May I brag for a moment? Not about me. About my wife and kids. We are in the full on throes of transition as a family. We fly out for good on September 25. We have started our goodbyes, we are having many "lasts" and we are thinking and talking much about what's ahead. And it's not all easy or fun. Some of the emotions we are experiencing are hard.
But, what about all the practical things too? Lots to strategize about...
- Do we sell or ship?
- Throw away or give away?
- Do we try to get a container or just liquidate big things?
- What must we keep with us for our last few months in Cape Town?
- What must we take to America for our furlough?
- What can we send ahead to Tanzania?
- And how can we do this most cost effectively?
On Wednesday of this week, Davis and I will head up to Kenya for a training I will be teaching at. The following Wednesday, Tricia and Lily will meet us. Then, we will head to Tanzania for 10 days of prayer, scouting, exploring and paving the way for our transition. Several dear friends will be joining us. 7 of us in total. 7 passengers = 14 total pieces of baggage. With some clever space sharing, it left us 10 bags to pack in. Plus the 3 I have already taken up to Tanzania in March and BOOM! We did it!
Everything that this crazy, international family wants to take from South Africa to Tanzania for our next season of life and ministry has fit into 13 suitcases! And they are all packed (see pic)! Tricia knows exactly what she needs and what we want. She knows what toys the kids treasure and which ones they don't. She knows what they can't part with and what can be waiting for them there. Which clothes we need, and what we don't. We have packed towels and bath rugs. Curtains and sheets. Blankets and pillows. Knives and our favorite mugs. Tupperware and serving utensils. Did I say that Tricia is amazing? She knows what she will need for the baby that is better to get in South Africa (instead of America), bought it used for less here and it's packed. A portable high chair and a breast pump. Onesies and clothes. Our favorite books are packed. Oh, and she did all this pregnant and not feeling well.
And the kids....they have been so flexible and engaged. Davis was champ saying goodbye to his legos. And Lily keeps running up to us with her teddy bears saying "guys, this can go to Tanzania!" So precious.
I am just so proud of this tribe. They are BRAVE! They are adventurous. And they release the things of this world for the things of the kingdom. I'm just so proud.
But alas, our house is bare, empty and cold. But we chose to look on the bright side....our last few months here will be focussed on PEOPLE...and our packing for the states will be oh so easy.
A few weeks ago I got an email from an outstanding young woman who seeks after the Lord with all her heart. She asked me 3 awesome questions. As I answered her, I thought the responses may be helpful for others too. So here goes...
Define intimacy with Christ.
I would define intimacy with Christ in the same terms that I may speak of my marriage to Tricia. We are only intimate because we deeply KNOW and TRUST each other with all that we are. It is about sharing the deepest parts of who we are with one another. We only get there by communicating...openly, vulnerable, two ways, listening, sharing, waiting, failing, trying again...and in the same way that Tricia and I go in and out of seasons of deeper intimacy, so do Jesus and I. The only difference is that it can get uglier with our marriage because TWO of us are running away. When things are cold with Jesus, I'm the one slacking and he is always waiting with arms wide open.
When do you feel closest to God? And is it even about a feeling, anyway?
Nope! Not about a feeling. It is about a deep knowing. Honestly, I feel closer to the Lord each year as I learn the TRUTH about how He made me, how He sees me and how He loves me. As I further comprehend grace as it was intended (which by the way is MUCH different from what I learned growing up in the church), I fall further in love with the Lord. The REAL good news (that it was FINISHED on the cross and I can't earn a darn thing now) is so good that it's almost tempting to dismiss as false theology. It's crazy. The Lord is totally and completely in love with us as we are...broken and all. It just feel insane to me. But the deeper I journey into grace, the more my identity is finally getting established. So in short, I feel closest to God when I BELIEVE what he did and what he says and what he sees....it has nothing to do with a feeling. It's a knowing. Feelings are nice from time to time, but they are emotional and temporary. Faith sustains us and stands forever.
Knowing what you know now, what do you wish you knew about intimacy with God as a teenager?
I wish someone would have drilled the following into me: do not waste your time searching for or earning a love and acceptance from people who will never do it for you. Instead just LOVE people needing nothing in return (including their affirmation). And instead....take hold deeply of the FULL love and acceptance of the Father that is ALREADY available to you in full and forever measure. Live out of the grace, love and acceptance of the Father and give it away generously to everyone around you. What a waste of energy and years to strive to impress and earn something I never needed in the first place!
I love writing. I went through a number of years of writing and blogging almost daily. But in the last few years, the Lord has in some way shut my mouth and slowed my pen. Many days I think about how I want to write again. And I sense that the day is coming soon where I will write more often and more freely again. Here are the top two reasons why I stepped back from blogging or writing as much: 1. I found that the deeper I dove into the world of social media, the less healthy it became. There were some years that I did not have it in its right place in my life. I used my online presence to gain identity and value (which will never work). The Lord has shown me again and again that people are more important that profiles, and an actual social life more important that social media. These last years have been about investing in the real thing (relationships), not a virtual reality on a screen.
2. I needed to learn to process a tad more privately (especially in the season of searching I have been in). I love learning and seeking, but I easily get emotional and carried away about ideas. And when I voice them too broadly or quickly, I risk influencing people into something unhealthy. Part of my journey into maturity has meant holding back and processing in a safer way than online with the crowds. It has started to teach me more discipline and has also deepened my face to face friendships.
3. Simply, time. My schedule and pace have meant that I have had to say no to some things to say yes to other more important things. Blogging and social media interactions had to decrease substantially in these last several years.
