What God’s Been Teaching Us

   A friend of ours came to us for help recently.  He was really struggling with circumstances and loneliness.  He said, “I feel like I’m flying a plane and flying in circles because I just need a co-pilot.”  He felt like there was a hole in his life that only a wife could fill and he was confused why God would allow him to struggle so much when he had worked so hard to live rightly.  I couldn’t help but think of the words of so many Psalms that wonder why the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer.  There was something else going on though as well.  When we “play by the rules,” we can start to think God owes us something.  I still remember the words of Cru president, Steve Douglass, during our New Staff Training 12 years ago: “What we deserve is Hell.  Anything else is sheer grace.”  We explained that God doesn’t promise an easy life, but promises to be with us during the hard times.

     Then, we took our friend through the “Satisfied!” booklet which walks through 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 and 3:1-2 along with other passages to explain the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives.  He is our true source of satisfaction, and my friend realized that trying to fill that need with anything or anyone else would only end up in more hurt.  He asked the Lord to take the throne of his life and fill him with the Holy Spirit.  He came back to the airplane analogy and said, “I shouldn’t be in the pilot seat. God’s the pilot and I’m a passenger.”  As he is filled to overflowing by God, I believe he will have more to give to a wife someday as well.

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What God’s Been Teaching Us

   We call it “chasing away the snake,” and it’s the most important thing that I do.  Prayer has been an increasing practice in our family.  That may sound obvious since all believers are commanded to “pray continually” (1 Thes 5:17) and invited to “cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). However, it has always been hard for me (Jeff) to take time away from what seems like practical activity that leads to a predictable, strategic result.  Prayer has always seemed so intangible, but I am convinced that it is the most important thing we do in life.  As a husband and father, I am learning more about my specific role in prayer for our family.

As we have fellowshipped with many pastors and leaders from churches all over the country, praying together has been important.  But among them I have heard over and over again my personal responsibility to be the spiritual head of my house (Eph 5:23).  I must own my responsibility to cover my family in prayer regularly.

We have an enemy attacking our family unit.  He attacks individuals in that family and drives wedges between us.  He works in big, obvious attacks and slow, patient drifting.  With God’s help, I will not be idle or oblivious on my watch as Adam was.  Through continuous prayer I will chase away the snake and draw us near to God (James 4:6-8).  Please join me!  Here’s a devotional for a Praying Husband.

What God’s Been Teaching Us (summer ’17)

While there is more to unpack from the staff conference than I (Jeff) can write here, I’d like to highlight some of the things I am still processing.

As a Hispanic American with a rough past, Dr. Adam Saenz had beautiful experiences growing in Christ while on staff with Cru; but he also had some very painful experiences in a mostly white community that didn’t always get or accept his differences. He
has gone on to get more degrees than I can count and was asked to help us learn what it means to truly “ō heis” just as Jesus and the Father are one (John 17:21).

Adam explained that people can go through different stages of community. In the first stage, “pseudo community,” we’re all smiles and talking about what we have in common (avoiding any parts of ourselves that might divide). It feels good, but it’s shallow and short-lived. Life happens, those differences come out and we fight
over who is right. We can’t stay there, so we either retreat back to pseudo community or move forward by surrendering our need to fix, convert and control. When we share our own brokenness, and accept each other’s with love, true community and healing happens… usually with lots of tears!

Pray for this to happen across the body of Christ!

What God’s been teaching us – His Bride throughout history

11th Century – the Church splits between East and West

Who knew doodling in class could be such a good idea?  Karen and I sat down in our seminary class on Church History this month, doubtful that our spotty memories could retain all the information from 20 centuries of names, dates and events.  Not to worry, though—our animated professor had a plan!

