I thought this was a cool rendering of “the story,” in spoken word.

If you don’t see the video, here’s the link.

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In a fallen world, authentic relationships are not automatic. We have to be intentional if we want to experience the connectedness that God dreams of. Simply put, we have to fight for it. When you experience the battles associated with belonging don’t be surprised. It’s just part of the territory God has given you to conquer.

Asher fighting the good fight at Disney

Five battles that you will have to fight to “feel” connected to the family.

1. The Fear Battle

The fear of rejection is familiar to us all, especially when were a newbie. Most of the time you have to fight through moments/seasons of awkwardness, fear of rejection and fear of looking stupid before you begin to connect with others.

2. The “Don’t Know How” Battle

We did not come out of the womb as experts on friendliness or relationships so we all have to learn. Better get started.

3. The Business Battle

I once heard that relationships happen in moments, in seasons and in a lifetimes. We don’t have friends for life with out friends in seasons and we don’t connect with people in seasons without connecting in moments. If we are too busy for moments, we are too busy. Right?

4. The Compromise Battle

When Adam and Eve dorked out on God, the natural response was to withdraw from him. We tend to do the same with his family when we are walking in darkness. A neat verse in 1 John says that keeping ourselves in the light = great fellowship. Ahhh, nothing to hide means enjoying the ride.

5. The Battle of Offense

I’ll be honest with you I don’t like pain. Rejection, misunderstanding, betrayal…all hurt. You can be hurt the most by family because you love them the most. And the pain doesn’t go away quickly. BUT, it seems to me that the term “hurt by the church” has become a trump card of sorts that makes it ok to nerd up. Offense builds a fence and we don’t do family too well through fences. So lets settle it. You will be hurt by the church. I suppose the Lord Jesus himself is regularly hurt by the church. Thankfully, he hasn’t given up on love even though he has been burned before. You can do it.

The Reward

Connectedness and belonging are rewards in themselves and worth the battle. In Psalm 133 the Lord give us a great insight to another benefit of connectedness. He says it is there, that  place of connectedness, that “he bestows his blessing.” Walking in connection and walking in blessing is a double whammy of good living.

Here’s a talk I gave on this thought hosted by the good folks at Vimeo (http://www.vimeo.com/8810611).

I’ve been thinking about what I want our church to look like as it grows and “family” is one of the best words I can come up with.  When we give our lives to God, we are adopted into his family. We become children who not only believe but who also belong. Here are a few thoughts on what family means to the Christian Church.

Being in the family means…

1. You are not alone.

2. You really know others.

3. You allow yourself to be known.

4. You celebrate other’s victories.

5. You don’t stop being family when you are disillusioned or offended.

6. Our bond is Christ (a opposed to the thin bonds of style, preference, personality, opinions, etc…).

7. You are accountable because of relationships and not because of rules (ie every sin is always a sin against relationships).

8. You call God “Papa”.

Verses to Enjoy

Romans 8:15-16 You received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Ephesians 2: 19  So now you… are no longer strangers and foreigners… You are members of God’s family.

Here’s a more unpacked version on this thought that I shared with our church last Sunday: http://vimeo.com/8681515

See also:

Eph. 1:6

Gal. 6:10

Ecc. 4:9-12

I’m at Taylor’s Bakery right now enjoying kona blend coffee, gravy biscuit and getting ready to share the next part of the ant series. It normally takes me from 5-9 hours to prepare a 40 minute talk. I do speak off the cuff at times but not as much during the school year. I think being a pastor helps me to live for God. When, I’m preparing for a talk, I am confronted with the scriptures. If I have discrepancies in my life, I have to process them, before I can speak authentically.

at Taylor's Bakery in Auburn

Taylor's is usually quiet, great coffee, and a great place to study.

I realize that God’s word is valid and true no matter what, but it helps if I’m living it, right? A fringe benefit of my job is that I have to deal. If I harden my heart…to God, to Ginger, anyone really, then it kills what I’m trying to give life to. In this sense my job is intricately tied into my personal life. Like it or lump it, it is.