That said, I feel it's lifting. The season to come will be different. I feel it. And I am ready to write again!
Our family has recently walked through a process of hearing God lead us into a transition for a move to another country (Tanzania). It's our second international move. Here are some of the more practical things we are learning. 1. Plant your heart where you are now! It's totally frustrating for you, and disheartening for those around you, when you let your heart, mind and speech drift into a season and place you aren't in yet! Bloom where you're planted until the day you fly away.
2. Bend your ear to God's voice. The key is to listen, more than to look. There's a difference. Our hearts follow our eyes, feet and mouth. Just listen at first. God often starts the transition process through whispers. When you're hearing consistent whispers in the same direction, you're likely on the road to transition.
3. Don't blow things out of proportion...you're not that important. Ok, you ARE important, but often we make a much bigger deal out of moving on than God or others do. He moves his kids around. Transition is natural and it's not the end of the world if its your turn. Relax and enjoy. Give yourself permission to keep walking ahead.
4. Let your planning follow the "cloud." Why not lay out your top 3-4 Good/God ideas for the future on the table. Don't limit your options to only one place at first. You may regret it later. If you're gonna make a big move, put some competitive ideas on the list of where you end up. Dream! And then follow the cloud of God's peace. Where does the peace rest? Now, make the call. State it.
5. Now, test it with an open hand in a small circle. This looks quite simple. Go to people that love you and clearly walk in step with God's heart and say something like: "We have listened and tracked with God's leading and we sense he is saying ____! Do you sense we are hearing from God? We don't want to miss Him." Then, listen to them and God some more over a period of weeks. Perhaps this will lead to a few adjustments. That's ok and probably a good thing.
6. Proclaim it with clarity to the larger circles. Announce the leading of the Lord with joy and grace! Start the practical planning. And take your time with the transition. It's almost always unnecessary to rush processes like these.
Major things have been happening in our loves over the last few months. Below is the letter we sent to all of our supporters a few weeks ago. Now, we thought it was time to go even more "public" with our news. Read the news below! ----------------------
In the same way that Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi, we write to you and say that “we thank our God every time we remember you. In all our prayers for all of you, we always pray with joy because of our partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it to the day of Jesus Christ."
We write to you with lots of joy and excitement in our hearts.
First of all, we are excited about what is fresh on the horizon for the next several months. Tricia is 3 weeks (now 5) into Home Schooling Davis, and they are doing fantastic. We are doing so well as a family…feeling healthy, close and alive. Saturday we start our 5th CPx! 21 leaders (now 25) from 7 nations will be landing here Saturday (they are here). For the next 5 months, we are committed to pouring our lives into them to see them grow in passion for Church planting and making disciples of Jesus among the lost.
Amidst all of this action, we carry in our hearts a deep sense of relief and excitement. Relief because after having been actively asking the Lord his heart and will for us regarding our future as a family, God has spoken. Excitement over what He has said.
So, what is the big news?
We are moving!
We are in our 5th and final year in Cape Town! We sense that this INCREDIBLE season is to come to a close at the end of September. Even though we will leave with some sadness because we have loved and been loved, we have heard from God that our time in Cape Town is coming to an end.
So, what’s next? That is the question we held before the lord as we considered multiple possibilities of missions fruitfulness around the world. Above all and through all, we cannot escape the clear sense that the Lord has prepared us and highlighted for us East Africa. Our time on this great continent is not over! We are already deeply invested into Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda...with growing passion for several other nations in East and the Horn of Africa. The dream in our hearts is to coach and mobilize leaders and churches in East Africa to make disciples of Jesus among the lost. So much vision is growing in our hearts. We cannot wait to share more.
Where will we live? We will decide in July when we travel to East Africa as a family. We are leaning into Tanzania, with Kenya still on the table. We will dedicate the first season of time there to learning Swahili and acclimation as cultural learners.
Here's the timeline: We will leave Cape Town the end of September and return to the USA where will take an extended home leave as a family (5-6 months). Our family is very excited about times of deep connection in the states during this time and looking forward to mobilizing many to join into what the Lord is doing in East Africa. We will likely return to the field in March 2016.
Would you send us your thoughts? And your questions? But more importantly, your prayer and continued support? We do not take for granted the sacrifice of so many of you in keeping us placed where the Lord has sent us.
We cherish you and would LOVE to hear from you as we listen to the voice of the Lord in this transition!
Thanks for journeying with us as a family!
Noah, Tricia, Davis and Lily
A friend of mine recently shared this with me and I thought it was worth reposting. It really stirred and touched my heart. A young man asks his Pastor a question. Then, his Pastor replies. Hello Pastor.
I have a question; I hope you can give me some input. I recently became friends with people of the Muslim practice. We exchanged what our beliefs were and how they differ. (In a friendly way.) But this thought has ached at me for months now. How do we know, as Christians, we are correct? How do we know our religion, our denomination, our practice is correct?
You have asked an important and complicated question. How do we know that our religion is correct?
Of course, we have valid reasons to be a bit uncomfortable about the implications within the question. It’s disconcertingly easy for the Pakistani Muslim, the Indian Hindu, the Thai Buddhist, the Israeli Jew, and the American Christian to each simply assume that their native religion is the true one. So is it just a matter of geographical luck if you happen to end up in the true religion? After all, the vast majority of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and Christians did not undertake an objective study of comparative religions and arrive at a conclusion. No, they were born into a family and nation where their particular religion was culturally dominant. (Yes, every religion has its converts from other religions, but these make up a tiny minority.)
