Thursday, August 17, 2017

How Big Is My God?

Being a pastor has many elements to it, but one biblical responsibility is to equip others for the work of ministry. One way I do this is to allow others to teach from the pulpit in what I call Teaching Moments. These “Moments” provide a link to what I am teaching and may provide further context or perhaps have an element of devotion. However, beyond these “Moments” I try to provide a few opportunities each year for others to preach even when I am present. I know many churches do this, but most churches that are single-staff churches do not. Yet, by providing this opportunity, one other individual is away preaching at other churches as much or more as he is present at ours. Another individual has grown a great deal as well, and is stepping into new ventures because of it.

It seems to me that two periods during the year find me away from the pulpit for a period of weeks. One is just after Resurrection Sunday and the other is August.  During these times, I take some time to reflect on my own preaching, but also to learn from others. On August 6th, I was challenged in our service to consider How Big is God? That was the sermon title, and the answer is that “the answer is unknowable because God is immeasurable” (Rick Sons). But the concluding idea was not really about how big God is, but how big is my God. As I return to reflecting on sermons in this blog, I thought this was a good sermon to consider.

This blog is entitled fotonni which is a reversal of the phrase, “in not of.” If my God is truly big (to me), then I should be willing to live, in, not of, instead of chasing this world. The series I finished last month on my vision, mission, strategy, and steps, is designed to keep me focused in that direction, but I am far from perfect in following my own sequence. However, my God has “grown” a great deal over the past twelve months which is largely reflected in the most recent posts on what is next for me.

Three days from now will be one year since I departed for my first international mission trip. Being in my mid-forties, this is late for engaging in this way, and although I believe my reasons are sufficient for having not gone before, they are merely excuses. Our family has long supported missions financially, including specific missionary families, and children through various organizations. Additionally, having received theological instruction at a seminary for over a decade, I am certainly aware of the need for missions and have a grasp of the history, theory, and practice of missions as well. I have also been on more than a handful of mission trips within the United States, so I was not ignorant of missions – nor of what God can do to a person on such a trip.

But...having gone to Kenya, my world has truly enlarged over this past year. Some of that is geographically, but most of that enlarging relates to what (or is that where?) God is calling me to do (go). When I left for Kenya, I knew I would be going into the "bush" to talk about Jesus, but I knew my main responsibility was to train pastors. Those few days have now shaped a new organization as I have mentioned in my last couple of posts. My thoughts now are not just related to training pastors in Kenya (although I look very forward to continuing to doing that), but in locations all around the world. Who knew that one little trip could have such a tremendous impact? 

Ok, yes, God knew. And that is why I know my God is big. It is also why I say He is growing. Not in a literal sense, of course, but to me. I have a high view of God, and my recent series on vision, mission, strategy, and steps should indicate how I desire to live my life according to that high view. But as I continue to learn more about Him, and more about what He wants me to do, I must decide if I will follow my desires, or follow Him. Ultimately, I must choose to follow Him because only He knows where I am going.

How big is my God? Big, but not yet big enough. As John the baptizer said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3.30). As I make John’s mantra my own, I will truly begin to see how big my God really is!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Next...(Part 3)

Over the last two weeks I have revealed what I will now be professionally pursuing in addition to pastoring and teaching as an adjunct. Week 1 was painted in broad strokes (here) while I got more specific last week providing the name of our new organization and a brief overview of why the organization now exists (here). Both posts come immediately following an extended look at my process for evaluating what I pursue, how I pursue, and why it matters. The purpose of this brief series of posts (ending with this one), is to show how PTC fits into the overall process. I completed part of that discussion last week moving from the bottom (Steps) up (to Strategy), and will complete that look this week by putting PTC in context of my Mission and Vision.

MISSION:

Several weeks ago, I reviewed each of the four aspects of my Mission statement. In review, my mission is to:
  • Love Jesus and submit to Him in order to serve others – beginning with my family.
  • Grow in my knowledge and understanding of God and His will for me.
  • Trust His provision.
  • Externalize my faith, in part by, teaching others and encourage others in their relationship to Christ so that they will then disciple others.

PTC fits these extremely well. First, the goal of PTC is to train pastors and church leaders who are in areas which may prevent them from having opportunities to receive training in traditional ways. Thus, we must go beyond the normal means of providing training, which requires us to not only provide information, but to make the presentation possible. This will require grand efforts in many cases and a good deal of money and coordination among many people who will be necessary to accomplish this task.

