get defined as "good" and difficult as "bad"? My dad was always quick to remind me that anything worth doing was worth doing well and doing well means doing work. I'm convinced authentic faith, grows in part, when anyone takes time to reflect on their lives, beliefs and experiences. This applies to our relationships and careers as well.

Can't find the door?
“The mere attempt to examine my own confusion would consume volumes” - James Agee. Examining and reflecting starts with good questions. If you're having problems with coming up with good questions, check out Don the Idea Guy and his thoughts on "Killing Cats".

Jesus knew what he was talking about when he constantly compared faith to real life. His words are a case in point:
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' (Luke 14:28-30, NIV)

May I ask: What good questions have you asked?

Let me know what questions you've found helpful and post it here!

Strategic Serendipity

Scott Ginsberg has a great post on 9 Ways to Create Strategic Serendipity. It demonstrates an outline which helps create moments like The Fly Hunter.

I can't recommend Scott's work and writing enough. Not only is he incredibly gifted as a writer, its that he writes what he has experienced and so writes what he knows.

Dealing with the Dips

There are some things we don’t understand without having the opposite. You can’t know hot without cold or soft without hard. You can’t know what hills and mountains are without the valleys and hollers. You can’t know smooth without bumpy. You can’t really know high without the low.

Author, Seth Godin makes a simple point in his book, The Dip that has stuck with me, “if it is worth doing, it has a dip.” Dealing with dips is not a statement about the people who you live around or live with (though you may feel that way at times). Dips are a part of our lives as much as ups.

Seth Godin writes that “every new project starts out exciting and fun. Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point-really hard, and not much fun at all.” As a teenager, and as a youth pastor, I saw a lot of friends move from new faith start to the low point of trying to live faith everyday. I can think of more than one low point in my life. Those points; they would be dips. In the gospel of John, some disciples had to deal with the dip early on in response to Jesus’ words:
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60, 66)

I’ve been thinking a lot about dips and asking some questions. Would you say an authentic faith should reflect real life? Why do we expect the spiritual journey to be easy then? Would authentic faith be worth seeking if it was easy? If real life has dips then why not the faith life? Notice how often Jesus uses everyday elements to describe the faith journey:
-Consider faith like the cost of building a tower Luk 14:28
-Consider faith like going to war Luk 14:31
-Consider faith like a big dinner party Luk 14:16
-Consider faith like a groom coming for his bride Mat 25:1-10
-Consider faith like bread and wine Luk 22:19-20

And as Jesus gathers for the last time to eat with his disciples, he reflects on those same hard words that caused others to turn back from the dip but points beyond the dip.
"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. "All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:12-15 NASB)

Jesus’ words speak to the reality of our faith journey. To start, there are some things which we can’t bear. Some things are hard. Certainly Jesus is speaking directly to the disciples before the gift of the Holy Spirit comes. But even then, Paul writes to the followers of Jesus in the Corinth church:
1) And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2) I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,
(1 Corinthians 3:1-2 NASB )

There are dips to deal with on our journey of faith. Some have to deal with doubts and knowledge. Others have to deal with loss and fear as the disciples would soon discover at Jesus’ arrest.

What begins to sound absurd about faith is the idea of adding it to our lives. But then as Einstein said, “If at first, the idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it.” Those words speak volumes to dealing with dips. Does faith sound difficult? Does an authentic faith in Jesus Christ sound absurd?

It could be we are having a problem with our definitions. Remember how we define some things by their opposites? Could it be that something being difficult doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be bad? Learning to ride a bike was difficult but it wasn’t bad. Backpacking ten months after radiation treatments was difficult but it wasn’t bad.

Is faith absurd? Sure, but there is hope. Is it difficult? Yep, but there is a guide. Are there dips? Absolutely, but there is another side. Jesus never desires anyone to stay in a dip. Jesus doesn’t even intend for us to work our way out. This is what makes this all so absurd (in a good way) and why an authentic faith is full of hope.

The Spirit is the gifting gift, the indwelling presence of God which guides us in and over the dips.
1. There are more things to be learned. Remember, it is a relationship with God.
2. The Spirit is a guide to the truth. There maybe a Bible Answer Man but there is no God answer man.
3. The Spirit is the connection for us to the Father and Son. There is only one God.
4. The Spirit only reveals what conforms to Jesus’ teachings.

Who do you think of when you think of a person of faith? Who do you know with an authentic faith? Have you not met or read from someone whose faith you were impressed by? Then you know someone who knows the reality of dealing with dips. And if you have faith in Jesus Christ then you are gifted with the presence and power of the one who has faced the greatest dip, the one of death, and overcome. Today, our faith can be authentic, all because God had an absurd idea, an idea to love His creation enough to deal with the dips, turn the abyss of death into a dip and then giving to us the promise and hope of being our guide through.

May I Ask:How have you handled the dips you've faced? Would you change your response?

The Fly Hunter

Some things just come at the spur of the moment. Friday night a fly got into our house as we came inside from our BBQ. Thankfully our video camera was charged and ready nearby. Here is what happened next...

The Fly Hunter

Some things you just can't plan for or can you?

May I ask: Are you prepared for spontaneous moments?

Summer Sabbath

I've always thought of my day off as my sabbath time. When my kids were little, they talked about dad taking his "sabbiff." Sometimes sabbath is half a day and sometimes all day. Regardless, I know I've got to have rest.

At one time my sabbath was spent eating lunch in the Mall of Georgia food court, reading and people watching. My sabbaths have included retreats, messing around in the yard and sleeping in. These days, I like my sabbaths at home. With my current responsibilities, it has been most meaningful to have find rest at our little abode.

We all need to find time to slow down and rest. It doesn't need to be squeezed in or come by it by accident. Just recently I got onto one of my former interns who is now a youth pastor about taking his day off. Trust me, it is not just for you but also for the people around you too.

Scott Ginsberg outlines some great ideas in his recent post
Daily Appointments With Yourself.

You might also try MethodX.
This site will help in developing spiritual habits that lead to a more authentic faith.

Today, sabbath has meant spending time with my family, playing in the yard, and catching up on a little sleep. Let's not forget, God did rest on the seventh day. You don't have to tell me twice.

May I Ask: Where have you put sabbath in your schedule? If you haven't...make it so!

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