But am I suggesting that we should engage in an objective study of comparative religions? No. In fact, I think such an undertaking is impossible. Not inadvisable, but literally impossible. You can only experience a religion by being a believer within the faith and practice of that religion. Religion cannot be approached objectively. The very nature of religion prevents this. For example: One can be thoroughly versed in the teachings of the New Testament (a scholar even) and be well acquainted with Christian theology and worship, church history and practice and still not believe. Which is to say it is thoroughly possible to be an expert on Christianity and not be a Christian. Bart Ehrman would be an example. (And Bart Ehrman would agree.) Or to say it another way: I could become an expert on the Koran and Islam, but that alone would not make me a Muslim. Faith is the essence of religion, not empirical knowledge. We cannot study religions like we do insects. Well, we can, but being an expert on grasshoppers does not make you a grasshopper. And being an expert on Hinduism doesn’t make you a Hindu. Religious faith is a subjective experience — not objective empirical knowledge.
Which is to say you don’t know what it means to be a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Christian…until you are one! And to be one, is to not be the other. So comparison becomes impossible.
The modern, sloppy notion that we can mix-and-match religions like we do pants and socks is utter nonsense. The modern person who says, “I’m a Buddhist-Hindu-Muslim-Christian” is in reality a secularist wearing religious accessories. The truth is they know virtually nothing about what it means to actually be a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian.
The nature of religion based in faith makes the comparative religion project ultimately impossible.
To be an adherent of a religion is to believe, and faith is not an object of empirical inquiry.
I believe Jesus is risen from the dead. But I cannot prove it.
(I do believe the resurrection is the most reasonable explanation for the empty tomb and the rise of Christianity, but it cannot be proven.)
I have my own subjective experience with the risen Christ. But I cannot prove it. I can only witness to it. It will be up to my hearers as to whether or not they believe my witness.
That which actually makes me a Christian is nothing that can be empirically proved…which is why it’s called faith!
(Attempting to worship at the altar of Christ and the altar of empiricism at the same time creates the terrible conundrums suffered by modern Western Christians — ultimately one must be subordinate to the other.)
Furthermore, in the framing of your question you hint at an additional problem. If we want to empirically “know” that Christianity is the true religion, that leads us to the next question: Which Christianity? Orthodox? Catholic? Anglican? Protestant? Evangelical? OK, let’s say you choose Evangelical. Which Evangelical? Baptist? Which Baptist? (There’s hundreds of species of Baptist!) You see the problem. With an empiricism-based approach to religion you wind up in the dead-end alley of “I’m right and everybody else is going to hell.” Which I think you are instinctively trying to avoid.
So what are we to do?
We are to believe in Jesus.
By a leap of faith we believe in Jesus because of our own subjective (and unverifiable to anyone else) experience with the risen Christ.
I only believe in “Christianity” because I have come to believe in Jesus.
I don’t spend a lot of time (none really) arguing with a Muslim or Hindu that Christianity is “correct” and Islam and Hinduism are “wrong.” That’s always going to be a dead-end.
I do talk about Jesus. I do tell the gospel stories. I do witness to my own experience with Jesus.
In other words, I put my faith in Jesus to personally reveal himself to other individuals in a way that only he can. It’s not my task to prove Jesus or Christianity. I am simply a witness to Jesus. And Jesus will have to do the heavy lifting. Jesus will have to prove himself.
So in a technically empirical sense I do not “know” that Christianity is correct as compared with any other religion. But I don’t need to. I know Christ. Non-empirically. Subjectively. Personally. By the Spirit. And this is enough. More than enough.
To the Christian who feels the need to anxiously defend Christianity in an empirical sense vis-á-vis other religions I want to say this: Just know Jesus. That’s enough. Just witness to Jesus. That’s all you can do. If Jesus can’t prove himself, then Christianity is not worth proving. I believe Jesus can prove himself — he can make himself known. He made himself known to me. And that’s all I can say.
I hope this helps.
P.S. I recommend being friends with everyone you can be friends with!
As I continue to undergo loads of inner formation, I cannot help but look back on my heart motivations of the last 10-15 years of ministry. There are questions that I am learning to ask myself now, that I never asked before. Filters that I am putting things through that I never used to use. These questions are filters that help assess the motivation behind a choice or action. I thought I would share them. Maybe they will help you too:
- Why am I doing this? For my fulfillment or the Lord's?
- Why am I saying yes to this request? To please the asker or to please the Father?
- Is this the wise thing to do? Or does this just seem like the popular thing to do?
- Do I need or desire notice or a compliment for what I just did? Or would I be totally fine if no one give me a lick of notice?
- Did that critique just disrupt me on the inside? Or did it fall on me in a healthy way without provoking emotion?
- Why am I putting so much into this? Because I am truly this hard of a worker or because I want to make people proud?
- Why did I actually give that gift or go that extra mile for that person? Do I actually secretly want something back?
- Am I moving in my strength with this? Or God's?
- What about the top leader(s)? Am I ok with them not noticing me or awesome I am? ;)
- Why do I want that position? Because God is calling? Or because I am inwardly reaching?
Knowing our hearts is not an easy task. Some of us are scared to see our true selves. Others of us have become good at avoiding acceptance of our hearts. Some of us are just totally self unaware. But regardless of our state, letting the Lord slowly show us the "behind the scenes" look at why we do what we do will lead to great healing and joy on the inside.