 

He taught us to memorize a letter (only consonants) to match each of the 10 numerical digits, then turn those letters into word-pictures.  For example, number one is represented by the letter “T” and 11 could be “ToT,” so he had us imagine two tots playing tug-of-war with the church to represent how the Catholic and Orthodox church split during the 11th century (over issues like beards and what bread to use in communion).  It sounds ridiculous even as I recount it, but I’ve got to tell you that those 20 centuries are all pretty clear in my head along with many of the significant people of the time.

But what did God teach us through all of this?  Beyond simply how to memorize things better, we learned so much about how God has been on the move since the days of Jesus, through (and sometimes in spite of) the dubious dedication of His children.  I can see where a lot of people with different backgrounds are coming from.  I have a greater desire to reach out to those who are different and get to know them.

It also gives me confidence about the future.  The Church has continually gone through lots of trouble from inside and out and, if it were up to people, it would have languished long ago…but the Holy Spirit keeps breathing new life on those who are willing, and He will continue to do so until Jesus returns!

Dialogue or Debate

I discovered a very interesting board game the other day, where each player takes part in a mock tavern brawl.  Your goal is simply to gather the most “reput
ation points” either by performing ridiculous stunts (swinging on chandeliers, showing off on the table) or by stealing reputation from your opponents (knocking them down with chairs, stabbing them in the back, etc).

As a game, it was a lot of chaotic fun, but the concept of “stealing reputation” got me to thinking about how we do that in real life.  When we engage people we disagree with about something, do we have a humble posture that says “lets both learn and grow, because neither of us has arrived” or do we make people feel like they have to defend themselves in order to “win the debate” or be counted as an equal.

We can’t afford to stop talking about the things that are most important just because we don’t agree, but let’s look for ways to show our own vulnerability and to honor the other as we journey along together…

That doesn’t mean I won’t take you down in that board game though :).

 

Celebrate

As part of an effort to partner with a network of churches in building a new gospel movement at Florida Gulf Coast University, I (Jeff) was blessed with the opportunity to attend a 2-day conference called DiscipleShift.  There were a lot of neat ideas shared, including how they use the powerful method of Bible Storying to unpack the week’s sermon in all their Life Groups.  What stood out to me most of all through the weekend, though, was the importance of celebration.  This is not something I’ve done very well.

The Bible says a lot about celebration, God even commands us to remember the good things in our life by throwing parties!  In my own strategic, always-looking-forward mind, I often forget to stop and make a big deal about people and what they & God have accomplished.  Let’s spend less time reaching for the next thing (which only God can accomplish anyway) and more time rejoicing in the people and blessings God has already given us!

  • Plan daily and special times of celebration
  • Dedicate everything to God and thank Him for it
  • Lead with joy (and maybe a gentle prank or two 🙂
  • Claim the promises of God (especially His promise to forgive)
  • Invest in God’s people

Watch this beautiful video on the art of celebration: youtu.be/VamJCsYMFBg

What God’s Been Teaching Us – “Pure and Simple”

At a recent conference we learned a very helpful analogy. Did you know that an elephant pregnancy lasts two years? So, in best cases, 2 elephants become 3 after two years. In the same amount of time, 2 rabbits become 1,369! This “conservative” estimate is based on the fact that they can have a new litter (of up to 14) every month. Not only that, but baby rabbits are ready to reproduce in only half a year!

What’s the point? Simpler things can multiply faster. Jesus kept it simple. He frequently sent people out to speak for Him who were no kind of biblical scholars (see His champions on the left)! In Luke 10, Jesus sends out 36 pairs of missionaries and in verse 2, He gives them this very simple instruction, “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out (violently shove) laborers into his harvest.”

On a personal note, we too can get bogged down by overcomplicating things. In fact, in 2 Cor 11:3 Paul is concerned that the devil would trick believers away from the “pure and simple” devotion to Christ. So, I’d like to challenge you to carry on that simple task. Would you commit to praying one sentence (Luke 10:2) every day—perhaps at 10:02 on the clock? 🙂 Perhaps pair up with someone like they did and see what God does!