Second, making disciples is undoubtedly a part of God’s will for all who follow Jesus. The question is how to do it. Without a doubt, I believe God has positioned certain people and instances in my life over these past couple of years to lead me to the development of PTC. I must continue to seek what God would have me do, but for now, I know that includes the context of PTC.

Third, this organization will be non-profit (paperwork is currently being reviewed). To not only provide the coordination for training, but also the physical equipment needed in these remote places, will require a great amount of financial resources, time, and energy. As for the time and energy, I must cling to Colossians 1.28-29 personally. As for the financial, I must allow God to move the hearts who steward the “cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50.10) to provide the necessary resources PTC needs to make this opportunity a reality.

Finally, the aim of PTC is to train others who will then train others. That is the essence of the Great Commission, and that is the ultimate purpose of PTC.

So, the focus of PTC is well-established within my personal Mission Statement. And, as I have previously stated, fulfillment of my Mission moves me closer to my Vision of becoming the man God has called me to be.

VISION:

I do not pretend to be anywhere close to whom God would have me to be. But I know that I move closer when I am obedient, and as I mentioned above, I have no doubt that my engagement in PTC is a step of obedience. It is also a step of faith. The combination of obedience of faith are also an expression of love towards God. Thus, I fully believe that being a part of organizing and leading PTC will be one of the most rewarding endeavors I will experience. It will likely also be one of the most challenging which is why I believe the timing is right. I have learned a great deal about myself in completing my doctoral work. I have learned a great deal about others in the process as well. Additionally, I now know better what it means to lead a church, teach others who lead churches of all sizes, and am learning how that fits into the global context.

By looking back over the past couple of decades I can see how God has been preparing me for this venture. My learning has been expedited over the past few years and the context of that learning is more apparent to me now as well. While I still have far to go to become the man God desires, I certainly see His guidance in preparing me for the present, and I know He will be with me going forward as well.

CONCLUSION

So that is a brief look at how PTC fits within my overall approach to life. It is exciting to do something you love and be invigorated by a calling to change course a bit even as I approach fifty years of age. I watch so many people who seem to go through the motions. My personal prayer is that I do not come to that point and that is why I have developed a comprehensive process to help guide me and make sure I stay true to where I believe God is leading me.

While I do hope you will continue to engage with this blog each week in the years to come, I also hope you will find yourself checking in on the work of PTC on the company blog which will begin the week of Labor Day. The blog will be hosted on our website at pastortrainingcommunity.org. Until then, keep reading here where next week, I will reflect on the big God I serve.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Next...(Part 2)

Last week, having concluded my series on how the 4L Model of Discipleship fits my Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps, I hinted at what my next venture includes. That venture is named Pastor Training Community (PTC for short).

PTC came to mind last year when I returned from Kenya. Having been a part of a team who trained over 100 pastors in 4 days in two different locations, the question became how to consistently train without having to be there physically. As I mentioned last week, many organizations around the world exist to share the gospel and train indigenous leaders. But no single organization can reach them all. Thus, PTC is seeking to do our part to train a part of the nearly two million pastors who need training worldwide. Our primary focus is to train pastors in remote locations, many of whom may be considered underprivileged.

My focus here is not to elaborate on PTC, but rather to show how this venture fits into my overall plan. If you wish to follow the happenings of PTC, a new blog will begin there in September. You may access the blog through the website. Additional social media outlets include Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can find PTC at:

Website – pastortrainingcommunity.org
For Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, please search for "Pastor Training Community" and if you see this logo, you have the correct account.




As for how PTC fits my plans, let me briefly comment based upon each component of my overall process starting from the bottom (Steps) and moving to the top (Vision). To keep the post relatively brief, this week, I will focus on the Steps and Strategy. I will conclude this short series of posts by comparing the launch of PTC with my Mission and Vision.

STEPS:
LEARN – I am realizing each week how much I have to LEARN. I currently lead a church and have owned a small corporation before, but I have never organized a non-profit organization. Beyond the logistics of effectively leading the organization, because the primary task of PTC is to train pastors and church leaders around the globe, constant learning will be required to understand how to adapt the training to the people we will serve.

LIVE – The entirety of this venture is to LIVE what I know to be true. I must love God, love others and be a part of those who make disciples of all nations.

LOVE – If I am successful in the LIVE step, it should be because I am doing so with LOVE. I know I deeply care for the people I met in Kenya last year and presume the same will be true of the other places that God may send me.

LEAD – Training others abroad also requires me to LEAD those who are serving here. Over time, many of the daily/weekly responsibilities will be executed by others, but I must never lose my focus to LEAD.

