Category Archives: Spirit-Filled Life

Charity Toward Those Who Disagree With Us.

When we think about the habits of spiritual leaders, we typically think about the spiritual disciplines—the devotional life, studying the Word, prayer, worship, ministry, service, etc. They are important. But there are other habits often overlooked in our leadership development.

I talked about reading last week. Christian biographies, the works of Christian leaders, other aspects of the Christian life, and issues facing the church today are important. But so is reading the Classics, history, science, and other academic disciplines. It broadens our minds and sharpens our thinking.

So, also, is the habit of listening and engaging with those who disagree with us. I find that most Christians today are comfortable only with reading or talking with those whom we agree. We, actually, are better when we seek out, spend time with, and befriend those not like us.

My neighbor of some 15 years voted for the other guy in every election that I’ve known him. His views and values differ from mine. He reads and gets his input from different sources than I do. We don’t shy away from those areas of disagreement, nor do they define our relationship. I consider John one of my very best friends. We run together. We watch each other’s dogs when they are out of town. We share meals together. His friendship is most important to me.

But that hasn’t always been the case. I made some mistakes years ago in thinking I could change his mind and have him see things my way. But I had to learn not to focus on the differences but on those things that bind us together. Family is incredibly important to him. John and his wife are great parents. They take pride in our neighborhood and are respectful of others. They attend a different church and have involved themselves in mission and community development.

All that to say, the differences have sharpened and expanded each of us, but don’t define our friendship.

The ability to befriend those who think differently is not all that is at stake. It’s also how we actually discuss those differences that will either deepen a friendship or lead to one fractured. Listening without responding, hearing the position and the heart behind it without being defensive, and acknowledging the unspoken feelings and perceptions without posturing are all critical to building the relationship.

We naturally want to win. And by the time we arrive at a place of leadership, we’ve usually been right a good part of the time. But in my reading the Gospels, I find that Jesus usually answers a question with a question; and especially, the challenging ones.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer wishing to test Jesus about how to inherit eternal life was answered with a question. He gave the right answer and Jesus commended him for it. But the lawyer seeking to justify himself asked another, and that’s when he told this now familiar parable. Jesus ends with another question, which one was his neighbor? Then finally our Lord says, “Go and do likewise.”

I’m struck by what Jesus did not do. He didn’t argue. He didn’t “one up” or blister him with a zinger. He wasn’t cutting or defensive.

How do others receive us? Do we have an edge? Do we need to be right? Can we be charitable with those whom we differ? Do we immerse ourselves in groupthink? Are we afraid of being tainted, or losing control?

At the same time we don’t roll over and play dead. Being confident with our own thoughts and actions while comfortably engaging with those who live and believe differently is a habit of an effective leader.

Spring Coaching Tips

Acclimatization.

I passed a car today with a bumper stick that read, “It’s not all so ‘bumper sticker slogan’ simple.”

That’s true in politics, business, the Christian life, and, even re-organizational design.

I’m reading the book “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, detailing the 1996 expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest and the tragedy on the descent.

The month-long process of “acclimatization”, adjusting physiologically to the rarified atmosphere of high altitudes, was far from a straight line up the summit.

Krakauer was asked by the editor of Outside magazine to join an expedition to Mt. Everest, elevation 29,028 feet, and then to write an article about its commercialization. Having never ascended above 17,200 feet, he spent a year in preparation before joining the team in India in late March 1996 who would then take him to the summit.

They arrived at the 17,600 foot high Base Camp on April 12. At that altitude, the oxygen level is 50% of that at sea level. At the summit, it decreases to 1/3 of that at sea level. While the human body will adjust, it can take weeks to acclimatize. To do so they would need to reach various camps spaced about 2000 feet vertically up the mountain.

Krakauer’s expedition ascended and descended to these camps with varying rates and duration:

  • Base Camp to Camp 1, and then back to Base Camp.
  • Base Camp to Camps 1 and 2, then back to 1 and Base Camp.
  • Base Camp to Camps 1, 2, and 3, then back to 2, 1, and Base.

