Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dear seminarians and blooming ministers in training...

Dear seminary students and upcoming carriers of the gospel, you have a special place in my heart.

I believe in you. You are called, gifted, intelligent and passionate.
Praying and rooting for you as well.
Excited about your present and future contributions to the Kingdom.
I have so many dreams for you:

Be the Bible that some people may never read.
Give food to the hungry and water to the thirsty.
Remember that life will get busy and ministry is never ending, but you must find time to slow down and drink from the Living water. Do not serve a spiritual diet to others that you do not partake in yourself.

Have an insatiable appetite for the Word and digest it. Your strength and power will come from time with God. Guard it.

May you enjoy the journey, experience daily strength, give God your best, find discipline to work, study and rise above your feelings that are fleeting. Cherish relationships along the way, enjoy the Lord, find time to be refreshed, be an astute student of the Word, stay prayerful and prepared and relinquish control of the days ahead. Some of your greatest blessings will come from unexpected favor and when opportunity meet gifts & grace. Move in God's power and timing.
Embrace spiritual disciplines and commit to a life of living the gospel that you teach and preach.

May you experience spiritual success and obtain godly wisdom.

May you keep your eyes fixed on the goal in faith and not spend time obsessing about the future that you cannot control.
God has already fixed your future. Provision will meet you there.
You will take your places in mission fields, pulpits, classrooms, board rooms, conferences, staff meetings, pastoral offices, non-profit organizations, libraries,  publishing boards, conventions, hospitals, shelters, schools, clinics, seminaries, Sunday School rooms, Bible study groups, volunteer teams, leadership teams and in the lives of children, youth and families.
Don't discount the way that you are impacting lives one person at a time right now.
Be open to the unique way that God will use you and refuse to be handcuffed by the expectations of others or by your own rigid plan. Give yourself permission to be fluid and flexible.
Be teachable and humble.
Be steadfast.
Resist comparing yourself to others.
Never apologize for your biblical convictions and do not feel bad for preaching Christ in a world that often forgets about Him or makes Him an afterthought in preaching.
Preach the whole counsel of God.
Be committed to seeing in the world beyond your personal experience.
Love people.
Face your fears.
Be faithful and faith filled.
Surround yourself with voices of wisdom.
Be concerned about social justice and the inclusion of others in your ministries.
Have fun along the way.
Live responsibly.
See the faces of others and hear their opinions respectfully, even if you disagree with them. Learn from others.
Choose servitude over celebrity.
Make a collective and individual impact.
Find your voice and use it.
Love and lift others.

Be open to marrying what you learned in seminary and what you will learn by serving in the local and global church.
Remember that you are human and flawed and will serve people that are human and flawed. There is no church, business or group that has perfect people, so serve with a heart filled with gratitude and forgiveness and resilience.
Give yourself away, but also establish necessary boundaries.
Do what you need to do until you can do what you want to do.
View life as a treasure. Find gems daily.
Take care of yourself.
Be a good steward of your body, mind and spirit.
Know your worth.
Don't dumb down.
Don't dim your light.
Don't settle.
Don't compete.
Don't forget who helped you.
Use your platform to lift Jesus and mankind.
Never funeralize hope.
Have a cause that is greater than yourself.
Dream again.
See the world.
Share your faith.
Develop a circle that does not include people who only share your ethnic, educational or socio-economic background.
Be the change that you want to see.
Be mentored.
Make mistakes.
Learn from errors.
Share your story.
Be yourself.
Change the world.
Don't just settle for being alive. Thrive!
Your life matters.

Love to you dear brothers and sisters!
With great anticipation for your future for God's glory,

Thank you for men and women that you have used from the beginning of time and thank you for the shoulders on which we stand. Thank you for today's ambassadors of the Kingdom and thank you for tomorrow's leaders who are preparing today. We give you our life and calling and futures and ask that you will be pleased with our efforts to serve as an arrow that simply points people to Jesus Christ.
Raise up leaders that love you and sacrifice their life for you with joy, commitment and passion. Thank you for encouraging us on our journey and help each of us to be validated not by the world, but in the pages of your Word. Grant us Christ esteem, a social conscience, an expanded global view and territory and a heart that beats for you.
Make us passionate about evangelism and to stand tall even when we stand alone.
Take the next generation of Christ followers and use them for your glory and in greater ways. Meet every need. Bless their families, ministries, desires and their personal, professional and academic endeavors.
We celebrate you and the blessed privilege to serve you.
In your name. Amen.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Love Like This

How appropriate for Valentine's Day to be celebrated during Lenten season.
One teaches us about real love.
One exposes illusions of love.

It seems to be oxymoronic because Lent is about denying ourselves and Valentine's day is about indulging.
Lent is about sacrifice and Valentine's day is about excess.

Valentine's day is about remembering the ones we love.
Lent is about remembering the One that first loved us.

The truth is-

We couldn't know real love without Christ.
We honor Him for the perfect gift of His love given to us on the cross. There is truly no greater love than this. John 15:13
The cross takes our shallow illusions of love and turns it on its head.

Today many of us enjoyed receiving great meals, gifts, candy, flowers, favorites and time with loved ones. Being loved on is a wonderful feeling. We must remember, however, that real love is not only demonstrated in giving and receiving gifts, but in 'dying.' You want to know who loves you?
Consider who will give their life for you.
Anyone can whisper sweet nothings in your ear. Everyone can find a box of candy or flowers in their price range but everyone will not be willing to give their life for you.

Who has sacrificed their desires, plans or life for you?
Better yet, how have you demonstrated sacrificial love for God? And For others?
If we are not 'dying' we are not loving.

God demonstrated His love for us by giving us His son. John 3:16
He bankrupted heaven so that our lives could be made richer.

If God could give us His best, shouldn't we be willing to do the same for others that we love?

Our challenge is not to love until it feels good. We have mastered that. Our challenge is to love until it hurts.
Often times illusions of love feel good, look good and seems good but "everything that glitters is not gold."
A humanistic thought professor said, "Thing's aren't often as they seem...skim milk can masquerade as cream."

The same is true about love images.

Chocolates will go bad. Flowers will wilt. Cards will fade but real love will last always.

We can become enticed by feelings and expressions when authentic love is really denying our feelings for the will of God and expressing it in submission to Him.

What is God  asking you to give or to give up because you love Him?

Sometimes we have to move beyond our feelings to submit to the Father.
Jesus did it in the Garden of the Gethsemane. It was painful but He accepted God's will for His life and continued to the cross. He was driven by obedience and purpose as He proclaimed, "...Not my will but thy will be done." Luke 22:42

In this holy season, as we commit to various Lenten readings, personal fasting and prayer, may we also consider ways that we can show love that moves beyond the superficial images of it and is reflective in our conscious effort to "die daily."  Die to one- sidedness, social blindness, prejudicies, narcissistic thoughts, selfish motives, temporary fixes, the need to be in control, sinful habits of bondage, fearful obsessions that stunt our growth and comfort zones that cripple our faith.

Die to life and love as you knew it and experience it anew through the lens of Christ. His love helps us to love with abandon and to love sacrificially.

Know how to recognize what love is not by recognizing what love truly is.
I Corinthians 13 is a great start.
It is kind. It is humble. It protects. It forgives. It forgets. It is truthful and trusting.
It prevails.

When you've found a person worth dying for, you've found a person worth living for.
That is real love.

Jesus thought we were worth dying for.
That is perfect love.
Know Him. Know love.
No Him. No love.

Let us embrace His abiding love and choose to live for Him.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for a love that is pure and persistent. Teach us to love others as you love us. Thank you for love personified in Christ. Remove things that obstruct our view of you and help us to love you with our whole heart. Shatter our shallow illusions of love and help us to know substantive love that is grounded in your Word and reflective in the way we love others. Give us the heart of Jesus. May our love always cause our hearts to bow in submission to your will.
In your name we pray. Amen.