My motivations were wrong more than I want to admit. But little by little, I am finding that if I slow down, look in and ask some of these filter questions above, I am able to start seeing me more clearly than before.
"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10
Tricia and I host many people in our home. This week alone we have had 7 people sleeping in our home and another 15 through for meals and company at various levels. It is just a big part of our life. So, through the years we have learned how to grow in true hospitality. We care a lot less about impressing people now than we used to. If you visit us, we want to love your heart, not impress your eyes or your palate. I read this on the Resurgence Blog and thought it was so good! I adjusted it a bit and am reposting it. Perhaps you too will enjoy it.
Often when we talk about hospitality, we think of “entertaining.” But entertaining has little to do with real hospitality if the goal is to impress others rather than to serve. How do you know if you are being hospitable or just entertaining?
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 19:34)
What are the first thoughts that come to mind when you think about hospitality?
Is it freshly folded towels and breakfast buffets at hotels, or a fancy dinner that you’ve prepared in your home for your closest friends?
Though these may be expressions of hospitality, they don’t really get to the heart of hospitality. True hospitality is sacrificial, uncomfortable, and does not seek to impress others. Hospitality flows from a hospitable heart. It is more about your open heart and home, not your impressive entertaining skills.
True hospitality is sacrificial, uncomfortable, and does not seek to impress others. Hospitality is when we provide for the needs of others by giving of ourselves—even something as simple as our attention in a warm conversation.
What is biblical hospitality?
In the Bible, the original Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia, which means love of strangers (Rom. 12:13). Hospitality is also framed as a means of honoring and loving God by meeting the needs of the poor (Prov. 14:31).
Biblical hospitality is:
- To be practiced without grumbling, complaining or thought of reward (1 Pet. 4:9).
- Literally, “a love for strangers” (Heb. 13:1–2)
- Treating fellow believers (Rom. 12:3; 1 Tim. 3:2), widows, orphans (1 Tim. 5:1–16), unbelievers (Luke 5:29), the poor and needy (Luke 14:12–14), missionaries (Matt. 10:9–11; Luke 10:5–16), foreigners, immigrants, refugees (Gen. 18:1–22), and even enemies (Rom. 12:20) as if they were your very own family.
- Helping the poor with no expectation of repayment (Prov. 19:17).
- Meeting the basic needs of others. (e.g., preparing food, providing lodging, giving physical protection, sharing material possessions, and encouraging and sharing the love of Jesus.
Often when we talk about hospitality, we think of “entertaining.” But entertaining has little to do with real hospitality. Secular entertaining is a terrible bondage. Its source is human pride. Demanding perfection, fostering the urge to impress, it is a rigorous taskmaster that enslaves. In contrast, scriptural hospitality is a freedom that liberates.
Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, my gourmet cooking.” Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, “This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am his servant, and I use it as he desires.”
Biblical hospitality is the outpouring of mercy and grace to others without expectation for reciprocation.
As we prepare our homes for hosting a dinner, we also can prepare our hearts to serve those who enter. As Karen Mains writes, “Hospitality does not try to impress, but to serve.”
How do you know if you are being hospitable or just entertaining? Here are some great indicators....
- Entertaining: I want to look good
- Hospitality: I want Jesus to look good
- Entertaining: Emphasis on food or outer appearance
- Hospitality: Emphasis on the hearts of those in your home
- Entertaining: Preoccupied or apologetic about messes
- Hospitality: Humbled by the mess and can still serve
- Goal of Entertaining: To impress
- Goa of Hospitality: To serve
Time with Jesus in the early morning hours is the single greatest key to how I live my life now. It was about 2 years ago when the lesson was lodged DEEP into my heart: If I don't spend time alone with Jesus in the very early hours of the day, I probably won't!! Period. So I decided to GO TO BED on time. It is the only way to GET UP early. For me. I need sleep. And I need Jesus. So, I plan my life around that. After finding that I was having profound encounters with God in the early morning, I thought I would look for Biblical examples of it. Here are some of the verses I found. I read through these often. I find them really encouraging. The point is not the time of day. The point is the SECRET PLACE! Me and Jesus. In Secret. We hide before everyone else is up. And we've had the best of times. He also gets to see me without my make-up on. ;-)
Be encouraged by these verses!
The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me MORNING by MORNING, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. Isaiah 50:4
In the MORNING, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3
But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the MORNING my prayer comes before you. Psalm 88:13
Satisfy us in the MORNING with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every MORNING; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24
O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every MORNING, our salvation in time of distress. Isaiah 33:2
It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the MORNING and your faithfulness at night. Psalm 92:1-2
Let the MORNING bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the MORNING star rises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:19
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the MORNING. Psalm 30:5
But I will sing of your strength, in the MORNING I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 59:16
Sow your seed in the MORNING, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. Ecclesiastes 11:6
My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the DAWN. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. Psalm 108:1-3
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the DAWN. Psalm 57:8
Before daybreak the next MORNING, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Mark 1:35
After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Mark 6:46
But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. Luke 5:16
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6
After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Matthew 14:23
I have read more in the last two months than I did in all of 2013! I love reading, but when I lack margin, reading is usually one of the first things to go. So glad that I am making the changes necessary in my life to read again. I come alive. I'm choosing not to give extensive reviews of most of what I am reading right now, but I thought I would give some brief recommendations/reviews.