After a series of attempts and days of rest and recovery from different altitude complications, Krakauer reached the summit on May 10, more than a month after arriving at the Base Camp. He only remained at the top of the world for 5 minutes; hardly time to bask in his achievement.

In Romans 8:12-17, the Apostle Paul says, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” NIV

Different tenses indicate past facts, present realities, and future outcomes in that passage. Past events such as Christ’s work on our behalf and our response of faith, make a difference in how we live today. And these present realities in our life of faith determine a future character and destiny. They are interconnected.

While time is linear, our walk of faith is not. We take steps forward and back, forward again two steps, then back. Sometimes we experience great strides, but other times it’s really tough slogging. There are moments of clarity, as well as dark perplexity. And we pray for times of rest and recovery along the way. But in all of that, growth is happening, “acclimatization”, if you will, is taking place, and Jesus is becoming both the object of our affection and our source of satisfaction if we take His yoke upon us.

There is joy in the journey. Do we believe that? What we are experiencing in our ministry today has required our own spiritual acclimatization. Only as we submit to His lordship and “keep seeking the things above” (Colossians 3:1) are we able to take higher ground.

And finally, from “The Valley of Vision”, a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, the one entitled “Openness” reads,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

 

Another use for an effective tool.

I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes get in a rut with how I do ministry. I usually see our tools having a single purpose for which they were designed.

Recently, my wife, Chris, was on a coaching call. Rachel graduated three years ago and is seeking to live missionally in her workplace and neighborhood. Rachel leads a study of middle school Christian girls. But their behavior doesn’t always match their profession. Rachel knew they needed to understand the filling the Holy Spirit, but struggled to bring the message home to them.

Now, Chris is very creative. She is great at seeing possibilities where none appear to exist. (Oh, and BTW, I am not trying to earn brownie points here! Just telling it like it is.) Chris suggested taking the Soularium cards and asking the questions we would ask in an evangelistic setting. “What cards best illustrate your life now?” “Why?” “Which cards do you wish would illustrate your life?” “Why?” And from that discussion launch into what God would do with lives completely yielded to Him so that He could work unhindered in them, or what we would commonly say as being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

When Chris told me about her conversation, she said she knew most of us look at Soularium as an evangelism tool primarily. But sometimes we can be limiting and not see a tools’ versatility. What might God do outside the box?

Perhaps you have discovered a creative way to use one of our tools and have seen God use it. I’d love to hear about it.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

 

All good things start (again) with Jesus.

I was given True North: Christ, the Gospel, and Creation Care by Mark Liederbach and Seth Bible for Christmas. With several friends passionate about creation care and the environment, I dove into it. It has been a very engaging read…but not for the reasons you might think.

The authors set out to show why Christians could actually have a better ethic for calling all of creation back to its original purpose of glorifying God because we ourselves have been brought back into a right relationship with our Creator.

Much of the book establishes that humankind was created to glorify God, has fallen (not just spiritually, but in every way), that Jesus Christ is Lord and Redeemer, and has imparted to us new life and new purposes. It’s good theology.

“In Rom 8:1-17, Paul stresses that through his redeeming and atoning work, Christ broke the power of sin and death. Therefore, for those who are in Christ ‘the era of bondage to sin has ceased’ [from Thomas Schreiner, “Romans”, 430]. In addition, Paul tells us that those who are redeemed by Christ also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who indwells them and gives them life and strength (Rom 8:9,13). It is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that believers are no longer bound to follow after the sin nature they inherited from Adam. Instead…they are also free from the domination of inherent sinful life patterns and choices. Indeed, Rom 8:15 tells us that because of the work of Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit bears witness to us that we are now “adopted” as sons of God into the lineage of Christ, the Second Adam. All these truths… establish the baseline by which believers can now be restored into the intended purpose for which they were created…[In] and through these redeemed image bearers, the rest of creation can be called back to its created purpose and be rightly ordered or “reconciled” to God (Col 1:20).” Pp. 100-103.

