Friday, October 28, 2011

Volunteering to Take Ownership

 “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor is given by what he gave.”
-Calvin Coolidge (Former U.S. President)

A lot of people at work and in my life ask me what I do on my weekends, and I normally respond with something to the likes of, “Well, I typically start the weekend by helping my church setup our main stage and I serve my church as best I can on Sundays by playing on our worship team and packing up our stage when our church service is over.” At first glance, you may not take notice to a whole lot with my response. In fact, you may conclude that my response would be typical to that of a volunteer in a church or any other setting.

However, re-read the response and take notice of a few words I used intentionally:

“Well, I typically start the weekend by helping my church setup our main stage and I serve my church as best I can on Sundays with playing on our worship team and packing up our stage when our church service is over.”

Those words I emphasized show the main difference between being a volunteer in service and taking ownership of the service itself. A person who truly takes ownership is one who devotes much of themselves to that thing, item, or cause. In my case, I take ownership in where and how I serve at my church.

I am not saying that volunteers are a bad or unnecessary by any means. In fact, a church may live and die by the quality and quantity of its volunteer base at any given moment.

However, a volunteer may exhibit some or all of the following traits:
  • A volunteer may only serve when it is convenient on their schedule and may not commit themselves to what may be required or needed. 
  • A volunteer may only give what they are comfortable in giving (time, resources, etc.) and not necessarily what may be required or needed.
  • A volunteer’s attitude may be one of self-entitlement or self-glory (i.e. I’m volunteering my time and resources, so I deserve the credit) and they may act as if only they can fulfill their particular position.
  • A volunteer may not be the most reliable in fulfilling goals linked to the overall vision.
  • A volunteer may jump from location to location to serve with other friends or family, meaning they do not fully commit anywhere.
A volunteer, while great in theory, can only go so far with what they are responsible for. I believe that if people are serious about making an impact in their own communities for Christ, they need to get off the volunteer bench and start owning up to their callings.

“But where is the biblical significance of taking ownership of what I do?” one may ask. “Isn’t volunteering my time and resources enough anymore?” I would respond that real, positive change in our culture begins with someone taking personal responsibility and personal ownership for what they do in their service to Jesus, whether with a church, an outreach program, and so on.

However, let us look upon the main biblical principal on taking ownership. The truth of the matter is that everything within our possession or within our care ultimately belongs to God (Psalms 24:1) and because God is our “owner,” we can reasonably expect Him to take care of His possessions with the greatest of care. So when God asks us to manage His possessions (material or otherwise), what should our response be? We should be faithful with them, as instructed in 1 Corinthians 4:

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (Verse 2 [NIV])

Why should you be faithful with what God entrusts to you? Check out His reaction when we are:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 [NIV])

I don’t know about you, but I want to share in my Master’s happiness! I want to be a person who can be trusted and counted on in the things (few or many) that God places in my charge. I want to have God say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

So what does it look like to be an owner of where you serve or what you do? Check out some of the traits someone who takes ownership may exhibit:
  • An owner will serve and fulfill their commitments (the saying “Let my ‘yes’ be yes and my ‘no’ be no” comes into mind here). 
  • An owner is willing to give what is necessary and required and then some without hesitation.
  • An owner knows that it is not all about them and joyfully gives of their time and resources. An owner also shares their position and responsibilities with other interested people (not being possessive).
  • An owner may be considered a reliable entity in seeing the overall vision accomplished in the long-term.
  • An owner will remain committed to where they serve, regardless who may come and go.
 My encouragement for you reading this is to step out and seek out a place or position (in your church, local organizations, etc.) that you can passionately serve at. Learn all you can about it and give all you can with joy and see how God transforms your life and the lives of others around you. YOU have the potential to be someone of great importance in God’s eyes, but it starts with being faithful with the few things God places in your care.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start taking ownership of what you do!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Undignified - The Blog Post

"Your life is not a rehearsal. Don't leave it without giving it your all."

I would like to take a moment and address a question that I have been asked many a time since getting involved in my church. This question, and its many variants, may help some of you reading this into understanding my mindset when it comes to worship.