"Leading on Empty" by Wayne Cordiero. Whoa!!! Wow!!! What a brilliant book! Packed with wisdom and insight for leaders. But for a very particular group of leaders. If you are any of the following, I highly, highly commend this book to you: Are you tired? Stressed? Worn down? Super busy? Worried that you may not be able to keep this pace for the long haul? Feeling burn out is coming? Lacking margin for health and family? Not enough YOU time? Discontent in your ministry? If any of this is you, read this book. If several or most of these are you, stop right now and buy and read this book in the next two days!
“Brothers, We Are Not Professionals” by John Piper. The opening few pages of this book are enough to make you want to jump up and yell hallelujah! So rich. However, this is classic Piper. I like him. But for me….about 25% of what he writes is too legalistic and rigid for my theology. Same with this book. About half of it is truly excellent. But there are plenty of chapters that I had to just skim. Very traditional, legalistic thinking. That said, the book contains 36 short chapters. So, it is an easy read and easy to skip what you do not want to read. I have a PDF of the first chapter…which is the best. Email me and I will send it to you. Oh, and my eyes were really opened on the chapter about “Not serving God”- It is not a biblical principle to “serve God.” Read it. You will be surprised.
“What Jesus Started” by Steve Addison. I suggested that our training team read this together. We did. It is good. I found the first half to be biblically insightful but somewhat sluggish reading. He gets much more practical in the second half. Good book. Just not blown away by it. Fairly basic stuff floating around everywhere out there.
Below is what I am currently reading. I will share more reflections when I am done with them:
“God’s Will is Always Healing” by Joshua Greeson // Super eye-opening. Super controversial.
“The Permanent Revolution” by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim // Excellent work on Ephesians 4 five fold gifts with focus on the lost apostolic role of the church.
“The Gospel in Ten Words” by Paul Ellis
Also Re-reading “The Making of a Leader” by Robert Clinton // It will mean more to me now than the first time I read it. And the updated version has some new pearls.
Then there are the 85 other books on the runway….got the rest of my life for those...
Well, I know it has been a LONG time since I blogged. Along with a lot of other things, I have had to lay it down in this last season due to my schedule. That is about to change. Some of you know that Tricia and I are in a very tender time of hearing the Lord about the intensity of our life and schedule. We (more me) are hearing VERY clearly from the Lord that it is time to cut way back on our DOING and find rest in him. That sets some minimal stage for this story and book review. The Story:
I spent last week in China. One morning I decided to take the morning off for rest, reflection, prayer and reading. Just the night before, my friend, hearing where I am at personally right now, suggested I read a book called "The Life of the Beloved" by Henri Nouwen. I wrote it down. So, the next morning I was searching the Kindle store for the book and realized that it is not available on Kindle (always bad news for we international people). Literally, the second the screen said, "not available in Kindle", there was a knock at my bedroom door. My host/friend, Kristin walked in with a book in her hand saying "I thought maybe you would want to read this while you are here." I will let you guess the book. Yup. "The Life of the Beloved"! God has better auto-delivery skills than Amazon any day of the week.
Please, catch this....in China. Pressing into the Lord. Wanting to read a certain book. Look for it. And it is hand delivered to my room at that second. This was not coincidence. To me, it was as if God himself knocked at the door and said: "Hey Son, you TRULY are my beloved and I will come find you anytime and anywhere when you want me!"
Needless to say, I read the entire book within the next 24 hours and it was like water to my soul. What a fantastic work by Nouwen. And so very timely for me. As is typical for me I took notes (using Miss Siri). They are long, but I thought I would share them. They are just some of my favorite quotes and ideas.
Be encourage, that YOU TOO are the Beloved of God and on you, His favor rests.
The Life of the Beloved
When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. Sure, popularity and power can present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection.
Maybe you think you are more tempted by arrogance and by self-rejection. But isn't arrogance, actually, the other side of self-rejection? Isn't arrogance putting yourself on a pedestal to avoid being seen as you see yourself? Isn't arrogance just another way of dealing with the feelings of worthlessness? Beneath our arrogance their lives much self-doubt, just as there is a great amount of pride even in our self-rejection. Whether I am inflated or deflated, I lose touch with the truth and distort my vision of reality.
Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the beloved.
That soft, gentle voice that calls me the Beloved has come to me in countless ways. My parents, friends, teachers, students, and the many strangers who crossed my path have all sounded that voice in different tones. I have been cared for by many people with much tenderness and gentleness. I have been taught and instructed with much patience and perseverance. I have been encouraged to keep going when I was ready to give up and was stimulated to try again when I failed. I have been rewarded and praised for success… But, somehow, all of these signs of love were not sufficient to convince me that I was the beloved. Beneath all my seemingly strong self-confidence there remained the question: if all those who shower me with so much attention could see and know me and my innermost self, would they still love me? That agonizing question, rooted in my inner shadow, kept persecuting me and made me run away from the very place where the quiet voice calling me the Beloved could be heard. I think you understand what I am talking about. Are you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don't you often hope: maybe this book, idea, course, trip, job, country, or relationship will fulfill my deepest desire. But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you'll go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burnout. This is the way to spiritual death!
We don't have to kill ourselves. We are the beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children, and friends loved or wounded us. That's the truth of our lives!
When the deep reality that we are the beloved of Jesus sinks fully into our hearts, what follows is that it has to become visible and tangible in the way to eat and drink, talk and love, play and work. When the deepest currents of our life no longer have any influence on the waves at the surface, then our vitality will eventually ebb, and we will end up lifeless and bored even when we are busy.
