Thursday, February 24, 2011

Examine Yourself

I've been doing my devotional out of 2 Corinthians the last couple months and God is revealing some great stuff that I haven't seen before.  For example, this morning as I read, listened to some Jazz (which is weird during devo time, but that's what happened to be playing) and made my way through chapter 13, I was halted at verse 5 which reads,

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Paul tells us that we should examine ourselves to ensure that our faith is genuine. I started asking how we do that. What should we be asking ourselves to ensure whether our faith is genuine? What are the areas in our lives that we can look at to determine if we have genuine faith in our Jesus and if He is among us and lives in us? I think there are three areas (questions) of our life that we can look at that will reveal our genuine faith (these are not the only areas I'm sure, but this is what God showed me this morning).

1. How much time do I spend with God? (This area will effect every other area.)

Do I read the bible? If so do I read it as part of a routine or do I read to actually hear from God? Do I pray? Do I pray a list of needs to God or do I seek God's face and humble myself in praise, worship and awe of who He is?

2. How do I interact within community?

Do I use community or give to community? Am I in it for me or do I concern myself with with filling the needs of others in my community? Am I about what I can get or what I can give?

3. Do I follow the leading of the Holy Spirit?

Do I allow His conviction to draw me towards God or do I allow the worldly guilt to push me farther from Him? Do I seek the Holy Spirit to be my comforter or do I seek the pleasures of the world to comfort me?

Like I said, these aren't the only ways to examine the genuineness of your faith, I'm confident there are more, and it isn't about keeping a list of rules either. Things like, I don't watch certain movies or listen to certain music, I don't curse and I attend church, I even give my money and time to my church are absolutely not good measures of genuine faith. In fact, that's legalism and is more focused on behavior modification. Sadly that mindset traps so many people into this idea of Christianity that is no more fulfilling than obeying laws like don't speed. Not speeding might make you a good citizen of the area you live in, but you're not invested in your city, you're not a real part of the community. There is no loyalty or devotion, at best you're just good at staying within established boundaries. Eventually though, after not being stopped by or seeing a police officer for awhile, you'll speed.

Examining Me,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SHIFTing Seasons

This is kind of a continuation of the blog posted on Jan 17 titled Biblical Guided Community v. Gospel Centered Community (HERE). This is the stuff that I wanted to culminate that blog with, but as I typed I realized that the length of the actual blog itself was only rivaled by the length of the title of the blog.  So I decided to hold it for another blog and HERE IT IS...

Over the last two years I was fortunate to see the process of building community played out in this amazing group of young adults, that banded together to allow God to form them into a community sometimes called theSHIFT.  Just to recap the community building process before we continue it's goes like this...

Fellowship  (Connection with other believers)
Seeking  (Two parts: Part 1 - Seeking Knowledge of God and God's purpose for the Group...often times occurs through study of His Word. Part 2 - Seeking God's Presence...often time through corporate worship & prayer)
Accountability  (to God and to the group -- can be a set of standards or an accountability partner or smaller community group)
Sacrifice  (The giving of yourself to the group and the giving of the group to others...culminates in the sending out of believers to find the lost and bring them into the fellowship of community and ultimately Christ).

Since the birth of theSHIFT God has placed it under the leadership of three different people.  I had the honor of being number two.  Since being released from leadership in theSHIFT and placing the reigns in the very capable hands of Sean Brink, I've been able to step back and see the bigger picture of the road God has led us down and have caught a glimpse of where they may be headed.

So here is what that process looked like in theSHIFT.

When God birthed the vision for theSHIFT in the heart of Curtis Marshall, there was literally a handful of young adults that would band together under this vision.  In the early days of theSHIFT, the group dynamic was fairly dependant on Curtis providing the atmosphere for fellowship.  He facilitated the environment and organized events that encouraged fellowship.  This was so necessary in those early days.  The connections to each other, the friendships developed and the commitment to group that grew out of those early days would be essential as theSHIFT moved forward in what God expected from them.  As the group began to build fellowship, this fostered a desire to seek what God had for theSHIFT as a group.  Through group study and discussion theSHIFT began to discover who God is, what it meant that He was relational and what He intended as the purpose for them. Eventually, as God revealed Himself to theSHIFT, they would begin moving into the early stages seeking God's presence and Accountability.  Soon after, God (and the military) would call Curtis away to Arizona.

As God moved me into my season of leading theSHIFT, it quickly became very clear that my role would be quite different than Curtis'.  While Curtis played a necessary role in facilitating and building fellowship (which meant he was very much a part of community), God made it repeatedly clear that I was not called to be community for theSHIFT (or even be part of it at times).  Instead I was called to lead them to a place where they built community themselves.  No doubt I routinely got to facilitate the the environment that encouraged community and often time got to be a part of it, but there was a distinct difference in the group dynamic and what God was doing in it.  I got to see theSHIFT as a whole desire more of God's presence and move toward a sincere desire for Accountability.  Smaller community groups formed, people met with each other, corporate worship became a regular occurrence and the group began to move toward selflessly give to each other.  This group of friends that cared for each other transformed into a community that loved each other.  As God began to call me away from theSHIFT to lead in other areas of ministry I began to see God calling the group to more.  People who had been long time SHIFTers left theSHIFT and a new generation began to emerge (which is actually quite common in a college ministry).  It was more than obvious that God expected theSHIFT to give to those outside the group.

As Sean Brink moved into leading theSHIFT, God began to change a lot of stuff.  The face of theFAMILY began to look different, community groups had a renewed vision, even the night theSHIFT met on changed.  Now, I can't honestly speak on where God is taking theSHIFT because He hasn't told me (and why would He?), but I can see that God had already started moving theSHIFT in a direction where sacrifice is going to be a major theme.  It seems to me that God is bringing theSHIFT to a place where they move from Biblical Guided community to Gospel Centered community.  This road won't be an easy one.  It will be paved with selfless giving, sacrificing personal comfort and resources and the giving of your whole self all for the purpose of bringing the lost into fellowship with Christ.  And although it won't be "easy", I know no better man than Sean Brink to lead theSHIFT through this next season.

Only God knows where theSHIFT is headed (and Sean as God reveals it to him), but from where I'm standing it looks to be an amazing journey and one that is covered in the presence and purpose of God.

Excited to see God move,