Church Planting, Discipleship, & Marriage Planning

Twenty Eleven. It’s been quite the year but I’m not sure how it’s already mid-October. I feel the time has been going super fast and super slow at the same time. I recently turned 27. To be honest, I stopped caring about my age around 23 so when people ask me how old I am, my default thought response is 23. I’m thankful when Lisa is by my side because I often turn to her with, “Hold up. Am I 26? 27?” TGFL.

One huge blessing this year was the opportunity and privilege to join and commit to a brand new church plant in Silver Spring, MD, which will officially launch next year sometime. This is something that has been on my heart for a few years and while it was a rocky, unexpected, and difficult road to get to this point, I cannot help but be deeply humbled by God’s grace through it all and the sovereign orchestration by his loving, maestro hands. Connecting with the lead planter/pastor and his family has been a great joy. Extremely grateful for them and other new relationships that are developing. Lisa and I will be part of the core team that will be forming over the next few months. Please pray for the church and the community.

Though I’m certainly excited about this church planting thing as a whole, I think, more specifically, the discipleship I’ve been receiving has been the greatest benefit as I’m continually reminded and taught of Christ as the source of life. A continual turning of my heart back to the gospel. Feasting on Jesus which leads to faithful obedience and not the other way around. Thinking deeply about our (all Christians!) call as missionaries for the lost and unsaved. Shifting my perspective of ministry from program-driven to relational and incarnational. The interesting thing is, as I keep my eyes on Christ and am being shaped, I find myself not wanting to do just church-y activity but more obedient activity. I find these obedient calls to expose me of my weaknesses but showing off Christ as I depend on him. I find them to be unexpected and unusual, more during the week and not just simply at church. I find them to demand the death of my pride and life but revealing the glory of God and his resurrection power. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s freeing. I am continually reminding myself to first keep my eyes on Christ to feast on Him and what He has done. Indicatives first, then imperatives. Too often in the past I’ve focused on the imperatives without the indicatives. That’s a dead end street, friends.

By the way, I gave a the girl a ring this year. On a boat. She didn’t throw it overboard, so it went well. I find it amusing that I gave up my independent life as a bachelor on Independence Day. She is that special. I’m looking forward to married life. I intentionally put in the title, marriage planning and not wedding planning. Wedding planning definitely requires a good amount of work and produces some stress but it’ll get done, one way or another. I think the more important ‘work’ has been marriage planning. It’s been the pursuit of maturation as a godly man and preparation for union with a woman that has made this marriage thing more real to me than emailing and calling wedding vendors and the like. To love as Christ loved the Church. What a call God gives to Men. I recall my pastor confessing to me how his treatment of his wife is directly related to and directly flows from his relationship with the Father. Once again, gospel truth (indicatives) leading to humble obedience (imperatives). Just wanting to feast on Jesus.

Jesus. That’s who all these things are about and for.

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No, Because He Knows

Growing up, I don’t remember my father saying No to me very often whenever I asked him for things. I think I ended up receiving most of the toys I asked for. I got my state-of-the-art Super Soaker in elementary school, my boombox in middle school, my turntable and mixer in high school, and plenty of expensive Nike and Jordan brand shoes throughout. That obviously made me happy.  The few times he did say No, I’m pretty sure I just whined a bit and ended up getting whatever it was a few days after.  I understand that this was my father’s expression of love for me, even if it was a bit misguided.  Consequently, that pattern of fathering certainly fueled my already sinful and selfish heart.  I wanted things and I wanted them immediately.  If I didn’t get it, I’d be upset, bothered, unhappy, angry, confused, and rejecting.

As Christians, we know that our prayers are answered by God in three different ways: Yes, No, or Not Now.  As you may have guessed, I have issues with the No and Not Now answers.  They both contain ‘No’ in them so they are both No for all I know and I’m not cool with that.  God, you’re supposed to answer prayers by always saying Yes!  I’m not sure if that’s in the Bible, but based upon my attitude, I often want to believe it is really in there somewhere.

Even as I’m getting deep in my 20s now (wow, I’m an adult for real, huh?), I still struggle with the No’s.  It’s no longer toys, but I’m still asking and wanting.  God, I want this opportunity.  God, I want to go this direction.  God, I want this to happen.  No?  Why, God?  I’m disappointed in You (wow, the nerve I have, right?).

In these past months, God’s been gracious to open my eyes a little.  Maybe it’s wisdom that comes with age or maybe it’s just God teaching me some needed lessons.  Probably both.  I’ve been reflecting on the past few years.  Certain No’s had me confused and disappointed.  I kept saying in mind, God I trust you, but I recognize now how my heart’s attitude wasn’t exactly that.  But I’m beginning to see how those No’s were so full of love and grace.  He had my best interest in mind.  Protecting me and guiding me.  Loving me.  A negative response so full of holy love that it really is a positive response.  I just didn’t see it at those times.  I thought I was ready for the things I wanted.  I thought they were best for me.  But how often I forget that my Father is good and sovereign.  Never changing.  I’m thankful for those No’s, because he knew better.

People say God is interested in our holiness and not our happiness.  I think that is true for the most part but I’m not sure I can agree with it fully.  He’s interested in our holiness because He is a holy God and we are His people.  The amazing thing is that He is the greatest joy.  He’d rather give us the deepest, most satisfying, eternal joy in Christ, rather than fleeting happiness we find on this Earth that leaves us empty.  Yeah, He’s that good.

Interested in our holiness?  Yup.  Interested in our happiness? Even better.  He’s interested in our joy by drawing us to Christ.

Real Fears

A constant fear of mine is that I am self-deceived when it comes to my sin.  I fear that I’m not really serious about killing sin but just allowing it to easily express itself in other ways.  I fear that I don’t care too much about holiness.  I always try really hard to know my heart and its motives.  When it comes to this activity, the problem I come across is that I find this activity incomplete and at times futile if I never involve godly people who I trust and who are willing to love me faithfully by speaking truth to me.  And you know what?, it’s pretty hard to find people like this. But more and more I realize how incredibly important it is for me to have these kinds of people around me.

Another fear of mine is that I will look back when I’m old and realize I’ve been a talker and not a doer.  If I’m honest, I’ve been a talker for most of my Christian life now.  I’ve done plenty of nice, church-y things but that’s not it.  Jesus isn’t cool with that and I’m not either.  I want to actually follow Jesus.  Whatever it takes.

Fears paralyze me when that’s all I’m looking at.  But thankfully God’s showing me more of the cross and what Christ has done and who I am in Him.  Whatever it takes, I want my heart pure and my feet moving towards Christ.

 

Dreaming Again

I remember, for a certain class in high school, I had to assemble an anthology, a collection of poems.  It was to be comprised of poems from famous poets, poems I wrote, and a few poems written by classmates.  A month or so ago, Lisa and I were hanging out at my house and we randomly (re)discovered this anthology.  Lisa really got a kick out of the poems I wrote.  Was straight up laughing.  That kind of hurt, Lisa.  JK.  They were a bit ridiculous, I must admit.  I SMH’ed at myself inside when we were reading them.  Perhaps I will share one with the blogosphere one day.  MAYBE.

One of the poems I included in the anthology was Dreams by Langston Hughes.  A short piece of poetry that for whatever reason connected and resonated with me at that time.   Here it is:

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Reading it again after all these years (wow 8-10 years), I am pleasantly filled with similar feelings and thoughts of inspiration and perseverance.  I didn’t even have lofty dreams and aspirations in high school but I clearly do remember thinking there must be more and that life for God’s kingdom would be exciting, challenging, and not ordinary.  Difficulties in life can certainly put a damper on one’s perspective and outlook though.  I think it has in my life, on some level, over the years.  I’ve certainly learned that ordinary is hard, painstakingly real.  Preparation takes work and persevering really sucks a lot of times.  Little by little the gaze towards heaven shifts downwards and inwards.  The convictions of dreams fade and dreams begin to be only pleasant fairy tales from way back when and not something to be fiercely pursued. 