There are four primary words that I have used to identify the movements of the spirit in our lives. Those words are taken, blessed, broken and given. These words summarize my life as a priest because each day, when I come together around the table with members of my community, I take bread, bless it, break it, and give it. These words also summarize my life as a Christian because, as a Christian, I'm called to become bread for the world: bread that is taken, blessed, broken, and given. Most importantly however, they summarize my life as a human being because of every moment of my life somewhere, somehow the taking, the blessing, the breaking, and the giving are happening. Only gradually has their meaning become known to me, and I feel that I won't ever know their full potential. They are the most personal as well as the most universal words. Express the most spiritual as well as the most secular truth. They speak about the most divine as well as the most human behavior. The reach high as well as low, embrace God as well as people. This is simply to express the complexity of life and embrace it's ever unfolding mystery. They are the keys to understanding not only the lives of the great prophets of Israel and the life of Jesus of Nazareth, but also our own lives. I have chosen them not only because they are so deeply engraved in my being but also because, through them, I have become in touch with the ways of becoming the beloved.
We are taken… Chosen. But, often I have tried to show or prove that I was just me and that I have no desire to be put on a pedestal were treated as a special person. When you you treated as the chosen one, you are as liable to be persecuted as admired.
Here's a great spiritual mystery: to be chosen does not mean that others are rejected. It is very hard to conceive of this in a competitive world such as ours. All my memories of being chosen are linked to memories of others not be chosen. To be chosen as the beloved of God is something radically different. instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not a competitive, but a compassionate choice. Our minds have great difficulty in coming to grips to reality. Maybe our minds will never understand it. Perhaps it is only our hearts that can accomplish this.
As long as we allow our parents, siblings, teachers, friends, and lovers to determine whether we are chosen or not, we are caught in the net of the suffocating world that accepts or rejects us according to its own agenda of effectiveness and control.
The great spiritual battle begins-and never ends-with the reclaiming of our chosenness.
When we get in touch with our own chosen status, we are then able to truly see how others are chosen and to celebrate and draw their gifts as well… Leading to indescribably beautiful friendship.
Your life and my life are, each of them, one of a kind. No one has ever lived your life or my life before, and no one will ever live them again. Our lives are unique stones in the mosaic of human existence - priceless and irreplaceable.
We all need and value blessing. Literally means speaking well or saying good things of someone. We all need some of that. We often talk about the need for affirmation. Without affirmation, it is hard to live well. To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation. It is more than words of appreciation, it is more than pointing out someone's talents are good deeds, it is more than putting someone in the light. To give a blessing is to say yes to a person's belovedness. More than that: to give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks.
One day we feel great, the next we feel miserable. One day we are full of new ideas, the next everything looks bleak and dull. One day we think we can take on the whole world, but the next even a little request seems too much for us. These mood swings show that we no longer hear the blessing that was heard by Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah and Rachel, and Jesus of Nazareth and that we, too, are to hear. When we are thrown up and down by the little waves on the surface of our existence, we become easy victims of our manipulative world, but, when we continue to hear the deep gentle voice that blesses us, we can walk through life with a stable sense of well-being and true belonging.
We practically work out and claim our blessedness through prayer and presence.
I have read and written much of prayer, but when I go to a quiet place to pray, I realize, although I have a tendency to say many things to God, the real work of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me.
This might sound self-indulgent, but in practice, it is a hard discipline. I'm so afraid of being cursed, hearing that I am no good or not good enough, that I quickly give in to the temptation to start talking and to keep talking in order to control my fears. This focus is very hard work. It is not easy to enter into the silence and reach beyond the many demanding voices of our world and to discover that there is a small intimate voice saying "you are my beloved child and on you my favorite rests." It's not to say that this will ever be a voice you will hear with bodily ears. I am not speaking about a hallucinating voice, but a voice that can be heard by the ear of faith, the ear of the inner heart.
Many people get very distracted in prayer. But if you will spend 30 minutes per day listening to the voice of love, you will gradually discover that something is happening of which you were not even aware.
We must also be present in order to receive blessings. They are all around us! But we have to actively choose to "waste" our time to receive them. Are we too busy on our way to important things to receive the blessings that Jesus is built-in for us each day?
Once we accept fully that we are chosen and that we are blessed, we are now ready to embrace ours and others brokenness.
The leaders and prophets of Israel, who were clearly chosen and blessed, all lived very broken lives. And we, beloved sons and daughters of God, cannot escape our brokenness either.
Our brokenness is always lived and experienced in a highly personal, and unique way. I am deeply convinced that each human being suffers in a way that no other human being suffers. Sure, we can make comparisons, we can talk about more or less suffering, but in the final analysis, your pain and my pain are so deeply personal that comparing them can scarcely bring any comfort or consolation.
Our brokenness is truly ours. And truly unique. Just as we have to claim our unique chosenness and unique blessedness, we have to do the same of our unique brokenness. Physical suffering pales in the face of a broken heart. It's the brokenness of heart we are talking about and that most impacts the earth.
The first step to healing is not a step away from the pain, but a step toward it.
The deep truth is that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire, but can become, instead, the means to it.
As strange as it seems, we must embrace our brokenness and step into it… For we are not alone.
The great spiritual call of the beloved children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing. We must allow the blessing to touch us in our brokenness. Then our brokenness will gradually come to be seen as an opening toward the full acceptance of ourselves as the beloved.
I never realized that broken glass could shine so brightly.
Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.
It is sad to see that, in our highly competitive and greedy world, we have lost touch with the joy of giving. True joy, happiness, and inner peace come from the giving of ourselves to others. A happy life is a life lived for others.