STRATEGY:
LOVE – Again, this venture starts with my desire to serve God which requires loving God and loving others. PTC has already required a large sacrifice of time, and a modest amount of money to date, it will require much more in the coming weeks, let alone the years ahead. Of course, these sacrifices pale in comparison to the sacrifice Jesus made for me, but I doubt I would consider the sacrifice worth it if I did not love God and was learning to better love others.

EXERCISE – Discipline will be very important. Spiritual discipline because this venture is primarily focused on the spiritual aspects of life and ministry. Financial discipline (personally and for PTC) in order to accomplish the goals I/we have. Physical discipline because to travel to various places will require a body that is healthy.

ACTION – This relates to LIVE in the Steps portion. I know what I am to do (generally, and in this case, I am learning specifically), so I need to be doing what I know to do.

READ – I have been reading a great deal about a variety of topics this year, but much of the reading centers on leadership, and non-profit principles. Additionally, as I mentioned in the LEARN Step, I have so much to learn in general, that reading will be a constant – and that reading must include the Word of God.

NURTURE – One of the core values of PTC is to train leaders. Of course, PTC was founded to train pastors abroad, but the full measure is to make sure all individuals associated with PTC are nurtured in their faith and life to become leaders in their own right.

So, that is how the practical part of the process – my Strategy and Steps – relates to the launch of PTC. Next week, I will clarify how I see this new venture relating to my Mission and my Vision statements.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Next...

Last week I concluded a series on how I view Vision, Mission, Strategy, Steps and specifically how those steps (the 4L Model of Discipleship) apply to the process and allow integration. Having a vision for one’s life (let alone for one’s business, church, organization, etc.) is important, but many visions lack a plan for execution. My process does not guarantee that I will always do everything right or even know what to do, but my Mission does provide a filter to make sure I have the right focus and then I can implement a Strategy and the appropriate Steps. So, what’s next?

First let me begin by saying that what is next does not replace what is current. I am still called, in part, to serve a church and to lead the next generation in an institutional setting. Thus, I will continue to serve as pastor and teach as an adjunct when given the opportunity. However, my calling changed slightly late last summer. Instead of serving a church, I believe my call is to serve the church. Instead of leading the next generation of church leaders in an institution, my call is to serve the next generation of church leaders.

Either of these changes has many possibilities to fulfill that calling. Both ideas coalesce in many different ways. The current generation of church leaders has a plethora of opportunities from which to grow – books, conferences, video training, etc. While any of those may be in my future, the current plan is to begin providing quality training pastors in remote areas of the world. Many people have done this over the last few centuries, and many are doing this today. Many individuals leave everything behind to serve as missionaries, literally heeding Jesus’ command to make disciples by going.

But that is not my calling. As I mentioned, while my calling has expanded from serving a church to the church, I do not sense God leading me away from my current responsibilities as pastor. And while leading the next generation of church leaders has expanded related to the where, I believe that my role as an adjunct at the seminary allows me to equip many leaders every year who will equip far more people than I could every fathom. Thus, I will stay where I am and do what I currently do, but I will be adding another aspect by training others. More importantly, I, and a few others (through a new organization), will be coordinating the efforts of many individuals who will train church leaders, Lord willing, from all parts of the earth.

In Acts 1.8, Jesus said we must continue to expand the mission field. Over these past few years, I have personally expanded mine. First, we left a church in the town in which we lived (our Jerusalem) to minister in a nearby town (our Judea). Then we moved a couple of hours away to realize our Samaria. And now,the intention is to be engaged in training the nations by going to the ends of the earth (at times, physically, but constantly through the use of technology).

So, what’s next?

I have planted the seed in this post. Next week I will share how this new venture fits within my overall process and fill in the details including the name and website of our new organization (PTC, what we call it for short). You can then follow the story of  PTC on its own blog, while I carry on this blog with a focus on living in, not of, the world.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Using 4Ls, Part 25 – Conclusion

Six months ago, I began this endeavor to record my thoughts related to the 4L Model of Discipleship. The series was in response to a question and as I began to develop the ideas for this series, it became apparent that I needed to approach this topic in a more complete manner than originally thought.  I had no idea at the time that I would be concluding this series 24 weeks later, but having done so I know that I have not only communicated the overall approach more comprehensively, but in doing so, I have learned more about myself and am more convicted about my overall understanding of my Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps. (A complete list of all posts in order – including a basis from Scripture are included at the bottom of this post.)