While Liederbach and Bible are making a case for creation care, these truths easily extend to

  • redeeming our relationships in every sphere (in our family, with our neighbors and co-workers, and even those with whom we disagree),
  • social justice,
  • care for the unborn and those who unable to care for themselves,
  • the creative arts,
  • our political involvement, etc.

“Put another way, human beings are most fully human when they are both rightly aligned with the reason for which they were created and when they are rightly fulfilling the task for which they have been created…when they personally glorify God and seek to have the entire created order give maximum praise and honor to God.” P. 104.

In the main, the authors are calling us to evangelism and discipleship. “As God gave a great commission in Gen 1:28 to fill the earth with image bearers and subdue and rule the earth in such a way that it would bring maximum glory to him, so also does he now give a great commission to all believers to ‘Go’ and ‘make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’ (Matt 28:18-20). The task is the same: fill the earth with worshippers who will maximize the glory of God in their environment—all the earth!” P. 104.

You will encounter students as you minister who are passionate about a great many things. That passion will only find it’s proper focus when oriented toward Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

In this new year, I want to help us all “fill the earth with ‘image bearers’ ”. I hope to pass along tips that will make ministry easier, extend our reach, and as a result engage more students and faculty. Look for one next week about involving a whole staff team in launching a new campus ministry.

Fall 2016 Coaching Tips

Using Summer Connect Content this Fall.

Bob Fuhs gave overall direction to this year’s Summer Connect. 890 students registered, but as many as 1500-1800 may have participated throughout the summer in 129 different Hub locations.

We continue to see the value of Summer Connect and the potential of what this could mean for spiritual development of thousands of students who do not participate in a summer mission.

In a report I heard this past week about Summer Connect, it was suggested that all eight of the archived summer sessions could be excellent semester-long Bible study or weekly meeting content. You can find all eight on the Summer Connect page. They are:

  • Week 1. Summer Refreshed. By James White.
  • Week 2. Refreshing Spirit. By Bob Fuhs.
  • Week 3. Refreshed Refreshers. By Timothy Muehlhoff.
  • Week 4. Refreshed by Experiencing Jesus. By Rick James.
  • Week 5. Life Refreshed. By Carrie Walker Louer.
  • Week 6. Relationships Refreshed. By Renee Begay.
  • Week 7. Refresh the World. By Rasool Berry.
  • Week 8. Back to Campus, Refreshed. By Roger Hershey.

Incidentally, there are specific training topics, other Bible study materials, faith action steps, and a blog, on the page, all of which are just as useful during the semester as over the summer.

Fall Coaching Tips

Summer Tip Series

The Power of Gifts.

The Student LINC and Coaching Center teams are reading and discussing Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin. It has been out of the box from our normal reading.

We in Cru like to think we’re indispensable, or at least that’s what we tell our partners! The way Godin sees it, to succeed in today’s social and economic situation, we need to look at our role differently, to become linchpins, to make ourselves indispensable.

The chapter on “The Powerful Culture of Gifts.” stood out to me. Here a few excerpts:

“I must have been absent that day at Stanford business school.
“They don’t spend a lot of time teaching you about the power of unreciprocated gifts, about the long (fifty thousand years) tradition of tribal economics being built around the idea of mutual support and generosity. In fact, I don’t think the concept is even mentioned once. We’ve been so brainwashed, it doesn’t even occur to us that there might be an alternative to ‘How much should I charge, how much can I make?’ p. 150.

“You best give a gift without knowing or being concerned with whether it will be repaid…The magic of the gift system is that the gift is voluntary, not part of a contract. The gift binds the recipient to the giver, and both of them to the community…Gifts not only satisfy our needs as artists [that which we offer to others that impacts them], they also signal to the world that we have plenty more to share. This perspective is magnetic. The more you have in your cup, the more likely people are to want a drink.” p. 154.