There is a mysterious link between our brokenness and our ability to give to each other. The times of our lives where we feel like we have the least to offer are often the times that make us able to give more instead of less. Our brokenness opens us to a deeper way of sharing our lives and offering each other hope.
Just as bread needs to be broken in order to be given, so, too, do our lives!
Think of how we share meals together. If there is conflict, the meal is torture. But where there is beautiful relationship the meal is a life-giving honor.
Don't you think that our desire to eat together is an expression of our even deeper desire to be food for one another? Don't we sometimes say: "that was a very nurturing conversation. That was a refreshing time"?
1. Giving yourself in life...
The real question is not "what can we offer each other" but "who can we be for each other"?
There is a big difference between talents and gifts. We have a few talents, but many gifts. Talents focus on what you can do while gifts focus on who you are. The true gifts that are in us often remain buried beneath our talents.
2. Giving yourself in death…
For those who know they are chosen, blessed and broken to be given, dying is a way of becoming pure gift.
Yes, there is such a thing as a good death. We ourselves are responsible for the way we die. We have to choose between clinging to life in such a way that death becomes nothing but a failure, or letting go of life and freedom so that we can be given to others as a source of hope.
Are you years on this earth are like a little seed planted in a very rich soil. For this seed to bear fruit, it must die. We often see or feel only the dying but the harvest the abundant even when we ourselves are not the harvesters.
The world is evil only the when you become enslaved to it. The great struggle facing us is not to leave the world, to reject our ambitions and aspirations, or to despise money and success, but to claim your spiritual truth and to live in the world as someone who does not belong to it.
The world may be a source of survival, but it will never be a source of life. The world and its strategies may help you survive for a long time, but they cannot help you live, because the world is not the source even of its own life, let alone yours.
We must live the life of the BELOVED!
Last week I tweeted this: "The Lord has shown me how frugality and simplicity can lead to idolatry and danger just as fast as materialism and greed can." Some people commented asking me to elaborate. Here goes, in simple form. In Matthew 6:25-33 Jesus describes for us the right relationship with the material world: "Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness" and he will take care of the rest. Bottom line is this: the desire for a simple life becomes idolatry when it takes precedence over seeking God's Kingdom.
It is quite the balancing act for many of us. Have or have not? Sell it or keep it? Spend it or save it? Need it or want it? Live in the land flowing with milk and honey? Or sell all we have and give to the poor?
It is clear to me that when we live in materialism and greed, it is sin and idolatrous. But what seems to be just as bad is when we are obsessed with our frugality. When we are in love with our simplicity. It is easy for the very thing that started out as obedience and humility to transition to disobedience and pride. It really comes down to the posture and motivation deep in our hearts.
I talked to a 70-year-old leader recently who told me that he has gone down far down both roads (extreme materialism and extreme simplicity) and found that they both lead to a mess. You can live in a shack or a mansion and seek first the Kingdom. It is about your heart. Where is your heart?
Many of you have been praying for my Dad. Some of you may not know. Dad (Joe Kaye) has ben experiencing some significant health scares through the last two weeks. They have detected cancer in his glands and maybe lungs. He is in the midst of undergoing many tests. We are presently awaiting results from a Biopsy he had yesterday. For those of you that know my Father, you know how special he is! For those that do not, this BLOG POST HERE tells you some of how we feel about him.
Would you join in prayer for Dad? And for Mom? We are confident in the Lord's healing power. And we are also comfortable in his grace. Dad remains optimistic as he does in any circumstance, really. So, that is something we are thankful for.
Thanks for praying!
My son, Davis (6) and I have a very special relationship. So far, I am going the no-regret-fathering route. I am no perfect Dad, but I try super hard to be very intentional about discipling Davis and teaching him about Jesus. And so far I have no regrets. We often have some pretty stunning conversations about faith and life. Tonight, after reading some of Exodus together, he asked me: "Dad, do we still have idols today?" I explained to Davis that we certainly do. I told him that an idol is anything in our lives that becomes more important than Jesus. I explained how dangerous it can be. Then, I asked Davis to think about his life and whether he has any idols in his life above Jesus. He thought for a moment and said "no, I don't think so."
About 10 minutes later I stepped outside to get something and he came (after the wheels of his mind and heart had been spinning) and banged on the window to get my attention...."Daddy, daddy. You, Dad, you! I think you could be an idol to me!" He said it with such urgency and revelation. I wish you could have seen his little face. I froze that moment deep in my heart. At least two things significant were happening in that instance this evening:
- He was understanding idolatry in a real way for the first time. At 6.
- And he was expressing his deep love for me as his Father. And of course, that felt great.
Well, I came inside and invited him to lap to finish the teaching moment. I proceeded to explain to him the risk is seeing Daddy as more important than I am. I explained that I wanted to be the best earthly Daddy that I could be. But there is only one perfect Daddy. He is the heavenly Father. And he will never let you down and never disappoint you.
Being a father to this young man has been one of the greatest joys of my life so far. And tonight was one of those precious defining moments.
Let me encourage you this last day of 2012 with something the Lord has spoken to my heart over the last week. In Acts 4 Peter and John are hauled in before the Sanhedrin and grilled for preaching the right gospel. They are in trouble for healing a lame beggar. Peter responds to them in strong confidence and anointing and basically says....we did it!! And we did in the name and power of Jesus! Jesus is the one who heals and saves.
Then, Acts 4:13 says these words:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Been with Jesus.
Been with Jesus.
Be with Jesus.
That is my prayer for this coming year. I want to be with Jesus. It all starts from and flows from there.
Is there any better new years resolution? Any better life goal?