The question is, "Why do I do what I do during worship sets? Why do I dance around and go crazy every single time?"

This question is pretty simple to answer, but requires more effort to understand. In other words, you have to see it from a few perspectives, but more importantly, from God's perspective.

My answer to this question is thus: I recognize who I am playing for and I know my Audience wants me to give all of my heart, mind, and soul in any matter possible in celebration of His glory.

My answer can be interpreted a few different ways. One way this can be interpreted is that I like do put on a show for people. This interpretation is not entirely inaccurate, but allow me to explain myself. Sure, I love to have fun up there and allow people, especially those experiencing Jesus and the church for the first time, to enjoy the experience with me. Not to sound selfish or prideful, but I get a lot of people who verbally compliment my enthusiasm on the stage and they tell me it is one of the main reasons they come to my church. That is great and I am glad you enjoy what you see, hear, and experience, but that is not my motivation for my worship.

Another way to interpret my response would be to look at the "recognition" portion. I say in my response that I "recognize who I am playing for." This can have a few implications, depending on how you are looking at it, but for the most part, my response implies that I, at one point or another before this moment, did not recognize who God is. We are creations of a sinful nature, destined to continuously make mistakes and come up short to the holy standard God requires in and through each of us. However, He recognizes that this will always be the case and thanks to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, He has extended His grace to us in ways that will never fully be understood by the human mind. So when I say I recognize who I am playing for, what I mean is that I also recognize this sacrifice, this grace that is granted to me, and as an act of gratitude, I am compelled to worship.

That partially answers the question that is posed, but let me bring it home for you. I believe God wants my worship of and to Him to be described as one word - undignified. I desire to be undignified in my worship to Him, both on the stage at church and throughout my week, much like King David was when they were bringing the Ark of the Lord into the city of David in 2 Samuel 6. I desire to be like David was then - dancing, singing, and going absolutely nuts with all my might (2 Samuel 6:14-15 NIV) in celebration of Jesus any chance I am able. It is in those moments of "letting go and letting God" that you experience true revelation in your life, whether you fully understand what God is trying to communicate to you or not at that time.

In a nutshell, I go crazy each and every week because I believe that God desires unhindered and unrestricted worship, both in a corporate church setting and in my personal life. I am not claiming to have the "this is how you're supposed to worship" solution as this will be different for everyone. However, I will challenge you to step beyond what may be your normal "church" behavior (going through the motions of repeating words to a song with your hands in your pockets and/or arms folded, etc.) and do what I do - go crazy for Jesus! Get yourself into some open space and give Him your all. Do something undignified in a worship setting (at church, at home, driving to and from work, etc.) and see what God unleashes in you. I guarantee that you will NEVER be the same again!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Processing the Process

"Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures."
-John F. Kennedy (Former President of the United States)

I am a fan of the process.

"The process of what?" one may ask. Am I a fan of the process of building new products, inventions, or even ideas into a tangible reality? Am I fan of the process of destroying an older, outdated method of thought? Or is it that I am a fan of the process of making myself into a better person physically, mentally, and spiritually speaking?

The answer is yes to all of the above.

I am a fan of the process.

Many influential and world-changing people, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Abraham Lincoln, from King Richard the Lionheart to Bill Gates (not the best comparisons, mind you), have had to endure a process of some kind or another, many of which requires great investments of time, money, and even their own families and lives. In the end, however, all these people ended up where they felt they were "called" to go, whether they felt led by God or by some other force they believed in.

I believe that it is this process in our lives that defines the true reality of what God tries to show us on a second-by-second, day-to-day basis. The phrase, "Overnight Success" does not exist in God's vocabulary and I believe most Christians today have a very, VERY hard time understanding this truth. I struggle with this on a daily basis, as well, as I have to keep reminding myself that I am constantly in a process of change or in a process of forward momentum.

Jesus is also a partaker in the processes He was involved in during His time here on Earth. Although you don't hear much about the years before His ministry started on Earth, I am led to believe that Jesus underwent a process to not only strengthen His resolve of love among the people but to fortify His mind with the scriptures His people have come to learn and follow, albeit not to its full extent. There is little talk or scripture evident from His experience as a young boy in the temple of Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-52) to when he set off to begin His ministry on earth. I did take notice to what is written in verse 52:

(after the events in Jerusalem) "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."