As I have stated (or hinted) throughout this series, the Vision is what you see (or will see) when you accomplished your objectives (reach your goal). One’s Vision may change, but seeing what is before you impacts what you do (or will do) which is my understanding of Mission. How the Mission is accomplished is directed by a Strategy which includes individual Steps (tasks, etc.) along the way. For me, the Steps are the 4Ls – Learn, Live, Love, and Lead.

As I now conclude this final post in this series, I have hopefully provided ideas not only on how each of the components fit together, but given proof that we can never perfectly accomplish our purpose on this side of eternity. Thus, as I finish the series, I begin to focus on what is next – not only for the blog, but in my life.

So, what is next? Well, for this blog, for now, I will return to (primarily) sharing personal reflections on my sermons or other lessons. However, before I do that, I have one major announcement to make. I have hinted at this announcement for a couple of months, but now a few necessary pieces are in place to make the announcement, which is truly about what is next for me in a professional sense.

But the announcement deserves a post (or two) of its own, so it must wait until next week. All I will say for now is that I am excited about the direction God is leading and it definitely fits within the scope of all I have written here over the past six months.

Until next week...

Prior Posts:
4L – Matthew 4.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-419.html
4L – Matthew 28.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-2819.html
4L – Spiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/using-4ls-part-1-spiral.html
4L – Vision – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-2-vision.html
4L – Mission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-3-mission.html
4L – Strategy – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-4-strategy.html
4L – Steps – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-5-steps.html
4L – Learn – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-6-learn.html
4L – Live – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-7-live.html
4L – Love – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part8-love.html
4L – Lead – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part9-lead.html
4L – BackUptheSpiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-10-back-up-spiral.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Love) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-11-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Exercise) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-12-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Action) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-13-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Read) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-14-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Nurture) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-15-how-ls-help-me-to.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Summary) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-16-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-17-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 1) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-18-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 2) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-19-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 3) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-20-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 4) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-21-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – ParentheticalPost – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-22-parenthetical-post.html
4L – Becoming (Vision) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/07/using-4ls-part-23-becoming.html
4L – Like God (Vision) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/07/using-4ls-part-24-like-god.html

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Using 4Ls, Part 24 – Like God

In this penultimate post for this series, I come to the heart of this entire process. Everything I have written over the past six months related to the 4L Model of Discipleship has one goal in mind – to be more like God. My Vision states that in a practical way – focusing on what He wants from me. My Mission relates goals which I believe, based upon Scripture, move me towards that end. My Strategy are the means to reach those goals, and the Steps (the 4Ls) are the individual components which execute the pieces of my Strategy. Again, all of this is to make me more like God.

For the sake of clarity, let me begin by stating that although I am to become more like God, I have no misconceptions that I am to become (a) god. The intent of my statement is to capture what has been lost. Humans were made in the image of God (Genesis 1.26-27) and certainly still reflect characteristics of God. However, the perfect nature of God was lost for humanity in Eden. It was offered anew through the second Adam through Jesus’ work on the cross and resurrection from the tomb. But the offering of salvation must be received by us. When we receive the gift of God’s grace, we are in a moment made righteous through (and in) Christ, but we are not yet fully and completely perfect on this side of eternity (Philippians 1.6). It is through God’s continued offering of grace that we become more like Him as we wait for Jesus to return (Titus 2.11-13).

As I mentioned last week, becoming more like God has two important aspects. Only God knows what He is truly like and therefore He must guide our “becoming.” That is, as imperfect beings, we cannot become perfect on our own because we do not truly know what it means to be a perfect Being. Thus, God must lead us in our becoming more like Him. This is the crux of the imitation in Ephesians 5.1 where our imitating Him allows God to mold us as He wishes.

On the other hand, we must do our part in becoming like Him. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses the idea of walking several times. I claim Ephesians 4.1 as my reminder to walk as I have been called by God to walk. Claiming the reminder does not mean that I walk successfully all the time. Far from it. But the idea of walking means that when I trip and fall, I am to resume walking.

Thus, as I walk, and God molds, I begin to become more of the man He wants me to be – that is, more like God. The challenge, as maturing Christians will attest, the more time spent becoming like God, the less I feel that progress is being made in that direction. Again, I fully realize that I will not fully achieve my Vision in this life, but even as I know I am growing as a follower of Christ, I find myself succumbing in areas that I should have overcome. I believe that as I grow closer to God my sin is being further exposed, and ways that I hid my sin (from myself, not from God) is becoming more evident to me. If this is true then as more sin is exposed, it may bring discomfort (i.e. sorrow/grieving) in one sense, but joy in another as I realize God is continue to mold me to become more like Him - the very goal I seek, whether I realize progress is being made or not.