“I don’t write my blog to get anything from you in exchange. I write it because giving my small gift to the community in the form of writing makes me feel good. I enjoy it that you enjoy it. When that gift comes back to me, one day, in an unexpected way, I enjoy the work I did twice as much.” p. 169.

Erin Brasher, Destino Distance Coach, shared some of her thoughts with me on this topic.

  • I saw a lot of correlation between our work and the thoughts in this chapter. The people I serve don’t pay me for the “gifts” I give them.
  • The closest thing to the Gospel I read in this book is on page 164 where he writes, “A priceless gift has been given, one that can never be valued monetarily or paid for or reciprocated.” It reminded me of Romans 6:22,23 and Acts 8:18-20
  • At the top of page 171, Godin writes, “And this is the challenge of becoming the linchpin. Not only must you be an artist, must you be generous, and must you be able to see where you can help, but you must also be aware. Aware of where your skills are welcomed.” The greatest challenge of gift-giving isn’t having the best gifts, but of others receiving any gift you give.
  • My last thought was a challenge about how we could be better recipients of gifts we’ve received using his “thank you and …” formula from page 171.

Godin mentions being an artist frequently. He defines art as a “personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.”

The “thank you and…” formula Erin referred to was stated this way. “If you appreciate a gift, consider saying ‘thank you and …’ Such as “…and I dog-eared forty of the pages,” “…and I told your boss what a wonderful thing you did…”

Practically all that we do in the ministry is gift giving. From sharing the Gospel, to establishing others in their faith, to discipling them, to praying for others, to launching movements so that more can hear the Good News, these all relate to giving gifts. Most of us do these out of sheer enjoyment and we know there is reward eventually for our efforts.

But do we ever bargain with God that we are doing such and such and why doesn’t He do such and such? Do we give gifts easily in some areas, but sure want others to know about it? Or do we subtly expect reciprocity?

I have always known the power of words, but I’m trying to be more intentional about speaking gifts to others. Someone really good at this is Lee Cooksey, Chief of Staff for the High School Ministry. He often jots a note, sends a text, or just generally makes you feel like you hung the moon.

Two other gifts of a different sort that I try to give are wiping my paper towel across the counter at the coffee bar, leaving it just a bit cleaner for the next person, and pushing chairs under tables so that the room has a neat, inviting appearance for those coming after. These are small actions, but speak to being aware of others.

What gifts do you want to give today?

Ending the Year Well

Prayer-walks

When I was a student at Penn State, Wayne Okamoto and I prayer walked around East Halls every Thursday night for a year. I remember very specifically how we prayed that as the lights of those dorm rooms shown in the dark night, that God would cause Christians in our dorm complex to be light in a dark world.

God did some incredible things during that time. First, it cemented our friendship. Wayne and I were in the same study for two years. We would eventually serve together in New England on different teams several years later. I think we would each say that we benefited more from the relationship than we were a benefit to the other. But I would be right!

Also, that time of prayer grew our vision of what we were trusting God for in our dorm complex. We would collaborate on outreaches and growing our discipleship groups. Each of us discipled guys who discipled guys who discipled other guys.

Wayne and I weren’t the only ones praying. There would eventually be more than a hundred students praying most nights from 6-7pm in an unused stairwell for spiritual openness and awakening as well as for our friends. Most of us believe we saw something of a spiritual awakening in East Halls during those years. We know He was hearing our prayers.

As I write this, it’s February. Much of the north is under wind chill and winter storm warnings. It’s not fun to walk around a dorm complex in the dead of winter. But Wayne and I committed to doing just that. Gosh it was cold some of those nights on that 45 minute walk around those dorms, especially with the wind whipping on the north side. But God used those times in us and in many of our believing and non-believing friends.

Why not grab a partner and take a prayer walk tonight. Be sure to bundle up! Let’s see what God will do.

Some other tips on prayer: