Saturday, April 30, 2016

My Top 15 lessons and Reflections from the (Pas) Ralph Douglas West IC3 Conference

I have experienced several days of ministerial bliss.
Our church, The Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas, has served as the host for this year's church growth conference.
Premier preachers and leaders from the city and around the world gathered and shared in worship, fellowship and learning in community.

Perhaps the greatest part was hearing powerful biblical preaching and stories of struggles and success from pastors who were courageous enough to be vulnerable and transparent about their journey.
I celebrate the diversity in preaching styles and personalities represented and I applaud the vision of the visionary. Our pastor certainly has a passion for preparing leaders and preachers.
I am grateful to have seen my pastors from every season of my life this week and I can not share lessons without sharing my gratitude for each of them.

Here are some things that have inductively and deductively encouraged me this week.
As I reflect upon what I saw, heard and felt, I hope that you will be encouraged by these observations and experiences on your path of purpose as well:

1. No one reaches their dreams without struggle, opposition and sacrifices.
2. All things can be overcome with Christ.
3. We must give ourselves away and take risks. Trust God even when it doesn't make sense.
4. Despite church cultures changing, continue to preach biblical messages. Find new methods for the unchanging message. Preach with biblical integrity. Paint word pictures.
5. Be yourself. Don't bow to the expectations or pressures of people. Guard your heart and mind. Be prayerful.
6. Be open to less words and more stories and images in teaching the next generation. Be flexible, creative, relational, accessible and socially engaged.
7. Trust God to help you work and minister when you're tired, depressed or feel betrayed or unsupported. Be faithful to Him as He will be faithful to you.
8. Have a support system, good friends, a counselor/ therapist and personal pastors as wise counselors and confidantes.
Work in concert with others in ministry. Support one another. Fulfill your destiny.
9. Be humble. Give God glory. Remember the past but continue to look for ways to better yourself and the future. Don't get stuck in the frozen success of the past. Consider the future and think big.
10. Fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons.
11. Stay focused and rise above distractions and discouragement.
12. Allow your marriage to be a ministry. Don't compromise marriage or home by allowing the church to be the priority. Love and serve the church but also prioritize family time. Allow your story to help others to live above pretense.
13. Recall the lives of those that have gone before us in history.
(Look upon the lives of the tribes of Issachar. Discern what is the right thing to do in these times and do it.)
14. Enjoy the adventure of life.
15. Share your story. Find your voice. Have faith. Give your all. Be spiritually alert and astute in the Word. Be resilient. Be forgiving. Be a learner. Strive for excellence. Resist the devil. Balance. Follow God. Stand and Withstand.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for a week to refresh refreshers.
Bless the presenters, attendees, hosts, staff and volunteers. Thank you for biblical preaching and the unchanging truths of your word. Make us faithful stewards and students. Encourage. Equip and Empower.
We bless you for the grace of the calling and the sending. Teach us to live in preparation and submission to your will.
In your name we pray.
Amen.

Inquire about purchasing cds and dvds of the conference at The Church Without Walls.

Issachar Conference Main Session CD and DVD sets [incl Morning worship, Story Time, and Evening worship] are available to order online: http://www.ralphdouglaswest.org/resources#!/2016-IC3-Church-Growth-and-Development-Conference/c/19183071/offset=0&sort=normal
Individual Breakout Sessions can be ordered by calling: (281) 649-6788


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Trusting The Irony of God When Life Hurts

How do you handle when God's will seems paradoxical?
What is our response when life appears to be oxymoronic, contradictory or unfair?

If you have never received good news and bad news at the same time or all in the same season, then just keep on living.

Sometimes God's will feels wonderful and sometimes it entails our woundedness.
Sometimes it is understandable and sometimes it doesn't seem to make sense.

Many times the Lord will allow His hand to be visible and at times it is invisible.
His will may seem quite clear one day, but other times, His hand or will can seem obscure.

In the recent weeks I have had a friend to share on her blog and with friends and family members the joy of becoming pregnant and the pain of learning that her baby may not be compatible with life outside of her womb due to a recent diagnosis.
I also learned of a gentleman who named his child Malachi, which means "my messenger" and his child has been diagnosed with inaudible autism.

How do we reconcile a child that is able to be placed in the womb but may not be able to live outside of the womb? Or
a child whose very name means messenger and yet he may not ever be able to speak a word?

You may be living in that tension today.
One moment you are happy and in the next moment you are hurting.

Do you feel forgotten?

You may be wondering how you have so many skills and yet are not able to find a job or are frustrated because you have so much love to give but cannot find or be successful in companionship.

You may feel that God has placed his hand on you to be a parent, professor, student, pastor, speaker, teacher, entreprenuer, leader, rising leader of the next generation, yet you have become impatient because doors have not opened or everyone appears to be advancing but you.

You may have lived a lucrative life and now have experienced bankruptcy or may have known a blessing of a dream realized, a dream gift, dream relationship, dream career advancement, a baby that you prayed for or expanded platforms on one moment and then experienced heartbreaking news of personal or professional grief in the next moment.

We must resolve that some things can never be understood, but no matter what we experience on our journey, we can have confidence that God can always be trusted.
Hebrews 10:23

When our lives seem to be slipping from up under us or is becoming unstable, God continues to give us sure footing in Him.
Prov. 3:26

God's eyes are always watching those who are committed to Him.
2 Chronicles 16: 9

God is faithful.
Lamentations 3:23

There is a popular story told of a man who was saving he and his child's life during a bombing by jumping into a hole.
When the father jumped into the hole he asked the child to jump into his arms.
The child was afraid and refused to jump because he said he could not see his father.
The father insisted that the child jump and said to him, It's okay that you do not see me but know that I can see you. Jump! I'll catch you."

Today, despite feelings of fear or failure, inadequacies, frustrations or doubt, just know that you can jump in faith because God sees you.
God sees and He cares!
He collects every tear.
Psalm 56:8

Will you trust Him even when His will is "ironic"or difficult to understand or goes in a direction that you did not foresee?

I know what it is like to live a life filled with highs and lows.
I have also seen God use low moments as a platform to build a mighty testimony for His glory.

My parents were told that they could not have children and after many years of marriage, God blessed them with 3 biological children, one adoptive child and many spiritual children.

I was born a premature baby at 4 pounds and my future may have seemed dim, but God had a plan to give me life, hope and a future.

Even when God's choice is not to give or restore in the way that we dream of, or even when he allows sickness or death or devastation, we know that He can still be trusted.
Job 13:15

Our pain or discomfort does not dilute or reduce God's ableness.

C. S. Lewis said, "Faith is the art of holding on...despite our feelings and circumstances."

Trust His character over your feelings.
He has a reliable track record and each of us has the promise of His perpetual presence. Psalm 16:8

Jump into His mighty arms!
He is ready to catch you.

His irony does not change his integrity!
He. Can. Be. Trusted.

Prayer-

Dear Lord, we place our unknown future in your hands because you are an all-knowing God and we thank you for opportunities to trust you more. Help us to not worship our worry. We celebrate your never changing character and have been assured that in you there is no failure. Thank you that you are active even when we cannot see your next move. Help us to live in faith that you see us and you will catch us in your unfailing arms. In Jesus name, amen.