What really stuck out to me in this verse is the verb grew. It says that Jesus grew in both wisdom and stature. You would think that the Son of God would have it all figured out, that He would be all gung-ho, pedal-to-the-flo, never asking for mo' joe or dough as soon as He was able to walk (this is why I'm not a singer). Still, my point is valid - why would the King of Kings need to grow in the wisdom that is His to begin with?

It's because He's a fan of the process!

Jesus understood the necessity of the process better than anyone, including Mary and Joseph (see Luke 2:49-50). He understood that with the calling His Father has placed upon Him, He would need to be patient, submissive to the will of those placed in authority (even if it was only temporary), and that He would need to gain favor with both God and man (end of verse 52). We don't see Him utilize this in just this part of the Gospel, either. He endures quite a few processes throughout scripture, most notably the 40-day fast in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13), which allowed Jesus to gain more wisdom and stature for the upcoming miracles, recruitment of His personal disciples, and ultimately His big day on Mount Calvary.

While our "process" may not end in being crucified on a cross to rise up three days later, it is nevertheless as important to understand that God has something HUGE in store for those who not only love Him (Romans 8:28) but endure the process He has set before us. Like Jesus, we have to be patient, wait upon God to realize our true potential in Him (see Psalm 37:7 and Isaiah 40:31), and keep moving forward to win the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24).

Always remember that following and pursuing after Jesus will constantly keep you in a process of some kind, whether it is to allow you to grow in wisdom and stature or to align your perspective on one that is heaven-bound. No process that God places you in will ever weaken or detract from your identity in Him, so make the most of the process and continue growing. When you can continuously embrace these processes, you will become a fan of the process, as well!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Silence is Golden

"We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls."
-Mother Teresa

In these recent weeks, I have been finding myself overwhelmed with a plethora of events and obligations that have comprised my life so far. This feeling of always being "on the go" is nothing new to me, but I am starting to feel very tired more often than not, and I am talking more in the spiritual sense. I am not complaining about being busy or having many tasks; that means there is never a boring moment. But I have to continuously examine myself from God's perspective and see if maybe He needs me to slow down and find a time to rest in His presence.

The above quote is part of what God has been speaking to me about these past few weeks in finding moments of rest and solitude where I can spend time with God without the interferences life produces. I look to Jesus to see how His life and example handled this principle and necessity. After all, it is written in Psalm 46:10 to "be still and know that I am God."

Taking a look at some of the gospel, it is hard to find a moment where Jesus is staying still or seeking solitude, especially when His ministry is taking full-form. However, Jesus made it a point to seek out His father in moments of silence and solitude. For example, when Jesus set out into the desert for forty days, He did this in solitude. It was in this solitude that Jesus was "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1) and was able to resist the temptations of the Devil shortly after.

Another example of Jesus taking this to heart was after He miraculously fed the five-thousand.

"After sending them home, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray." (Matthew 14:23)

He didn't just do this at the end of His day, either.

"Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray." (Mark 1:35)

Those are just a few examples of Jesus seeking after God in the midst of His busy lifestyle of preaching and healing the sick and poor, but these verses remind me that all of us, regardless of our roles and positions in ministry or life, need to take time and seek God in solitude.

I am reminded that silence not only serves as a conduit to hear God speak to me, but to also express adoration and worship to Him, as well. Think about it for a second. For me, some of the most powerful and breathtaking moments I experience with God are in the midst of silence. It is those moments that I find it impossible to not hit the floor and worship my Savior. When noise and distraction come into play in those moments, we tend to hesitate instead of letting ourselves go in His presence. As I made clear in my previous post Timing is Everything, once that opportunity is gone, it is gone and you probably will not get another opportunity as powerful, breathtaking, and divine as it again. This is why silence is beyond important in our lives; we cannot afford to miss divine opportunities and moments with our God, especially when He is ever so willing to meet us where we are.

I would encourage you reading this entry to start regularly taking moments in your day to get away from everyone in your life, find a place absent of noise, and meditate on God. Whether that means bringing a bible with you to study His ways or closing your eyes and quieting your mind and spirit for a brief moment, make the most of this moment you have one-on-one with your Creator. When we start looking to God in our silent moments as both a worshiper and a vessel for His glory, amazing transformation is not only a by-product of this willful act, it is a guarantee! Stop letting your life slip away in all these tasks and give God what He wishes to bestow upon us - a sound mind instilled with the spirit of peace and beauty.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Timing is Everything

"Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in."
-Napoleon Bonaparte

As of late, my thoughts have been drifting to some of my past achievements and what it took to accomplish them. Such achievements such as earning my college degree, gaining a new car and bass guitar, and most recently earning my full-time status at my current place of employment are all great examples of these achievements and truly make me joyful. But how did I earn these achievements and how did these occur? One word - opportunity. There is an opportunity involved before these moments and every moment, small or vast, in our lives. I had to take a step in faith with each of the previously mentioned opportunities and try and make the most of them, regardless if the payoff was immediate or not.

My recent train of thoughts are inspired by the Apostle Paul in his letter to Colossi. While Paul is imprisoned in what could be considered (in those days) one of the worst holding areas imaginable, he writes in this letter, which is found in Colossians 4:5, "Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity (NLT)." This sentiment is echoed throughout all of his letters, including his letter to Ephesus: "So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days (5:15-16; NLT)."

So my question to you reading this entry is what are you doing with the opportunities presented to you? I know there are a lot of opportunities I have failed to act upon because of my own indecisiveness, fears, or because I failed to acknowledge that an opportunity existed. Some of these missed opportunities have cost myself and some people close to me and I have learned it is less costly to make the most of these opportunities right away.

Unfortunately, many of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus suffer from this same weakness. We see an opportunity in front of us, look at it for a second, maybe even wave or examine it a bit, but before we know it, the opportunity vanishes and it is lost forever. Paul instructs all of us to "make the most of every opportunity," and yet we choose by our action of inaction to watch some of them pass by.

You may be trying to justify to yourself that some of these "opportunities" were minute and have no bearing on where you are in life. This may be true, sure, but you are forgetting that as a follower of Christ, your life is no longer your own to serve. Your actions or lack thereof may greatly affect another individual, and you making the most of these opportunities, as minute as they may appear, could lead that person closer to God. Remember that your actions, your thoughts, and what you choose or not choose to do affect more than you may realize, regardless how small or insignificant the opportunity appears. Consider this the "butterfly effect" of God's plan. One missed opportunity that seems insignificant may cause untold consequences to others later on down the road of Life.

As you examine the opportunities presented in your life, keep in mind what we are warned about in James 4:14 - "How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog ('mist' in other translations) - it is here a little while, then it's gone (NLT)." We are only given a short amount of time on this Earth to make an impact towards others and for the glory of the Almighty. This may be a message or virtue you may already be aware of or practicing, but be aware that reading this entry also presents an opportunity, as well. You may only get one shot at certain opportunities. His timing is truly everything, so make the most of these opportunities presented to you before, just like Life, "it is gone."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What Were You Expecting?

"The best things in life are unexpected because there were no expectations."
-Eli Khamarov (famous observational writer)

Have you ever found yourself in what seemed to be an absolute position of control, which included planning, development of an event in your life, and execution? If you answered yes, how does that feel for you? It feels empowering to have that kind of authority and to be able to plan every little detail out. So you are in a position of power and have these details down to the second, but what normally happens? That's right - the details are mucked and something unplanned occurs, even if the unplanned details seem minute. How does that make you, a person who has planned everything dealing with this event in your life, truly feel? Unprepared? Foolish? Like a failure? It almost seems like you wasted all this time for nothing, huh?