This series is now almost complete - even as I have much to learn and do towards becoming the man God desires. Next week, I will conclude this series before making an announcement about what God is leading me to do now. Then, in August, I will return to the traditional Bread Crumb posts – with personal reflections of on my weekly messages.


Prior Posts:
4L – Matthew 4.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-419.html
4L – Matthew 28.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-2819.html
4L – Spiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/using-4ls-part-1-spiral.html
4L – Vision – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-2-vision.html
4L – Mission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-3-mission.html
4L – Strategy – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-4-strategy.html
4L – Steps – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-5-steps.html
4L – Learn – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-6-learn.html
4L – Live – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-7-live.html
4L – Love – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part8-love.html
4L – Lead – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part9-lead.html
4L – BackUptheSpiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-10-back-up-spiral.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Love) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-11-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Exercise) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-12-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Action) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-13-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Read) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-14-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Nurture) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-15-how-ls-help-me-to.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Summary) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-16-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-17-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 1) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-18-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 2) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-19-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 3) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-20-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 4) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-21-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – ParentheticalPost – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-22-parenthetical-post.html
4L – Becoming (Vision) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/07/using-4ls-part-23-becoming.html

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 23 – Becoming

After twenty long weeks, this series of posts returns to the the top of the spiral – my Vision statement. All of the posts between then and now have related to the support for the Vision – my Mission (objectives), my Strategy, and my Steps (the 4Ls). All of those pieces are what allow me to achieve the Vision. As a reminder, my Vision is:


To be the man God has called me to be. (Ephesians 4.1; Ephesians 5.1)

To be that man is a process – again, a process that includes Mission, Strategy, and Steps. But until that process is complete I am a work in progress. That is, the work has begun, but is not yet complete. As Paul wrote in Philippians 1.6, the process will not be completed until Jesus returns. I know that. I understand that. But that does not mean that I am to wait for that day and do nothing. Rather, sanctification is a process by which we partner with God. It is only a holy God that can make us holy, but as God has designed it, we must do our part too.

A State of Becoming

Thus, we are in a state of becoming. Again, “to be” the man He calls me to be is not my business. It is His. Only God truly knows what He wants from me. Only God knows what He has called me to be. And only God can make me into that person. Paul’s charge in the verses I have selected for my vision contain one verb that requires me to be active (walk, Ephesians 4.1) and one for God to do the work (be imitators, Ephesians 5.1).

The book of Ephesians can be split into two distinct parts. Chapters 1-3 are What to Believe and Chapters 4-6 are How to Live. Thus, after Paul shares principles about the truth of the gospel in the first half of his letter, he shifts his thinking to how to live by exhorting the believers to “walk” according to their beliefs. The word “walk” is translated from a Greek word which is in a verb tense that requires us to be active. That is, I am to do my part in walking according to what I believe or as the modern term suggests, to “walk the talk.”

On the other hand, in Ephesians 5.1, Paul instructs the reader to be an imitator of God. Here, the verb tense is one where the reader is passive. That is, as the reader imitates, God is the one who is really doing the work. The verb is about the reader (imitate God), but the action is done to the reader, not to God. Thus, the more we imitate God, the more He makes us more like Him.

When combining these two ideas, we see that the process of becoming the man God has called me to be requires me to act (walk as I should) and to be acted upon (as I imitate God). As I stated above, only God knows what He wants for me so it is only He who can truly shape me. But as I do my part (walk), I can trust He will do His part because it is He who called me.

Achieving the Vision
God already sees what the “completed” Andy will look like. I do not. But my Mission, Strategy, and Steps are all designed to help me “walk” as I should. Each of these aspects is built on Scripture which, as I apply to my life, should help me to better imitate God. I realize I will not fully achieve my Vision on this side of eternity, but I assure you what I “see” is already a vast improvement on who I was in the past. The process continues, and will continue as long as I am on this side of eternity. And while I will never achieve my vision, ultimately it is what I receive from God that matters. I will be completed as a gift from Him just as my salvation and calling were also received as part of His grace.

Conclusion
Next week, I will go a little further with this concept and focus on what I believe becoming that certain man means for me.