I’m familiar with God raising people from the dead.  I’m realizing he raises dreams from the dead too.

Beginning To Appreciate Sleep

For most of my life, I thought sleep was a waste of time.  Often I’d have this feeling that I was going to miss out on something if I slept.  Silly thing was, most of the time I didn’t really do anything productive and nothing worthwhile really occurred.  But still, I’d keep my eyes open.  And of course with no surprise, I often had bad sleeping habits.

When I think about it, I’m not totally sure, but I would venture to guess that I was hungry for something to satisfy me.  This inner desire to feel alive and feel moved and feel loved.  Ultimately, to be satisfied.  I think I didn’t want to sleep because I didn’t want to stop searching.  It kind of explains why in the past I would stay up really late just chatting with friends, browsing the internet for something interesting, going out and staying out late with friends.  Just needed to find something, anything.  Often I’d end up finding some not so good things.

God’s been moving deeply in my soul lately, really pressing on the heart issues, leading me to repentance.  It’s been sobering.  I find myself really, really tired these days as well.  Working full-time, going to school full-time, and serving at church leaves me with very very little free time and not much sleep.  I’ve never been this busy before.  I’m doing a lot, I must admit.  But the interesting thing is, the things I’m doing are not the point at all.  It’s the heart and where it is.  It’s God and who He is.  He’s been gracious and kind to me.  Always has but I’ve been seeing it more lately and for that I’m grateful.

I’m pretty exhausted.  In the past, I would force myself to stay up just for the heck of it even when I was extremely tired, just searching, still empty.  These days, my soul feels full.  I think I’m beginning to like sleep (and not just because I’m tired).

A Little Past Midnight

It’s been a while.  I never stopped browsing around and reading blogs.  Just haven’t been compelled to start typing.

I got my laptop on my lap while I’m sitting on the sofa in the basement.  My legs are complete mush after doing Plyometrics with David Son.  Today was Day 1.  Not sure why we started with Plyo.  He’s getting sexy for his upcoming wedding.  I’m getting sexy for no reason.  When I think about it, losing weight is kind of not a good idea at this time because my work clothes will end up being too big.  I don’t have money to buy more clothes.  Oh well?

Speaking of work clothes.  I got a new job.  It’s now my fourth week.  Medium-length story short, God is my Father who provides.  Dude surprises me always.  The job?  I like it a lot.  Learning a lot.  Surely was a godsend.  Just kind of fell in my lap.  Sometimes things don’t make sense but he truly is in control.  What is so humbling is how he blesses us unconditionally.  Once I was adopted into His family, he continues to bless me.  Not because I do this or that, which I often mistakenly think, but his blessings are nonstop.  I am blessed in joy and laughter, in pain and sorrow, in confusion and frustration, in good fortune, and even in poverty.  It’s amazing how His love transcends all the things that we often (falsely) think dictates our blessedness.  Bigger than that.  Deeper than that.

I began Lent by saying I was going to fast the internet, except when I need it for school and work.  I decided to break it and I’m OK with it.  Working full time and taking classes full time ends up giving me hardly any time to waste online anyway.  Even though I’m no longer fasting something, I still very much enjoy Lenten season.  It’s always a special time.  Besides it obviously leading up to Easter, it was some years ago when I fervently prayed during Lent for my future and ended up receiving, during Passion week, my calling to be a missionary overseas.  I’m always reminded of that.  Sometimes it seems so far away and and such an unreachable goal.  Other times I think about just dropping everything and going.  All in all, I’m taking it step by step.  I’m going to get there though.  I know it.

Meet Lisa. I'm blessed, surely.

Goodnight.  Till next time.