So, here’s my self analysis if you please:

The Ant

1. She is self governed, takes responsibility for her life.

I think I’m doing pretty well here. I at least think I’m a self starter. Anyone who is a pastor, entrepreneur or self employed has to be. Other wise, they don’t make it. I realize that if I’m gonna grow, its up to me (and God of course, but I have to cooperate). One of my favorite quotes is by Ed Cole, “maturity doesn’t come with age but acceptance of responsibility.” Next however, is the kicker.

2. She thinks ahead and acts appropriately in the appropriate season.

The dagger. The point that has dug into me here is the idea that the ant “gathers its food in harvest,” that is, she works on what she is supposed to be working on. Ever remember in college when you had finals, suddenly you wanted to clean your room. I’m semi good at making lists for myself but I’m not often sequential at completing them. Honestly, I’ve been working on this one for years and am improving. I’m not at ant level though.  I tend to make a list of several things I need to do and generally pick the ones to do that are the most fun for me, or cause me the least pain. Importance is too often secondary. At times I plow during harvest just b/c plowing is more fun or I’m better at it than harvesting. The ant, however plows in season, sows in season and harvests in season. 

Request: If you are a sequential, organizational, left brained, detail loving ant,  know that you are loved and I need you in my life. Actually, I married one of you. Gin, if you are reading this, even though I kick against the pricks, I need your ant-iness. And, secondly, if you are one of those people, pray for Josh.

I know that personally I’ll never be bat 1000 in the ant leagues. But, I can go to the ant and learn a lesson.

If the ant stuff resonates with you, check out this little handout I put together from Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It shows that we spend out time on things that are:

1. Important and Urgent

2. Not Important but Urgent

3.  Important but Not Urgent

4. Not Important and Not Urgent

The ant lives in numbers 1 and 3.

Proverbs 6: 6 -11 You lazy fool, look at an ant.  Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do. (self governed)  All summer it stores up food (thinks ahead); at harvest it stockpiles provisions (acts in season). (The Message translation with my comments in parenthesis)

If you are keeping up with Mr. Ant, here’s the follow up.  In Solomon’s diatribe on the ant, he addresses “the sluggard.” I know that would never be a description we would call ourselves, but maybe we have “a friend” we could help. Actually, when you look a the sluggard a little more closely it’s not that he is just slow to get things done, he’s also a few other things.

Who is the Sluggard?

  • He makes excuses and is frozen in fear (Prov 26:13)
  • He thinks he’s right (Prov 26:16)
  • He likes to sleep (or keep his eyes closed) (Prov. 6:10, 19:15)
  • He likes to talk (maybe he’s idealistic but doesn’t do much) (Prov. 14:23)
  • He procrastinates and his room is a mess. (Prov 15:19)
  • He may work when he wants but not when he must (Prov. 20:4)

Intro to the Ant:

  • She isn’t passive but active and she takes it one grain of sand at a time.
  • She stars in movies about ants. (bonus)

As a first look at the ant, the lesson learned is that change comes one grain of sand at a time, one step at a time, one choice at a time. An elephant is eaten one bite at a time.  When you think about it, as Henry Cloud says, “all is small.” Any big thing can be broken down into smaller more manageable parts.  Let’s eat.

Proverbs 6: 6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!

Click below for the video link.

http://www.vimeo.com/6242095

Well, we’ve almost made it through the first week of school….often our busiest week of the year. Gin and I are learning the dance of 3 kids with a very engaged lifestyle, but we are learning. Occasionally, I feel a bit overwhelmed but today, I love what I do…and I love those I do it for.

Gin and I are fortunate to minister in such a fertile environment among those who will one day lead in many of the 7 mountains of influence. We have met some great new people on and around campus this week and had a blast running together with our Campus Church leadership team.

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On Sunday, I’m starting a new series about the Ant. Solomon gave a short diatribe to “the slug” in proverbs 6 to pay attention to the ant and learn a lesson. Here are a couple of the lessons he points out:

1. The ant is self governed (he doesn’t have to have external controls to get things done)

2. It thinks ahead

3. It acts appropriately in the appropriate season.

I can’t do a before and after for my Sunday audience yet (since it’s Friday) but here’s the kind of change I’m hoping to inspire:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7W3bxHFShw

I believe that God is looking for a partnership with us. He initiates great things for our lives. He purposes them and promises them. Then, we have to step into a process with Him. Maybe our destiny is a bit like a dance with God. We have to know when to move, when to wait and when to trust.