Prior Posts:
4L – Matthew 4.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-419.html
4L – Matthew 28.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-2819.html
4L – Spiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/using-4ls-part-1-spiral.html
4L – Vision – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-2-vision.html
4L – Mission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-3-mission.html
4L – Strategy – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-4-strategy.html
4L – Steps – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-5-steps.html
4L – Learn – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-6-learn.html
4L – Live – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-7-live.html
4L – Love – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part8-love.html
4L – Lead – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part9-lead.html
4L – BackUptheSpiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-10-back-up-spiral.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Love) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-11-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Exercise) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-12-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Action) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-13-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Read) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-14-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Nurture) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-15-how-ls-help-me-to.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Summary) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-16-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-17-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 1) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-18-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 2) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-19-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 3) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-20-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 4) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-21-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – ParentheticalPost – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-22-parenthetical-post.html

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 22 – A Parenthetical Post

Over the past four weeks, I have posted about how each of the 4Ls relate to each sentence within my Mission Statement. As I have outlined my overall approach, the Ls (representing Steps) are separated from the Mission by my Strategy. But each part of my Mission is aided by my Strategy which is accomplished by the Steps I take to achieve my Mission, and ultimately my Vision. And Vision is the final piece which needs to be covered as this series begins to come to a close.

When I began this series, I did so by focusing on two key verses which record the words of Jesus. As recorded in Matthew 4.19, Jesus commands others to “Follow Me” at the beginning of His public ministry and then at the end of His physical time on earth, Jesus commanded His disciples to make other disciples. Each of these commands are crucial in understanding the 4L Model of Discipleship.

Then, I introduced a hermeneutical (interpretative) principle involving a spiral approach to understanding a biblical, or really any other, passage. It is through this hermeneutical principle that I have led us on this journey to understand my use of the 4Ls as it relates to my overall paradigm for approaching life. I took us down the spiral by way of introducing my Vision, then Mission, the Strategy, the Steps in general. Then I unpacked each Step individually and have now worked back up the spiral by sharing how each of the 4Ls related to each part of my Strategy and Mission, respectively. But now we arrive back at my Vision, and thus, we reach the top of the spiral once again.

But my understanding of Vision is what is attained, not the process of attaining. That is, my objectives (what I hope to accomplish) are encompassed within my Mission, and thus the Strategy and Steps apply. However, if I accomplish my objectives, then I will realize my Vision. A Vision is what is seen as the result, not the process it takes to achieve the result. Thus, as we arrive back at the Vision, the 4Ls are no longer in focus. Again, their use ultimately helps me to achieve my Vision, but not directly. Their function is to effectuate my Strategy which is designed to fulfill my Mission.

I add this post as a parenthetical remark to the series because when I discuss my Vision over the next two weeks, the focus on the Steps will be conspicuously absent. Certainly, each Step will be present, but without the focus that the last several post have given each of the Steps. As I will convey, this is true for a couple of reasons, of which the primary reason is that while the Steps are designed to help me achieve, the way I have crafted my Vision is something which I can ultimately only receive. Granted, I must do my part, but to become the man God wants me to be, I need Him to accomplish in me what He wants to accomplish, which is far more than I could ever achieve on my own.

So, next week, I will begin a two-part look at my Vision and the role God plays according to Ephesians 5.1-2 which is my reference verses related to my Vision. Then, in three more weeks, I will conclude this series, and then, finally, the following week I will reveal the new initiative I promised (a couple of delays have necessitated my delay in posting about it).


Prior Posts:
4L – Matthew 4.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-419.html
4L – Matthew 28.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-2819.html
4L – Spiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/using-4ls-part-1-spiral.html
4L – Vision – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-2-vision.html
4L – Mission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-3-mission.html
4L – Strategy – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-4-strategy.html
4L – Steps – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-5-steps.html
4L – Learn – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-6-learn.html
4L – Live – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-7-live.html
4L – Love – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part8-love.html
4L – Lead – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part9-lead.html
4L – BackUptheSpiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-10-back-up-spiral.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Love) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-11-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Exercise) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-12-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Action) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-13-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Read) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-14-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Nurture) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-15-how-ls-help-me-to.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Summary) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-16-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-17-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 1) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-18-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 2) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-19-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 3) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-20-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 4) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-21-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 21 – How the Ls Help Fulfill My Mission

This week I come to the fourth and final sentence of my Mission Statement. As I mentioned last week, each of the four sentences corresponds to one of the Ls, although this fact was unexpected because I developed the 4L Model over a decade after crafting my Mission. The fourth part of my Mission is the longest and encompasses two of my spiritual gifts (with teaching being primary) and my New Testament life verse. The statement is as follows:

I will externalize my faith by reaching out to others, teaching them God’s truths, and encouraging others to grow in their own relationship with Christ, so they may disciple others as well (Col. 1.28-29).