It would seem more often than not we all go through this type of ordeal. I recently had a friend of mine move back home (out of state) after waiting almost two months for her to get back. The thing about this is that I was so stoked for her to come back and I had all these type of plans and places I wanted to show her. I think I was more excited to see how she has changed in the past two months more than anything. However, it was that change that I neglected to plan for, and in the end, she decided to trust God in His infinite wisdom and move back home to get her life back on track and in freedom. At first, it felt as though I wasted my time with all these plans and ideas and that I may have lost a friend, but as the days went by, I realized that God has much bigger plans for her and that the only thing I can really do is pray for her and keep my eyes on God through it all. Today, she is doing really well and has seen God in a whole new way - as the Redeemer and Healer of all afflictions and I'm proud of her.

When it seems God breaks our plans and "throws a wrench" into whatever we may have been constructing, it is paramount to remind ourselves that God's plan is not necessarily our own plan and that His plan is the best one to follow step-by-step. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul talks about God's grace to cover our lack of preparation in our good works at all times.

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."

Another verse in Psalm 62.5 relates to keeping our hopes and expectations in him.

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone. My hope (expectation in KJV) is in Him"

And of course He declares in Jeremiah 29:11 about His plans for our lives and how no matter what little details unfold, His promise is clear - to give us hope and a future.:

'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

As your week starts to progress and you find yourself falling short of expectations, remind yourself that our expectation is in God and that His love truly never falls short of perfection. He has planned every detail down to the very second and He will never have an unprepared detail get in the way of His relationship with you. I pray that you will thank and worship God for truly taking care of all the details in your life and that, as the apostle Paul would say, you would "count it all joy" when it seems like unplanned details occur in your life. In reality, your life is His planning unfolding, so go with it and smile while it happens.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Holy vs "Holy"

"Holy is the way God is. To be holy he does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because he is holy, all his attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy." - A.W. Tozer

As I saw my week come to an end, I couldn't help but think of my relationship with God and how far along I have come. The last few months have been a tremendous transformation on my life and perspective, although I know that God is continuously working with and through me. As Paul wrote in the letter to Philippi, "be confident, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion..." (v. 1:6). It is something I am rejoicing in daily because I know without a doubt that God is never going to give up on me.

With that kind of perspective, I came across the above quote by A.W. Tozer talking about God's definition of the term Holy and how it is a standard that exists in and with God. Think about this for a minute. We constantly pray to and worship the Lord that created everything from the tiny hairs on your arms and legs to the billions of stars and galaxies in the cosmos, and yet I feel that a lot of us who call ourselves "Followers of the Way" tend to place this same Lord into a small contextual word that we have termed "holy." It breaks my heart to see and hear of men and women who belong to the Kingdom of God and choose only to worship God when it is convenient or when the time is right. This is a rather corrupted view of God and church in general and I believe is unacceptable to God and His standard. My friends, the time is always right to worship Him and, convenient or not, God is fervently seeking our praise and worship of Him because of His Holiness.
Psalm 16:9-10 is a set of verses that show David's heart and perspective on God, in particular God's Holiness:

"Therefore my heart is glad and my inner self (glory in some translations) rejoices; my body too shall rest and confidently dwell in safety, for You will not abandon me to Sheol (the place of the dead), neither will You suffer Your Holy One to see corruption."

I love how David declares that he is safe because God will never "suffer to see corruption." In other words, regardless which "box" we try to place God into, He will never be corrupted or misled in any way, shape, or form. He will always be the Holy One, end of story.

So I ask you a question, and be honest with yourself: do you truly pray to and worship the unmistakable Holy God that with all due rights and respect deserves nothing less than His own standard but shows us never-ending grace and mercy otherwise? Do you get down on your knees and cry out to God that He is Holy, Holy, Holy and that you adore Him? Or do you wait until you get to church and go through the motions and pretend that He is "holy"?

I would encourage you reading this to stop whatever you are doing this very moment (that includes reading this sentence), get down on your knees, and truly worship and honor God, not for what He has done necessarily, but because He is Holy. Go ahead and do this. This entry isn't going anywhere...

I truly believe that if Christians everywhere truly perceived God as Holy instead of "holy", onlookers may be able to see a greater separation and unmistakable joy in their lives, and that's what the word Holy is about, right?