Waiting on God’s Promises from campuschurchauburn on Vimeo.

He remembered his dad’s parting words: “I am waiting for you.”……

We often have illusions about what God the Father is really like. Below is a touching story of how one father mirrored the 

qualities of Jesus description of the tender mercies he knew in his own father…our father.

For “Father’s Day” I want thank you Father God for fathering me all these years.

——————————————————————————————————–

From Floyd McClung’s “The Father Heart of God”

He had disgraced his family and dishonored his father’s name. He had come to Bangkok to escape the dullness of village life. He had found excitement, and while he prospered in his sordid lifestyle he had found popularity as well.

When he first arrived, he had visited a hotel unlike he had ever seen before. In each of the hotel rooms were teenage girls. Some as young as 12 years old and younger. Some of the girls were laughing and some looked nervous and scared.

That visit began Sawat’s venture into Bangkok’s world of prostitution. It began innocently enough, but he was quickly caught like a small piece of wood in a raging river. It’s force was too powerful and swift for him, the current too strong.

Soon he was selling opium to customers and propositioning tourists in the hotels. He even went so low as to actually help buy and sell young girls, some of them only 9 and 10 years old. It was a nasty business, and he was one of the most important of the young “businessmen.”

Then the bottom dropped out of his world: He hit a string of bad luck. He was robbed, and while trying to climb back to the top, he was arrested. The word went out in the underworld that he was a police spy. He finally ended up living in a shanty by the city trash pile. Sitting in his little shack, he thought about his family, especially his father, a simple Christian man from a small southern village  near the Malaysian border. He remembered his dad’s parting words: “I am waiting for you.” He wondered whether his father would still be waiting for him after all that he had done to dishonor the family name. Would he be welcome in his home? Word of Sawat’s lifestyle had long ago filtered back to the village.

Finally he devised a plan. “Dear Father,” he wrote, “I wanted to come home, but I don’t know if you will receive me after all I have done. I have sinned greatly, father. Please forgive me. On Saturday night I will be on the train that goes through our village. If you are still waiting for me, will you tie a piece of cloth on the poe tree in front of our house? (Signed ) Sawat.”

On that train ride he reflected on his life over the past few months and knew that his father had every right to deny him. As the train finally neared the village, he churned with anxiety. What would he do if there was no cloth on the po tree?

Sitting opposite him was a kind stranger who noticed how nervous his fellow passenger had become. Finally Sawat could stand the pressure no longer. He blurted out his story in a torrent of words. As they entered the village, Sawat said, “Oh, sir, I cannot bear to look. Can you watch for me? What if my father will not receive me back?”
Sawat buried his face between his knees. “Do you see it, sir? It’s the only house with a po tree.”

“Young man, your father did not hang just one piece of cloth. Look! He has covered the whole tree with cloth!” Sawat could hardly believe his eyes. The branches were laden with tiny white squares. In the front yard his old father jumped up and down, joyously waving a piece of white cloth, then ran in halting steps beside the train. When it stopped at the little station he threw his arms around his son, embracing him with tears of joy. “Ive been waiting for you!” he exclaimed.

See Luke 15

 


click here for audio

or here to download the notes

title-shot

Below are the notes from the above message “Finishing Well -Part 1.” If you are reading this from facebook, visit www.joshhallmark.com.

Introduction: Two runners are running a race. One runner is looking at his feet and the other is looking at the finish line. Question: Who knows where they are going?  Who doesn’t trip and get a concussion? Who wins the prize?

Four statements that Paul the Apostle made. Which runner do you think he identified with the most.

Statement 1: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24

Statement 2: I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. 1 Corinthians 9:27 The Message

Statement 3: Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Colossians 2:18

Statement 4: I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 

Finishing Well Through Jesus Perpsective

Ephesians 5: 25 …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 

  • holy = meaning, set apart for a special purpose
  • cleansed = clean and pure, not dirty
  • radiant = understanding who we are
  • without stain = free from the wounds and sins of the past (stains are permanent)
  • without wrinkle = at rest, not stressed, not wrinkled from a hard life, at peace

Walking through the junkyard.

images

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If we are to pick up the right things on our walk through this life then we have to live with the end in sight, the prize of finishing well.