If you have followed this entire series (this is post 21 as the title indicates, see below for titles and address), you have read several times that the Love component is the most difficult for me. Lead, which is what this sentence represents, is more natural but no less difficult because we can choose to lead, but without followers, are we really leading? For me, leading begins with teaching which is a part of what Jesus said we must do to make disciples. But Jesus’ statement was more than just teaching, it was to “teach others to observe” which, in essence, is a form of leadership.

Of course, many leaders force others to observe, but my ideal is to encourage others to do so. This is done by showing others what needs to be done, encouraging them to do it, and yes, holding them accountable as well. But holding others accountable can be done with complete negativity (which often makes people wilt) or with a mindset to help others grow. I choose the latter.

As for my life verse, I wish I could say that I have the same zeal as Paul. I don’t, but this verse provides a goal for me to help others grow as God intended. I do realize that it is God’s strength and work within me that provides me the opportunity to teach and lead others. But I am still learning to allow God’s power to have full control.

Intersecting Steps and Mission

LEARN – I just mentioned that I am still learning to let God fully lead me. However, in the course of the statement for this week, I must continue to Learn if I am going to effectively Lead others. Learning will require new information, but it also requires new methodologies, new people, new cultures, etc. Ultimately, my learning is not for my own purposes, but so that others may know Jesus and then help others to know Him as well.

LIVE – As I mentioned above, teaching to observe is more than just the passing of information. It is living what is being taught. Externalizing my faith represents this aspect –as actions are the evidence of faith (James 1.22). Obviously, teaching is being active and encouraging should be as well. So, this aspect of leading others requires me to live out my faith.

LOVE – Many leaders do so for a sense of power and control. A Christian leader should never have this attitude, but as humans, we can slip into this mindset if we are not diligent. Colossians 1.28 serves as the what, but verse 29 is a reminder of the how – by the power of God. And, as always, the why for a Christian should always be characterized by love in fulfilling the Great Commandment – to love God and love others.

LEAD – The full intent of the fourth sentence in my Mission Statement is to Lead others to grow in Christ so they can then go for Christ. We are all called to make disciples – not of ourselves, but for Christ. If I Lead properly, Christ will be glorified.

CONCLUSION

This conclusion not only serves as the end of this post, but concludes a more detailed look at my Mission Statement as well. Over these past four weeks, I have briefly shared how the Ls feed into my Mission and now I will take one last look at my Mission with relation to Strategy and Steps as we then move back up to the final piece – my Vision. The series still has a few weeks to go, but hopefully, my efforts to explain my use of the Ls can help you clarify how you might use them as well. More importantly, I hope this exercise has encouraged you to develop your own set of goals and statements to guide you through your life, and particularly, as you serve the Lord.

Prior Posts:
4L – Matthew 4.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-419.html
4L – Matthew 28.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-2819.html
4L – Spiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/using-4ls-part-1-spiral.html
4L – Vision – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-2-vision.html
4L – Mission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-3-mission.html
4L – Strategy – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-4-strategy.html
4L – Steps – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-5-steps.html
4L – Learn – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-6-learn.html
4L – Live – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-7-live.html
4L – Love – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part8-love.html
4L – Lead – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part9-lead.html
4L – BackUptheSpiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-10-back-up-spiral.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Love) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-11-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Exercise) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-12-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Action) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-13-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Read) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-14-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Nurture) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-15-how-ls-help-me-to.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Summary) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-16-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-17-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 1) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-18-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 2) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-19-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 3) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-20-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html

Friday, June 16, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 20 – How the Ls Help Fulfill My Mission

Over the past two weeks, I have been examining my mission statement one sentence at a time. I created the statement long before I conceived of the 4L Model of Discipleship. However, each sentence corresponds to one of the Ls although the order is a bit different with Love shifting to the front. So, the first sentence related to my need to Love. Last week was about my need to Learn. The third sentence is very short, but is quite important, and relates to Live.


I will trust in His provision (Ps. 73.25-26).

Each part of my mission is challenging at times. This one is especially so, in some ways, and yet I routinely see God providing in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. One of the biggest challenges for this area stems from my past. My undergrad was in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. I remember one particular assignment in a class related to the monetary principles of banking. I broke the system – in a favorable way for me. I did not cheat in any way, I was just able to ensure that all of the bonds to be purchased would end up with me at the most favorable of prices. Because of this instance, I determined that I understood the principles fairly well and thought I could beat the banks at their business. Wrong! Let’s just say that banks have much bigger buildings than that singular house in which I live. So, because of my arrogance, I put my wife and I in a terrible hole early in our marriage – a hole from which we are still trying to remove ourselves (in part because of some other issues over the past several years).