Jesus, I look forward to getting to know you even more in 2013. I look forward to being with you.
It is unreal that 6 weeks have come and gone and we are departing in 5 days for Africa. We wanted to announce one more public chance to see some friends before we leave.
This Sunday...December 30...
- We will be spending our last Sunday with our hone church, Capital Christian Fellowship. The address is 10411 Greenbelt Road in Lanham, MD. Service starts at 10:15am.
- After church from 12:30-2:30 we would LOVE to share lunch together at the Chanan's Chinese Restaurant in the Eastgate Shopping Center directly next to the church. Everyone pays at the door. $8.00 per person.
Are you local in the DC area? Come join us one last time for a farewell.
Sitting at Mom and Dad's watching the news and feeling shocked and broken over the death of precious young lives in Connecticut. At an Elementary school of all places. Almost 30 lives lost. Dear, Lord we need grace. Why? Sin? Is that it? We do know this... Sin defiles God's plans and leads to death. Sometimes through cancer. Sometimes through a car accident. Sometimes through a shooting. All of it hurts. All of it makes me us long for the fullness of God's kingdom to come. The kingdom where we won't know any of this grief and pain.
Meanwhile, we suffer. While we wait.
But remember we don't just wait idly. We engage the kingdom. We bring it. We actively usher in God's purposes within the realm we've been given influence over. Are you doing this?
At times like this, we all want to point toward who and what my be to blame for the tragedy. A common question asked is "how does someone get so messed up that they could do something like this?"
A few thoughts in my mind this evening as I process aloud:
1. People long to make a difference in the world. An impact that is remembered. This is one way to do it. Not the way many of us want to. But a way some would. Hard to understand? Sure. But a reality? Yes.
2. If we watch enough sexually elicit media, we eventually act out what we poured in. Likewise, when we pour violence and murder into people through movies and video games (many of which are TERRIBLE) we can only expect the same to come out. Why would we be surprised? Many young people invest hundreds of hours into murdering people in games. It sticks.
3. Anger? Could be.
4. Reaction? Perhaps.
5. Mental illness? Incredibly possible. And very real.
Regardless...it all points back to the same issue. A sin contaminated reality. A kingdom that is not yet fully here.
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." I Peter 5:10
I have plenty of blogs running in my head, but no time to crank them out these days. Here is one...that I would love to develop later with Biblical backing and other research. But as for now, here are some initial thoughts to begin development. I am coming to think that there are 4 different types of authority that people can walk in:
- Natural Authority. This is when a person just carries themselves naturally in a way that people honor them and look to them. They are respect and trust earners. Person does not even need to be a person of faith. They just carry authority in how they speak, influence and interact with people. Think Grandpa or that teacher you had that everyone looked to. Natural authority is hard to quantify and describe. You either have it or you don't. And you almost always know it when it's there.
- Physical Authority. Authority can be earned by something as simple as how one carries themselves. Their walk, their dress, their tone, the expressions, their voice, their height. While it is similar to natural authority, there is slight difference. This authority may not come natural on the inside, but it projects naturally from the outside.
- Positional Authority. This is when a person walks in the authority of the position they carry. They may be the boss or the principal or the Pastor or the manager. They carry the title. So, with it, they carry some level of authority. Though, limited when it is the only type of authority they walk in.
- Spiritual Authority. This is a very special and powerful type of authority. It comes from anointing of the spirit. It comes from Jesus...from time with Jesus. Spiritual authority is earned in the secret when you make war with the enemy and press into the heart of the Lord. There is an overflow of confidence from that intimacy that is like no other type of influencing currency you can ever attain.
- Authority is not the goal. Influence is. Particularly influence for the sake of the Kingdom. Getting people to Jesus is the goal.
- It is very rare for one person to have 3 or all 4 of the above types of authority. But, when they do, there is major potential for impact at a large scale.
- People with positional authority and without natural or spiritual authority have very little influence. More often than not, they are a lame duck and the joke is on them.
- If you want to long for any of these, go after spiritual authority. Get closer and closer to Jesus so you can used gained authority in the spirit to influence people into Jesus.
- If you do not already carry natural authority, you probably won't get it by trying. Just relax and be you. Not everyone is called to lead in authority.
- I have found the following to be true as the stars in the sky: the most powerful authority to walk in is the kind that comes from the Lord (natural and spiritual) so be cautious against longing for position. It can actually decrease your authority. I have seen it happen in my own life...even as recent as the last six months.
- We have been back in the USA since Friday morning. So far, so great! Warm welcomes and gracious visits all around. Our family really rolled out the red carpet for us!
- We are still jetlagged. It is lasting longer than it usually does this time. Not sure why. I have been up at 2:30am, 3:45am and then today 4:15am. Guess things are moving in the right direction. Davis joined me at 4:30 again this morning.
- Yesterday, we were at our home church and it was a PARTY!!! They welcomed us like pros. I dare someone to find a more supportive home church and spiritual family than Capital Christian Fellowship.
- Want to hear something cool? We got almost 1/4 of our needed additional support in ONE HOUR yesterday morning at our home church! People showed up and GOD showed off!
- Today is all about the 4 of us reconnecting. Family day. With a little Walmart and Target action. ;-)
- Tomorrow is all about Visas for three more years. We go to DC and submit all our hard work and paperwork to the SA Embassy. Pray for favor.
- Wednesday we head to the shore with my entire family for a 4 day thanksgiving vacation in a holiday house that sleeps all 18 of us! We will need tranquilizers and have a BLAST!