Six Characteristics of Those Who Finished Well (Bobby Clinton Study)

  1. Relationship with God
    1. They maintain a personal vibrant relationship with God right up to the end of their lives. Intimacy, obedience and faithfulness.
  2. A Learning Posture
    1. They maintain a learning posture and learn from various sources such as life experiences, other people (current and historical) and literature. This person is a student of life and able to learn lessons from life.
  3. Christ Like Character
    1. They evidence Christ likeness in their character which is manifested in the fruit of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control.
  4. Maintains Convictions and Beliefs
    1. They live life based on their convictions and truth that God has revealed to him/ her. The promises of God are received by faith and decisions are made on the basis of them. They believe what God has said and stand on it.
  5. Accomplish God’s Purposes
    1. They leave behind an ultimate contribution or legacy which is a testimony of a God honoring life. 
  6. Fulfilled Their Sense of Destiny
    1. They walk in a growing awareness of his/her sense of destiny and see most of it or all of it fulfilled in his or her lifetime. Choices and life decisions were made on the basis of this sense of destiny.

Declarations:

  • I will finish well
  • I will make it.
  • I will not burn out. 
  • I will not become offended and quit. I will not stay angry.
  • I will not become discouraged and quit.
  • I will not stay in sin.
  • My eyes will be fixed on the prize.
  • I will look beyond the current battle into the future, beyond where my feet are currently standing and into the glorious future.
  • I am the head and not the tail, above and not beneath.
  • I will learn what I need to learn, obey what I need to obey and do the hard thing that I need to do. I will drop the things I need to drop and pick up what I need to pick up. I will do what it takes.
  • I will finish well. I will finish well.

Acts 13:36  For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.

 

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Everything
God has provided everything we need to do life and do it well. We access this “everything” by experiencing Him. We experience him by using his promises.

I recently read a book documenting an experience a guy had where in a vision the Lord showed him a great storehouse in heaven. In this experience, the room was so large that he couldn’t see the sides or the ceiling. There he found vast categories of provisions that the Lord had already prepared for his people. There were provisions for specific healings, finances, new music and other creative arts, architectural design, etc. He even saw tags on the items with names and dates for departure. These were provisions for everything that Jesus had paid for by becoming a man and dying on the cross.

Maybe this vision was a metaphor God was using to make a point, like when God spoke to the prophets. Maybe, it was more literal, like when God showed Moses blueprints for the tabernacle.
Either way, there is an incredible but true point. God has provided everything we need for life.

2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Everything through Knowledge
His power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the “knowledge of him”. In other words all that we need to do life (life) and to do it right (godliness) has been provided as we know him in an experiential way.

Keep in mind the paradigm of the biblical writers. Knowledge wasn’t simply a cognitive understanding of an idea as we might be in the post-enlightenment west. It was experiential knowledge. I don’t know ice water is cold, for example, because I’ve deducted that the ice is cold therefore the water is cold. No, I know that ice water is cold because I tasted it and it was cold.

In the same way, this verse invites us into encountering God, knowing him by experiencing him. Through this knowledge we find every thing we need to do life and do it well.

What is it that you need right now to do life? Is it understanding about your calling? Is it direction for the next step. Is it new perspective? Is it objectivity? Everything means everything. God invites you to pursue him for what he has already provided for you.

Kickstart With Promises
2655009721_ee42a1b3a0_mJust after Peter explains that knowing God is the channel God wants to use to give us everything we need, he give us a quick-start guide. He says that God “has given us great and precious promises, so that through them we can participate in his divine nature”. That is, we can use his promises to step into an encounter with God. God’s promises are a springboard for us to move from the normal nature to his “divine nature.” Believing his promises are a gateway. Consider just a few of these promises:

  • He promised he would speak to us. (John 10:3-5)
  • He promised he would stay. (Matthew 28:20)
  • He promised he would provide (Psalms 37:25)
  • He promised he would lead you into truth (John 16:13)

You see, he has given us everything we need to do life and do it in a godly way. He has also given us promises to springboard us into a life that is divine in it’s nature. Pick a promise and believe that God meant it. As we step into his divine nature we receive all we need.

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