But during these past 20 years, I have seen God step in many time to provide when I did not know what might happen. In all honesty, apart from His grace, we would have been crippled financially. Instead, we have hope and a plan to pay off the remaining debt rather quickly, Lord willing.

Because of my past challenges and my need to trust God, Psalm 73.25-26 represent my life verses from the Old Testament. The verses serve as a reminder that, ultimately, I do only want God despite the earthly temptations. Psalm 73, on the whole, is a good reminder that the things we want and the envy we may have ultimately matters to nothing in the end, so we should let our heart’s desire be for God. At times, this desire is much easier said than done, and sometimes that type of desire is not even said so easily. But the idea is included in my Mission because it is important to me and if I do keep my priorities straight, I will be taking the proper steps towards the realization of my Vision – to be the man God wants me to be.

So, how does this sentence in my Mission Statement relate to the 4Ls?

Intersecting Steps and Mission

LEARN – I shared a bit of my history related to financial matters above. As I mentioned my arrogance created many financial challenges for me (and my wife and soon after, our children) over the years. I had to learn that I could not beat a financial institution at their own business and that my arrogance was foolish. While I have learned much over the years, I am still learning to rely on God as He leads me to consider new ideas and ventures for which I am not overly equipped. Yet, He continues to provide. And I continue to learn. And the cycle continues.


LIVE – While I still make mistakes, learning to trust God for His provision has allowed us to pay off a tremendous amount of debt over the past few years. But the real blessing for me has been to see how God provided for my schooling. Frankly, I am not certain how I could have afforded a masters or doctoral degree except that God literally used the hands of others to provide. I can think of a few very timely and generous donations received during my masters. I recall how He provided insight to fund my doctoral work. I did not incur any debt for either of those degrees, and the money that paid for them would not be available to me now had I not been enrolled. That is truly God at work. And that is why I must continue to Live by trusting Him for provision in all things – and particularly where I know He is leading.


LOVE – Love requires trust. And trust is the primary verb in the sentence shared above. As I trust Him more I can love Him better. As I learn to love Him better, I can trust Him more. The equation is simple – if I want all “these things” then I must 
seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6.33).


LEAD – The Lead aspect is quite difficult in this sentence. While I may be able to Learn, Live, and Love as I trust God for His provision, helping others to Live and Love is difficult. Like the Israelites with the manna, we all want more (or different) over time. Paul was able to say “I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me” with relation to being able to live in plenty and in want. To make such a claim may help people see it is possible too trust God for His provision, but to make the claim oneself requires a measure of personal experience. Nonetheless, I must share my experience of God’s providence to help others begin to see Him working in their lives as well.


CONCLUSION


The third sentence of my Mission Statement may be short, but it is important. As I truly Live by relying on God’s provision, I realize more and more that I am at His mercy for everything I desire, have, everything I am, and everything I will become. In a culture that says we can make our own future, this six word sentence reminds me of a deeper truth. Certainly, we can (and must) plan our way, but it is God who directs our steps (Proverbs 16.9). As I take the proper Steps to Learn, Live, Love, and Lead based upon His provision, I will hopefully help others to sense His provision in their lives too. This last Step of leading others will be the focus of next week’s blog – the final sentence of my Mission Statement.

Prior Posts:
4L – Matthew 4.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-419.html
4L – Matthew 28.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-2819.html
4L – Spiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/using-4ls-part-1-spiral.html
4L – Vision – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-2-vision.html
4L – Mission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-3-mission.html
4L – Strategy – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-4-strategy.html
4L – Steps – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-5-steps.html
4L – Learn – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-6-learn.html
4L – Live – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-7-live.html
4L – Love – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part8-love.html
4L – Lead – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part9-lead.html
4L – BackUptheSpiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-10-back-up-spiral.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Love) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-11-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Exercise) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-12-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Action) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-13-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Read) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/04/using-4ls-part-14-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Nurture) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-15-how-ls-help-me-to.html
4L – HelpMeLEARN (Summary) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-16-how-ls-help-me-learn.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-17-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 1) – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/05/using-4ls-part-18-how-ls-help-fulfill.html
4L – HelpFulfillMission (Item 2)  http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/06/using-4ls-part-19-how-4ls-help-fulfill.html