Staying fresh in the faith

Posted on December 6, 2011 by

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Mike Cramer asked me to blog about my experience in ministry and business through the years and about how to stay fresh in the faith.  For some background, I am married to Lisa (we met at Saranac in the early 90’s) and have four children ages 15,13,13,12.  After 3 years as a volunteer leader, 11 years on staff, and 12 years running my own business here are a few thoughts that I hope are helpful.

Practice His Presence:  Practicing His Presence (a book I highly recommend by Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach) speaks of the discipline and joy of experiencing God’s presence every day in all aspects of our lives.  For me, it is a discipline that is not any easier today than it was 20 years ago when I started exercising the practices they talk about.  The challenges and struggles of each day can pull me away and distract me, however, this discipline of regularly calling my mind back to God has the same impact every time. I find myself captured again by His love and called to love others, even those that are difficult.  While the concept is easy, it is very hard to teach my 9th grade daughter when she is mistreated by her friends.  I need to remember to teach her, as Mother Theresa would say, that “all things must be done in love,” even our response in difficult times.  No matter how large or small the task or challenge that we face, we must respond with love. And we love because he first loved us. I find that I am more able to love others when I practice his presence in my life every day.

Develop intimacy with Jesus. Scripture tells us that “Love is not proud” 1Corinthians 13:4.  Pride and love cannot live together very easily, and it is easy to let pride win.  It has been said that “pride is the soil in which all sin grows.”  I’ve seen pride wreck ministry, families, people.  Pride in little things like the size of our YL club, how much money we raised, my position on staff, my kids abilities, how much money we make, who we know, and how big is “our” impact. This list goes on and on.  True humility comes from walking in an intimate relationship with Christ. When this intimacy fades, pride has a funny way of sneaking back in, no matter how silly the area.  We know how God feels about a proud heart: Proverbs 16:5.  By spending intimate time with Jesus and practicing his presence we allow his love to do its work of reshaping our identity and removing our pride.

Develop intimacy with others: Can people confront you?  When my pride is in full gear my first warning sign is that I build a wall of defense. I need people to call this out in me.  We cannot run this race alone (Eccl 4:9-12).  We need to be in it with other people and develop intimate, accountable relationships. While it is easy to give lip service to this it takes a real commitment to be in it with someone else.  You need to invite people into this. Don’t just expect it to happen. You must pursue it.  For those that are married, don’t just assume it will happen with your spouse. It took me a while to figure out how to run this race “with” my wife.  I had a difficult time transitioning from being single, to running the ministry as a married person.  It was easy to take Lisa for granted since she was so strong in her faith and we both missed out because of it.  If you are married let me suggest that you regularly pray for your spouse, pray with your spouse, and intentionally run the race together.

Be a person of the Word: Don’t let the discipline of spending time alone with God and time in the scriptures slip away.  Over the years I have seen the “slow drift”.  We can get so busy with talks to prepare, ministry activity, kids, running a business, or whatever it may be that we compromise our quiet time with the Lord.  Keep in mind that we are oriented in such a way that we cannot help but drift back to our “old self” without being refreshed and renewed in our minds by the word and Spirit of God.

Be reflective: Finally, I highly recommend the discipline of journaling.  In 1993 I bought a five subject spiral bound notebook and began to write out my prayers and anxieties to the Lord.  The entries are sporadic in time and size, but I now have two of those notebooks that span 1993 to 2011.  Looking back in those has become some of my greatest encouragements as I see the same anxieties played out over different circumstances.  I can hear God’s voice speaking to me over those pages, throughout the years.  When I first met Lisa, when my children were born, when I missed a paycheck, when a kid met Christ, when passages spoke to me, when friends betrayed me, when business was bad, when business was good, when I came back from a drift in my life, get the idea?  It is worth the effort.

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